From the depths

From the depths r1 ... View this e-mail in your browser. We like to reflect around here about narwhals being one of the world's deepest-diving mammals.

There's good fodder there for journalists trying to get beyond the headlines, to the story behind the story.

That's just what Sarah Cox had in mind when she heard that Canada's oldest, continuously running small-scale hydro plant, located in the eclectic community of Sandon, B.C., had fallen on hard times.

The charming Silversmith power plant was built during a silver mining rush in the 1800s, back when, as Sarah put it, the town "boasted 10,000 residents, two dozen saloons, scores of hotels, a hospital, jail cells, two railways and an embarrassment of brothels."

Despite being a reliable producer and having a federal EcoLogo certificate (think the Fair Trade chocolate of the electricity world), B.C. has little appetite for Silversmith's green power. In other provinces like Alberta, consumers have the ability to purchase green power. But in B.C., all power goes into what Silversmith owner Hal Wright calls the "junk market" where it fetches an undervalued price.

For Silversmith, that's led to slowed operations.

“When you think of a green producer not producing what they could ... it just seems ridiculous,” Wright told Sarah during her time visiting the plant.

"Why would you want to suppress the development of green hydro? B.C. should be building that as fast as we can."

Be sure to check out Sarah's new feature, complete with photos from one of our faves, Louis Bockner.

Also, with the year quickly coming to a close, we're looking back at some of The Narwhal's greatest hits from 2019 and sharing them below. All we can say is What. A. Year.

Please read on and be sure to share this newsletter with everyone and their dog.


From the depths,
Carol Linnitt
Managing Editor

P.S. It was positively delightful to hear all the feedback about Sharon's adventure to the Nahanni. Thank you all for writing in. We like you.

P.P.S. Want to see just how deep a narwhal goes? Check out this incredible visual representation (and thank you to a very special reader for sending that in).

Best of 2019

‘Deliberate extinction’: extensive clear-cuts, gas pipeline approved in endangered caribou habitat

By Sarah Cox

Scientists warn another B.C. caribou herd could disappear as the provincial government approves 78 new logging cutblocks in critical habitat for the Hart Ranges herd, while construction of a pipeline for LNG industry takes out another chunk of boreal forest. Read more.

‘This is not Canada’: inside the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s battle against Taseko Mines

By Judith Lavoie

A proposed copper and gold mine has been rejected twice by the federal government for its impacts on Fish Lake, an area considered sacred by the Tsilhqot’in. But B.C.’s mining laws allow the company to move ahead with exploration work anyway. That doesn’t square with Tsilhqot’in law and the community says it won’t back down. Read more.

‘Hidden danger’: Life for farmers atop Alberta’s 400,000 kilometres of pipelines

By Sharon J. Riley

Don and Marg Wieben thought they'd found a piece of paradise when they moved to Fairview, Alta., nearly 50 years ago. Now, with pipelines crisscrossing their farm — most often left to remain in the ground 'indefinitely' — they wonder what's being left behind for the next generation. Read more.

Thaidene Nëné heralds a new era of parks

By Jimmy Thomson

For decades, establishing a park in Canada meant removing Indigenous people from their traditional territories. In Canada’s newest national park — Thaidene Nëné National Park Reserve — the Łutsel K’e Dene will hunt and fish, work as guardians of the territory and show off their land to tourists. Read more.

B.C.’s last great herring fishery

By Christopher Pollon

The Georgia Strait is home to one of the few remaining industrial herring fisheries on the Pacific coast of North America. It's now the frontline in a battle to protect this oft-overlooked species from becoming slurry to feed pets and farmed salmon. Read more.

Mercury rising: how the Muskrat Falls dam threatens Inuit way of life

By Sarah Cox

With soaring food prices, Inuit living downstream of the massive hydro project say they’re faced with the impossible decision of eating contaminated land-based foods or abandoning traditional practices. Read more.

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