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Macleans

Natural Environment

This article was originally published in Maclean’s magazine on June 2, 2003. Partner content is not updated.

THIS IS MY medicine cabinet," says Karl Schibli, his ice-blue eyes widening with the excitement of someone about to let a neophyte in on what he already knows. The object of Schibli's focused attention is a red Coleman picnic cooler on a shelf in his barn near Waterford, Ont.

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Wetlands

Wetlands cover about 14 per cent of the land area of Canada, and are the natural habitat of over 600 species of plants, animals and insects. In addition to providing a home for these plants and animals, wetlands are an essential part of the environment because they prevent flooding, filter toxins, store groundwater and limit erosion. The most common wetland habitats are swamps, marshes, and bogs.

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Endangered Plants in Canada

A species is endangered if there are threats to its survival. Plants are put at risk for several reasons, including: climate change and the loss of natural habitat to cities, agriculture and industry. In Canada, these activities threaten entire natural ecosystems, such as older forests and Prairie grasslands. As of 2019, a total of 810 species were considered at risk in Canada, including 253 plants. (Other species at risk include animals; see also Endangered Animals in Canada).

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Environmental Movement in Canada

The environmental movement seeks to protect the natural world and promote sustainable living. It had its beginnings in the conservation efforts of the early 1900s. During this time, conservationists aimed to slow the rapid depletion of Canadian resources in favour of more regulated management. Many scholars divide the evolution of the environmental movement into “waves.” These waves are periods in time easily characterized by certain themes. While the number of waves and their characterization may differ from scholar to scholar, they’re often defined as follows: The first wave focused on conservation; the second, pollution; the third, the professionalization of environmental groups; and the fourth, climate change.

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Hydroelectricity in Canada

Hydroelectricity is energy produced from flowing water. The amount of energy produced depends on volume and speed: the more water moving at a fast rate, the more energy produced. For this reason, many hydroelectric stations are built near waterfalls. To produce energy, water is directed toward turbines — sometimes with the help of a dam — causing them to spin. In turn, the turbines make electrical generators spin and electricity is produced. It is a renewable, comparatively nonpolluting energy source and Canada’s largest source of electric-power generation.

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Sustainability in Canada

Sustainability is the ability of the biosphere, or of a certain resource or practice, to persist in a state of balance over the long term. The concept of sustainability also includes things humans can do to preserve such a balance. Sustainable development, for instance, pairs such actions with growth. It aims to meet the needs of the present while ensuring that future people will be able to meet their needs.

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Trans Mountain Pipeline Expansion Project

The Trans Mountain Expansion is a project to build about 980 km of new pipe, most of which will run parallel to the existing Trans Mountain oil pipeline. The new line will carry diluted bitumen, or “dilbit,” from Edmonton, Alberta to Burnaby, British Columbia. The expansion will increase the pipeline route’s overall capacity from 300,000 barrels per day to 890,000 barrels per day.

The project’s first owner, Kinder Morgan Canada, sold it to the Government of Canada in 2018. The Trans Mountain Expansion has been a focus of environmental and economic debates, as well as political conflicts. The $12.6 billion project is now under construction.

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Water

Worldwide, over two-thirds of precipitation falling on land surfaces is evaporated and transpired back into the atmosphere. In Canada less than 40% is evaporated and transpired; the remainder, called the water yield, enters into streamflow.

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Sustainable Development

Sustainable development has been defined by the United Nations (UN) as development that “meets the needs of the present” while ensuring the future sustainability of the planet, its people and its resources. Meeting these needs often requires balancing three key features of sustainable development: environmental protection, economic growth and social inclusion. The goals of sustainable development are interconnected. The most successful sustainable development projects will include environmental, economic and social considerations in their final plan. These considerations must include the free, prior and informed consent of any Indigenous groups impacted by a sustainable development project.

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Fire Disasters in Canada

Disastrous fires may result from arson, accident or uncontrolled forest fire. Their impact may include lives lost, people evacuated and property damaged. Numerous fires, especially forest fires, occur in Canada every year; this article details the worst that have occurred throughout the country’s history.

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Endangered Animals in Canada

Many animals in Canada face the risk of extinction. Animals are put at risk for several reasons, including: climate change, the loss of forest and grassland to cities and agriculture, hunting, fishing, and the pollution of lakes and rivers. As of 2021, 554 animals are at risk in Canada, according to the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada. In addition, 18 are extirpated and 18 extinct. (See also Endangered Plants in Canada.)

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Keystone XL Pipeline

Keystone XL was a proposed 1,947 km long pipeline project that would have carried crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska. It was owned by Calgary-based TC Energy Corporation. The pipeline was named XL for “export limited.” First proposed in July 2008, it was the prospective fourth phase of TC Energy’s existing Keystone Pipeline system. In Canada, Keystone XL had the support of both the federal and Alberta governments. However, the project faced significant opposition and legal challenges on environmental grounds. In January 2021, United States president Joe Biden cancelled its permit on his first day in office. On 9 June 2021, TC Energy and the Alberta government announced the termination of the Keystone XL pipeline.