"Experimental Lakes Area"

Crowdscrounging pennies to support Canada's most important environmental research

When Stephen Harper's petrotories yanked funding from the Experimental Lakes Area -- Canada's answer to the Large Hadron Collider, a captive ecosystem where some of the world's most important environmental research has been conducted -- the world gasped and raced to rescue it; now, scientists are reduced to scrounging for crowdfunding to continue some of the most important environmental research in the world.

John calls it "an amazing opportunity for all of us to fund incredibly important basic scientific research" -- it is, but it's also a blazing indictment of the year 2014, Canada, Stephen Harper, and hydrocarbons.

The Experimental Lakes Area (ELA) is a freshwater research facility in Northwestern Ontario, Canada that has operated as a government research program for over 45 years. After the Canadian Government announced that it would no longer fund the ELA program, operations were transferred to the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) in April 2014. IISD now needs additional funding to expand ELA’s vital legacy of research so that it can continue to find effective solutions to environmental problems affecting fresh water.

We can thank the ELA for many of the improvements we have seen in recent years to the quality of the water we use daily. ELA’s whole-lake research findings have been instrumental in the phase-out of harmful phosphorus additives in cleaning products, tightening air pollution standards in response to acid rain threats, and proposed installation of scrubbers inside industrial smokestacks to reduce mercury levels found in the fish we eat.

The ELA features a collection of 58 small lakes, as well as a facility with accommodations and laboratories.

Read the rest

Canadian libricide: Tories torch and dump centuries of priceless, irreplaceable environmental archives

Back in 2012, when Canada's Harper government announced that it would close down national archive sites around the country, they promised that anything that was discarded or sold would be digitized first. But only an insignificant fraction of the archives got scanned, and much of it was simply sent to landfill or burned.

Unsurprisingly, given the Canadian Conservatives' war on the environment, the worst-faring archives were those that related to climate research. The legendary environmental research resources of the St. Andrews Biological Station in St. Andrews, New Brunswick are gone. The Freshwater Institute library in Winnipeg and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland: gone. Both collections were world-class.

An irreplaceable, 50-volume collection of logs from HMS Challenger's 19th century expedition went to the landfill, taking with them the crucial observations of marine life, fish stocks and fisheries of the age. Update: a copy of these logs survives overseas.

The destruction of these publicly owned collections was undertaken in haste. No records were kept of what was thrown away, what was sold, and what was simply lost. Some of the books were burned. Read the rest

Canadian govt turns the national science agenda over to incumbent big businesses

Jonathan sez,

Apparently the Conservative government has decided that government research labs should be concentrating on science in the public interest ... oops, I mean, science in *industry's* interest. A major overhaul of national science policy requires these labs to begin "Conducting collaborative R&D projects with private industry, sharing the costs and the risks."

Notice, that's research in the service of *existing* industries. So government labs can help the current rich get richer, but may not create whole new industries. An applied mathematician might describe this as: you are allowed to climb toward the top of the hill you are on now, but not allowed to jump to other hills which may reach much higher. ...And your applied mathematician consultant would tell you that this is not a way likely to find a global maximum, merely a local one. Maybe the Conservative government should listen to some scientists before ruining science policy.

Unfortunately, this is just the latest in a series of Conservative government attacks on science in Canada, which has included muzzling scientists and shutting down the Experimental Lakes Area -- "Canada's LHC," the world's leading site for critical research on freshwater systems.

Research council’s makeover leaves Canadian industry setting the agenda (Thanks, Jonathan!) Read the rest