News

1. COVID-19 update: the lockdown continues

Photo: Ivan Diaz/Unsplash

Well, the lockdown in Nova Scotia will continue for a few more weeks. School will continue online as will the restrictions, and the number of new cases is coming down, although very slowly.

Tim Bousquet and Zane Woodford have Wednesday’s update on COVID-19 in the province. Two more deaths were announced yesterday — a man in Nova Scotia Health’s Northern Zone and a woman in the Central Zone. Both were in their 60s. Eighty-three new cases were announced and 164 recoveries. There are still a lot of people in hospital (101) and 20 are in ICU (that number is down from Tuesday).

Woodford was live tweeting yesterday’s COVID briefing with Premier Iain Rankin and Chief Medical Officer Dr. Strang.

Rankin shared a message to kids and parents after announcing online school will continue for the remainder of the school year:

To the students, I know that’s difficult that you won’t be able to go back in person and see your friends, and I appreciate that that’s going to be difficult, and I know that it was an adjustment to learn from distance through a computer screen and I know that’s taken a bit of a toll on parents.

Strang was asked about travelling to cottages for the upcoming weekend, and he responded in frustration (you can watch the clip here).

It’s about movement of people. The more movement we have, the more chance the virus goes with you, and even if you may intend to go there, what happens if you get in an automobile accident or your car breaks down? There’s lots of things.

I think people should recognize that if they actually have a cottage or a second place to go, they are extremely privileged. There are many people that are struggling to maintain their home or losing their jobs right now. So if you have a second home, choose one of your homes and make that their permanent residence for the next few months, do not go back and forth. That’s not very much to ask when many people are struggling for a lot more. We have people struggling for their lives in hospital, so choose one place and stay there.

I may sound frustrated but I am. That is an extremely privileged position to be in and recognize that privilege … We’re not going to enforce our way out of this. It’s like everything else — do the right thing because it’s the right thing to care for each other, recognize how privileged you are and … make the right choice.

You can link to each section of the update here:

Overview
Schools
Vaccination
Demographics
Testing
Potential exposure advisories

Or click here to read the entire update.

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2. Atlantic Gold’s imaginary conservation land

Moose river gold mine tailings pond with Scraggy Lake in foreground (contributed)

When I read Joan Baxter’s work, I wonder what it must be like to be in her brain even for a day. The amount of knowledge she has on issues she writes about is astonishing. I’d like to mine her brain for knowledge!

Today, Baxter has this article on Atlantic Gold and its plans to make modifications at its open pit Touquoy gold mine in Moose River. Baxter writes about those plans, but also other plans they’re ignoring:

Among other things, the company wants to expand its waste rock storage area that is already sky-high, prepare to store tailings in the giant mine pit when it is exhausted, realign a public road, and create a nearly six-hectare pit away from the mine site where it will procure clay, something it has already been doing for months and causing a lot of siltation in a small nearby brook.

The announcement, from Laird Brownlie, head of external affairs for the Australian company St Barbara that owns Atlantic Gold, didn’t specify whether any of the modifications are needed so the site can cope with massive amounts of rock coming to the site from the company’s proposed new mines at Beaver DamFifteen Mile Stream, and Cochrane Hill, its “string of pearls” that comprise the Moose River Consolidated Project on Nova Scotia’s Eastern Shore, for which the plans have been submitted — individually and not as a consolidated project — to the Impact Assessment Agency of Canada for federal evaluation.[1]

All of which is, well, interesting, given that Atlantic Gold still hasn’t fulfilled the terms of its first provincial Environmental Assessment Approval for Touquoy open pit gold mine issued in 2008, or its 2014 Industrial Approval for the mine. Those required the company to submit a plan for procuring conservation land and handing the land over to the province to compensate for the land lost to the Moose River mine in Halifax Regional Municipality.

What I enjoy about Baxter’s writing is she shows readers the work she puts into these stories, including all the questions she sends to sources who, in many cases, don’t respond.

This article is for subscribers, so if you’d like to read it and support more of Baxter’s work, please consider subscribing, which you can do here.

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3. Vaccine study looking for pregnant, breastfeeding participants

Eligible Atlantic Canadians are encouraged to participate in a national study looking at the effectiveness and safety of COVID-19 vaccines in pregnant people. Photo: Arteida Mjeshtri

Yvette d’Entremont reports on a national vaccine study that is looking for Atlantic Canadians who are pregnant or breastfeeding and may want to take part. The University of British Columbia’s national COVERED vaccine study registry  wants to look at the safety and effectiveness of vaccines for people who are pregnant or breastfeeding. d’Entremont spoke with lead researcher Dr. Deborah Money, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of British Columbia about the study:

We really want this to be a Canadian study, and the purpose is to capture both the attitudes and issues that women have with deciding on this vaccine in pregnancy.

And also for those that do or do not take the opportunity of the vaccine, what are the pregnancy outcomes and how do they do? This is a way of tracking this across the country.

d’Entremont also spoke with Halifax-based physician and Dalhousie University professor Dr. Scott Halperin, who said results from the study will be sent to public health officials so they can make decisions about vaccine programs across the country.

There are 400,000 pregnancies a year so we can generate a lot of information on a lot of pregnancies very fast if women are getting immunized.

Click here to read d’Entremont’s complete article.

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4. The Tideline, Episode 29: Terra Spencer

Terra Spencer Photo: Contributed

In episode 29 of The Tideline, with Tara Thorne, she chats with Terra Spencer, a singer-songwriter in Windsor, N.S. Spencer talks about her debut album, Chasing Rabbits, but also how her day job as a funeral director has changed during the pandemic and how that work affects her song writing and music.  

And we have some news about The Tideline! We’ve moved to a new platform, and starting with this episode, anyone can listen to The Tideline the day it’s uploaded. There will be no subscription fee; just simply click on the link to listen. You can listen to some of the past episodes if you click here.

Like any podcast, you still need to subscribe to have the episodes download automatically to your device. Iris will contact paid subscribers and end your recurring payments.

Again, to listen to Thorne’s interview with Spencer, click here.

If you have any questions, just email me. 

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5. Should we name and shame restaurants that break the rules?

Photo: Bundo Kim/Unsplash

I’ve seen this discussion happening on social media. Restaurants are fined for not complying with public health rules, Halifax Regional Police send out a press release about the tickets and fines, but doesn’t name the offending restaurants.

Bruce Frisko at CTV reported on this shame-and-name debate.  

On Saturday and Sunday, two restaurants in Halifax were handed summary offence tickets and fined $11,622.50 under section 71 (1) (a) of the Health Protection Act. 

Halifax Regional Police spokesperson Const. John MacLeod told CTV News explained why they don’t name the restaurants: 

We issue these releases not to shame the individual, but really we put that information out there to let people know that if they’re not following these regulations, as they’re supposed to, they should expect to see enforcement. 

Restaurants Canada VP Atlantic Luc Erjavec told CTV some restaurants probably made a “stupid decision” and they are the exception, not the rule. 

I’ve worked with a lot of restaurants over the course of the last year, and we have a really fantastic track record in terms of compliance.”

As a whole, the industry is doing a fantastic job, and we just can’t accept individual restaurants breaking these rules because they put everyone else at risk.

Frisko also talked with Brendan Doherty at the Old Triangle, which is completely shut down right now. Doherty says restaurants should stick together, adding “We’re all in this together as one team, one dream. We’re close to summer, and hopefully we’re going to have another great one.”

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Views

Rewilding in the city

A naturalization project at Merv Sullivan Park, in the north end of Halifax.
Photo: Suzanne Rent

Earlier this week, the Globe and Mail published this piece by Kat Tancock about rewilding or letting native plants run their course in urban areas.  Tancock looks at how the concept of rewilding developed:

One leader in this movement has been American ecologist Douglas W. Tallamy, whose book Nature’s Best Hope urges readers to set aside half their properties for native plants, a concept he calls Homegrown National Park. It’s an idea that has captured many imaginations, and for good reason, says Carly Ziter, a professor of biology at Concordia University who specializes in the ecology of urban environments. “It might feel uncomfortable at first to do these things because we’re used to a certain aesthetic,” she says. “But often when people start seeing the bees and butterflies and birds come back, it’s really gratifying and they want to do more.”

Ziter points out that many of us see nature as separate from the places where we live, and that the 80 per cent of Canadians who live in urban environments will (assuming they have the privilege to do so) often leave the city to seek nature. But nature has been there all along, she says, and we would do well to value it more highly. Urban green spaces provide us with improved mental and physical health, higher property values, reduced flooding and, when it comes to trees in particular, lower summertime temperatures – which is especially important to protect vulnerable populations (who often live without air conditioning) from the effects of heat waves.

“Nature, or green infrastructure, is something that we’ve often thought of as nice to have,” Ziter says. “But it’s actually really critical.”

So how do you rewild your own little space at home or even in your neighbourhood? Tancook spoke to some experts:

Begin by defining your vision, suggests Kristen Miskelly of Saanich Native Plants, a nursery and consultancy near Victoria. Perhaps you want to attract hummingbirds or other pollinators, or plant a miniature woodland, or create a wildflower meadow. Next, cross-reference that with the native species of your bioregion and any other requirements, such as preventing slope erosion or blocking certain sightlines. Then it’s a matter of working with a local nursery or landscaper to choose the right plants. “What we’re trying to do for people is provide a list of species and restoration approaches that will be successful,” Miskelly says, “so they’ll be able to put those plants in and those plants will do well.”

Over on Twitter, there was a good local discussion on this article and how rewilding could work in Halifax, including in larger urban green spaces. Tristan Cleveland, an urban planner with Happy City, suggested rewilding could work on Citadel Hill (I like this idea). Later in the Twitter chat, Cleveland said he brought up the idea to staff at Parks Canada, which manages the Citadel site. He also mentions some local flora was planted at the top of the walls at the fort.

Stephen Archibald suggested there be trees at the base of Citadel Hill and he shared a photo that shows historically there were trees there.

HRM has a naturalization strategy and there are projects and new ones to come at several sites in Halifax, Dartmouth, and Hammonds Plains. Here’s the description of naturalization:

Naturalization is an ecologically-based approach to landscape management that seeks to enhance biodiversity and ecological resilience in the urban landscape using native or non-invasive-adapted plant species including flowering perennials, grasses, shrubs, and trees. The goal in some naturalization projects may be to create specific landscape types such as Acadian Forest, wetlands, meadows, and riparian areas.

In January 2019, Halifax regional council approved a report that gave some direction on how naturalization projects around the HRM could work. And in March this year, council approved an associated report that updated those naturalization projects, but also noted that some of the pilot projects were being extended because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In an email, Klara Needler, a spokesperson with HRM, told me about some of the upcoming projects:

One of these programs is at Merv Sullivan Park, which features a social gathering space with a log seating circle bringing people closer to native plants and allowing them to observe how plants change throughout the seasons. Others include Dillman Park and a right of way area in Kingswood subdivision, which include planting areas with flowering species that attract pollinators. All of these naturalization locations become bio-diverse and an alternative to grass lawns.

Here’s a map of the naturalization projects around HRM.

I wrote about the natural space project in Hammonds Plains last summer. That project is in a right-of-way in Kingswood subdivision and was started and is maintained by residents, including Donna and Duff Evers, who live nearby.

The meadow garden in Kingswood was created by residents, but there were a few issues around its rock wall and a nearby ditch. Photo: Suzanne Rent

The city of Guelph has a program to encourage residents to plant naturalized gardens, which “use less water, need less maintenance and improve Guelph’s urban forest.”

And there are larger scale projects, including some in Toronto, which will reestablish shorelines and natural habitats. There is a list projects here, including an urban oasis at Love Park (currently York Street Park), and the naturalization of long neglected Lower Don Lands.


Noticed

Speaking of rewilding spaces, I’ve noticed more front yards covered with dandelions this spring. I think it looks lovely, although the clusters of yellow flowers are making some homeowners anxious. Sheldon McLeod recently shared this photo of his yard, asking if anyone he knows is really wanting to mow their lawns.

Are you mowing down your dandelions? Sheldon MacLeod held off as long as he could, and he got this pic before he got the lawn mower out. Photo: Sheldon MacLeod

If you didn’t know, this month is No Mow May. The goal of the campaign, which got its start in the UK and is now being promoted by the Nature Conservancy of Canada, is to leave our lawn mowers in the shed so wild pollinators and other wild life get a good start this spring. In this press release, Dan Kraus, a senior conservation biologist with the conservancy, says leaving our lawns alone can have big benefits for nature and we should just let them bee (pun intended):

If you imagine dozens and dozens of backyards doing things to improve habitat for native pollinators and migratory birds, this can have a big impact on nature and the quality of our urban ecosystems. By letting flowers bloom on your lawn, including dandelions, you can provide an important source of nectar and pollen for wild bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects.

And lawns make a difference. According to the conservancy, Canada has an estimated 6.2 million lawns. They are the largest green spaces in cities and towns. (Today, by the way, is World Bee Day.)

But keeping that mower in the shed is easier said than done for some homeowners, who can get quite attached to how their lawns look. Lawns are part of a home’s curbside appeal, of course. According to this article, The 160-year-old reason you’re obsessed with your lawn, in Popular Science, it was landscape architect Frederick Law Olmstead who designed the concept that still inspires modern lawns. In 1860, Olmstead was hired by a group of investors who wanted to attract buyers to their land. So, they hired Olmstead who designed a green space for homeowners inspired by his tours of England’s public gardens.

According to this article, The Strange Psychology of the American Lawn by Austin Perlmutter in Psychology Today, the idea for a manicured lawn goes back even further. Perlmutter says historian Yuval Noah Harari wrote in his book, Homo Deus, that “the idea of nurturing a lawn at the entrance to private residences was born in the castles of French and English aristocrats in the late Middle Ages.” Lawns are a status symbol.

But Perlmutter says there’s more to our love of lawns:

By definition, lawns are grasses maintained at a short length for aesthetic or recreational purposes. And while rather bland in comparison to other plants, they nevertheless represent one of our most consistent exposures to and engagements with nature. This might seem a net positive, as modern humans certainly suffer from a general lack of greenery. But our careful cultivation of this natural element is better viewed through a more critical lens.

In a 1989 article in The New York Times Magazine , “Why Mow? The Case Against Lawns,” Michael Pollan describes lawns as emblematic of a “skewed relationship to the land,” adding, “they teach us that, with the help of petrochemicals and technology, we can bend nature to our will.” In this sense, lawns are localized order within the chaos of the natural world. Over a few hundred square feet, we fend off entropy, exerting totalitarian rule over a couple of vertical inches of vegetation.

Years ago I watched this clever documentary called “Lawn and Order” by Back Alley Films, which is all about the obsession with lawns. I had hoped to find a link to it, but you can buy it here (thanks to Philip Moscovitch for finding this for me!)

Here at my home, the retired nurse who lives in the flat downstairs is quite the gardener, and has planted all sorts of lovely flowers and greenery in the yard (in the backyard she added flower and veggie beds…and a gnome, which I’m not too sure about, to be honest). The front lawn itself is slowly disappearing. Every year, she carves out some of the grass and sticks a new plant or flowers in there. The tulips blossomed about a week ago. She’s added solar lights and painted rocks. It looks nice!

I don’t know how green my thumb is, but I have some sunflower seeds, so maybe I’ll toss those in to see if they grow.

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Government

City

Thursday

Community Planning and Economic Development Standing Committee (Thursday, 10am) — virtual meeting

Active Transportation Advisory Committee (Thursday, 4:30) — virtual meeting

Youth Advisory Committee (Thursday, 5pm) — livestreamed on YouTube

Harbour East – Marine Drive Community Council (Thursday, 6pm) — livestreamed on YouTube, with live captioning on a text-only site

Province

No meetings


On campus

Dalhousie

Thursday

Visitation Policies During COVID19: A JBI gLOCAL Solution Room Event (Thursday, 10am) — online seminar:

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, significant changes have been implemented in policies around in-person visits to both acute and long-term care settings. Given the rapidly changing nature of the pandemic, the decision-making around adapting current visiting guidelines or creating new ones becomes a complex process.

As part of the global JBI Collaboration, the Dalhousie and UNB Saint John JBI Centres of Excellence are pleased to co-host the JBI gLOCAL Solution Room: Global Evidence, Local Decisions on the topic of Visitation Policies in Acute Care and Long-Term Care Settings During COVID-19, as it relates to the implementation of evidence at the point of care.

Friday

Online Physiology and Biophysics Research Day (Friday, 11am) — three online sessions composed of graduate student oral presentations and two keynote speakers: Ketul Chaudhary from Dalhousie University will talk about “Understanding Sex Differences in Right (-Sided) Heart Failure: Role of Angiogenesis”; Zamaneh Kassiri from the University of Alberta will talk about “Aortic Aneurysm: What Lies Beneath the Structural Degradation.”


In the harbour

Halifax
07:00: Acadia Desgagnes, cargo ship, sails from Pier 9 for sea
11:00: MSC Brianna, container ship, arrives at Pier 42 from Montreal
14:30: NYK Remus, container ship, sails from Fairview Cove for Port Everglades, Florida
15:15: Atlantic Sail, ro-ro container, arrives at Fairview Cove from Liverpool, England
17:00: Oceanex Sanderling, ro-ro container, moves from Pier 41 to Autoport
20:30: MSC Brianna sails for sea
23:00: Oceanex Sanderling moves back to Pier 41

Cape Breton
No arrivals or departures


Footnotes

On Tuesday, May 25 at 4:30, I’ll be giving a talk at Equity Watch called Jobs, Employers, the Good and the Bad. This chat will be based on my own experiences of working in toxic workplaces (I wrote about that here), but also what I learned about looking for work, who’s paying living wages and who isn’t, women in the workplace, and other work issues I’ve written about here in the Examiner. It’s free to take part, so just click here to register. It would be great to hear other workplace stories.

Please subscribe, or drop us a donation. Thanks!

Suzanne Rent

Suzanne Rent is a writer, editor, and researcher. You can follow her on Twitter @Suzanne_Rent

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6 Comments

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  1. Naming & shaming restaurants that have been issued hefty fines for breaking Covid rules is no more prudent than naming & shaming countless citizens fined for the same. If COVID exposure results from these restaurant spaces, we’ll know the names soon enough. ????

  2. Wouldn’t that be great to see at least sections of Citadel Hill allowed to return to wild meadow… call me crazy but I think allowing sheep to graze would fit right in. For urban backyards it’s not so easy as there’s just so much goutweed and even japanese knotweed that many spaces would be completely choked out with the stuff, plus the aggressive and relentless rhizome propagation of these plants would make it difficult or impossible to contain. We’re past the point where land can return to a native state and it requires human intervention to prevent obliteration by invasive non-native species.

  3. Re: The citadel and grass etc. As far as I know, HRM does not fertilize their big turf expanses, and clover thrives in them providing nitrogen, and flowers for pollinators. Also herbicides are not used, so dandelions and many other herbs can bloom. I always love the blaze of yellow at the rotary at this time of year. A major benefit of this carpet on Citadel Hill is as a place for folks to sit and lounge and just roll around; and watch fireworks. A few minor modifications could make it still more nature-friendly without losing these benefits, e.g., leaving it unmowed for longer intervals during certain periods when that is especially beneficial to pollinators; leaving some patches, perhaps 1/3 of the area in total, unmowed or mowed only 1 x /year to form meadows – there were a few of those at the Common Roots site when it was next to the hospital. And yes, it would sure be nice to see more trees.

    1. Yes, moderation in all things – it is good that we aren’t wasting resources on keeping the grass around the rotary a monoculture. But “rewilding” the parts of Citadel Hill that people like to lounge on would be unbelievably daft. The whole point of cities is that they are for people (who are part of nature…), and the smaller and denser our cities are the more actual wilds we can leave around them. Unlike most on our city council, many of us do not (and will never be able to) own lawns of our own that we can make the lawn/natural choice on for ourselves.

      Imagine saying that if we put seawater in all the pools in HRM a school of cod could live there.

  4. Maybe lawns are actually nice? The idea that they are part of some ancient conspiracy is absurd – what would you rather play or lie down on, soft monocropped grass with no plants that attract things that will sting you or a natural patch of grasses complete with ticks and wasps?

    Imagine using similar language to pathologize the enjoyment of lawns, on say, floors that aren’t made of dirt covered with rushes – which is just about as environmentally friendly and “natural” as you can get, and 500 years ago was the only flooring option for most.

    There are better uses for outdoor space than monocropped grass, but converting our public lawns to “natural” wild grasses seems like a waste.

  5. I appreciate your discussion of lawn culture and the delightful move away from it into new/old wilder ways. It has been reassuring to see more birds and pollinators come to my property as we boot out the grass. Something tangible and enjoyable we can do to help address the biodiversity crisis.
    I also have a copy of that obscure documentary “Lawn and Owner” and still watch it now and then!