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HARDING: "Watershed under Duress" - June 2019

PostPosted: Wed Nov 13, 2019 11:06 am
by Oscar
WATERSHED UNDER DURESS - A Snapshot of Local Impacts of Global Warming and Disregard for the Qu’Appelle Valley Watershed

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By Jim Harding, Ph. D. Director, Qu’Appelle Valley Environmental Association (QVEA.CA)
Retired Professor of Environmental and Justice studies June 2019


I became involved in watershed protection after we moved to the Qu’Appelle Valley in 2001. I had long been active in
environmental groups, including helping stop the expansion of the uranium mining in Saskatchewan into refining,
nuclear power plants and a nuclear waste dump. We have had to quickly raise awareness that uranium mining is the
front end of the nuclear industry, and that what happened here mattered globally. We built international networks,
starting with the International Uranium Congress held in Saskatoon in 1988 and later with the good work of Clean Green.
As the climate crisis unfolded, we had to keep from going “from the fossil-fuel frying pan, into the nuclear fire”, as I put it
when on speaking tours with my book Canada’s Deadly Secret.1 Now, facing cataclysmic climate change, and an
increasingly cynical and fragmenting public, we have to quickly embrace the fundamentals in the needed ecological
paradigm shift. Protecting watersheds and water is fundamental to the needed transformation towards sustainability.
Focusing on our watersheds can help us change the bottom line from suicidal economic growth, that externalizes
environmental costs onto future generations, to preserving local and global environmental health.

The Fort Qu’Appelle KAIROS group became interested as the wider ecumenical movement embraced environmental as
well as social justice. This group started to raise awareness about the watershed, of which very few people even had
basic knowledge. At the time, few realized that the Qu’Appelle Watershed ended up in the Arctic. Ironically, one of the
people who carried a bucket of water with us from the Qu’Appelle River to downtown Fort Qu’Appelle, as part of a
KAIROS awareness campaign about the lack of water security worldwide, was Andrew Scheer, when he first ran for
office. We have never seen him since.

In 2016, some remaining KAIROS activists formed the Qu’Appelle Valley Environmental Association (QVEA) to carry on
this work. We have been busy trying to get transparency and accountability regarding local land uses that have dire
implications for watershed and lake protection. We have been protecting a major marsh area within Fort Qu’Appelle
from inappropriate commercial development as a big-boat marina. I think we have won this, though there remains a
concerted cover-up of the conflict of interest that occurred when the Town “sold” a North Dakota energy company,
Abaco, land that should have been protected as floodway. You can find the results of our in-depth research using
Freedom of Information (FOI) records by going to The Marsh Papers at QVEA.CA.

We are now focusing on the climate crisis, which must be the top priority for all water-protector groups. We now know
that the prairies are warming at a much faster rate than elsewhere. With the highest per capita carbon footprint in all
of Canada, and amongst the highest on the planet, Saskatchewan residents have a particular ecological, moral and
political duty to see that carbon is quickly reduced. With a provincial economy heavily dependent on high-carbon
resource extraction and agricultural industries, and carbon-slacking politicians that prefer to politicize carbon pricing as a
“carbon tax”, this will be a big challenge. We clearly live in the belly of the beast.

There is a lot of climate denying here. Yet the extreme weather we have already faced is clearly the writing on the wall.
The climate crisis continues to unfold: B.C. had record wildfires last summer and already, this spring, while we just
survived an unprecedented Arctic Vortex, and remain in a serious drought, Alberta, Yukon and Northern Ontario are
facing unprecedented wildfires.

Since 2010, I wrote nearly 300 columns on “sustainability” for the R-Town newspaper chain. I have gone back over these
to see which articles addressed the impact of global warming on our watershed. What was in these articles even
surprised me. How quickly our memories fade as we try to cope with new, often unsettling, events and information. We
clearly need to base our local actions to protect our watershed on trend lines and the big picture.

I hope these articles help. They are a snapshot on how global warming is already changing our local weather and putting
our watershed at even greater risk. While this is happening, biodiversity continues to decline, worldwide, and especially
in prairie eco-systems such as ours. If we don’t want to see continual watershed degradation of marshes, water quality
and habitat biodiversity, we need to protect the watershed from further assaults and work quickly to get sensible
energy, agricultural and transportation policies and practices that quickly move us towards a low-carbon economy.

Carbon pricing will have to be one approach. Time is not on our side and procrastination is not an option.

– Jim Harding - Crows Nest, Fort San, SK
June 2019