Stephen Rees's blog

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

Archive for June 2017

Weekly Photo Challenge: Delta

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Mouth of the Fraser aerial 2007_0710_105838AA

“This week, share a photograph that signifies transitions and change to you.”

This is an aerial shot from a plane leaving Vancouver on its way to Toronto in July 2007. I had to do quite a bit of work to edit the original – removing the mist that bedevils aerial photos, and correcting the colour, as well as adjusting the frame. Note that I have left the horizon tilted. I usually straighten that but in this case the plane is climbing steeply and turning eastwards. The plane leaving Vancouver took off over the Strait of Georgia, westwards, into the prevailing wind then turned towards the east.

The delta of the Fraser River is under threat from industrialisation. It is some of the most fertile soil in British Columbia, and one of the few places where vegetables can be grown. The river is still one of the most important ecosystems in the province with the remaining salmon runs threatened both by urban sprawl and climate change. Add to that the determination of the port to expand its activities – especially for the export of fossil fuels – and the storage of containers, which mostly come into the port loaded but have very much less utility for our exports, and we face a huge challenge.

I was very surprised to read in the original challenge “the current growing louder and faster before it spilled into the sea” which is exactly the opposite of what happens in this river delta – and almost certainly every other. The river’s current is much faster inland, where it rushes through the Fraser Canyon. The restriction of Hell’s Gate was one of the greatest challenges facing the Europeans when they started to exploit this part of the world. In building the Canadian National Railway they succeeded in blocking the river with their explosives, and the indigenous people carried the salmon upstream in baskets to help ensure the continuation of the species. The river turns westward at Hope and, as the valley widens, slows and begins to meander. The amount of silt that the water can carry drops as it slows, building the gravel beds that the gold prospectors pounced on, and the rich soils of what became farmland. In its natural state as the valley bottom opens up and flattens out the river would constantly move north and south seeking the sea between the mud banks and silt layers. We have of course put a stop to that with dykes and embankments to prevent flooding – that is actually the natural state – and constant dredging of the shipping channel to keep it open and, contentiously, to allow for larger ships.

This “photograph that signifies transitions and change to you” is one that I have used a lot on this blog as part of the campaign that challenges the present plans to expand the port and build a new, huge bridge at the leftmost edge of this picture, where the soil of the river banks is 2,000m or more of silts and sands, prone to liquefaction in the case of earthquakes (another imminent threat in this region) let alone the damage to Pacific flyway, the eelgrass beds, the habitat of many sensitive life forms and, of course, Burns Bog. You can read more about these issues in both this blog and at Fraser Voices.

And, by the way, the name of the municipality in most of this picture is Delta.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 28, 2017 at 10:36 am

Monet’s Garden

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A new exhibit opens at the Vancouver Art Gallery today entitled “Monet’s Secret Garden” – here’s the Courier’s review. The first thought that crossed my mind was that there is not much secret about his garden. It’s in Giverny, Normandy and is about 45 minutes on the train from Paris, and is one of the most popular of the sites we visited back in 2012. Both the house and garden are open to the public and even in May it was crowded. Even so, very much worth the time. We also saw his paintings at the Marmottan and in the huge galleries off the Tuileries. I did put up a small album of some of my favorite shots on flickr, but I thought that this would be a good excuse to publish some of the others.

 

Written by Stephen Rees

June 24, 2017 at 1:28 pm

Posted in Art, photography

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Transient

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The snow goose (Chen caerulescens), a transient through southwestern British Columbia. Formerly they would travel on to Mexico in the winter before returning to the tundra in the spring. They seem to be spending more time here each year, causing concerns due to their voracious appetites – and copious evacuations – causing damage to playing fields and parks while they are here. Lots more information in the wikipedia article.

My picture was taken in March, 2010 in Richmond BC

Written by Stephen Rees

June 21, 2017 at 12:20 pm

Privatizing Canada’s Ports

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The federal Liberals seem to be turning out to be neoliberals – not that much different to the Harper Conservatives Canadians so soundly dismissed. The fact that privatisation has generally failed to deliver on its promises – except for enriching a few exceedingly wealthy men – is always ignored by the ideologues of the right. And that is who the C D Howe Institute are. It annoys me that the CBC runs the headline “New report says privatizing Canada’s ports could generate significant revenue” as though it came from an authoritative source, as opposed to yet more conservative propaganda. As usual the only thing that gets discussed is how much money is supposed flow – as though that will somehow benefit us.

What is ignored is that ports in Canada though supposedly under the authority of the federal government are in fact a law unto themselves, and have performed very poorly in terms of their impact on the environment and local communities. It is very significant that south of the border, no local community has permitted the expansion of coal exports through their ports. They have also successfully held back expansion  of LNG and methanol simply by insisting on adequate safety provisions. Things are different here. We still have a provincial government gungho for LNG and a port only too willing to expand thermal coal exports. Somehow Canadians do not deserve anything like the protections that US west coast communities enjoy. Privatising the port will only make matters worse. We are already losing the battle to protect the tiny percentage of land in BC capable of growing vegetables, being airily assured that we can continue to import all we need as though climate change and water shortage is not already damaging California’s ability to farm as it once did.

It was recently revealed that the Fraser Institute has long been funded by the Koch Brothers – something hotly denied up to now. C D Howe is just such another “think tank” set up not to promote objective policy research but rather to proselytize the Hayek philosophy, quite uncritically. Such studies always seem to be able to discount anything that does not produce profits for corporations. Considerations for ecosystems, or climate, or even equality are dismissed as irrelevant.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 20, 2017 at 3:13 pm

Photo Challenge: Focus

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via Photo Challenge: Focus

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I took this photo ten days ago of a bloom on a shrub near our building. Generally speaking I prefer that my photos be in focus – and I prefer taking pictures in good light to ensure that the depth of field is at its greatest – everything in focus. In this case I used the control on the screen of the iPhone to focus on the bloom, which has made the background, at the top of the image, blurry – or as the current fad has it “bokeh”. In this image it actually improves the sense of depth – and the parking lot of a shopping centre is probably improved by the lack of sharpness.

One of the great benefits of the current redevelopment of the shopping centre is that the parking will be underground and that massive lighting system will be removed. We may even be able to see some stars in the night sky.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 14, 2017 at 10:14 am

Posted in photography

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“It’s our environment and our economy”

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A guest post by Andy Shadrack

If Alberta Premier Rachel Notley and Prime Minister Trudeau think that they can dictate to British Columbians on the basis of whose economy and environment is more important, then they need to think again.

We have an important sport and commercial salmon fishery, and a coastline that is the envy of every tourism operator in the country. And yet Ms Notley and Mr Trudeau think we should sacrifice our economic interests for theirs.

First, no amount of money could fix a crude oil spill. Just ask the Alaskan fishermen and First Nations people impacted by the Exxon Valdez spill. So we are not talking about exporting twinkies, lumber, natural gas or even coal. We are talking about a substance that could severely damage or destroy our marine ecosystem.

BC has only one marine ecosystem and no amount of money could help rebuild it. Question: why are Alberta and Ottawa not supporting refining tar sands crude where it is being mined?

That way we could all benefit from purchasing Canadian refined oil products and end the importation of foreign oil. The answer I keep getting is that it is too expensive and not a viable economic solution.

Well, guess what, exporting crude oil through BC’s fragile marine ecosystem is not a viable economic alternative either. Nor do we want to be held hostage to Alberta’s economic needs.

We in BC have as much right to protect our environment and economy as Albertans. So, Ms Notley, a little less of “it’s our right” and “the federal government has made adecision”, as Mr Trudeau also promised us that the impacts of resource extraction would be balanced against the needs of protecting the environment.

It’s our environment and our economy that’s at stake here, so please start by respecting us and that fact. After that, we can negotiate as equal partners in confederation and not from some subservient position of just because you mined it, you have a right to export it.

Andy is someone I met when I joined the Green Party of BC. He posted this on his facebook page today. I decided to copy and paste it here.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 13, 2017 at 5:25 pm

Weekly Photo Challenge: Order

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The challenger’s photo reminded me of a picture I took

Ce n'est pas Paris 1

Sorry, not very original of me this week.

Written by Stephen Rees

June 7, 2017 at 10:27 am

Posted in photography

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