Reflections from COP23: Areas of hope

thegreenrock.ca's project coordinator Perla Hernandez at COP23

Perla Hernandez, representative for the Young Liberals of Canada as part of the International Federation of Liberal Youth at the UN Climate Negotiations in Bonn Germany (COP23), November 2017.  

by Perla Hernandez

Last November I attended the United Nations climate negotiations in Bonn Germany (COP23), where some of the topics were on the connection between local and global, and leveraging points for climate action.

Almost two years after the  Paris Agreement was signed, world leaders convened at the Bonn negotiations to work on the guidelines and tools to implement the Agreement. Over 19,000 participants, including government delegates, scientists, academics, business leaders and members of civil society were in attendance.

We are moving forward to tackle climate change, but not fast enough and not at the rate that it is needed on a global scale. Heavy carbon emission cuts are necessary to keep the temperature increase below 2° C,  let alone the 1.5°C target stipulated in the Paris Agreement as a safer line of defense for vulnerable populations (see previous article on why  the 1.5° C mark is important for NL).

The silver lining is that there is much we can do to help ramp-up climate action. Cities, municipalities, businesses and regions can help support national and global efforts to tackle climate change.

Local governments have a role to play

Climate change requires international cooperation, which can be challenging as nations have differing national interests and policy agendas. At COP23, there was an emphasis on the need to increase subnational levels – provincial (or state), regional, municipal, and local government involvement.

I attended a side event with Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretariat to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) where she said: “There is no single solution to climate change. All must take action: countries, cities and regions.”

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretariat for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP23

Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretariat for the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change at COP23 – photo by Perla Hernandez

A bottom-up approach including communities, cities, regions and provinces can help complement national efforts while providing strategies that are appropriate to different geopolitical contexts, and inclusive to the needs of different populations.

Institutions, civil society and businesses can reinforce and ramp up climate commitments. For instance, in the aftermath of the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, subnational governments, institutions, civil society and businesses  reassured their commitment to the Paris Agreement and they’re planning to submit their greenhouse gas targets as part of the US targets.  Over 100 US mayors, governors, business leaders, university presidents, and civil society members formed a We Are Still In contingent, and attended COP23.

Climate change offers a unique opportunity for businesses

Businesses have a role to play in the transition to a decarbonized economy and can also benefit from embracing the green economy.  The COP23 Finance Day focused on the climate change impacts and opportunities from a finance perspective.

At the session: Mobilizing Investment to Support Nationally Determined Contributions Implementation and Increased Ambition, one of the underlying messages was that climate change and the decarbonization of the economy should not be seen as a problem, but as an opportunity.

COP23 Finance Day - Event: Mobilizing investment to support NDC implementation and increased ambition. Featuring Maurice Tulloch, Aviva; José Ignacio Sánchez Galán, Iberdrola; Keiko Honda, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency; Brune Poirson, Secretary of State for an Ecological and Inclusive Transition, France; Abyd Karmali, Bank of America
COP23 Finance Day – Mobilizing investment to support NDC implementation and increased ambition. Maurice Tulloch, Aviva; Brune Poirson, Secretary of State for an Ecological and Inclusive Transition, France; Nicolas Stern Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change, LSE;  José Ignacio Sánchez Galán, Iberdrola; Abyd Karmali, Bank of America; Keiko Honda, Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency;  

Panelists agreed that carbon pricing is an effective tool for emissions reduction and talked about Corporate Social Responsibility, the need for technology transfer to developing countries, as well as the need to increase investment in low carbon technologies and infrastructure.  They also talked about the growing projections of renewable energy and green infrastructure as the business opportunity of the 21st Century compared to the diminishing projections of fossils – calling out for divestment.

thegreenrock-er Perla Hernandez with the International Federation of Liberal Youth delegation talking to Maurice Tulloch, Chief Executive Officer, International Insurance, Aviva

International Federation of Liberal Youth delegation talking to Maurice Tulloch, Chief Executive Officer, Aviva, -Jonas Lembeck (right), Perla Hernandez (middle) and Simon Kran Christensen (left)

In order to achieve the significant cut in greenhouse gas emissions we need to think differently as a society and we need to be fair and equitable to everyone.

 

 

Equity and climate change are inexorably linked. The work to reduce GHG emissions must address economic and social inequities.  Technology can bring solutions that bridge climate and social challenges. At COP23 I attended a press conference by Solar Cookers International a US nonprofit that advocates and provides education on solar cooking. Solar box cookers can provide hot food, safe drinkable water (boiled water) with minimal impact on the environment.  I was impressed by all the  projects  that Solar Cookers have  started worldwide in refugee camps in Kenya, Ethiopia, Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Rwanda, Uganda and more.

Connecting the dots and getting everyone on board

As part of the International Federation of Liberal Youth delegation, I had the opportunity to meet with  Canada’s Ambassador to Germany, and Special Envoy to the EU. Ambassador Stéphane Dion has held several positions – among them Minister of Environment overseeing Kyoto Protocol’s implementation and previous President of COP11 in Montreal.

International Federation of Liberal Youth meeting with Canada’s Ambassador to Germany, and Special Envoy to the EU, Stephane Dion

Meeting with Canada’s Ambassador to Germany, and Special EU Envoy, Stephane Dion, Jonas Lembeck (right),  Perla Hernandez (middle), and Simon Kran Christensen (left)

Ambassador  Dion provided some insights regarding the need for a paradigm shift in governance to a collaborative holistic model that integrates sustainability across sectors throughout the government structure and percolating to society. “Sustainability should be integrated in every department: finance, global affairs, department of health and so forth” said Mr. Dion.

Ambassador Dion stressed the importance of getting society on board with this sustainability paradigm – both the converted and the non-converted – and to transfer knowledge on climate change’s challenges and opportunities so that this model stops being an abstraction for many and becomes a reality.

Final thoughts

A lot of work remains. We need to make sure that our local efforts match the global level of action that is needed to tackle climate change – emissions reduction, finance, innovation and technology. We need to work together, bring everyone on board, and look at complex problems from all angles – business as usual won’t cut it.

Waste Reduction Fair 2017!

thegreenrock.ca ~ habits for your habitat had a kickin’ great time at the Waste Reduction Week Fair, put off by as part of #WasteReductionWeek with the City of St. John’s and Clean St. John’s at the Memorial University Botanical Gardens on Saturday Oct 21st. (read story on the event in the Telegram here )

thegreenrock-ers volunteering at the Waste Reduction Fair!

thegreenrock-ers volunteering at the Waste Reduction Fair!

thegreenrock.ca was in good company – old and new friends included  Home Again Furniture BankSt. John’s Tool Library,  the Product Care Association, Boomerang Bags, Recycle in Newfoundland, the City of St. John’s Waste Division and others were part of the event!

thegreenrock.ca is about promoting sustainability, Waste Reduction is a key component.  leading up to Waste Reduction Week, thegreenrock.ca launched In its Place a composting and reycling project being piloted at Macdonald Drive Junior High breakfast program in collaboration with Kids Eat Smart Foundation, Clean St.  John’s, Island Compost, and the City of St.  John’s, with a financial contribution from the Wellness Coalition Avalon East. later this fall thegreenrock.ca will be launching InterGeneration~ the plastic bag project, a waste awareness and up-cycling project supported by the IMPACT! Youth Sustainability Fund and in collaboration with Agnes Pratt Home and Waterford Valley High that gets youth and seniors together to up-cycle plastic bags and share skills.

thegreenrock.ca launched last year the Guide to the Good website which promotes local businesses and organizations in the Northeast Avalon. all these projects bring different ideas on how people can live differently and more environmentally conscious way.

visitors to thegreenrock.ca booth got in on the action, and wrote ways in which their everyday actions can have an impact on the environment and to post them on the How Do you fit? board (see photo below to the left).  they were rewarded with a seedling from the Department of Forestry and Agrifoods, and a chance to win a local and green gift

Perla Hernandez talking about thegreenrock.ca's projects
Perla Hernandez talking about thegreenrock.ca’s projects

basket including:
– free month trial of Island Compost by Phill Coates (see Guide to the Good profile)
– skincare samples from Esskin by Esther Squires (see Guide to the Good profile)
– delicious natural soap from Suds~Natural Cooked Soap by Leah Grannon Bryant
– free coupons for delicious Soul Azteka and free coupons from Fixed Coffee!

and we got a winner!! congrats Julia thank you for participating!

 

And we are all winners when we take care of the planet.

(ps – thegreenrock was thrilled to have such an excellent group of volunteers helping out at the booth ~ thank you Leah Grannon Bryant, Amanda Russell, Kate Finn and Mary Anna Duggan you guys rocked!)

 

kathysgreenrock (2).pngthegreenrock.ca is a not-for–profit company that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like us and share!

facebook: Facebook.com/thegreenrockca                     twitter: @thegreenrockca

thegreenrock.ca deep into an exciting 2017!

The first half of 2017 has been busy and gratifying – many great things have happened as thegreenrock.ca ~ Live Sustainably NL continues in its mission of promoting ‘habits for your habitat’ – things we can all do where we are to live more sustainably.   it’s a time of ‘twos’ –  thegreenrock.ca has won two awards, has been awarded two grants, and will be launching two waste reduction programs this fall!

  •  thegreenrock.ca receives The Co-operators Group IMPACT! Youth Sustainability Fund!
IMPACT! Fund photo-op

thegreenrock-ers: Perla Hernandez (project coordinator) and Kim Todd (founder and director) accept the IMPACT! Sustainability Fund from Robert Conway of The Co-operators Group

In April thegreenrock.ca  was successful in its proposal to the Co-operators Group IMPACT! Youth Sustainability Fund to pilot ReGeneration~ The Plastic Bag project. reGeneration is an intergenerational awareness and action program that brings seniors and students together to share strengths, and transfer skills towards a common purpose of up-cycling plastic bags into durable goods like tote bags.

thegreenrock-er Perla Hernandez, is an alumni of the Co-operators’ IMPACT! Youth Sustainability Leadership Program which makes her eligible to apply for the IMPACT! Sustainability Fund!   reGeneration will launch this fall in collaboration with youth and seniors from Waterford Valley High School and the Agnes Pratt Nursing Home, as well as the rest of the community as we come together to share strengths and divert plastic bags.

 

  • Guide to the Good wins the IMPACT Social Innovation Challenge Competition!
Kim Todd and Myles Green

Myles Green from NL’s Association of CBDC presenting Kim Todd, thegreenrock.ca’s founder and director with Social Innovation Challenge award

In May 2017 during Innovation Week , Memorial University’s Centre for Social Enterprise in partnership with the United Church hosted the Social Innovation Challenge for entrepreneurs who had a business idea or initiative that would have a positive impact on the community. After a two-day  intensive process Kim Todd, Founder and Director of thegreenrock.ca won the first place for her pitch on the social enterpirse Guide to the Good! Have you checked the guide to the good? Check it out!

  • thegreenrock.ca takes home an  IABC Pinnacle Award for #playoutdoors 

Early in June thegreenrock.ca won a Pinnacle Award from the International Association of Business Communicators for the #playoutdoors recruitment campaign.  The project was in collaboration with the Junior Forest Wardens NL to get families outdoors and active, and in particular to start new Junior Forest Warden Clubs. Together thegreenrock.ca and JFW launched a successful campaign that delivered 10 community outreach events, reached out to 17 community organizations which engaged over 50 families in the St. John’s metro area and led to the start of two new JFW Clubs:  the Wild Wanderers and the Rollin’ Capelin.

  • thegreenrock.ca receives Wellness Coalition Avalon East Grant for a composting project

Later in June 2017 thegreenrock.ca received the happy news that our application to pilot the In it’s Place  compost project was approved by the Wellness Coalition Avalon East Grant  This pilot will be launched this fall at Macdonald Drive Junior High School with support from Kids Eat Smart Foundation.   ‘In its Place’ is an environmental health awareness pilot project that educates students on the system of food production and waste, and pilots initiatives to fill gaps.

one more good thing…

  • Diploma in Environmental Ethics for thegreenrock.ca founder

Iethics from Aristotle to Certified B Corp with a few stops in betweenn July of 2017, Kim Todd, thegreenrock.ca founder received the Diploma in Applied Ethics from the Department of Humanities, Memorial University.   The final component of the program was a presentation entitled ethics from Aristotle to BCorp, and a few stops in between that had been delivered in April.

 

It all bodes well for the second half of 2017, and beyond!

 

 

cropped-thegreenrock-1.pngthegreenrock.ca is a not-for–profit company that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like us and share!

facebook: Facebook.com/thegreenrockca         twitter: @thegreenrockca

 

Climate Change: Staying below 1.5ºC, why it’s important for NL

Ferryland Iceberg photo credit: by Perla Hernandez

Ferryland Iceberg – photo credit:  Perla Hernandez

By Perla Hernandez

Climate change is a hot topic. In the aftermath of the US withdrawal from the Paris Agreement, cities and states have vowed to step up.    Perla Hernandez checks in on what climate change means to us here in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Earth’s average temperature has risen by 1º C since 1850 as a result of increased greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere. According to a NASA report, most of this warming has happened in the past 35 years with 2016 being the warmest year on record — due in part to El Niño, which changes weather patterns in the short term.

In the 2015 Paris Agreement, 195 nations agreed to limit the rise in global temperatures this century “well below 2 degrees Celsius and to drive efforts to limit the temperature increase even further to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels”. The 1.5 mark is considered to be a safer defense line against the effects of climate change.

Meeting the Paris Agreement aspirational mark of 1.5 degrees matters to Newfoundland and Labrador.   Between the island and Labrador, the province has 29,000 k of coastline and is vulnerable to damages caused by coastal erosion, sea-level rise, and increased storms as well as adaptation challenges among communities.

In Newfoundland and Labrador climate change means rising sea-levels, more storms and coastal erosion

Canada’s warming rate is twice the global rate.  According to Environment Canada, since 1948,  Canada’s North has been hit by an increase in temperatures of 3 degrees Celsius, while other regions like the East Coast have warmed by 1 degree Celsius. An increase of 2 degrees in global temperatures could mean for Canada a temperature increase of  3 to 4 degrees.

According to Turn Back the Tide, Newfoundland and Labrador has already warmed by 1.5°C  degrees, and some areas in the province could warm between 2.2°C and 4.0°C by mid-century.  A warmer climate will bring longer tourism and growing seasons for the province, but also stormier, wetter weather, coastal erosion and sea level rise.

According to a 2010 study by the Geological Survey of Newfoundland and Labrador, sea level rise could be as high as 40 centimetres by 2050 and 100 centimetres by 2100 (see below).

FIgure 1 - Rise in Sea level predictions for NL

Figure 1 – Sea level rise predictions for Newfoundland and Labrador . Source: Turn Back the Tide  http://www.turnbackthetide.ca/impacts-of-climate-change/slr-overview.shtml

Although Newfoundland and Labrador has a high rocky rugged coast area, rising sea levels and coastal erosion pose challenges for coastal communities.

Nationally-recognized climatologist, Dr. Joel Finnis from Memorial University’s Department of Geography completed a study on 50-year climate projections for the province.  Finnis explains:  “We do have a lot of sea front but one of the things that helps us even though we are on the water is our rocky rugged coastline. However, you are still going to see that erosion is going to pick up as sea level rises.  All the storms that pass by throw a lot of waves at the coast lines causing damage.  There are also indications that we might get more strong storms, and the more storms we experience, the more damage we’ll get. A rugged coastline partially protects us, but there will still be impacts and costs to the province.

This is consistent with the findings from a 2016 report by Natural Resources Canada pointing that as a climate change consequence, sea ice cover, increased storms and sea-level rise are likely to increase coastal erosion rate in Canada’s East Coast.

Storm events can cause flooding, wind damage and coastal erosion which ultimately have negative impacts in coastal communities, infrastructure, and ecosystems.  For instance,  tropical storm Igor in Newfoundland caused $51,000,000 in damages, isolated approximately 90 communities due to road closures, and put 22 communities in a state of emergency (see below).

“Canada’s Marine Coast in a Changing Climate” report by Natural Resources Canada

Figure 2- Canada’s Marine Coast in a Changing Climate. Source: Natural Resources www.nrcan.gc.ca/sites/www.nrcan.gc.ca/files/earthsciences/files/pdf/NRCAN_fullBook%20%20accessible.pdf

Finnis says, “Think about the winter storms that we had the last few years here, we had some big ones. If you have a strong sea ice presence, say for example on the coast of Labrador, and you have strong winds come along, that sea ice can help buffer and prevent the erosion. But if you have loose pack of ice, like we had at the harbour this spring, and you throw a big storm at it then the ice is going to start to move with the waves.  It is not necessarily going to dampen the waves so much but it is going to cause some damage to the boats, the infrastructure and the coastlines as well. It is not just water anymore, but loose and very heavy chunks of ice being battered against things”.

From an insurance perspective, it is estimated that by 2020, the annual economic damages to Canada’s coasts from sea-level rise and storm surges could reach between $2.6 – $5.4 billion increasing to an estimated $48.1 billion by 2080.

Climate change also poses the biggest challenges to the most vulnerable. According to a study by the Director of Labrador Institute of Memorial University, Ashlee Cunsolo, climate change is causing tremendous pain and distress in Inuit communities in northern Labrador.  Their relation to sea ice and cold is part of their cultural identity, and it’s under threat. According to the study, this changing environment is intensifying already complex mental health issues derived from intergenerational trauma of colonization, forced relocation and the impact of residential schools.

Global implications: climate-driven migrations

Climate displacement is becoming one of the world’s most powerful and destabilizing geopolitical forces. A recent study looks at how climate change played a role in the Syrian war that has destabilized European countries. Since 2015, Canada has welcomed 40,081 Syrian Refugees, but the UN still estimates that there are 13.5 million refugees requiring humanitarian assistance. Climate change will destabilize borders and increase humanitarian crises.  From droughts in the East Africa region, to unusually heavy rains pre-monsoon season in Bangladesh, the climate change impacts on people, economies and environments around the world will also have repercussions for Canada and for our province.  Finnis says, “We need to keep in mind that drought is going to increase food insecurity, and new insect pests could create all kinds of problems and health issues. And then you start thinking: What’s going to happen when people start getting displaced as a consequence of climate change?”

Although climate change is a global issue, the solution lies in sustained collaborative action at all levels: the international, national and local levels.

For instance, on average Canadians contribute to about 15 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year which is about three times the world average. In order to reduce emissions at home, Canada’s is taking action at the federal and the provincial level.  This May,  Environment Minister Catherine McKenna unveiled a technical document on the federal government’s carbon pricing plan which will be implemented across provinces by 2018.  The carbon tax will start at $10 per tone, rising $10 each year until reaching $50 in 2022. The carbon pricing is central to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Pan-Canadian Framework for Clean Growth and Climate Change which includes measures to achieve emissions reductions across all sectors while driving innovation and growth in a low-carbon economy.

From a provincial front, the government of Newfoundland and Labrador is taking steps to cut emissions and promote renewable energy in the province. A net metering plan has just been approved by the Public Utilities Board, and as of July 1st of this year, net metering with Newfoundland and Labrador Hydro and Newfoundland Power is possible. This allows customers to offset energy costs by generating their own power using renewable energy like solar, wind and geothermal. This also allows customers to feed surplus power back into the distribution system so it can be used later or sell it to neighbours and other businesses in the area.

Ferryland Windmils.jpg

Fermeuse wind farm –  photo credit: Perla Hernandez

The effects of climate change will continue to grow and scale as temperature increases in Canada and in the rest of the world. The closer we stay within the 1.5 degrees Celsius goal, the less challenging it will be to adapt and to mitigate. In order to keep earth’s climate from moving into unchartered and more unpredictable scenarios, action is also needed from municipalities, businesses, people and others.

Something to be learned from the set of events that followed on from the US withdrawal on the Paris Agreement is that even with the US government withdrawing from the Paris Agreement, there is US climate commitment.  Climate response will continue globally and within the US as non-state actors step up and become climate leaders.  Shortly after the US announced its decision to withdraw, mayors from 30 cities, 3 governors, 80 universities, and more than 100 businesses in the United States stepped-up by reassuring their commitment to the Paris Agreement and they’re in negotiations with the UN to submit their contributions as part of the US.

In the same way, people, communities and institutions here in the province can all step up to take action.  Be it through putting up solar panels to generate your own electricity at home, or by composting, recycling and reducing waste in order to cut down methane emissions, we are all part of the solution.

 

Perla Hernandez thegreenrock.ca project coordinator

Perla Hernandez is thegreenrock.ca’s project coordinator. She has a B.A. in political science and environmental studies from Memorial University. She attended the U.N. Climate change negotiations in Doha Qatar (COP18) as a Canadian youth delegate. Perla collaborated with the Climate Tracker and was a climate  columnist  for the Independent.  She is interested in the intersections between local and global climate change actions and solutions.

 

 

 

cropped-thegreenrock-1.pngthegreenrock.ca is a not-for–profit company that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like us and share!

facebook: Facebook.com/thegreenrockca         twitter: @thegreenrockca

 

great day – Earth Day 2017 !

thegreenrock-ers Amanda Russell and Perla Hernandez thegreenrock.ca's booth on Earth Day

thegreenrock-ers Amanda Russell and Perla Hernandez at the Earth Day Fair

Saturday afternoon rain didn’t stop crowds of boisterous families from making it to the Earth Day Fair at the Suncor Fluvarium on April 22!  Over 250 people attended the event! Just about all of them stopped at thegreenrock.ca’s booth to learn about ways to take action, take care of the planet, and how to live sustainably.

Each year, 1 billion people in more than 195 countries celebrate  Earth Day worldwide. The key purpose is to get people together, to celebrate mother nature, and think about ways in which they can take action.

In line with this message, thegreenrock.ca was very pleased and excited to share our signature projects for this year:

  • #playoutdoors ~ Less screen time and more time outdoors! In collaboration with the Junior Forest Wardens-NL, #playoutdoors raises awareness about nature deficit disorder and challenges families to get outdoors, make new friends and learn new skills.
  • ReGeneration: The Plastic Bag Project (coming up!) ~ An intergenerational awareness and action program that brings seniors and students together to share strengths, and transfer skills toward a common purpose of recycling single-use plastic bags through crafting durable tote bags. This project is supported by The Co-operators IMPACT! Fund 2017.
  • Guide to the Good ~ A social enterprise that makes it easier for people to choose local for their purchasing and lifestyle choices. Local businesses bring economic, ethical and social benefits to our lives and our communities. Guide to the Good is currently being piloted in the Northeast Avalon, but the goal is for there to be a guide to the good in communities everywhere!

Visitors were asked to participate in the “how do you fit in?” campaign and to think about ways in which they can help protect the environment through their daily actions.

At the end of the day we had some local giveaways from businesses featured on the Guide to the Good. The draw was live-streamed via Facebook

Facebook Live of the guide to the good draw

  • Prize #1 Local Basket!
    Jumping Bean‘s low CO2 emission roasting coffee; hypoallergenic, artisan soaps and body products made locally from St. John’s Soap Works; and local hand-knitted hat by Casey’s Crafts.
  • Prize #2 Firewood and Coffee! 
    Bundles of local sustainable and licensed firewood from Firewood Factory; 2 gift-cards from  Jumping Bean .

Two winners were randomly selected out of 104 individual tickets. Congrats Olivia and Joan!

 

 

cropped-thegreenrock-1.pngthegreenrock.ca is a not-for–profit company that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like us and share!

facebook: Facebook.com/thegreenrockca         twitter: @thegreenrockca

west coast canola – playing with the grain

this is a happy cross-post with http://www.guidetothegood.ca because this story is cool for both audiences!  if you’re a follower of both firstly thank you!, and secondly please forgive the duplication.

Dr. Vanessa Kavanagh’s twitter handle is @NLGrainDr, and that is just a hint of how she feels about growing grain.  She shares pictures of tiny vials of Newfoundland canola oil like parents share pictures of their infant – with love and joy and hope.  She cares because she sees grain generally and growth specifically as opportunities to create and innovate in ways that will make this place a more sustainable, food secure, and healthier province.

Born to Corner Brook, this Doctor of Philosophy in agriculture is the Research Scientist for the provincial government.  She was beyond thrilled with the opportunity to apply her academic research – she earned her PhD in Plant Science at the University of Alberta – to the first canola field planted in the province, in Pasadena.  The project brought together a community of farmers, researchers, and visionaries, and all are reaping the benefits.

Cooks, bakers and salad-makers know canola oil as the Canadian cousin of rapeseed oil, lesser known is that canola is of the Brassicaceae plant family where cabbage and turnip reside.  “We knows all about cabbage and turnip,” says my mother, and if you can project the return on the pilot year, it’s no great leap to reap canola.

me in canola fieldThe first fields were seeded on Hammond Farms in May of 2016, and it was the beginning of a glorious growing season.  A few weeks later, canola plants, pollinated by the local bee population (40 hives of some of the healthiest bees in the world), yielded acres of yellow canola fields.  The height shown in the photo is just when they were getting going!  (It would have been lovely to see how Gerry Squires would have interpreted those fields – but the visual wasn’t the point in this case, it was just a good step on the journey).  Harvested produce has three forms – livestock feed, edible oil, or bio-fuel.

The livestock feed is more important to food security than might first appear:  when counting the on-island food resources we count the chickens and pigs and cows, but if their feed comes from away, which it often does, then that resource is not food secure.   The livestock food source goes hand-in-glove with the edible oil, as the livestock food pellets are the little black seeds minus oil. Canola plants share properties of all crops in that their taste is influenced by the characteristics of the soil and the weather.  So opportunities for artisan cold-pressed canola oil adds another level of local to the wave of foodie excellence that’s making sustainable not only sensible, but fashionable and healthy.

And it’s going well!  Vanessa says, “We have indeed had some great success with the canola pressing and it is almost complete!  The oil is a clear golden honey colour with a really nice flavour.”

Bio-fuel means that the harvested oil can be poured into the engine of the diesel tractor.  At the pilot scale this is not an economically wise use, it does clearly illustrate the possibilities.

Another inspiring feature of the project is that there is zero waste.  Vanessa says, “The other material outcome after processing the plant is straw, and most of that was cut up and used as bedding for cows.  The straw that wasn’t bedding is disked into the soil to add organic matter.  Nothing is wasted.”

For the canola project in 2017 Vanessa et al have 20-40 acres secured in Cormack, and she says, “Our farmers there are really looking forward to their fields of gold!   I can’t at all say that we’ve perfected the system after only one season, but we know a tremendous amount more than before and I think this year is going to be better than last.”

Dr. Vanessa Kavanagh is part of the grain research team that is looking at new ways to scale sustainable. The canola project is one of several components of the research-based cereal grain and oilseeds program, which is leading innovation in the feed and food industries.

 

cropped-thegreenrock-1.png

thegreenrock.ca is a not-for–profit company that informs and inspires people in Newfoundland and Labrador on ways to address the challenges facing our planet, our communities, and our lives.  like us and share!

Facebook: Facebook.com/thegreenrockca
twitter: @thegreenrockca