Category Archives: Sustainability

Lighting the Fire

We don’t use our fireplace much because it’s gas-fueled, and is not very efficient. Most of the heat goes up the stack, with little going into the house. For years we’ve aimed to rectify that, but other reno priorities always win the budgetary battle.

So we light the pilot light for only a couple of weeks each year, from near Christmas to New Year’s.

Here are two of my girls, my wife and cat, enjoying the fireplace. The third girl, the turtle, was under her broad spectrum lamp.

Yumi Choco fireplace

Two Adult, No Kids Xmas Shopping

Two adult, no kids Christmas shopping.

Wife: “I know what I want, I’ll show you on Amazon.”

Me: “It says it won’t arrive until mid-January.”

Wife: “That’s fine.”

I’ve already given her some funny Ts that I bought for myself so she can wrap them for me.

And yes, we reuse wrapping paper from year to year within our household, until it gets too ratty, and then the cat gets to play with it before it goes in the paper recycling bin.

As I’ve posted in years past, there’s not much that we want, and less that we need. In our horrendously over-consuming society, we decided years ago that we each inform the other of one or two gifts that we want, and will actually use.

Takes some of the fun out, but we allow surprise stocking stuffing, and a few minor, dollar-store type gifts of under $10 that come from “Santa” under the tree, often to both of us .

Searching Squamish, BC, for Salmon and Eagles

This is a great time of year to see salmon and eagles up the Sea-to-Sky highway heading north from Vancouver to Squamish.

Didn’t see that many of the magnificent raptors today, but enough for some decent photos.

eagle_paradise_valley_road_squamish_20141122Eagle soaring above the Paradise Valley road north of Squamish, BC

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Lunching on what appears to be a chum salmon on the Squamish River

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Cruising along the Squamish River

eagles salmon squamish bc
A mass of  biomass. Lots of carcasses near the Tenderfoot hatchery off the Paradise Valley road north of Squamish. It looks gross, but salmon bring nutrients back from the ocean that enrich our coastal forests and other wildlife.

If You’re Reading This, You’re Guilty, As am I

I am an “environmentalist.” Local papers have labelled me an “activist.”

Yet as I sit here in my office, I am surrounded by metal, plastic, wood, paper — all materials mined or “harvested” from the environment I purport to protect.

I could not be sharing this with you, if you were not also in possession of plastic, glass, various metals that make up computers or tablets or smartphones, and the electrical energy required to  charge their batteries, and run the infrastructure of the Internet.

You are all plugged into your various electrical grids. Some of you could be burning coal to read this, some of you oil. Some of you may be fortunate to be using hydro power (which still kills rivers and fish).

Anyone out there know for sure that they’re purely solar? Or geothermal? And then, what materials were used to make those panels, or bore and set up those wells?

It’s a tough world we live in, for those of us aware enough to realize that we’ve got problems.

BTW this is not meant as message of despair, it’s meant to be a message of awareness, and stimulation to design things better going forward.

Returning Salmon Highlight Wonders of Autumn

I like getting out in nature any time of year, but autumn is the season that evokes the most intense responses. Of course there’s the amazing display of colour, but there’s also a sense of excitement as the salmon return to spawn, and harvest reaches its peak with grain, fruits, and vegetables in abundance.

For me, autumn is the most stimulating time on my local waterway, Byrne Creek in southeast Burnaby, BC. I’ve volunteered as a streamkeeper for many years, and the return of salmon to spawn in this little local creek is an affirmation of efforts to maintain and restore some semblance of a natural world in an urban area.

Walking the creek and finding spawners is exhilarating. And I love to connect other folks to the creek through the awesome fish. Today I found a pair of chum spawning in an area easily viewed from the trail, and I pointed them out to several people who passed by.

“O my God!” “Really? That’s amazing!”

People are enchanted by the sight.

Sometimes the fish are not easy to see, even in a small creek like Byrne. Here’s an example of a “stealth chum” that I initially didn’t notice, though I had carefully scanned the area it was resting in.

chum salmon byrne creek

I saw a total of six spawners today, a pair of chum that were actively spawning, with the female flipping sideways and digging a depression in the gravel and cobble in which to deposit her eggs.

Then there was the fish in the photo above, a few meters away.

Later in a different part of the creek I saw two coho, a male already sporting bright wine red colours, and a speckled silvery female. There was another salmon in that vicinity, but I couldn’t get a good enough look at it for an ID.

Here’s to seeing more over the next month or two!

Art Students Tour Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby, BC

Today I, and Ray, another volunteer, took three classes of art students from Byrne Creek Secondary in SE Burnaby, BC, on three tours of the creek their school is named after. This is the second year that local volunteer streamkeepers have done this. Thanks to the kids, and their teacher, Judy Mcleod.

So many kids these days seem to be detached from nature, and uncomfortable experiencing it, so I enjoy any opportunity to try to make a connection with them, and connect them to their local environment. I don’t know if my blathering makes much impact, but I hope they learn something about the salmon life cycle, and the importance of urban watersheds and biodiversity.

Byrne Creek student tour Byrne Creek

Also thanks to Louise Towell of the Stream of Dreams Murals Society, who put together a wonderful project that combined student art with learning about Byrne Creek a few years ago. She created the contacts that continue to this day.

Cool Mason Bee Workshop in Burnaby, BC

Thanks to the City of Burnaby Parks Dept and the Environmental Youth Alliance for an interesting mason bee workshop today!

Mason Bee Workshop
Unrolling paper tubes from mason bee “condo”

Mason bees are very important pollinators for fruit trees as well as vegetables, flowers, etc. Due to concerns about the decline of pollinators, the City of Burnaby has a program in which it installs “bee condos” in municipal parks, and asks volunteers to monitor and clean them, harvest cocoons, keep them dry and cool over the winter, and place them back out in the spring to hatch. Mason bees are ideal for urban areas because they are very placid and non-aggressive.

Volunteers Count Bugs in Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby

Count bugs? Yep, doing aquatic invertebrate surveys is a good indicator of water quality, so we do them twice a year at nine locations on the creek.

Volunteers took bug samples (aquatic invertebrates) at three locations on Byrne Creek in SE Burnaby today. While we haven’t run the numbers yet, judging by how few bugs we found, and the very limited variety, the water quality is likely in the lowest “Poor” category.

We use the established Module 4 methodology from the Streamkeepers Handbook.

The water in Byrne Creek is usually in the “Poor” to “Marginal” categories, since our “headwaters” are all residential, automotive, retail, etc. All the crap that accumulates on roads and parking lots is flushed into the creek.

byrne_creek_bug_sampling_20141016
Taking a sample with a D-net

Byrne Creek bug count
Baby crayfish found in one sample

Rain = Excitement on Byrne Creek as Salmon Should Arrive Soon

When I heard the lush, lovely sound of steady rain when I stirred in my slumber last night, I couldn’t help smiling. For the rains bring the salmon, and salmon are life.

We don’t get many salmon returning to spawn on our battered urban creek in SE Burnaby, but those that do stir excitement and passion in people attuned to the natural environment. As a volunteer streamkeeper for 15 years, I do my best to connect as many kids and adults as possible to nature in the city.

So while the weather forecast may look grim to some, I find it exhilarating.

That’s because salmon that hatched in Byrne Creek have returned from their years in the Pacific Ocean. Those that have made it through the fisheries along the coast, and in the Salish Sea, and in the Fraser River, are pooling at the mouth of the creek, waiting for higher flows to assist their passage up the little waterway.

As long as there is rain, we spot the first spawners arriving in the creek around October 17, give or take a day or two.

So this forecast looks great!

weather_20141011

Speaking On Burnaby’s Watersheds in Local History Series

Burnaby History lecture seriesI’ll be speaking about streamkeeping, and how these volunteers help to protect and restore Burnaby’s waterways. I’ll be supplementing a presentation by Elmer Rudolph, a long-time volunteer who has amazing knowledge of the history of the decline, and restoration, of the Brunette River. This is part of the Burnaby Neighbourhood History series sponsored by the Burnaby Village Museum and Burnaby Public Libraries, and I encourage you to register for this, and other sessions, here.