Protecting Bees, National Tree Day and Fall Colours

What Happens if the Bees Go Extinct?

Photo credit Lucy

Our last blog post on Inspiration from the Arts included a focus on endangered species in Canada and the unsettling statement that “If the bee goes extinct the planet will only survive four years.”

This stayed with us, further reinforced by an excellent presentation that Catherine attended on why we should care about pollinators and what citizens and gardeners may do to protect them, sponsored recently by the Leaside Garden Society and presented by two of its member Master Gardeners.

The arresting image they asked us to imagine is what if every third bite of food we ate was no longer available, underscoring the importance and impact of pollinators, including bees, on our lives.

Here is a piece by Brian Palmer for the National Resources Defence Council (NRDC) on the topic, “A World Without Bees? Here’s What Happens if Bees Go Extinct, which echoes a similar assessment and notes it could be even more dire.

“How important are bees to farming today? If you ask 10 reporters that question, you’ll get 11 answers. Some stories say that bees pollinate more than two-thirds of our most important crops, while others say it’s closer to one-third. A spread of that size indicates a lack of authoritative scholarship on the subject. My review of the literature suggests the same.” (NRDC –

The Ontario government’s website quantifies the economic importance of honey bees to the province’s agriculture sector.

“In Ontario, 3,000 registered beekeepers operate 100,000 honey bee colonies. Ontario’s managed honey bees and bumble bees generate about $897 million of the roughly $6.7 billion in sales for agricultural crops grown in the province each year. This is equivalent to about 13% of the province’s total annual crop value.” (

Guess How Many Bees Call Alberta and Ontario Home?

Photo credit Lucy

The world of bees is a study unto itself we are discovering as we dig a little deeper. There is much to learn and lots on offer. Fortunately, there are many organizations and research experts championing the bee and offering excellent resources to make it easy for members of the public to learn more, including how everyday citizens may help protect this endangered species.

We learned that Ontario (400 species) and Alberta (321 species) are home to about half of the 748 bee species found in Canada, and that in Ontario, beyond the honey bee, there are five other types (families) to be found buzzing around our parks – the bumble bee, carpenter bee, leaf cutter bee, mining bee, and sweat bee. (Ontario Parks –

Photo credit Lucy

The Alberta Bee Council offers a brief lesson in taxonomy where we learned that Alberta bees are grouped into six Families.

“All bees are insects (Class Insecta) and belong to Hymenoptera, an Order that includes bees, wasps, sawflies and ants. Within the Order, bees are grouped into Families.  Alberta’s native bees belong to one of the following families:

  • Andrenidae (mining bees)
  • Apidae (includes bumble bees, digger bees, chimney bees, long-horned bees)
  • Colletidae (plasterer bees)
  • Halictidae (sweat bees)
  • Megachilidae (includes carder bees, leafcutter bees, mason bees)
  • Melittidae (melittid bees).”

Alberta Bee Council –

The City of Toronto even has an official bee – a green metallic sweat bee known as Agapostemon virescens. (

You may learn more (lots!) from this 72-page Resource – Bees of Toronto: A Guide to Their Remarkable World – and perhaps get inspired to champion their protection and plant a pollinator garden or window box.

Photo credit Lucy

The Toronto Master Gardeners website ( and, The City of Toronto’s website both offer tips to create a pollinator garden.  A fun fact that Catherine learned from the Leaside Garden Society Master Gardeners is that native plants with single bloom flowers are best as food sources for pollinators; double bloomers lack pistils and nectar and are also too challenging for them to enter. Who knew?! Also, planting early spring flowers as food sources are really important for the bees as they emerge from winter slumber. Some plant ideas she learned for colour and early spring blossoms include: pussy willow, single blossom daffodils, golden rod, service berry, red bud, elderberry, Solomon seal, cone flower, tiara foam flower, Russian sage (annual).

Summer blossom tips for pollinator gardens include hydrangea, milkweed (a top tip for the monarch butterfly), echinachea, pagoda dogwood, rebeccia, columbine, beebalm bergamot, Blazing Star Liatris, Mexican sunflower (good for monarchs). Late summer blossoms include: Aster, Black-eyed Susan, and Fall ideas include: Joe Pye-Weed and Iron Weed. Catnip and native geraniums will blossom from spring to fall. Also consider garlic chives, Scarlett runner beans, Giant Hysop and Sea Holly.

Even better, for Toronto gardeners who are inspired to help protect bees (pollinators), now is the ideal time to apply for a Toronto grant for your pollinator garden from PollinateTO. The application window is September 12, 2022 to October 27, 2022. Learn more at: PollinateTO.

Celebrate National Tree Day 2022

Photo credit Christine

What better way to celebrate National Tree Day – September 21st – by planting a tree and/or taking a walk or ride or drive to be with the trees and perhaps be rewarded with an early sighting of burgeoning fall colours.

“National Tree Day is an opportunity to celebrate the many benefits that trees provide: clean air, cooler cities, wildlife habitat and connection with nature.”  (

Not to forget their essential role in carbon capture in the fight against climate change and global warming!

See Landscape Ontario’s calendar of events at: Event Calendar – Landscape Ontario (

Why Do Leaves Change Colour in Autumn?

Chris Clennett, Garden Manager at Wakehurst, reveals why and how leaves change colour in autumn, on the Kew Gardens website  –

“Autumn colour is a fascinating phenomenon, where trees and shrubs that have been green all summer burst into flamboyant shades of yellow, orange and red. But why and how does it happen?

“Trees, like most plants, use a green pigment called chlorophyll to photosynthesise – that is to produce sugars from the energy of the sun, using water and nutrients from the soil. This is what gives trees the energy they need to live and grow.

Photo credit Jim

“Leaves are the centre for this process, exposing the largest area they can to sunlight to speed things up. But leaves also contain many other substances, some used in photosynthesis and some created as by-products from it. 

“It is thought the red or purple anthocyanins either protect the leaf from cold temperatures or deter pests, such as aphids. The presence of these coloured compounds might allow the tree longer to reabsorb other valuable nutrients as temperatures drop in autumn, so they are left in the leaf to help that process.

As the tree becomes dormant, a compound called abscisic acid triggers a seal to develop at the base of the leaves, before they fall off. This reduces water reaching the leaf and traps the chemicals remaining in the leaves. They gradually break down, changing the colour of each leaf before it drops to the ground. As the process is gradual, individual leaves will be at different stages, so a tree will have leaves of many changing hues as autumn progresses.

Trigger for autumn colour

“The trigger for autumn colour to develop is a combination of day length and night temperature. As days shorten, the amount of sugar generated by photosynthesis drops off, and hormones in the plant trigger the leaf sealing and shedding process. This is accelerated by cold nights, but the lower temperatures also act on the compounds remaining in the leaf, breaking them down more quickly.” (Kew Gardens –

Fall Colours and Foliage Calendars

Photo credit Lucy

Trip Savvy lists these “best places to see fall colours in Canada” –

Rocky Mountains, AB

Algonquin Park, ON

Agawa Canyon, ON

Via Rail: Ontario, Quebec, Nova Scotia

Niagara Parkway, ON

Bruce Peninsula, ON

Laurentian Mountains, QUE

Prince Edward Island

Cabot Trail, Cape Breton Island, N.S.

Fundy Coastal Drive, N.B.

(Trip Savvy –

Destination Canada’s website offers more travel ideas to see fall colours in Canada, including biking on the seawall in Vancouver, B.C. (

This Ontario Parks website offers a fall colour calendar to help plan your park visit for peak viewing dates:

Similarly, Curiocity’s website offers calendar information to help trip planning to see fall colours at their peak in Alberta’s National parks –

Our last blog featured Inspiration from Art and Artists, quoting Claudia Rinke on “Why Artists will Change the Planet,” offering her view that, “I do think that art and creativity truly have the power to change societies and the world. It will take collective effort of artists, institutions, and individuals to envision a better future and to take steps toward that vision.”

Mother Nature’s natural beauty shimmers at this time of year. How fortunate are we in Canada to experience and enjoy the gifts and bounty of the four seasons, freely on offer to us to renew, inspire and lift our spirits and sightlines for a brighter future. We just need to remember to take a moment to stop, look, be still with and truly see and wonder at the magnificence and marvels of the world around us, and receive these gifts with gratitude and an open heart. What better time than now, amidst the vibrant changing fall leaves and colours, to celebrate trees and our gift of life? Perhaps a walk, bike ride or hike, whether on September 21st to celebrate National Tree Day, or, on October 9-10 to reflect during Thanksgiving weekend?

Inspiration from Words of Wisdom

Then perhaps the words of Onondaga Nation Clan Mother, Audrey Shenandoah may resonate and inspire us further, to treasure and take good care. Worth repeating and contemplating we feel –

“Being born as humans to this earth is a very sacred trust. We have a sacred responsibility because of the special gift we have, which is beyond the fine gifts of the plant life, the fish, the woodlands, the birds and all the other living things on earth: We are able to take care of them.” Onondaga Nation Clan Mother, Audrey Shenandoah.

Photo credit Lucy

Inspiration from the Arts

From the Article in Innovators magazine December 2020 called Why Artists Will Change the Planet, Claudia Rinke writes, “We are living in challenging and exciting times. The world is changing fast and not as we’ve known it. How should we address complex global issued from inequality over pandemics to climate change?”

MaryAnn Griffin’s (Lucy’s sister) photo won an award in the Creative Category at Toronto Camera Club

“Art has the ability to move people and offer new experiences. Art presents reality in a way that may change the vision and perspective of the audience towards the world. Be it a painting, drama, song, a novel or film, art may motivate people to think about life positively or differently. Art offers a unique way of understanding the meaning of life and how beauty and pleasure could be part of existence. It combines the imaginary world with reality and encourages people to change their thinking and perceptions. Good art has the power to engage the world to change the world.”

Rinke says “I do think that art and creativity truly have the power to change societies and the world. It will take collective effort of artists, institutions and individuals to envision a better future and to take steps toward this vision. As the playwright Jonathan Larson said ‘ The opposite of war isn’t peace; it’s creation.’ “


Note: Claudia Rinke’s Film NOW abut the climate movement won the international Golden Nymph Award in 2021 as best environmental documentary.


Lucy had the privilege of going to the Edmonton Folk Festival and the Edmonton Blues Festival and was moved by the music, and inspired by songs about taking care of Mother Earth. Susan O’Neill of Ireland shared her powerful 2017 song “Our Mother is Begging to Breathe“. Here is a link if you would love to hear this song.

So many songs have been written about caring for our planet and the plight of animals going extinct. . Rolling Stones Magazine in April 2020 edition “Earth Day: Now or Never: The Race to Save the Planet The Crusade of Greta Thunberg” featured 15 Pro-Environment Songs. Here is what was on the list:

  • The Beach Boys, “Don’t Go Near the Water”
  • Jack Johnson, “The 3 R’s (Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle)”
  • Crosby and Nash, “To the Last Whale”
  •, S.O.S. (Mother Nature)”
  • Kenny Loggins, “Conviction of the Heart”
  • The Eagles, “The Last Resort”
  • Three Dog Night, “Out in the Country”
  • Counting Crows and Vanessa Carlton “Big Yellow Taxi”
  • John Denver, “Sunshine on My Shoulders”
  • Miley Cyrus, “Wake Up America”
  • Celine Dion, “Skies of L.A.”
  • Dave Mathews Band, “Proudest Monkey”
  • Julian Lennon, “Saltwater”
  • James Taylor, “Gaia”
  • Yes, “Don’t Kill the Whale”

10 Most Endangered Species in Canada

Listening to this music, we hear many musicians make reference to endangered and extinct species. One quote we read recently said that if the bee goes extinct the planet will only survive four years. Wow! Here is a list of the most endangered species in Canada:

  • Peary Caribou
  • Leatherback Sea Turtle
  • Vancouver Island Marmot
  • Wolverine
  • Beluga Whale
  • Atlantic Salmon
  • Rusty-patched Bumblebee
  • Sea Otter
  • Narwhal
  • Burrowing Owl
Burrowing Owl photo credit Lucy

As a birder Lucy is aware of projects in Arizona and Alberta that are set to help increase the numbers of Burrowing Owls. She visited one of these sites that had man-made tunnels for the owls to burrow in. Above is a Burrowing Owl at one of these sites.

Earth Day: 15 Pro-Environment Songs

Inspiration from Words of Wisdom

“Being born as humans to this earth is a very sacred trust. We have a sacred responsibility because of the special gift we have, which is beyond the fine gifts of the plant life, the fish, the woodlands, the birds and all the other living things on earth: We are able to take care of them“. Onondaga Nation Clan Mother, Audrey Shenandoah

Photo credit Allan Terplawy

Inspiring Inventors and Ideas for Avoiding Plastic

New Invention: Solar hydro panel captures 10 litres of clean drinking water out of the air per day.

The Nature of Invention

Fresh perspective and inspiration can come from many places, happily, and often times, serendipitously.

We would like to share some un-related stories of invention and innovation that we happened upon by chance recently, which we found energizing and oddly then inspired us to reflect on our daily habits with “fresh eyes,” asking ourselves what more we might be doing to shrink our carbon footprints.

We say “oddly”, since these stories of invention are not about climate change or global warming per se, and yet, however, we find a connection in a broad sense, through the hope in the future they inspire us with as they showcase the best of what might be achieved via human ingenuity and perseverance, aimed at solving real world, seemingly intractable problems. The stories of youthful inventors are especially inspiring we find. Teen inventors, such as Ann Makosinski, who “was inspired to help her friend in the Philippines who couldn’t study or read in the dark and had no lights in her home.” So, she invented a battery-less flashlight. Anne’s story and many more fascinating stories of invention are profiled in this 44-minute episode of David Suzuki’s The Nature of Things: The Nature of Invention, accessible on CBC Gem   ( and on Youtube (

In it, we learned about “biomimicry” or “bio-inspiration,” via the story of Canadian doctor, Jeff Karp, and his lab at Harvard Medical School where they invented “heart glue”. “…He was asked to find an adhesive to deal with septal defects in babies — a hole between the chambers of the infant’s heart. When he encounters challenges, Karp often turns to nature for inspiration, a concept called biomimicry, or bio-inspiration. In this case, he looked at creatures like the sandcastle worm, slugs and snails. Their secretions contain components that can repel water, which is exactly what’s needed in the wet, messy environment of a beating heart.”  We appreciate this fascinating documentary, including the opportunity it offered us to learn about and marvel with “fresh eyes” at, Nature’s wonders.

Not all the profiled inventions necessarily have the “wow factor” of Karp’s “heart glue,” but they still make a big impact in improving people’s daily lives by solving practical problems. Such as Lift Labs’ invention of the Google spoon, aimed at helping people with essential tremor and Parkinson’s disease eat a meal with dignity and ease. The spoon is profiled in this short Youtube clip.

Ideas for Avoiding Plastic Use

One of the common traits shared by the inventors is their capacity to look at the world/problems with fresh eyes and perspectives, coupled with a can-do attitude, agency and motivation ‘to act’. Somehow this inspiring energy propelled us to take a renewed look at some of our own daily habits with ‘fresh eyes’, wondering what we might do differently or better to reduce our carbon footprints further. For Catherine, there are two A-Ha’s and immediate areas to make change to reduce plastic bottle waste. Even while we both are avid recyclers and composters, appreciating these services offered by Toronto and Edmonton municipal garbage collection, the A-Ha for Catherine came in realizing that a new approach to her taste for carbonated water would avoid for the need to recycle bottles altogether. So, now she intends to make her own bubble water, rather than buy bottles of it shipped to Canada from Italy and France – much gentler on resource consumption, including transport, and waste production. In her household, on average this should obviate the need for at least 300 bottles per year.

According to this government of Canada piece profiling Soda Stream (not an endorsement),

“…just 32 people working together in Canada are able to prevent a whopping 217 million single‑use plastic bottles and cans from ending up in our landfills.”

“That is exactly what happens every year thanks to SodaStream, the at-home sparkling-water-making machine that turns tap water into carbonated bubbly water on your countertop, according to Rena Nickerson, SodaStream Canada’s general manager.”

“SodaStream’s environmentally friendly home carbonation systems are centred on a sustainable circular return and reuse system.”

“The canister that provides carbonation is refillable rather than disposable, and the accompanying plastic bottle for the final product lasts up to three years. The compact system, which includes reusable BPA‑free bottles and concentrated sparkling drink mix, greatly reduces the use of recyclables and disposables.”

“It’s kind of staggering how big of an environmental impact we are able to have. Canadians understand; they get it. They are looking for ways to reduce their environmental footprint.”  (

Eco Laundry Strips

Thank you, Lisette, for putting this cool innovation on our radar – eco laundry strips. Who knew?! Another way to avoid for and divert 100s of plastic bottles from ending up in landfills and oceans.

According to one provider, TruEarth (not an endorsement), “Each laundry strip packs ultra-concentrated, hypoallergenic, eco-friendly cleaning power into a tiny, pre-measured strip of liquidless laundry detergent that you just toss in the wash. Its low-sudsing formula works in all types of washing machines, including high-efficiency (HE).”

“Every 32-load package eliminates 1 plastic jug from potentially ending up in landfills and oceans.”

“According to #TruEarthMovement, 7 312 201 plastic jugs elimated to-date.”  (

Canada – Single-use Plastics Ban – December 2022

David Suzuki reminds us in this Now Toronto piece about Canada’s list of six single-use plastics that will be banned beginning this December, including single-use plastic grocery bags. Mostly, we both have made the shift already to bringing our own re-usable bags when we shop. However, Catherine still acquires some plastic shopping bags for use in emptying the cat’s litter box, in order to avoid “the yuck factor.”  Some changes are harder to make than others!  But, we can do it!! She is now motivated to make this final shift in practice, letting go of “convenience,” and plastic bag use entirely, in favour of more eco-friendly options such as using the biodegradable compost bin bags for litter box disposal too. (

Plant Milkweed for Monarch Butterflies

We were dismayed to learn that our beloved monarch butterfly is now on the endangered species list! For those of us with garden space, please consider planting milkweeds. According to this CP24 piece, it is one tangible impactful action we can take that will really help.

“What can home gardeners do to support the monarch?”

“If everyone reading this planted one milkweed plant, the benefit would be palpable. Milkweed (Asclepias spp.) is the only plant monarch caterpillars eat, and it’s where the adult butterflies lay their eggs. Without it, the species simply could not exist.”

“ ‘But not all milkweed is the same,’ says Dawn Rodney, chief innovation and growth officer at the National Wildlife Federation in Reston, Virginia. For instance, ‘there is an invasive species called tropical milkweed (Asclepias curassavica) that we’re seeing more and more, and people are not understanding that it does more harm than good.’ ” (CP24–

A Better Way to Look at Trees (The Atlantic)

Rebecca Giggs writes in The Atlantic on “A Better Way to Look at Trees,” profiling new research on the forest and “the paradigm shift” in our understanding of “what a tree is – tree botany in its essentials – feels utterly changed.” 

“Meg Lowman and Suzanne Simard are two pathfinders who have worked for decades in this field (that is, the forest), and they have now written books not just to instruct, but to reorient and inspire.” To learn more –

New Favourite Tree

While volunteering at this year’s Leaside Garden Society’s Garden Tour, Catherine “met” for the first time, her new favourite tree – the larch, pictured above. To learn more about larch (larix) trees, see Encyclopedia Britannica resource at: and be on the lookout especially for the Japanese Larix Dianna for its spiral cascading graceful beauty.  Happy summer gardening and touring!

Some Wildflowers of Canada and Invasive Species

Part of enjoying walks in the forest all summer long, is the world of ever blooming wildflowers. We thought we would share some of the wildflowers Lucy has photographed across Canada. As she read up about these plants she learned that many of them are considered noxious weeds, so Lucy labeled them as such. We are learning through this blog that there are so many invasive species all around us, not just the purple loosestrife commonly reported. Later in this blog are planting suggestions of good local alternatives to noxious weeds.

Lucy used her new iPad to identify these plants by opening the photo, tapping on the information button and the “look up” button and the computer labelled each flower for her. Clearly this new iPad is much smarter than her old laptop! Lucy is really still learning the names of the flowers and is trusting the computer to be correct, but apologies if there are some mislabeled. Another app you can put on your phone will identify the flowers as you walk. It’s called SEEK. Have fun enjoying the great outdoors, and smelling the wildflowers!

Invasive Species Centre of Canada Report for 2022

Not all wildflowers are welcome species. Here is how the Invasive Species Centre describes what is invasive and how these plants (and trees and shrubs) are harmful:

Here are a few of the invasive species found in Canada as listed in 2022 by the Invasive Species Centre.

What Can We Do to Prevent the Spread of Invasive Species?

First of all it is important to get to know your invasive plants. Some plants like giant hogweed and wild parsnip can cause human health issues though direct toxic effects, and burn your skin, so do not just go out and pull out the plants without knowing what you are dealing with. Practise prevention, by knowing what you are buying as plants and seeds, by never releasing aquarium plants, and by purchasing mulch or soil from a reputable supplier. When landscaping, minimize soil disturbance and retain shade trees to prevent establishment of invasive plants. Burn local firewood, do not move firewood. Recreationally, inspect and clean mud and plants from recreational vehicles, pets, hiking boots and equipment before leaving any site and returning to your home. You can report invasive species to your ministry of natural resources or provincial hotline and share the knowledge locally with your neighbours and others. There are so many more detailed ways to deal with invasive species on your property if they are an issue, and so we encourage reading online.

Plant This Instead of That

Just reading about what to plant in Edmonton, the oxeye daisy posted as a wildflower above can harbour crop diseases and choke out other native plants so is not a great plant to have in Edmonton’s ecosystem and is considered a noxious weed or invasive species. As gardeners we are encouraged to plant as many native species in our gardens as we can. In this article called “Plant This Not That” the Edmonton and Area Land Trust suggests the following best choice of plants:

Instead of Creeping Bellflower plant Tall Lungwort

Instead of Himalayan Balsam plant Spotted Jewelweed

Instead of Dame’s Rocket plant Common Yarrow

Instead of Purple Loosestrife plant Meadow Blazingstar

Instead of Oxeye Daisy plant White Prairie Aster

Instead of Yellow Clematis plant Purple Clematis

Instead of Common Tansy plant Canada’s Goldenrod

Nurturing Nature

Red Headed Woodpecker in unique forest of Point Pelee National Park, Ontario

We are called upon to be better stewards of our fragile natural world, even as we are invited simply to be open and present to receiving its wonders, inspiration and healing powers for body, mind, and spirit. “Nurturing nature” flows two ways.

This blog shares various tree-themed snippets that got us noticing, marvelling and contemplating nature and our humanity.

North Vancouver Western Red Cedar

“You are encountering one of the largest and oldest living things on this planet,” he said. “It’s almost like seeing a blue whale or a northern white rhino — this piece of this rich, wild world.” (CBC –

Imagine a tree so wide it would “barely fit inside the cabin of a Boeing 747”.  Astonishingly, this western red cedar, found by biologist Ian Thomas in North Vancouver, B.C., has been alive for 1,000 to 2,000 years.

Photo credit Colin Spratt

The tree’s actual diameter is in the process of being officially verified. “According to the University of B.C.’s Big Tree Registry, a tree 5.8 metres in diameter would be the fourth widest on record.”

Fortunately, this natural wonder is in a protected area in one of B.C.’s few remaining ancient old growth forests in Lynn Headwaters Regional Park  on Tsleil-Waututh Nation territories

For the full article – CBC –

Sequoias – Why So Special?

“The largest trees on Earth by volume, giant sequoias soar upward like natural skyscrapers and are simply mesmerizing in their immensity.”

“These trees have a limited range, though: They’re found only on the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada mountain range in California.” (CNN –

Unfortunately, these awe-inspiring ancient trees are on our radar this week because they are being threatened by the annual event of summer fires in California.  Fortunately, as we learn in this CNN article, the Yosemite National Park “and the firefighters on the ground have done as much as possible to protect the trees.”

“The combination of the removal of the hazard fuels and the prescribed burning that we’ve done, with the temporary sprinkler system that is in place, we are confident that’s giving those giant sequoias the best protection available,” Nancy Phillipe, a park ranger with Yosemite Fire, told CNN on Monday.”

“Yosemite’s Mariposa Grove, where more than 500 giant sequoias — some thought to be more than 2,000 years old — can tower to more than 20 stories.”

” ‘Fire is important, in fact it’s critical for giant sequoias for them to have the seeds come out of the cones, to regenerate the soil, provide habitat for animals. … But it’s these high intensity fires that are causing the damage,’ he said, citing the devastating Creek Fire which consumed nearly 400,000 acres of California’s Sierra National Forest area for several months in 2020.” (CNN –

Fighting Fire with Fire

Yosemite National Park photo credit Julius

Fire fighters in Yosemite National Park are using ‘prescribed burning’ as part of their toolkit for protecting the ancient giant sequoias. “Fighting fire with fire,” is also an approach used by indigenous knowledge keepers and fire ecologists, including the Interior Salish Firekeepers Society in B.C., who “set fires to fight wildfires and ‘cleanse’ the land,” as this CBC piece describes –

“Scientists who study fire say it’s time Canada learns from other fire-ravaged places on the planet that are aggressively using fire to fight fire.”

“Cultural or Indigenous burning to mitigate wildfires is seeing a resurgence from California to Australia as the climate crisis makes summers hotter and drier, upping the ferocity of wildfires.”

“Gilchrist says setting controlled fires helps reduce fuel for wildfires where the land is so dry little rots.”

“Traditionally, Indigenous fire keepers — often a hereditary position — lit fires to clear debris that can fuel angrier fires. This was done to renew crops and grazing land and for safety. Examples of the practice can be found around the world.” (CBC –

Nobel Peace Prize – Wangari Maathai

We are inspired by the actions of one woman, Wangari Maathai, which ultimately have given rise to the Green Belt Movement (GBM) to plant over 51 million trees, and along the way, impacted the path of Kenyan history for empowering communities, especially women and girls, and “fostering democratic space and sustainable livelihoods.”

“Wangari Muta Maathai was born in Nyeri, Kenya (Africa) in 1940. The first woman in East and Central Africa to earn a doctorate degree.…Wangari Maathai was active in the National Council of Women of Kenya in 1976-87 and was its chairman in 1981-87. It was while she served in the National Council of Women that she introduced the idea of planting trees with the people in 1976 and continued to develop it into a broad-based, grassroots organization whose main focus is the planting of trees with women groups in order to conserve the environment and improve their quality of life.”  ( biographical –

The inspiring story and journey begun in 1977 of Professor Wangari Maathai, the first African woman to receive the Noble Peace Prize (2004), is profiled in this 8-minute YouTube video produced in 2022 and available as part of “Plant Seeds for Peace” Lesson Plans on the Nobel Peace Center’s website —

Nobel Peace Center Lesson Plans – Plant Seeds for Peace

“What I Learned from the Trees”– L. E. Bowman poetry

GoodReads review – “What I Learned from the Trees delves into the intricate relationship between humans and nature, and how these often overlooked, everyday interactions affect us as individuals, families, and communities. With a backbone rooted in primordial imagery and allegory, and a focus on how the growing disconnect with our own wants, needs, and fears creates deeper divides in our relationships, this collection is notably relevant to today’s society and the struggles we face with the ever-expanding detachment between humans and the natural world…” (GoodReads –

From the opening page – food for body, mind, and spirit —

“Trees speak in a language of whispers,

of subtle glances, of flickering light.

All quiet and stillness and somehow still dancing.

All reaching down, digging deep,

and somehow still moving closer to the sky.

Their language isn’t complicated,

but we can’t seem to learn it.

The simplicity is daunting,

The gentleness difficult for a human to grasp.

The understanding that just being is our purpose.

The realization that existing is enough.” (L. E. Bowman)

Mt. Doug in Saanich Peninsula, Vancouver Island. Photo credit Lucy


From the backcover and one of the collection’s closing poems:

“Have you ever seen dust dancing in sunbeams?

How it glistens like flecks of gold?

Maybe that is the true alchemy.

Not changing what something is,

but seeing it in a new light.”  (L.E. Bowman)

The old growth forest of Hemlock trees that need protection at Catchacoma Lake, Ontario.

What is the True Value of a Tree?

CBC What on Earth recently posted an article/podcast called “What is the True Value of a Tree?” So far trees are priced not including their environmental benefit value, and some say this needs to change. To read this article go to

Household Solar Panels: Helpful Information

We are solar curious, but every time we try to determine if having a solar roof is a good option we are overwhelmed with the number of variables that go into the equation. The orientation of the roof, the number of hours of sunlight on the roof, the slope of the roof, any shading of the sun, the size of the roof, the newness of the shingles, the number of kWh we consume, the types of solar panels, the choices of companies providing the service, the length of time the panels will pay back, the insurance of the panels, the number of years we will live in our homes, the amount of rebate available to us, are some of the many things to consider. The usual end result is to forget about it. But we are pleased to announce, it does not have to be that complicated.

Three Pieces of Good News about Solar Panels

  1. What we did find out is you can get a lot of these questions easily answered by finding one reputable company, giving them your address and a photo of your electrical panel, and they have the ability to easily determine a lot of these factors for you, without needing to come to your house. There are stats and apps and images available to them about your house, (a bit big brother-ish) and we are told it is simple for the solar companies to produce a lot of information for you.

2. The second piece of good news is that even though one cannot store surplus energy from solar panels on summer days, one can receive a credit during the approximately 8 months that one is a net exporter and those can more than cover the additional administrative fees and service charges.

3. The third piece of good news is the Federal Government is offering $5000 towards solar panels as an energy efficient retrofit, and there are also city and provincial rebates available to most people that will offset the cost even more.

Canada Greener Homes Grant

Homeowners can receive up to $5,000 to make energy efficient retrofits to their homes for measures such as new windows, insulation, battery energy storage systems and installing solar panels. Solar power systems can receive a rebate of $1.00/W up to $5,000. Battery installations such as Tesla Powerwall can receive up to $1,000.

Edmonton Solar Rebate

The City of Edmonton recently announced a rebate for residential solar installations for $0.40/W up to $4,000. This rebate is in addition to the provincially-funded residential and commercial solar program.

Questions and Answers for Experts and Solar Panel Owners:

We also gave a list of questions to Ben at SKY FIRE solar company and the same questions to two owners of homes with solar panels and here is what they had to share. Thank you to Ben, Kevin and Pat for taking the time to offer your knowledge and experience with us.

1. What kind of solar panels did you use?

Ben from Sky Fire:  Solar modules are a commodity and their production and availability are subject to market forces (ie, supply/demand). Over the years SkyFire Energy has installed the following brands of modules: REC, Canadian Solar, LG, Hanwha, Longi, Silfab, and Trina, to name a few. SkyFire Energy is currently installing modules with both 60 and 72 cell arrangement, Mono Perc crystalline structure and half cell technology. The majority of the modules come with the industry standard 12 year product warranty and 25 year performance warranty. The amount of solar modules per household is limited by the annual electrical usage for the property.

Kevin: I had 2 separate projects.  The first one was in 2016 with 14 x 256 W panels 

Pat:   Trina Solar  12x 365 W panels

2. What company did you use and how did you choose the solar panels you have?

Kevin:   I used “SkyFire” because I had seen their name on a few projects.  I requested quotes from 2 other companies and the prices were relatively similar.  SkyFire was very responsive to my questions and in my opinion the most professional.

Pat: “Generate Energy” helped with our decision and we chose their company to install our panels.

3. What percent of your household electricity cost do your solar panels cover?

Ben at SKY FIRE: The Microgeneration regulation allows for a solar PV system to cover part or all of a property’s annual electrical usage. The utility takes the last 12 months of electrical usage as the baseline. Meeting that value is referred to as Netzero electric. SkyFire Energy will always strive to design a Netzero system which is subject to roof space limitations and budget constraints.

Kevin:  Solar panels cover all of the electricity consumption while the sun is shining.  I am a net exporter.  The problem is that when the sun is NOT shining I have to purchase power from my provider.  Also, there are several administration charges that are a part of everyone’s electricity costs (solar or no solar) which must be paid as long as you are connected to a utility company so the full cost of electricity is never covered.  I do receive a credit during the approximately 8 months that I am a net exporter and those more than cover the additional fees and service charges.

As for my electricity provider, I use Alberta Cooperative Energy (ACE).  They were recommended by the installers and they have been fantastic to work with.  They took care of all of the necessary applications and have special rates for microgenerators.  They pay a very high rate for any electricity exported but also charge that same rate when you require electricity whenever the sun is not shining.  They have an option to switch back to a standard rate once you are consuming more than you are exporting.  This is usually mid-November to mid-February.  More on that below.  ACE also has rates on natural gas so they can manage both utilities.

Pat:  A good portion of our electricity costs are covered from solar panels from March to October.  Winter months and cloudy days affect the sunlight we get from them.

4. Are you able to bank any energy you do not need to use later or is surplus kept by the energy company?

Ben at SKY FIRE: A grid-tied delivers energy to the home directly from the solar modules if/when solar energy is available (ie, self-consumption). The inverter will switch back to grid power (ie, import electricity) in case there is insufficient solar energy being produced. As a micro-generator, you will automatically receive a micro-generation credit on your monthly bill for excess energy supplied to the grid. The accumulation of these credits will be used against that month’s bill.

Kevin:  I do not have a storage system.  I looked into a Tesla PowerWall but the cost was significant not only for the battery system but also for the automated switching and partition system to be able to use the stored power.  A power storage system would be invaluable of course in an off-the-grid situation.

Pat: We do not have a unit/bank to store the extra energy we make.  They are still quite costly to purchase.  Surplus energy goes to ACE and we in turn get extra money off our monthly utility bills.

 5. Are solar panels getting more affordable?

Ben at SKY FIRE: Yes they are. We have seen about a 40% reduction in module price in the last six years. There has been a recent increase in module price though due to shipping costs and inflation. The cheapest time to get solar is today. 

Kevin:  In my case they were less expensive in 2020 than 2016 and I was able to take advantage of a $1700 City of Edmonton Grant.

2016 -3.71 KW installation at a cost of $15,000. The estimated output is 4500 kWh/year.

2020 – 4.36 KW installation at a cost of $11,500.00 (price included the $1700. grant).  The estimated output is 4250 kWh/year.

The difference in the estimated outputs on the 2 systems is based on the modelling done by SkyFire to determine shading effects from trees or in my case, a dormer on the roof.

Pat: When we bought our solar panels in 2019, the Alberta Government at the time helped with their rebate program.  We live in Sherwood Park and although Edmonton have a rebate program, Sherwood Park does not.

6. How many years will it take for your solar panels to pay for themselves?

Ben at SKY FIRE: The system payback is not a straightforward calculation as there are a number of factors beyond our control that affect that value. Currently, system paybacks range around 7 years but with multiple rebate programs available, that number can be closer to 5 years. Generally speaking, the lower the energy rate, the higher the payback. Similarly, the higher the energy rate, the lower the payback. SkyFire Energy takes a more conservative approach and will only provide a 1st year return given the number of unknowns. 

Kevin:  The calculated annual rate of return when I purchased them was 1.8%.  I guess that was better than a GIC at the low interest rates we have seen but I did not purchase them to achieve a return on investment.  I wanted to reduce my energy consumption and return energy to the grid.  With the large rise we have seen in energy prices I am getting a better return now and I am still achieving my main goal to put my roof to work.

Pat: I believe it will be 8-10 years before our panels will be paid off.

 7. Do you need a new roof before installing panels?

Ben at SKY FIRE: If the roof shingles have less than 5 years of life remaining, SkyFire Energy advises customers to re-shingle their roof prior to getting a solar PV array installed. This will save homeowners thousands of dollars down the road. 

Kevin: I had a new roof for both projects but only because one project was new construction and in the case of the other one it needed a new roof.  

Pat: They can be installed on the roof.  No need to re-shingle.  We asked about re-shingling our roof, as we had our roof done in 2013.  We were told Generate will come in, lift the panels so the Roofers can re-shingle, then Generate will hook the panels up again.

8. Are there solar panels that act as roofing and panels all in one?

Kevin: There are a few options out there but when I looked into it in 2015 only Dow had them available and only in their test market in the NE states.   There are several articles on the web for more information.

9. What information can you get about your solar energy creation?

Ben at SKY FIRE: Every system SkyFire Energy installs comes with free access to a monitoring portal. The portal will show the energy production over the liftetime of the system. There are consumption meters available that will monitor the self-consumption portion of the solar energy produced. System payback can be calculated using the self-consumption and microgeneration credit data.

Kevin: My installer set me up with a monitoring app from Energy Monitoring and Analysis Systems which works very well in tracking both installations with real time production as well as daily, monthly and yearly production data.

I also recently purchased the Eagle-200 system from Rainforest Automation and applied to Epcor to have it wirelessly connect with my meter to monitor both production and consumption.   Both this and the above app are important to be able to monitor the time period when you need to switch from a microgenerator rate to a lower rate for the middle of winter.

10. How well do panels work in winter in Edmonton?

Ben at SKY FIRE: Module efficiency is a function of ambient temperature so the solar modules will produce slightly more in the winter/spring. That being said, given our geographic location, systems will underperform in the winter months due to the low sun angle (and sunpeak hours). The vast majority of the energy harvest occurs between March and October.

Kevin: Short days are our biggest disadvantage but the summers make up for it.  As long as it is sunny, and they are not snow covered, then we are producing electricity.  I generally am not a net exporter for part of November and February and all of December and January.   Snow will slide off the panels or quickly melt even on the coldest of days as long as the sun is shining.  It is also important to consider the possibility of snow sliding when designing the system or attempting to park under the panels.

Pat: Sunny days are best for solar production.  In winter and after a heavy snow fall, we will get on the roof to remove the snow.

11. How do you choose the solar panels you use at Sky Fire?
Ben at SKY FIRE: When procuring modules, SkyFire accounts for performance, reliability, cost, and warranty. SkyFire Energy is a certified installer and all system components must meet the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) requirements for electrical safety or an equivalent certification that meets applicable Canadian standards. 

Pros and Cons of Solar Panels on your Home

Video: Solar Power System for Home: Ultimate Beginners Guide

We found this good YouTube video simplifying how solar panels are built, how they work, how many an average home needs, and what determines the prices of solar panels in Canada. It was very enjoyable to watch so here is the link:

We hope you have learned more about solar panels. We have.

Veg Gardening, Red Flower Ideas and Old Growth Forests on the Bruce Trail

Veg Gardening – Season 3

At Friends4Trees4Life, we aim for a positive outlook and positive action on the climate crisis, in whatever ways are most meaningful and impactful, as determined by each individual.

Admittedly, some days are harder than others to keep a positive mindset as we enter day 883 and grow impatient to put this (seemingly neverending) COVID-19 pandemic behind us. That said, vegetable gardening season is back to our shared delight as newbie pandemic gardeners. Gardening is one of the few new positive experiences that we credit directly to the pandemic – were it not for the lockdowns prompting a search and openness to exploring new, safe activities to pursue – we both might have continued to miss out on the simple pleasures and joys of growing our own food that we now eagerly look forward to experiencing each year. So, here we are about to embark on the adventures of Veg Gardening Season 3!

We highlight a few tips from what we have learned in Seasons 1 and 2, through the generosity of more seasoned gardeners as well as our own trial and error, in hopes they might spark the joy of harvesting with some of our Readers who have yet to put trowel to earth.

The rewards of early harvests are highly satisfying and motivating we have found. This statement on seed packets is true and wondrous – “Plant as soon as the ground is workable.”  And, on the advice of Audrey, Catherine has now developed a taste for “quick win” radishes, keenly awaiting her first early harvest within the next few weeks!! This season, Audrey has also passed along these recipes for the “radiant radish”—helpful for a bumper crop – including one for zero waste radish leaf pesto – enjoy 😊!  

(Ricardo Cuisine –

In Toronto, Catherine began direct seed planting on May 19th. Within just one week she is joyfully witnessing new life emerge as her “crops” of radishes, beets, mixed lettuces, spinach and leeks begin to sprout up. Container pot pole beans and Yukon gold potatoes (a first) are also showing signs of life. Most satisfying and energizing as seen in the 3 photos above! So fun to start each day with “daily inspection” to see what else has emerged.

If your balcony, deck or yard space and budget permit, Catherine cannot say enough about her positive growing experience and the pleasures of planting seeds in a Veg Pod (or equivalent). The extra protection and warmth afforded to your seedlings translates into about a one-month head start on growing season in her experience. Gardening while standing up is a simple yet powerfully motivating pleasure in itself, especially if you have any back or joint issues to contend with. (To learn more about Veg Pod raised garden beds (not an endorsement) –

In Veg Gardening Season 3, Catherine is very proud to have germinated tomato plants from seeds for the second year. The new adventure this season, is that she found some cherry tomato and grape tomato seeds in a drawer, dating back to a wonderful 2013 trip to Paris! They evoked memories of tasting the most delicious tomatoes EVER at a local Paris farmers’ market. So, she was inspired to see if these 9-year old seeds might germinate. Miraculously they did!! This is where veg gardening can get a bit zen. How is it that tomato seeds (or any plant seed for that matter) store the ‘instructions’ for being a tomato plant, are able to lie dormant for nine years, and then “know to activate” and begin to grow when encountering the right conditions to promote life? Ah the humbling, inspiring mysteries of life.

Early seedlings – radishes, beets, lettuce, leeks. Photo by Catherine

Having successfully germinated her tomato plants from seed, step one, Catherine has applied what she learned from Season 2, putting her pots outside to acclimatize and “harden up” for a few days and nights, before planting them into their container pots and a few directly in the garden bed. Two lucky tomato plants are “allowed” into the coveted sunny east-facing front garden – interlopers in an otherwise shrub, cascading Japanese maple, rock and flower pollinator garden.

This coming week she will turn thoughts to planting in the two raised beds in the back garden.  Season 3 sees a doubling of growing possibilities, as the veg garden enterprise expands from one to now two raised beds. This will also be the first season that she puts into practice what she learned and started last year about crop rotation.

The idea is to divide your garden space into four planting beds (or sections), grouping like vegetables, based on their use of nutrients, in one bed. Intentionally, planting in a way that promotes soil health, and thus, hopefully, healthy plant growth and crop yields. Each year, each group moves to the next space. Every four years, the groups are back in their original spots.

The basic outline and plant grouping that Catherine is following is*:

Bed #1 (Leaf): uses nitrogen – lettuces and herbs

Bed #2 (Fruit): uses phosphorous – tomatoes, butternut squash

Bed #3 (Root): uses potassium – carrots, beets and leeks

Bed #4 (Legume): uses nitrogen – peas, potatoes and beans.

*Following the plant groupings identified on page 114 in “Tauton’s Complete Guide to Growing Vegetables and Herbs: Publishers of Fine Gardens and Kitchen Gardener: edited by Ruth Lively (2011: Newton, CT).

Red Flowers for Year of the Garden 2022

In our last blog we profiled 2022 as the Year of the Garden, with the colour red as the official colour. We promised to offer some ideas for red flowers and plants. Thanks to helpful tips found in the Leaside Garden Society June Newsletter, we offer these suggestions for planting RED:

Red Hanging Begonia

Fat Domino Mountain Fleece

Hollyhock – Brilliant Miniature

Fire King Crocosmia

Red Calla Lillies

Cherry Brandy Rudbeckia

Red Dahlia

Also, of note for Readers in the Toronto vicinity looking for an outdoor gardening experience, the annual Leaside Garden Society’s Garden Tour 2022 returns happily as an in-person event on June 18th (10:30 to 4:30 p.m., various locations), featuring eleven beautiful home gardens in the neighbourhood. If interested, see this article in the Leaside Life for more information on how to buy tickets –

Tree Trips

We welcome the return of gardening season, and soon, summer holiday season. The great Canadian outdoors beckons! For travellers to, and within Ontario, consider outdoor holiday plans that include hiking on the Bruce Trail.

Bruce Trail Conservancy

The Conservancy and Trail began as an idea in 1960 and became a reality in 1967, with the official opening of the Bruce Trail’s northern most terminus at Tobermory.

The Bruce Trail is Canada’s oldest and longest marked footpath. Stretching 900 km from Niagara to Tobermory in southern Ontario, it provides the only continuous public access to the magnificent Niagara Escarpment, a UNESCO World Biosphere.”

The Conservancy’s Mission and Vision resonate with Lucia and Catherine and our Friends4Trees4Life blog.

Mission:  “Preserving a ribbon of wilderness, for everyone, forever.”

Vision: “The Bruce Trail secured within a permanently protected natural corridor along the Niagara Escarpment.”

The Bruce Trail Conservancy “is both a trail association and one of Ontario’s largest land trusts, committed to caring for the Bruce Trail and to preserving land along its route. Each of the nine Bruce Trail Clubs manages a section of the Bruce Trail and is responsible for maintaining, stewarding and promoting that section.” Nine Bruce Trail Clubs  –

Visit their website for more information about hiking trails with fun names such as “Loops and Lattes” in the Hamilton area, to learn about just “Who is Bruce?” and perhaps to consider becoming a member and/or volunteer with this worthy charitable organization. (

Ontario’s Old Growth Forests

There are opportunities along the Trail and at its northern terminus, Tobermory, to see some of Ontario’s and Canada’s oldest living trees – some along the Tobermory shoreline are over 1300 years old.

Here is a Bruce Trail fact sheet on Old Growth Forests and the Bruce Trail Heritage Tree – the tenacious, cliff-dwelling ancient White Cedar – for more information (

For more information on Ontario’s old growth forests, including the fact that apparently most Ontarians live (unknowingly) within an hour’s drive to an old growth forest, here is the link to a Good Reads review on a recent book by forest ecologist Michael Henry and Peter Quinby – (GoodReads –

“Tripping the Bruce”

Finally, for your learning, viewing and relaxing pleasure, here is a link to TVO’s Immersive video documentary, “Tripping the Bruce,” with a sail along the north shore of the Bruce Peninsula that includes sightings of some ancient cliff-dwelling white cedars among its stunning imagery and coastal scenery.

Here is a one-minute videoclip preview of the three-hour sailing trip documentary –

“The stunning new documentary invites viewers onboard a sailboat for a 34-kilometre voyage along clear turquoise waters, framed by soaring limestone cliffs. Along the way, viewers will encounter some of the oldest cedar trees in Canada, white pebble beaches, the famous Grotto, the picturesque harbour town of Tobermory and some of the best-preserved shipwrecks in the world. It’s an adventure for the eyes and the spirit.”

“ ‘TRIPPING the Bruce offers an eye-popping journey filled with captivating stories of Ontario’s history,’ says John Ferri, VP of Programming and Content at TVO. ‘For anyone who is hungry for travel during this unpredictable time, this documentary inspires the thrill of exploring incredible landscapes of the Bruce Peninsula.’ ”

“…I never knew this area of Ontario was quite so beautiful and historic. It was like being in the Caribbean but with Canadian cedar trees and huge limestone cliffs,” says Mitch Azaria, Executive Producer at Good Earth Productions. “To be able to take viewers underwater to explore shipwrecks in the same smooth fashion we travel on the water was challenging and so rewarding. These wrecks are breathtaking, the water is so clear, and the wrecks are so complete. It’s very haunting to visit these nearly 200-year-old relics.”

Stream TVO Original Tripping the Bruce anytime via TVO.orgYouTube and TVO streaming services. 

Happy Gardening and Happy Trails!

University of Alberta BA in Environmental Studies

Today we are featuring guest blogger Emily Hayes, a BA student in the U of Alberta Environmental Studies program. We have been interested in profiling the voice of youth in our blog, and hear about educational opportunities and job prospects for those who want to focus on the health of our planet. Thank you so much Emily for taking time to answer our questions so meaningfully and for sharing with us your insights.

What is the name and location of the environmental program you are in?

“I am currently in the BA in Environmental studies program at the University of Alberta. I am taking a concentration in Politics, Society and Global Environment. The other two available concentrations are Food and Society and then Environment and Peoples of Canada. However, the program will be undergoing some upgrades and a redesign so these titles may change in the future!”

How long is the program and what are the main courses you are taking?

“The program is theoretically four years however the flexibility of the program really allows you to make it your own. I am planning on drawing out my degree to 5 or 6 years in hopes of increasing my time for volunteering, extra curriculars and additional learning opportunities. Regarding the flexibility within the program itself, on top of getting to choose my concentration, I get 11 free electives over the course of my program to elaborate on things I’ve learned so far, try new subjects and indulge in my interests separate from my degree program. The first two years of the program are very general and cover many bases from political science to biology to economics to native studies. In the later years of my degree, I focus on completing the requirements for my concentration in Politics, Society and Global Environment which consists largely of agriculture economics, sociology and rural sociology, and political science, all with an environmental lens. To wrap everything up, I take a capstone research course that nicely summarizes what I’ve learned throughout the degree.”

What got you interested in this line of study/work?

“I would say that my parents really emphasized environmental issues throughout my youth, particularly by teaching me how to recycle and compost, reducing our plastic consumption and by building and maintaining a solar powered cabin. This led me to get involved in environmental strikes and clubs throughout high school. From this, I learned just how intertwined the climate justice movement is with social justice issues, another great interest of mine. Gaining an understanding of environmental and social issues through activism highlighted the importance of viewing the climate crisis as a social issue. It’s from there that I began looking for programs that would allow me to learn about social theory and act on environmental and social injustices!”

Are there other similar programs across the country? 

“Although I didn’t look into many, there are quite a few environmental studies programs across the country. I’m not too familiar with the differences and similarities to my own program but some other universities that offer a BA in Environmental Studies include the University of Victoria, Wilfred Laurier University, the University of Waterloo, Carleton University, the University of Ottawa and the University of PEI.”

Do you feel your program is teaching you useful skills, and do they help with graduates finding employment?

“The flexibility and versatility of my program allows for so many different outcomes, making it hard to pinpoint where each student will end up after graduation. Most graduates of Environmental Studies don’t know what career they will be doing and therefore can’t be provided with a specific bank of knowledge that they are guaranteed to use in their future career. However, I’m finding that instead, I’m being provided with an open-ended skill set that teaches me to think critically about environmental and sociological issues which can be useful in a wide variety of careers! I am gaining a strong base in social and environmental theory to which I can apply to new scenarios as they come up and change throughout my personal and professional life. I have not been made aware of any programs or initiatives from the university specific to my degree or faculty that would help graduates find employment after graduation, but the University of Alberta does offer many opportunities during your degree that can help you get ahead. This includes local and international internships, volunteer opportunities and going abroad which can boost resumes and help in narrowing down the direction that graduates want to go once they’ve completed their degree.” March Day of Action for a Just Transition

What is your passion and what are you hoping to do when you graduate?

“This is a difficult question! My dream would be to be involved in some sort of environmental and social justice activism. I would also be interested in environmental education as I love to teach what I’m passionate about, especially because it is an extremely important subject for everyone to know and understand! I feel that education and open discussions are crucial in unifying people of all political and social backgrounds to achieving the common goal of a sustainable future and I would love to focus my skills on that!”

Describe some (as many as possible) of the career paths available to someone coming out of your program? Is there a lot of competition for work in this field?

“With sustainability becoming more important than ever, I think we’re approaching a time where the expanse of the environmental field is truly just beginning. It’s not hard to believe that there could be room for everybody to contribute to a sustainable society, whether that be through a career or volunteering. As the environmental field grows, there will be even more jobs created that are suited to the graduates of my program and other environmental fields. That being said, here are a few career paths that my university recommends:

  • Community Relations 
  • Sustainability Coordinator 
  • Environmental Education Specialist 
  • Policy Analyst 
  • Environmental/Aboriginal Relations Advisor 
  • Writer 
  • Communications Officer”

What is your view of the liberal government management of its commitments to the Paris Accord? What can they do better? 

“Honestly, I really don’t think that what they’ve done is enough or will be enough to meet the goals of the accord. The discrepancy we’re seeing in Canada between agreeing to certain targets and actually following through with a plan to achieve them is huge and quite concerning. Our government needs to be focusing on investing in a green energy sector while phasing out current projects that increase our emissions, such as oil and gas. As this won’t happen overnight, this involves retraining and transitioning fossil fuel workers to new and sustainable sectors. Furthermore, big corporations are primarily responsible for the majority of our emissions and need to be held truly accountable in terms of meeting emission reduction goals and transitioning their industries to greener ways of running. As we’re approaching the 2030s, our government’s transition plan needs to be big, and it needs to be bold, but it also needs to support all Canadians.”

Do you feel hopeful about the future health of our planet?

“Overall, we are behind where we need to be to combat the climate emergency. However, it’s important to realize that there is no specific point of no return after which we will be completely doomed although, the longer we wait to act, the worse the effects will be in the long run. This is why it is so important that we get everyone involved and continue to pressure our governments to act as fast as possible. There is no deadline, but this is still an emergency that threatens the existence of life on our planet!”

In your view, how can we instil more passion in fellow citizens to reduce carbon emissions?

“Although individual actions like taking shorter showers and using shampoo bars are important and can prepare us for the change to come, the emphasis needs to be on corporate and societal change. And this requires a lot of push from individuals banding together. The next 5, 10, even 20 years will be extremely challenging, and we don’t have all the answers to our problems yet which creates a lot of hesitancy towards this change. In Alberta in particular, the biggest challenge is finding a way of showing people that environmental justice is a movement for them and not against them. Through my degree and personal research, I can see how much hope, empowerment, and equality there is in a transition to a sustainable future and it’s important that others see that as well! What are some socially and environmentally positive changes you can think of that would personally benefit you and your friends and family?”

Local Edmonton environmental organizations to follow and get involved in:

@climatejusticeEdmonton (also other cities such as @climatejusticeToronto)




EVs, Tree Planting, Year of the Garden 2022, Mother Trees and More

EVs and Geopolitics

We have more EV news to share which for us has added further dimension to our recent past blogs on what we predict will be this soon-to-be-mainstream transformational shift in transportation.

An insightful and provocative piece by the CBC this week asks, “Can Electric Vehicles End the War on Oil?” and challenges us to learn more about and consider the role of fossil fuels, and oil in particular, in influencing geopolitics through the finance of armed conflict.

It starts the analysis with a dimension we are more familiar with in terms of climate change – that a move from a transportation system that ‘runs on fossil fuels to one powered by electricity’ will help ‘to reduce carbon emissions and slow global warming.’

The added dimension which offered us new insight on the issue came in presenting an important difference between non-renewable fossil fuels and electricity.

Professor Cullen Hendrix Russell’s research (University of Denver) is discussed and for the author, “…demonstrates the connection between high oil prices and militarism”…and “that a rise in oil prices increases the likelihood that petro-states such as Venezuela or Iran will engage in a military dispute (usually over their border). Higher oil prices provide these countries with more money, which they use to strengthen their armed forces.”

Whereas, the article presents the notion that “Electric power as a transportation fuel can be produced anywhere, in a variety of sustainable ways, removing the geopolitical leverage that so many oil producers currently enjoy.”

For the full CBC article –

We find it interesting to revisit the benefits of reducing carbon emissions via shifting to an EV powered transportation system, now informed by this CBC article, as we read the BBC headline and news of today with added perspective — “Ukraine War: EU plans Russian oil ban and war crime sanctions”. The BBC piece reports on European Union decisions taken, as described by EU President Ursula von der Leyen, on a package “aimed at maximising pressure on Russia while minimising damage to Europe.”

“Russian crude oil would be phased out within six months, she said.”

“The EU has been focusing for weeks on how to wean itself off Russian oil and gas. It has already pledged to reduce gas imports by two-thirds by the end of 2022 and now plans to phase out crude oil over six months and refined products by the end of 2022.”

For the full BBC article –

Stellantis Invests in Ontario for Vertical Integration in EV Supply Chains

This week’s news, as reported by CTV, saw investments of $3.6 billion by Stellantis in the automaker’s Windsor and Brampton plants.

“The investments are expected to accelerate the creation of one of the most vertically integrated electric vehicle supply chains in North America.

“Stellantis will retool and modernize the plants in Windsor and Brampton, converting them to flexible, multi-energy vehicle assembly facilities ready to produce the electric vehicles of the future. Officials say the Windsor Assembly Plant will return to a three-shift operation when the changes are in place.”

“The company will also build two new research and development centres focusing on electric vehicles and EV battery technology.”

“Ontario is supporting all these critical investments with up to $513 million, with a matching investment from the federal government.”

For the CTV article —

Earth Day Tree Planting in Windsor

More green news from Windsor is reported in the CBC’s Earth Day coverage.

Annual tree planting events have been hosted by the Essex Region Conservation Authority’s (ERCA) since 1999 and took a two-year pause during the COVID-19 pandemic. Happily, Earth Day 2022 saw a return to tree planting celebrations in Windsor, with over 800 people showing up to plant about 2500 trees.

“Trees are identified as the biggest weapon in the fight against climate change,” said Danielle Breault Stuebing, director of communications and outreach services with ERCA. (CBC:

Players Playing for Trees

We have donated in the past to One Tree Planted and are now on their mailing list. Recently we learned about a new fun way to support their reforestation initiatives, especially for sports fans, by following favourite professional athlete(s) / team(s) via the new ‘Players Playing for Trees’ initiative.

How it works (FYI and not an endorsement) – you set up your automatic donation account, your chosen athlete makes a play, your donation is sent to One Tree Planted, and the organization plants trees in a reforestation project.

To illustrate, some of the participating athletes and teams include, for example, Lucas Giolito (Boston), Ryan Burr, Dylan Cease, Shane Bieber, Tony Kemp (Oakland As), Stephen Piscotty , Chad Kubl, Brent Suber (Milwaukee Brewers) among others. Here’s the website link for anyone interested in learning more —

Vote for Toronto’s Official Tree

There is still time for Toronto residents to cast a vote for the city’s official tree.

“The City of Toronto is naming a new official symbol: Toronto’s Official Tree. Everyone in Toronto can cast their vote to help pick Toronto’s Official Tree. There are four trees that all represent Toronto and can be chosen from: birch, maple, oak or pine.”

Thanks to Reader Nora for putting this opportunity on our radar. Catherine has cast her vote for her favourite tree (shared by Lucia too) – the oak.

Everyone who lives in Toronto is eligible to vote. Learn more about each of the four tree contenders on the City of Toronto’s website and cast your vote! 

“Voting began on April 21 and closes May 10 at 11:59 p.m. The winning tree will be announced this spring.” (City of Toronto site —

Toronto Tree Planting and Stewardship Volunteer Opportunities

This Spring we both look forward to getting outdoors and taking advantage of volunteer opportunities that are resuming once again in Edmonton and Toronto to help grow our respective city’s urban forest.

The City of Toronto’s website describes the benefits of volunteering in this way below:

“Join us to plant trees, shrubs and wildflowers, and help grow Toronto’s urban forest. As a volunteer you will:

  • Learn more about native trees, shrubs and invasive species
  • Learn how to plant a tree
  • Take part in environmental stewardship activities
  • Meet new people, make new friendships and network within the community
  • Gain experience, leadership and interpersonal skills
  • Acquire documented volunteer hours (if requested)”

Where and When

Planting and stewardship events take place spring through fall each year. Check our calendar of events for dates and locations.

How to Apply

Register in advance by emailing with the following information:

  1. Your name
  2. Which event(s) from the online calendar you would like to participate in
  3. Number of participants. Some events have limited capacity for groups with 10 or more people

Calendar of Stewardship Events – May to June 2022

Catherine looked at the online calendar of events to profile a few upcoming opportunities for Toronto-based Readers (and herself) in May and June. Some examples for May 18 and 29, and for June 4 and 11 are listed below —

Highland Creek Community Park Planting Event

Join Urban Forestry staff for a morning of tree planting in beautiful and peaceful Highland Creek Community Park. No experience is necessary and all ages are welcome.

When: May 18, 2022 (10:00 am – 12:00 pm)

Albion Gardens Planting Event

Help us to enhance the woodlot in this beautiful park! After joining us to plant native trees and shrubs, take a walk along the Humber River Recreational Trail. You may spot some wildlife! No experience is necessary and all ages are welcome.

When: May 29, 2022 (10:00 am – 12:00 pm)

Smythe Park Planting Event

Supported by: Friends of Smythe Park

Come plant under the oaks with us! We will be restoring the understory of a mature oak stand at the top of the slope next to Edinborough Park. We will be planting native trees, shrubs and wildflowers.

When: June 4, 2022 (10:00 am – 12:00 pm)

Ridge Trail Stewardship Event

Join us for a morning of trail maintenance activities on the Ridge Trail, which runs behind the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood. Tools will be provided, and no experience is required.

When: June 11, 2022 (10:00 am – 1:00 pm)

Confirm details and pre-register to attend at the City of Toronto website —

Edible Forests

Sometimes it is simply enough to enjoy the pleasures and beauty of walking in a nearby urban forest, rather than planting and growing it!

Thanks to a recent CBC piece on the New Brunswick ‘Edible Forest,’ we share ideas offered by ‘wild-food foragers’ on possible hidden gems to be on the look out for in (y)our walks.

The piece profiles Danielle Tranquilla, head farmer and forager for downtown Fredericton restaurant The Palate, whose forest walking mission is to find ‘local ingredients diners are hungry for.’  These include fiddleheads, chanterelles and lobster mushrooms. Other foraged ingredients identified include, e.g., ramps (a garlicky wild onion), berries, chokecherries, wild onions, cattails and spruce needles.

For the CBC article —

Catherine can personally attest to the novel and tasty treat of cooking with spruce tips, and shares the recipe she used from The Spice Trader for Garlic and Spruce Tip Roasted Potatoes, offered as inspiration for others to ‘branch out’ (sorry, bad pun intended 😊) when planning for their ‘forest feast’ and foraging walk.   Enjoy! (Spice Trader recipe link —

Year of the Garden 2022

We learned recently in Leaside Life about the House of Commons declaring 2022 as the Year of the Garden.

“It all started last March when the Canadian Garden Council proclaimed 2022 as the Year of the Garden to commemorate Canada’s rich horticulture and garden heritage and to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association. At least that’s how it started, but it went on to honour the First Nations’ history of living in harmony with plants and nature. The council also included how sustainable gardening can help to fight climate change and added the important role that gardening and nature have on our mental and physical wellbeing.”

“Last June, that proclamation became a declaration in the House of Commons when the federal government declared 2022 as the Year of the Garden.” 

“Here at home, our councillor, Jaye Robinson, seconded the motion to proclaim 2022 as the Year of the Garden at City Council, which was adopted unanimously. Toronto was the very first city to commit to honouring the Year of the Garden!”

For the Leaside Life article —

From the “Live the Garden Life” website, additional information on Year of the Garden 2022, including an invitation to ‘plant red’ (official Year of the Garden colour) and share your garden photos for recognition.

“You’re invited to join in the fun and “Live the Garden Life” during the Year of the Garden 2022, a celebration of everything garden and gardening related in Canada.”

“The Year of the Garden officially starts the first day of spring, and all Canadians – whether you already enjoy gardening, recently discovered the pleasure of spending time in a garden because of the pandemic, or want to learn more about how gardens impact so much of life – are invited to take part. There’s something for everyone to enjoy, celebrate our country’s rich garden heritage, and help grow important legacies for a sustainable future.”

“No matter where you live, in a house, condo or apartment, your gardens contribute to the enjoyment of life. From container kitchen gardens on a balcony, a landscaped backyard, colourful flower beds, to a community vegetable garden providing food to the neighbourhood, all need a little effort on your part to nurture their success.”

“Supported by the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, The Canadian Garden Council, through its Year of the Garden 2022 initiative aims to inspire and inform Canadians about the many health and well-being, economic, and environmental benefits gardens and gardening provide, and along the way provide tips and tricks for gardening success and the enjoyment of gardens.”

“During 2021, with the help of Founding Partners: the Canadian Nursery Landscape Association, Québec Vert, the Canadian Ornamental Horticulture Alliance, Garden Centres Canada, the Canadian Society of Landscape Architects, and Communities in Bloom, and Founding Sponsors: Scotts Canada, Premier Tech, and Proven Winners, the Year of the Garden 2022 was proclaimed by the Canadian Garden Council to celebrate the 100th Anniversary of Ornamental Horticulture in Canada.”

“The Year of the Garden 2022 offers many opportunities to “Live the Garden Life” and get involved, enjoy garden experiences, and get inspired in the garden.”

Plant Red

“Everyone in Canada, including individuals, and those in organizations, schools, churches, colleges and universities, clubs, societies, businesses, and municipalities are invited to Live the Garden Life and Plant Red during the Year of the Garden 2022.”

“Plant Red to pay tribute to lives lost, or honour frontline workers during the pandemic. Or Plant Red as an expression of your Canadian Garden Pride in 2022.”

“Share your garden. Register your Plant Red Garden at no cost, by submitting a photo of your garden. Your entry will be pinned on the map (by community not exact location) and you will receive a special downloadable Plant Red Garden Certificate of participation.”

For the Living the Gardening Life website —

We will do some more research and return in future blogs with ideas on some red flowers, plants and shrubs to consider including in your spring or fall gardening plans. Stay tuned! (Feel free to comment and share your tips on favourite red flowers and plants, too. Thank you.)

Yard Sharing

Got the gardening bug, but need a place to plant? Or, have a yard that you are not into?

Learn more about and perhaps consider ‘yard sharing,’ with initiatives already underway in places such as Edmonton, Regina, Halifax, Hamilton, Vancouver and Toronto as covered in this CBC piece on “Love gardening? Hate gardening?” ( CBC : and from tips and resources offered via the Toronto Urban Growers’  garden sharing toolkit, which includes a sample yard sharing template for topics for landowner and gardener to discuss and agree on in writing (e.g., sharing and storing tools, garden maintenance, how costs and the harvest will be shared, off-limits questions (in keeping with Ontario Human Rights code)), at:

Benefits of yard sharing to consider, as identified on the Toronto Urban Growers’ site include:

  • Open up space for urban food growers
  • Increase availability of fresh, local produce
  • Turn underused spaces into green amenities
  • Build community connections and resilience

Further ‘food for thought,’ on the benefits of gardening from the CBC yard sharing article:

“Growing fruits, vegetables and flowers benefits not just people, but bees, birds and other wildlife. Plants also help absorb excess rainwater from storms, reducing the risk of flooding compared to grass lawns or yards that are turne into tiled, paved

Mother Trees

In the spirit of celebrating all ‘mothers’ every day for the gift of life, and especially as Mother’s Day approaches on May 8th, we give the last word here to ‘Mother Trees’.

Canada’s own Suzanne Simard is a groundbreaking global forest ecology expert and researcher into forests’ Mother Trees, leading the Mother Tree Project in B.C.

From One Tree Planted’s blog on Mother Trees we learn that, according to Simard,

“Mother Trees are large trees within a forest that act as centralized hubs, supporting communication and nutrient exchange amongst trees.”

“These massive ancients are dubbed “Mother Trees” because they recognize kin, supply resources, share wisdom, sound alarms, support networks of hundreds of trees, foster deep connections and alliances, and pass their legacies down to future generations. Sound familiar? That’s because it is. As strange as it may sound, we have more in common with trees than we think.”


  • Use their deep roots to draw up water and share it with shallow-rooted seedlings
  • Detect the distress signals of neighboring trees and respond by sending them nutrients,
  • Reduce their root competition to make elbow room for their “kids”
  • Pump sugar and other lifesaving resources like carbon, nitrogen and phosphorous into the roots of young saplings
  • Infect saplings with mycorrhizal fungi, pulling them into the supportive embrace of the wood wide web, where life-saving help is available”

“And speaking of fungi, it’s ubiquitous: one teaspoon of forest soil contains several miles of fungal filaments, coating every particle of soil and working its way into tiny crevices that tree roots can’t reach. With its help, Mother Trees are able to support entire forests, serving as “hubs” in the interconnected forest web of life.”

When Mother Trees are injured, dying, or in their twilight years, they deliberately pass their resources on to their “children”. While science hasn’t determined exactly how they’re able to recognize their kin, the implications are clear: by offering support, Mother Trees ensure that their genetic line will run unimpeded. But Mother Trees don’t just support their own immediate families — or even their own species!”

Learn more at One Tree Planted’s blog —

The Mother Tree Project

“Started in 2015 and funded by NSERC and FESBC, the Mother Tree Project is a large, scientific, field-based experiment that builds on prior research with the central objective of identifying sustainable harvesting and regeneration treatments that will maintain forest resilience as climate changes in British Columbia.”

“The project is unique to British Columbia because of its large scale and replication across a broad climate gradient. It is the first to test partial retention harvesting alongside transfer of genotypes from other climate regions, and to consider Mother Trees as important ecosystem components.”

“The Mother Tree Project explores the following research questions:

  • What role do Mother Trees play in forest regeneration?
  • What seedling mixes work best for forest regeneration?
  • How does the size, number and distribution of trees retained (left uncut) at a harvesting site impact forest regeneration?
  • How is the forest carbon budget affected by various harvesting and regeneration treatments?
  • How is biodiversity (animals, plants, fungi, bacteria) affected by various harvesting and regeneration treatments?
  • What are the ecological processes that drive these responses?”

To learn more about The Mother Tree Project, at Suzanne Simard’s official project website – and/or in her two Ted Talks :

TED Talk: The Secret Languages of Trees (2019, 4 minutes) –

Ted Talk: How Trees Talk to Each Other (2016, 18 minutes)

In 2021, Suzanne Simard published her first book, Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest.  The Good Reads review, available at:

“Suzanne Simard is a pioneer on the frontier of plant communication and intelligence; she’s been compared to Rachel Carson, hailed as a scientist who conveys complex, technical ideas in a way that is dazzling and profound. Her work has influenced filmmakers (the Tree of Souls of James Cameron’s Avatar) and her TED talks have been viewed by more than 10 million people worldwide.”

“Now, in her first book, Simard brings us into her world, the intimate world of the trees, in which she brilliantly illuminates the fascinating and vital truths–that trees are not simply the source of timber or pulp, but are a complex, interdependent circle of life; that forests are social, cooperative creatures connected through underground networks by which trees communicate their vitality and vulnerabilities with communal lives not that different from our own.”

“Simard writes–in inspiring, illuminating, and accessible ways–how trees, living side by side for hundreds of years, have evolved, how they perceive one another, learn and adapt their behaviors, recognize neighbors, and remember the past; how they have agency about the future; elicit warnings and mount defenses, compete and cooperate with one another with sophistication, characteristics ascribed to human intelligence, traits that are the essence of civil societies–and at the center of it all, the Mother Trees: the mysterious, powerful forces that connect and sustain the others that surround them…”


We close this blog post with reflections and some inspiring thoughts (we hope) in challenging yet also hopeful times, as offered by One Tree Planted‘s blog on ‘What Can We Learn From Mother Trees?’

Mother Trees remind us of our better nature. They prove that true strength is reflected in our ability to help each other, and that we’re at our best when our communities are healthy, our connections strong, and our resources equitably distributed. They remind us to share when we have more than we need, and to give a helping hand to those that are struggling. Just like our own mothers, from root to sky, they have a lifetime of wisdom and inspiration to share.” (One Tree Planted’s blog —

Earth Day & Indigenous Knowledge & Innovations

Thirty-Nine Fun Ways to Celebrate Earth Month

Thank you to our young artist Emily, for making us this beautiful bluejay picture to celebrate Earth Day which is this Friday April 22, 2022. Here are plenty of ways you can get outside and celebrate Earth Week/Month, no matter where you live, and the best part is most of these won’t cost you a dime!

  • Climb a tree (if you are young and able)
  • Go geocaching
  • Kick rocks
  • Make an acorn whistle
  • Learn how to ID trees
  • Clean up your local environment
  • Go on a mushroom walk
  • Pull invasive species
  • Plant native trees
  • Make a nature crown
  • Dry your clothes outside
  • Get your OM on
  • Dust off your bike
  • Support your local farmer
  • Go forest bathing
Earth Week 2022 in Edmonton is Not Looking Like Spring Photo credit Lucy
  • Break out the boats
  • Do some outdoor yoga
  • Go stargazing
  • Make a full moon infusion
  • Go horseback riding
  • Start gardening
  • Make a nature mandala
  • Host a farm to table dinner
  • Harvest the rain
  • Tour your local waterfalls
  • Build a simple rock cairn
  • Plan a scavenger hunt
  • Break out the binoculars
  • Have a back yard movie night
  • Macro or bird or landscape or plant photography
  • Have an eco picnic
  • Build a fairy house
  • Toss a ball
  • Get your compost on
  • Brighten up the scenery
  • Pitch a tent
  • Befriend your local pollinators
  • Check the air filter in your car
  • get rid of your old tires

These ideas were taken from One Tree Planted this month and you can go to their site to get more details on each suggestion.

Tapping into Indigenous Knowledge on Climate Change

Several Youtube videos have been created to share the wealth of Indigenous knowledge of how our Canadian land and climate has changed over time and projections of changes into the future. One YouTube video (first image below) taps into Indigenous knowledge of how climate change is affecting their communities. This interactive map of Canada allows each of us to look at projections for Indigenous communities across Canada (and cities as well) as to how the weather will change over time and what effect that will have on growing food. It is a “Climate Atlas of Canada“. Lucy went to this interactive map and clicked on ‘Edmonton’ and it shows how many days/year in future we can expect to have greater than 30 degrees Celsius. That is just one of many projections one can access. Push buttons to see about precipitation, cold weather, flooding, ability to grow certain crops and more anywhere in Canada. There are three Indigenous Knowledge Youtube videos:

  • Climate Atlas of Canada
  • Wind Power on the Prairies
  • Our Planet in Peril (by Sheila Watt Cloutier, set in norther Quebec)


‘Brilliant Planet’ Creates Algae Farms to Decarbonize the Air

“Brilliant Planet is unlocking the power of algae as an affordable method of permanently and quantifiably sequestering carbon at the gigaton scale. The company’s innovative processes enable vast quantities of microalgae to grow in open-air pond-based systems on coastal desert land. This is achieved without using freshwater, by harnessing a natural process that contributes to the health of oceans and air.”

“The process itself is essentially solar-powered — because the algae are effectively powered by the sun — but also needs to run pumps to move seawater around. There are two perks to its method: Unlike some other competitors the CEO is very careful not to name on the record, the company doesn’t use any freshwater in its process, and, in addition, the process helps de-acidify the ocean water it does use.”

“We have to move very large volumes of seawater around, and that uses energy, but we’ve done a lot of design work around running the system extremely energy-efficiently. So gravity feeds down through most of the system from one pond into the next.”

A PNNL ‘Freeze-thaw Molten Salt Battery’ for Seasonal Storage of Wind and Solar Energy

Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) has created a molten-salt battery that can freeze solar and wind energy for months, so has been designed to help store immense amounts of energy for when turbines can’t spin or the sun isn’t out. The new freeze-thaw battery locks in energy for months when the active material inside it goes from liquid to solid. Then, when warmed up, it can discharge 90 percent of that stored energy. Most grid storage today relies on expensive lithium-ion batteries, or on lead-acid batteries, which bear the burden of toxic lead. So there is a growing effort to develop new battery technologies such as flow batteries.

“The new PNNL battery is a type of molten-salt battery, a technology that has been around for a few decades. It typically uses a molten salt—a material that is solid at room temperature but liquid at higher temperatures—as the electrolyte that allows charge to flow between the electrodes. The new PNNL design is based on common, low cost, and less reactive materials and charges at a lower temperature than other older versions. PNNL hopes to get the cost as low as $6/kWh which is about 15 times less than the materials cost of today’s lithium-ion batteries.”

“You can start to envision something like a large battery on a 40-foot tractor-trailer parked at a wind farm,” said Vince Sprenkle, a senior strategic advisor at PNNL and co-author of the paper. “The battery is charged in the spring and then the truck is driven down the road to a substation where the battery is available if needed during the summer heat.”

Harnessing Bioluminescent Organisms to Light our Cities

Organisms as diverse as fireflies, fungi and fish have the ability to glow through bioluminescence.

“Founded in 2014, Glowee is developing a liquid raw material – in theory endlessly renewable – made of bioluminescent microorganisms. It is cultivated in saltwater aquariums before being packaged in the aquarium tubes. The manufacturing process, claims Rey, consumes less water than manufacturing LED lights and releases less CO2, while the liquid is also biodegradable. The lights also use less electricity to run than LEDs, according to the company, although the Glowee bulbs produce fewer lumens of light than most LED bulbs. While Glowee’s lights are currently only available in standard tubes for events, the company is planning to produce several types of street furniture, such as outdoor benches with in-built lighting, soon.”

“However, Carl Johnson, professor of biological sciences at Vanderbilt University, believes there are serious challenges still ahead before bioluminescence can get the green light for large-scale deployment. Glowee is doing research to address such problems and has set up negotiations with 40 cities in Europe.”

“”The application of synthetic biology onto bioluminescence is a massive opportunity,” says Wood, who is now developing a bioluminescent plant for the company Light Bio.”

Some fungi carry genes that allow them to produce bioluminescence and could be used to bioengineer plants that glow (Credit: Louise Docker/Getty Images) from BBC Future Magazine

Updates Worldwide on Wind and Solar Energy

According to an article by Bloomberg, solar and wind power complement each other well. Solar photovoltaic generation tends to be weaker in winter and non-existent at night. Wind, on the other hand, performs better at those times. Solar power energy worldwide is estimated to provide 245 gigawatts of photovoltaic capacity in 2022, which is a third more than was installed in 2021 and at present is being produced at 7.5% above the estimated expectation. Good news! This is equivalent to about 2/3s of the world’s total installed nuclear capacity. Unfortunately wind energy is not moving according to plan. It is taking time around the world for countries to get permits, so has more road blocks. The Global Wind Energy Council says it may only reach 64% of the 2030 wind power requirements needed to hit net zero.

Photo by Lucy taken in California

Have a wonderful Earth Month and we do hope you get outdoors to enjoy and appreciate our beautiful and delicate planet EARTH.