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Various environmental issues


Local foodThe local food movement is growing by leaps and bounds, as our news story this week attests. But I want to draw extra attention to the province-wide "Incredible Picnic" mentioned in this week's Shoptalk, the local version of which will be held this Sunday on the Common from 11am to 3pm. It's worth stopping by to support a good cause and see the wide range of local food available. Eating local food is very literally the best way we can reduce our carbon footprint. I once calculated that changing our eating habits such as to prevent just one truck travelling from California to Nova Scotia---which seems a reasonable achievement for a family---reduces greenhouse gas emissions by a greater amount than if that same family eliminated a 20-mile daily commute to work over an entire year.

Tourism and the environmentI drove up to Sydney and back last weekend. The last time I made the trip, a couple of years ago, the roads were cluttered with hundreds of gigantic RVs; this time around, however, I saw exactly *one* RV over all eight hours on the road. Clearly, there's been a fundamental shift in tourism patterns. The experts tell us that province-wide tourism is down, but that Halifax numbers are holding steady because of an increase in cruise ship business. But that can't hold much longer, can it?And it's rude to point this out because everyone's so gung-ho on tourism promotion, but all the greenhouse gas emissions generated by tourists coming into the province via airplanes and cruise ships, and almost all of the emissions generated by those who drive here, are completely ignored when the province tallies up its GHG numbers. The politicians tell us they're going to reduce GHG emissions to 10 percent below 1990 levels by 2020, but they're using cooked books before they even start.

Parent's planI hesitate to criticize Environment minister Mark Parent, because he's really the only local pol who understands the enormity of the GHG challenge.Still, in recent public statements, Parent has said we'll meet the GHG reduction targets by plugging into the Lower Churchill hydro project in Labrador, thereby reducing GHG emissions from Nova Scotia's coal-fired power plants.Well, maybe. There's an interesting aspect to Churchill Falls, which *might* start generating electricity in 2015---the plan calls for the longest high-voltage DC transmission cable in North America, connecting Labrador to New England. The details haven't been worked out yet, but Parent hopes to tap into that cable somewhere along the route. But there are so many potential problems---the project might be delayed, New England power companies might outbid Nova Scotia for the power generated---that it seems foolhardy to put all of our GHG reduction eggs in the one Churchill basket. Even with the Churchill power, the province will fail to meet the GHG goals without an ambitious efficiency program. And so far, our political leadership refuses to implement the program that environmentalists and business groups have agreed to.

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