Friday, 27 August 2010

Canada's Lost Salmon Return in Droves

by David DeFranza

Every year, sockeye salmon return to the rivers of western Canada to make their arduous upstream journey to calmer spawning grounds. It is a seasonal touchstone that signifies the approaching end of summer, one that has been observed for centuries.

The only problem is that some years, like in 2009, the salmon don't return.

In 2009, watershed managers estimated that 10,488,000 salmon would return from the Pacific. As the month wore on, it became clear that the reality would meet only a fraction of this goal. In the end, 1,370,000 salmon returned, a mere 13 percent of the preseason estimate.

The poor showing sent managers and scientists into a frenzy. After a year of research, no definitive conclusions could be made, but several theories had emerged. Warmer ocean temperatures, diminished food supplies, and an increase in predator populations were among the leading suggestions.

Others thought that offshore salmon farms could be responsible. Sea lice, which are common on the farms, may have spread to wild populations, killing many of the young salmon.

Though the final verdict is still out on the cause of last year's decline, it is clear that this year represents a dramatic rebound. Already, assessments predict 25,000,000 sockeye salmon will return to the Fraser river, the largest since 1913.

Still, even a record return may not be enough to reconcile the shock of last year's turnout.

"Everybody is abuzz about the great return of the Fraser sockeye," Fisheries Minister Gail Shea said, but "we're welcoming this with cautious optimism."

... read more story at

Tuesday, 24 August 2010

China's 45 Billion Disposable Chopsticks Require 100 Acres of Forests Every 24 Hours

by Michael Graham Richard, Ottawa, Canada

That's a Lot of Chopsticks

Apparently China's Ministry of Commerce has had it with disposable chopsticks. It sent out a warning to chopstick makers in June to warn them that: "Production, circulation and recycling of disposable chopsticks should be more strictly supervised." The reason? With about 45 billion disposable chopstick pairs made every year in the country, or about 130 million a day, a lot of wood is being wasted, and that in a country that is trying to increase its forest coverage (from about 8% in 1949 to 12-13% today, compared to 30% for the USA).

Greenpeace China has estimated that to keep up with this demand, 100 acres of trees need to be felled every 24 hours. Think here of a forest larger than Tiananmen Square -- or 100 American football fields -- being sacrificed every day. That works out to roughly 16 million to 25 million felled trees a year. Deforestation is one of China's gravest environmental problems, leading to soil erosion, famine, flooding, carbon dioxide release, desertification and species extinction. ( source)

If you compare 100 acres per day to the size of China's forests, it still isn't that much (it's a big country), but chopsticks are far from the only thing pressuring Chinese ecosystems. It's one more thing the country's forests could do without... read more story at

Sunday, 8 August 2010

Minimalist Starbucks Store Notable For What It Leaves Out Rather Than What It Puts In

by Lloyd Alter, Toronto

Last year at Greenbuild we learned about Starbucks' new Global Store Design Strategy from Corporate Architect Tony Gale. One very attractive feature was that it was not a "one size fits all" program but would adapt the designs to different regions; Tony said "we like to do different things in different regions, to reflect what is going on in the local culture."

We previously posted about their New York store at Spring and Crosby; I recently visited their Toronto prototype and found it to be a very interesting project indeed.

It is a small store, on the ground floor of a brand new condo, at the intersection of Toronto's shiny new rebuilt dedicated streetcar line and a major subway station, so it will get a lot of walk-in trade.

Perhaps the most interesting feature of the store design is not the green goodies that they put in, but the stuff they left out. They have taken a minimalist approach and left out ceilings, drywall and flooring, leaving the basic concrete shell of the building exposed. All of the piping in the ceiling that serves the floors above is exposed and open, not even painted. There is an obvious environmental benefit of using less stuff, less building materials, a smaller footprint in construction... read more story at