Stephen Rees's blog

Thoughts about the relationships between transport and the urban area it serves


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Thanks to a one day sale I have been persuaded to pay to remove advertising from this blog. You don’t have to thank me.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 20, 2018 at 5:50 pm

Posted in blogging


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#ivoryfreecanada PR Image - Mark Drury

© Mark Drury Photography (@markjdrury)

Vancouver, BC, March 14, 2018 – The poaching of elephants has reached unprecedented levels, threatening their very survival. In the face of this crisis, Elephanatics, a Vancouver elephant advocacy non-profit group, claims Canada is not supporting the worldwide initiative to save both African and Asian elephants.

At the last meeting of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) congress, it was overwhelmingly decided that globally, governments must close their legal domestic markets for elephant ivory as a matter of urgency. Canada was one of only four countries to vote against it.

 A coalition of 95 Canadian and international scientists, politicians and animal conservation organisations have co-signed Elephanatics’ letter urging the government to ban the domestic trade of elephant ivory. They include the BC SPCA, Canadian Federation of Humane Societies, Mike Farnsworth, the Solicitor General of BC, International Fund for Animal Welfare, WildAid, Born Free Foundation, Humane Society International and African Wildlife Foundation.

 In addition to the global signatories, Elephanatics created an #ivoryfreecanada online petition that garnered over 120,000 signatures – and hundreds more each day – from concerned citizens wanting to see an end to elephant ivory sales in Canada. Even though elephants are not native to Canada, elephants are still important to many Canadians. The petition accompanied the letter sent today to the Minister of Environment & Climate Change, Catherine McKenna.

It is estimated there were 12 million elephants in Africa in the early 1900s. Today there are approximately 415,000. That equates to a 97% decline in a century. Asian elephants are even more endangered with less than 40,000 left. Conservationists and scientists agree that at this rate the world’s largest land animal will disappear from the wild within our lifetime.

Fran Duthie, the President of Elephanatics claims, “The Canadian government has a unique opportunity to play a leadership role in elephant conservation by closing its domestic elephant ivory trade, thereby eliminating all legal loopholes. Ignoring this opportunity would put Canada at odds with the growing international movement to save elephants from extinction.”

The international trade of elephant ivory was banned by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) from 1990. However the domestic trade of ivory within a country is only regulated by national and local governments. Illegal ivory – ivory stolen from an elephant from 1990 onwards – flows through legal domestic markets because it is difficult to differentiate between old and new ivory without extensive and costly testing.

“That really is the history of the ivory trade,” says Peter Knights, Chief Executive Officer of WildAid and a signatory to Elephantics’ letter to the government. “When there’s been legal ivory trade, it’s served as a cover for laundering of illegal ivory.”

Several countries have changed their laws to protect elephants. In June 2016, the United States imposed a near total ban in domestic ivory sales. Two months later, France became the first European country to ban its domestic trade. China shut down its domestic ivory trade at the end of 2017. The United Kingdom recently solicited public feedback on a proposed domestic ban and 85% of the public supported it. In January 2018, Hong Kong’s legislature voted in favour of banning all ivory sales by 2021. Taiwan is expected to announce a ban on domestic ivory sales starting in 2020. Singapore is considering a full ban.

Due to the US Administration over-turning their ban on elephant trophy imports last week, there is additional onus on the rest of the world to increase their efforts to protect elephants.

The loss of elephants causes significant negative environmental effects. Elephants are a keystone species as many plants and animals rely on them to survive. They trek through the jungle, creating a path for smaller animals from mice to cheetahs. More than 100 plant species rely on elephants for propagation as they spread the seeds great distances via their dung.

In addition, international security is compromised by the scourge of elephant poaching. The price of unprocessed ivory in China reached its peak in 2014 at around US$2,100 per kilogram. This has made the ivory trade very attractive to terrorist groups, including the Lord’s Resistance Army.

For three weeks in 2017, Canada participated in “Operation Thunderbird”, a global wildlife enforcement investigation involving 60 countries. It was organized by INTERPOL, the World Customs Organization and CITES. Globally, 8.2 tons of elephant ivory was confiscated in the three week operation. Some of it came into Canada.

Julie MacInnes, Wildlife Campaign Manager of HSI/Canada states, “CITES has recommended that all nations with ivory markets that contribute to poaching and illegal trade close these markets. Multiple seizures of illegal ivory in Canada in recent years clearly indicate that an elephant ivory market closure is warranted, particularly given the items seized likely represent only a small fraction of the problem. It is time Canada respect the CITES recommendation and protect elephants by prohibiting ivory trade.”

By closing domestic elephant ivory trade, Canada would join a growing number of countries that are leading the path towards the long-term survival of this significant and iconic species. The public may sign the #ivoryfreecanada petition at

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Elephanatics is a non-profit organization founded in 2013 in Vancouver. It aims to help the long-term survival of African and Asian elephants through conservation, education and action. For the last 4 years in Vancouver, Elephanatics hosted the Global Walk for Elephants and Rhinos, an international event involving over 120 cities.


Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2018 at 3:55 pm

Posted in Environment

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Weekly Photo Challenge: I’d rather be …

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This week’s photo challenge is headed by a picture of a sculpture of a woman sitting on a bench in a park. I’d Rather Be… is the beginning of the challenge – insert word or words of the activity you enjoy most. Ummm, no, I am not going to do that.

It reminded me of this picture, which I took in 2013, while walking with my partner.


Today my partner is elsewhere, doing something very useful. But I would rather that we were together. Maybe even going for a walk somewhere like Stanley Park if the weather was nicer. Though I can’t claim that walking is my favourite activity.

Under the photo on flickr I wrote “I swear that this photo was not posed in any way. The young woman sitting next to the statue is unknown to me, and her mirroring of its pose was, I am sure, unintentional. A genuinely candid shot. ” And I also provided a link which did not actually work, so I had to update it.

The sculpture is by J Seward Johnson and is called “Search”.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 14, 2018 at 10:37 am

Posted in Transportation

Weekly Photo Challenge: Story

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I am late to the field this week – and I missed the previous one altogether. I have been busy on flickr posting the pictures I took on my trip to Chicago. These images come from the flight home and after I posted them I realised they made a story.

For this week’s challenge, do some visual storytelling with your photography.

From the 'plane window

I try to get a window seat. I don’t always get good pictures. This one was driven by a recent viewing of a painting by Georgia O’Keefe at the Art Institute. This is leaving Chicagoland.

From the 'plane window

Since the plane was flying westward, we saw the sunset for a prolonged period. The autofocus was having a terrible time but one or two shots proved worthwhile.

From the 'plane window

To get a decent sunset, you need clouds. Being on top of them is a different perspective.

From the 'plane window

The sun is now near the horizon but is only visible through the cloud

From the 'plane window

And then the sun was below the horizon, and we were getting close to Vancouver.

Written by Stephen Rees

March 13, 2018 at 5:42 pm

The true cost of Fracking

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This Eye-Opening Infographic May Surprise You
There are significant pros and cons, making fracking a highly controversial issue.
By Reynard Loki / AlterNet May 23, 2016,


Written by Stephen Rees

February 26, 2018 at 6:18 pm

Posted in energy, Environment

Tagged with


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I am seriously contemplating leaving the Green Party of BC because of this tweet from our beloved leader

Screen Shot 2018-02-25 at 7.04.09 PM

And because that link won’t work here is one that will

Now here are three images I have downloaded this weekend

Daily Arctic TempIce extentSea Ice bering

Now I am not a climate scientist like Andrew Weaver. But I did watch that video on the NP link. I thought the estimates of the world’s potential refinery capacity for heavy oil was very informative. The calculations of how much oil is in the tar sands – and how long it will last – terrifying. And the idea that there will still be gas stations, but there won’t be any arctic ice appalling.

And I have one question for Andrew Weaver. What part of “keep it in the ground” did you not understand?

Screen Shot 2018-02-26 at 7.34.59 AM.png

This from the Washington Post via Clean Energy Review – the Post is, of course, behind a paywall; sorry about that.

Written by Stephen Rees

February 25, 2018 at 7:13 pm

BC Budget 2018

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You can read the whole thing on the BC Gov website or Justin McElroy on the CBC ‘s summary. Basically a commitment to increase necessary spending in the right areas which is being funded by increases in taxes on the corporations and the wealthy. So I am generally in favour.

But what is missing is a much needed correction of former BC Liberal policies which saw a giveaway of our natural resources. Once upon a time oil and gas revenues from leases and royalties made a significant contribution to our provincial budget. That is no longer the case, and ought to have been corrected by the new NDP (+ Green) government.

Two reasons leap out. Horgan retains Christy’s silly obsession with LNG, as well as Site C (which will increase GHG emissions) and, quite possibly, given the federal Liberals commitment the potential TMX pipeline expansion too. Our emissions are not going down even though it is quite clear from the state of the Arctic ice alone that this is a problem we are not tackling. Melting permafrost, with consequent releases of methane and mercury, are immediate threats, not something in the future.

But secondly the whole budget rests on a somewhat hopeful outcome of the ICBC debacle. I think the idea that somehow economic growth and a reasonable approach from personal injury lawyers is going to be enough is overly optimistic. We are going to need the revenues from oil and gas royalties and leases sooner rather than later.

But also, the whole fight with Alberta over the pipeline starts to look a bit different  when you consider how much diluting bitumen for pumping down the pipe depends on BC natural gas and its condensate. (For that thought I acknowledge the twitter feed of Eric Doherty.) The entire project is based on a falsehood, that there will be a market in Asia for dilbit at a higher price than the US refiners are currently willing to pay. It becomes less attractive to the US market (where nearly all of the exports go now) if the BC fuels it depends on have to pay some fairer share of the costs on our local environment and the fact that the resource is not renewable. There is a real reason to fear the loss of jobs at the Burnaby refinery if TMX is all about exports. We need to make sure that we are getting money for value. That isn’t case at the giveaway prices set by Clark.


Yeah, well there was something else that wasn’t in the budget. It would have been really welcome if the NDP had reversed some of Christy Clark cuts to the Public Service Pension. Of course, when these were announced they came with the message “these changes protect your pension” but what they actually meant was that the government was going to stop picking up the tab for some essential health services – so the pension paid out now has to pay for the things that are no longer covered. First up was MSP, of course, but at least that will be going if not immediately. Then there was extended health care, where coverage is now distinctly chintzy. A couple of fillings today cost me $200. And I will need either a denture (over $2,000 – some coverage) or an implant (near $7,000  – no coverage at all) soon. More of that would have been covered under the old plan.

And of course many Canadians have no dental coverage at all.

“As announced in September, starting on April 1 the carbon tax will rise by $5 per tonne of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions. It will be the first of four annual increases and will bring the price on carbon to $50 per tonne of emissions in 2021.”

source: The Tyee

Written by Stephen Rees

February 21, 2018 at 3:58 pm