By The Canadian Press - Thursday, January 31, 2013 - 0 Comments
WASHINGTON – A prestigious science journal has gone to bat for TransCanada’s Keystone XL…
WASHINGTON – A prestigious science journal has gone to bat for TransCanada’s Keystone XL pipeline, urging the White House to greenlight the controversial project and arguing that Alberta’s oilsands aren’t as “dirty” as some contend.
“The administration should face down critics of the project, ensure that environmental standards are met and then approve it,” Nature said in an editorial this week.
The editorial, entitled “Change For Good,” argued that the pipeline won’t determine whether the oilsands are developed.
“Nor is oil produced from the Canadian tarsands as dirty from a climate perspective as many believe (some of the oil produced in California, without attention from environmentalists, is worse),” the editorial reads.
By Ken MacQueen - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 10:36 AM - 0 Comments
In conversation with Ken MacQueen
Jim Sterba is a veteran foreign reporter at the Wall Street Journal and one-time war correspondent, but his latest book, Nature Wars, is about insurgency of a different sort: the resurgent population of North American wildlife and the uneasy relationship with its neighbours. Both humans and overabundant populations of deer, bear, goose, beaver, coyote and others have taken to suburban life with sometimes disastrous consequences. “We turned a wildlife comeback miracle into a mess” of fouled parks, deer-vehicle accidents and downed jetliners, he writes. He argues our Disneyfied view of animals has tipped the balance of nature.
Q: I live in British Columbia, where trees are sacred and we love our wildwood creatures. Each has their own special interest group. Yet you say we have too much wildlife.
A: Certain species are over-abundant, like white-tail deer in many parts of the country. Some are just nuisances, like Canada geese. Some are damaging, like beavers. The problem with bears is that people have such an anthropomorphized view of them because they haven’t been around bears a lot, except teddy bears, so when a bear shows up they think, “Oh, it’s a cute little person,” and they throw it a doughnut, or they let it rifle through the garbage can and take its photograph, and the bear begins to associate the smell of people with food, not fear. It’s not the bear’s fault, it’s our fault. Continue…
By Colby Cosh - Wednesday, December 12, 2012 at 6:58 AM - 0 Comments
The CBC provided us with an interesting case study in science reporting on Monday as its “community team” blog trumpeted “UN climate change projections made in 1990 ‘coming true.’”
Climate change projections made over two decades ago have stood the test of time, according to a new report published Monday in the journal Nature.
The world is warming at a rate that is consistent with forecasts made by the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change 22 years ago.
Climate scientists from around the world forecasted the global mean temperature trend for a 40-year period, from 1990 to 2030—and at this halfway point the report authors have found the projections “seem accurate” after accounting for natural fluctuations.
These are absolutely all the numbers you are going to get out of this news item. And if you peruse the new assessment of the 1990 IPCC predictions, which was actually published on the Nature Climate Change website, what you find is a more nuanced picture than the CBC’s “They nailed it, no worries” interpretation implies.
David Frame and Dáithí Stone write that the 1990 IPCC report predicted a rise in global mean temperatures of between 0.7 degrees C and 1.5 degrees C by the year 2030; on a linear interpolation, we might have expected half the increase to have occurred by now. The actual observed warming during the past 20 years (almost all of it taking place in the first ten) has been in the vicinity of 0.35 degrees C to 0.39 degrees C, “on the borderline” of the range given in 1990. In other words, the IPCC’s point estimate was high, and the overall warming has been consistent with the outer confidence bounds of their stated prediction, but barely.
Frame and Stone think, with some justification, that this is a pretty good performance given the simplicity of the climate models available at the time. It’s especially good, they think, because the models could not predict what would happen in the economy, or below the planet’s crust. Their story is that the Earth caught a series of lucky breaks despite the substantive failure of greenhouse gas reduction efforts.
The highlighted [IPCC] prediction assumed a business-as-usual scenario of GHG emissions; three other scenarios were considered and in fact Scenario B (which assumed a shift to natural gas, a decrease in the deforestation rate, and implementation of the Montreal Protocol, all independent of global climate negotiations) was closer to the mark as of 2010, especially with respect to methane emissions… Of course, [even these Scenario B] predictions were based on idealized future scenarios that did not foresee the eruption of Mount Pinatubo, the collapse of the Soviet Bloc industry, or the growth of some Asian economies, so one could argue that the prediction is right for the wrong reasons.
The authors conclude by noting that predicting the future is a lot harder than predicting the past—and, unfortunately, the resolving power of crystal balls has not improved much since 1990.
…the 1990 prediction following [the IPCC's] business-as-usual scenario covered a full 0.4ºC range due solely to uncertainty in the climate sensitivity that has not narrowed substantially so far, whereas a larger range was implied by the examination of further scenarios of emissions and a larger range still should have been considered owing to uncertainty in the evolution of natural forcings and internally generated variability.
Believers in and skeptics of the threat from anthropogenic climate change will both find promising fodder in this paper for conversion into mountains of delicious hay. (Mind the carbon emissions, though.) I’ll resist the temptation to join in that exercise, but it is very clear that the authors’ “Well done” message to the IPCC carries a sizable asterisk. If the CBC is going to report on a scientific paper, why not show some indication somebody has read it?
By John Geddes - Thursday, December 1, 2011 at 9:48 AM - 22 Comments
The policy Stephen Harper’s government on climate change has been so weak that anyone interested in the issue could be forgiven for assuming that the official Canadian stance going into this month’s negotiations in Durban, South Africa is indefensible.
Environment Minister Peter Kent has been brushing aside questions about persistent reports that Canada plans to withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol at the close of the conference, which is meant to set the stage for a new phase in the global protocol to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
By Aaron Wherry - Thursday, September 15, 2011 at 3:53 PM - 18 Comments
Among various cuts at Environment Canada, the government is apparently about to eliminate an ozone monitoring program.
The British journal Nature says scientists and research institutes around the world have been informally told the Canadian network will be shut down as early as this winter, putting an end to continuous ozone measurements that go back 45 years.
“People are gobsmacked by this decision,” Thomas Duck, an atmospheric researcher at Dalhousie University, said in an interview with Postmedia News. He and his international colleagues say they’ve been told the network and a related data archive will be closed down as part of the Harper government’s deep cuts at Environment Canada, where hundreds of jobs are being are eliminated.
By Kate Lunau - Thursday, July 28, 2011 at 5:35 PM - 0 Comments
Sperm whales have distinct dialects, complex relationships and a set of traditions passed down between generations—what scientists are calling a ‘multicultural civilization’
Tourist brochures refer to Dominica, a tiny Caribbean island between Guadeloupe and Martinique, as “the Nature Island” for its lush vegetation, its postcard-perfect waterfalls, and its plant and animal life. The indigenous Carib Indians called it Waitukubuli (“tall is her body”), which might be a better name: the island’s volcanic peaks jut sharply upwards before falling away into the sea, leaving a deep oceanic basin on its Western side that’s sheltered by the mountainous island.
Shane Gero came here in 2005 looking for sperm whales. There had been reports of sightings around Dominica (pronounced “Domin-eek-a”), including families with multiple babies, but still, he wasn’t too sure what he’d find. “When we got there, they were everywhere,” says Gero, 31, a Ph.D. candidate at Dalhousie University. That year, Gero spent 41 straight days following one family of sperm whales; he’s returned every year since, splitting his time between Dominica, Halifax and his hometown of Ottawa. By now, Gero has spent literally thousands of hours following over 20 families of sperm whales. He knows some of them so well that he can recognize them by sight when they surface, lingering about 15 minutes to breathe and socialize before diving again. He’s even got names for them, like Pinchy, Fingers and Spoon.
Sperm whales are some of the most mysterious animals on Earth. The largest of all toothed whales (males can be 18 m long, and weigh up to 60 tonnes), they have the biggest brains of any known creature. They “see” through dark ocean water using echolocation, emitting a series of clicks that enables scientists to track them with an underwater microphone. (Dolphins and killer whales also use echolocation, detecting a nearby object by bouncing sound off its surface.) Sperm whales’ heads are filled with a waxy substance called spermaceti; some scientists think this serves as an amplifier when whales emit sonar—the most powerful in the world—to find prey. They can dive underwater for up to 90 minutes before surfacing to breathe, and feed on giant squid, which live up to 1,000 m deep. Sperm whales have been found with circular scars on their bodies, wounds from a giant squid’s suction cups.
By Kate Lunau - Friday, June 17, 2011 at 10:55 AM - 0 Comments
The island is a treasure trove of unique creatures—more than 600 of them
Madagascar is one of Earth’s last great tropical wildernesses and, in the past decade, scientists have found an incredible 615 new species there, according to a new report from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF). Among these discoveries—including 385 plants, 42 invertebrates, 17 fish, 69 amphibians, 61 reptiles and 41 mammals—some sound almost too fantastic to be believed. The cork bark leaf-tailed gecko, for example, looks like a crawling piece of bark, with its craggy tan-coloured skin. The massive tahina palm flowers only once in its life, producing a spectacular bloom before it dies. And Berthe’s mouse lemur, the smallest known primate, is so tiny it can fit in the palm of your hand.
The fourth largest island in the world, Madagascar is home to five per cent of our planet’s animal and plant species, and more than 70 per cent of them can’t be found anywhere else. Its landscape is widely varied, from tropical rainforest to volcanic mountains, broad plains and desert; surrounding waters are home to some of the world’s largest coral reef systems. With better sampling techniques and DNA analysis, scientists are finding species there they’d never previously observed.
Madagascar’s rampant biodiversity can be partly explained by its unique geological history, says Richard Hughes, the WWF’s regional director in Madagascar, reached over the phone from the capital of Antananarivo. The island split off from the African continent about 165 million years ago, and broke free from India over 80 million years ago; human settlement there, he notes, “only dates back around 2,000 years.” As a result, plants and animals have had a long time to evolve in isolation, inspiring some scientists to call Madagascar the eighth continent.
By Charlie Gillis - Monday, January 24, 2011 at 5:00 PM - 10 Comments
Why the ‘garbage patch’ in the mid-Pacific is not nearly the disaster it’s been made out to be
The sea, as any poet will tell you, invites metaphor, and scientists are as susceptible to its powers as those who deal in tropes. Having surveyed the stew of shattered plastic, discarded tires and floating refrigerators gathering in the mid-Pacific, the oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer raised a worldwide alarm a decade ago about a burgeoning “garbage patch”—the result of centripetal ocean currents and convergent weather patterns in a vast, subtropical swirl known as the North Pacific Gyre. To say the least, this label captured the public imagination. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch shot up the hierarchy of environmental causes, garnering the sort of attention reserved for clear-cut logging, or global warming.
But it wasn’t enough to sate today’s multi-platform media monster. By 2005, the fervid accounts of eco-bloggers and mainstream journalists were elevating the patch to an “island”—as if you could step from the deck of a boat and walk across it. Oprah Winfrey’s website described it as “the world’s largest trash dump” and “the most shocking thing” the TV host had “ever seen.” “Estimated to be twice the size of Texas, it swirls across the Pacific from California to Japan,” the site proclaimed, notwithstanding the fact Oprah had never seen it first-hand. “In some places, it’s 300 feet deep and has killed millions of sea birds and marine mammals.”
Er, not quite, says Angelicque White, an oceanographer who has actually visited the gyre. Based on water samples and data gathered during a research voyage in 2008, the Oregon State University scientist last week issued an analysis letting a lot of air out of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, describing it not so much as an island or even a patch, but as a highly diffuse soup, in which tiny shards of plastic float metres, if not kilometres apart. “Imagine 1,000 one-litre bottles sitting in front you, all full of water from this area,” she says from her office in Corvallis, Ore. “Three to five of those bottles would have one piece of plastic the size of a pencil eraser. It’s not twice the size of Texas. You can’t see it from space. It’s not even something you can see from the deck of a ship.”
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, December 16, 2010 at 10:40 AM - 8 Comments
New research suggests a possible cause of dolphin and whale strandings: severe to profound hearing loss
When weakened by disease, starvation or injury, dolphins succumb to an instinctual fear of drowning. Seized with panic, they swim to shallower and shallower water to keep breathing, and often wind up stranded on a beach, where the sun, sand and wind quickly end their lives.
Now, thanks to new research from the University of Southern Florida (USF), scientists have discovered one of the elusive root contributors to whale and dolphin strandings—deafness.
“Whales and dolphins are acoustic animals. They use sound to feed, they use sound to breed, they use sound to fulfill every biologically important goal of their existence,” says Michael Jasney, an ocean-noise expert with the National Resources Defense Council, an international environmental group. “If you take away their ability to hear, you take away their link to the world.”
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, November 25, 2010 at 12:00 PM - 3 Comments
Caribou are disappearing at an alarming rate. But some think they know how to save them.
For years, First Nations groups and scientists have been warning about the decline of caribou. Now, with some herds wiped out completely and others suffering declines of up to 97 per cent since the 1980s, governments and resource companies are finally taking note.
The threat to caribou was an especially hot topic last month in Winnipeg at the 13th annual North American Caribou Workshop, normally a low-key event dominated by scientists and researchers. First Nations—asked to consult based on their millennia-long relationship with the animal—made up more then half of the participants, and the workshop attracted representatives from the governments of Greenland, Russia, the Canadian Prairies and territories, and major natural resource companies including AbitibiBowater. Avrim Lazar, president and CEO of the Forest Products Association of Canada, the trade organization that represents forestry companies, says many of those in the industry are starting to plan developments around caribou.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 11 Comments
When you need massive reforestation, aerial planting is the answer
Massive planes, once used to blanket the earth in land mines, could soon be dropping a very different kind of bomb—pointed containers with saplings inside. “There is renewed interest in massive reforestation and shrub planting,” says Moshe Alamaro, an MIT researcher. “Aerial reforestation is the way to go.”
Alamaro collaborated with U.S. aerospace company Lockheed Martin in the late ’90s to replace the tedious and back-breaking work of manually planting trees by dropping saplings from the sky. The idea, which could see nearly one million trees planted per day, was based on research done at the University of British Columbia in the 1970s. The concept involved using a small fertilizing plane to drop saplings in plastic pods one at a time from a hopper. But it wasn’t very fruitful—most pods hit debris during pilot tests and failed to actually take root.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, October 7, 2010 at 2:00 PM - 0 Comments
A 79-year-old Englishman whose bees resist Varroa mites is part of a wave of hope for global food security
Every morning at about nine, Ron Hoskins slips into his white beekeepers outfit, pulls trays out from beneath 17 of his 50 buzzing apiaries in a conservation park in Swindon, England, and painstakingly sorts through the contents with a magnifying glass. He goes home at five, and he’s often up until 2 a.m. examining his finds under a microscope. “It keeps me going,” says the 79-year-old retired heating engineer. Hoskins, who has a “beekeepers do it better” sign in his office, took up apiculture during the Second World War when he was evacuated to a country school. He’s done it ever since. His current research started when worldwide bee populations began to collapse in the mid-’90s; since then numbers have fallen by up to 60 per cent in some countries. With a full third of our diet derived from insect-pollinated plants, the decline in bee populations could be devastating to global food security. But, after more than a decade of careful breeding, Hoskins thinks he’s got the answer.
He’s hopeful because of what’s lying in the bottom of his trays: dead varroa mites, tiny parasites that latch onto the necks of bees, feeding on their blood and transmitting diseases in the process. The mites usually destroy any hive they infect and, since they started to spread from Asia in the 1960s, have arguably become the biggest threat to bee populations around the globe. “It’s quite scary,” says Chris Deaves, an executive with the British Beekeepers Association (BBKA). But Hoskins has managed to naturally make 17 of his 50 colonies mite-resistant, an achievement scientists such as Leonard Foster, a biologist at the University of British Columbia, are calling a major breakthrough. “If the bees are able to deal with varroa mites to a level where they need no human intervention,” Foster says, “they have the potential to reverse the decline in numbers.”
By macleans.ca - Thursday, August 26, 2010 at 10:00 AM - 0 Comments
Going Gaga: Today’s extreme and celebrity culture has even affected the Animal Channel
“I was an exile in Manhattan” has an improbable ring, rather like the fifties radio program I Was a Communist for the FBI. All the same, it wasn’t Duluth or Thunder Bay, but glorious, stenchingly hot Manhattan that became my exile during recent court proceedings. All I missed were my panting white dogs whom my husband had never seen, but who are now with us. There’s a bonding thing going on between little Arpad, 90 lb. at eight months, and my husband, undisclosed pounds at 792 months.
Conrad lectures him about the 10th century’s Prince Árpád, who led the Magyars over the Carpathian Mountains to establish Hungary, while Arpad wags his tail with joy and establishes himself on our bed.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, August 19, 2010 at 2:40 PM - 0 Comments
The head count is almost complete in the first tally of the world’s marine species
The International Census of Marine Life, which has taken 10 years and the involvement of thousands of scientists across 80 countries to develop, is still a work in progress.
By Barbara Amiel - Thursday, August 12, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
Subtropical Florida: ‘I’d go there to die in perfect physical condition because there isn’t much else to do’
No matter how often I tell myself “everything dies,” which everything certainly does—hot water bottles, for example, and I have the scald burns to prove it, and my shoes definitely get to the cremation point—still, I can’t deal with anything dying that belongs to the zoological branch of biology except mosquitoes.
I bury ladybirds and feel perfectly Gestapo-ish if my rain boots squash the worms that come out in the wet. Nothing new about this: I’ve been an animal sentimentalist since I rescued the beetle swimming in my semolina pudding at school. This past week a dead chipmunk in a small copse in our garden destroyed the summer day.
By Kate Lunau - Monday, July 19, 2010 at 11:07 AM - 0 Comments
In 2013, our sun will hit its solar maximum, creating disturbances that could take out the power grid
In March 1989, six million Quebecers lost power for nine hours after a massive solar flare—an explosion of magnetic energy from the sun—created electric ground currents here on Earth, collapsing the power grid. Another geomagnetic storm, in 1921, brought ground currents 10 times as strong. But the fiercest one ever recorded, called the Carrington Event of 1859, electrified telegraph lines—even setting telegraph papers on fire—and created northern lights visible as far south as Cuba and Hawaii. If such a storm were to strike today, the consequences would be devastating. But NASA researchers say severe space weather could be on the way.
By Nancy Macdonald - Thursday, July 1, 2010 at 9:20 AM - 0 Comments
Crow-rich Pacific Northwest can breathe a sigh of relief
With attack-of-the-crows season finally over, city dwellers in the crow-rich Pacific Northwest can breathe a sigh of relief. Yes, spring in these parts has come to mean more than just cherry blossoms; it’s also fledge season, when the abundant regional crow population teaches its young to fly. With baby crows—surely some of the ugliest young Mother Nature has ever produced—tottering about on city sidewalks and lawns, their anxious, protective parents turn, for a spell, into winged maniacs, dive-bombing any human or dog who unwittingly steps too close.
For two weeks in June, a 75-m stretch of sidewalk outside Maclean’s Vancouver bureau was closed to human traffic: “Watch for attacking crows,” read the vaguely terrifying warning.
By Jen Cutts - Thursday, June 17, 2010 at 9:00 AM - 0 Comments
He has 15,000 Facebook fans
Dopey and starving after a long winter’s nap, Dino the bear began searching for food—and wandered into the limelight. The 385-lb. brown bear, nicknamed by the Italian media, has been frustrating farmers in the Italian Alps with his attacks on their cows, chickens and sheep. Though brown bears are protected by Italian law, the farmers want Dino shot. His fans (nearly 15,000 on a Facebook page) are insisting he be allowed to live.
By Patricia Treble - Thursday, June 10, 2010 at 12:20 PM - 0 Comments
A bicyclist was injured by an avian aerial assault last week
Bloodied pedestrians and official warnings are the telltale sign that Berlin’s crows have launched their annual reign of terror. “It was like a Hitchcock horror film,” a bystander explained to the Berliner Kurier after a bicyclist was injured by an avian aerial assault last week. “They simply pecked away! And their beaks aren’t so small either.”
By Kate Lunau - Tuesday, June 8, 2010 at 11:39 AM - 2 Comments
Unusual creatures keep appearing. Are they new species or mere baldies?
A few weeks ago, two nurses were strolling along the shore of Big Trout Lake, in northern Ontario, when their dog hauled something from the water. It was the corpse of a creature, about 30 cm long, unlike anything they’d ever seen: bald-faced, with a glossy pelt and cloudy white eyes. The nurses snapped some photos, but when others returned to find the body, it was gone. Ever since, the First Nation community there (population 1,450) has been abuzz. Based on the photos, “it’s not a muskrat; it’s not an otter; it’s not a rat,” says Chief Donny Morris, adding that some are nervous the animal—dubbed “the ugly one”—could be a bad omen.
By Colby Cosh - Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 1:00 PM - 10 Comments
The biggest dam ever redefines the limits of beaver architecture
Here’s a complete list of the equipment Jean Thie used to discover the world’s longest beaver dam: 1. Google Earth. 2. His brain. One of these he was born with; the other’s a free download. His record, which came to international attention this month by means of one of those curious Internet epidemics, stands waiting to be broken. If you have a computer and a knowledge of beaver habitat, you could break it yourself. He seems a sporting fellow, and would probably rather like it if you did.
Thie is an expert in forests and wetlands, and in the use of computers and aerial imaging in environmental management; his Ecoinformatics International consultancy is based in Ottawa. In 2007, he was studying the effect of climate change on permafrost when he found himself becoming increasingly curious about the large beaver dams he was spotting on Google Earth in Canada’s boreal zone.
By Cathy Gulli - Friday, May 14, 2010 at 10:49 AM - 28 Comments
Two Canadians in Peru face earthquakes, landslides, floods, near-death—and death
“You’re cursed now,” the Peruvian guide chided. Nakita Haining had just picked up one of dozens of skulls and bones strewn across ancient burial grounds in Peru when the guide offered this ominous message. She looked over at her travel partner Daryl Buchanan, who had done the same. “You’re cursed now, too,” the guide said, nodding. Haining and Buchanan smiled nervously, set the skulls down, and carried on with their hike. But ever since that warning, recalls Buchanan, “All this stuff happened.”
“Stuff” is Buchanan’s characteristically unadorned way of describing what ensued: earthquakes, landslides, ﬂoods. Near-death, and death. A state of emergency declared in several regions of the country. At least 30,000 people affected. He and Haining had arrived in Peru from Edmonton on Jan. 14, for a two-week vacation that would culminate in a four-day trek through the Amazon jungle and along the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. There, the pair, who describe themselves as best friends, bandmates and co-workers in a vinyl siding business, would celebrate Haining’s 23rd birthday.
By Tom Henheffer - Sunday, May 2, 2010 at 1:10 PM - 19 Comments
The kiri is all the talk in the carbon credit market. Will it deliver?
The Chinese kiri tree is a miracle of nature. It grows 10 to 20 feet in a single year and up to 80 in seven, it regenerates from the roots after it’s been harvested, it’s so hearty that it can survive wildfires, and millions of the deciduous trees are about to be planted around the world.
“They grow fast. That’s probably the one outstanding characteristic that gets everybody’s attention,” says David Drexler, who owns a kiri plantation in Georgia. He says the tree, which produces a pale and lightweight hardwood, has an untapped potential that farmers and investors are beginning to notice.
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, April 29, 2010 at 12:20 PM - 2 Comments
Nearly immortal jellyfish could help unlock health secrets
Scientists are finding that the world’s oceans are being infested with a specific species of jellyfish—one that can potentially live forever. “We’re facing a worldwide silent invasion,” says Maria Pia Miglietta, a biology researcher at Pennsylvania State University. What makes this particular creature—the Turritopsis dohrnii—so special is its ability to change from its adult state (the tentacle-trailing dome we all know and avoid) back into tiny polyps, restarting what would normally only be a life cycle of a few months and allowing it to create more colonies, and thousands more jellyfish. “It’s like a butterﬂy,” says Miglietta, “but instead of dying it turns back into a caterpillar.”
The process is called transdifferentiation—that’s when specialized cells change from one type into another. It occurs elsewhere in nature, mostly in partial organ regeneration, but scientists don’t know of any other animals that use it the same way as this particular jellyfish. And learning how the Turritopsis “switches on genes that rejuvenate their cells” may result in major breakthroughs in reversing the cellular degeneration that causes diseases like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s, says Stefano Piraino, a professor of biology and environmental science at Italy’s University of Salento. It could also lead to greater insight into the world’s most deadly illness: “I don’t want to say that we will find a solution for cancer,” says Piraino. “But it could contribute to the understanding of how cancer occurs.”
By Tom Henheffer - Thursday, August 13, 2009 at 3:00 PM - 14 Comments
The value-building adventure program retreats from the wild
Launching deep woods expeditions from remote wilderness bases has been the core of Outward Bound Canada’s (OB) program for 40 years. But shifting demographics, busier work schedules and rising costs have hit the non-profit hard. Kids are happier online than in the woods, professionals don’t have time for weeks of wilderness travel, and the $500 to $2,800 trips are pricey in a bad economy. So change is coming to Outward Bound. “As time has passed, the risk of becoming irrelevant increases for any organization,” says Dave Wolfenden, OB’s executive director. “If we stayed as a purely wilderness tripping organization, we wouldn’t have survived.”
In a twist, Outward Bound is hitting the cities. A new community centre is under construction in Toronto—it’ll be a launching point for trips and a place where people can receive wilderness education right in the city. There are plans to lead hikes through Toronto’s ravines, for sailing on Lake Ontario, and for community service in the city’s hospices. There are also plans to build a second centre in Vancouver. But while OB tries to reach out to all Canadians, its main mission has always been teaching youth adaptability, leadership and life skills. So OB is also concentrating on meeting kids in the classroom. “The program shifts from bringing the students to Outward Bound to Outward Bound bringing itself to the schools,” says Wolfenden. Continue…