“This is a story about how the natural world lets us know that something is wrong. Whether or not we choose to pay attention to it, of course, is a very different question.”
That’s how Jordan Heath-Rawlings, the host of Rogers Media’s The Big Story podcast, began last Thursday’s episode — part four in a week-long collaboration with The Narwhal.
Jordan was referring to our reporting on selenium pollution in B.C.’s Elk Valley, a growing problem caused by a string of Teck Resources mines and one that’s threatening fish populations on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.
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The problem has been allowed to fester thanks to a regulatory system that’s “loosey-goosey by design,” The Narwhal’s Managing Editor Carol Linnitt told Jordan. “It’s a slow-moving catastrophe.”
The selenium crisis is one of five pressing environment issues explored on The Big Story last week, each highlighting critical stories The Narwhal has been covering obsessively and sometimes exclusively.
First, freelance journalist Hilary Beaumont spoke with Jordan about her reporting on a different cross-border battle, this one over a toxic legacy of cancer in the twin communities of Sault Ste. Marie. In those two cities, straddling the edges of Ontario and Michigan, residents are coming together to fight plans for a ferrochrome plant that would generate a cancer-causing chemical made infamous by the film Erin Brockovich.
We also heard from reporter Sarah Cox, who laid out the grim details of B.C.’s looming extinction crisis. There are more than 2,000 species at risk of disappearing in the province, from salmon to wood bison to butterflies. It’s a biodiversity crisis that extends far beyond B.C.’s borders: more than one million species are in jeopardy across the globe.
And then there’s what Alberta reporter Sharon J. Riley described as “the million-dollar question:” how much longer will the province’s oil and gas industry remain viable, especially at its current scale? Sharon breaks down stereotypes about how Albertans view an inevitable transition to renewables — even Premier Jason Kenney might surprise you! — and pushes back against the archetype of the Alberta energy worker resistant to change.
“Too often people are painted with a broad brush and we don’t see all the complexities within their perspectives,” Sharon explained, pointing to worker-led organizations like Iron & Earth that are pushing for new skills training to diversify the energy economy.
And finally, our editor-in-chief, Emma Gilchrist, spoke about our Carbon Cache series on nature-based climate solutions, which included stories about the people saving Canada’s native grasslands and the Canadian farmers fighting climate change.
Collaborations like this one with The Big Story are so important: they help ensure our coverage of some of Canada’s biggest environmental issues reach a wider audience. There’s an amplifying effect to all of this: if more people hear these stories, more will speak up, do their own research and support our journalism. As Sarah put it, “the most important thing is to get informed.”
Ultimately, we know our work can help hold those in power to account.
Take care and tune in,
Audience Engagement Editor
The Narwhal in the world
Speaking of spreading the word about our work, the awards gods have spoken! We’ve been nominated for three Webster Awards, which recognize the best in B.C. journalism.
Jimmy Thomson’s investigation into the far-reaching consequences of workplace abuse within B.C.’s trawl fishing industry has been named a finalist in the Excellence in Business, Industry, Labour & Economics Reporting category.
Meanwhile, Sarah’s feature on Canada’s forgotten rainforest has picked up another award nomination. You might recall that the piece was a finalist at this year’s Digital Publishing Awards, where the photos shot by Taylor Roades garnered a silver medal.
And last but certainly not least is our team’s in-depth reporting on the Tsilhqot’in Nation’s 12-year battle against the proposed New Prosperity mine — a mining project that recently met its legal end (or did it?). One of the articles included in the nomination, Judith Lavoie’s on-the-ground feature with photos by Louis Bockner, won silver at the 2020 Digital Publishing Awards in the feature-writing category.
It’s always special when our work is recognized by our peers, especially in The Narwhal’s home province. Even more importantly, these nominations are a reminder that our work is made possible because people share their stories with us and because 1,800-plus Narwhal members give whatever they can each month. It’s a magic formula that means, every month, hundreds of thousands of people get to read our public-interest journalism for free.
This week in The Narwhal
By Aaron Vincent Elkaim
For five decades, hydroelectric development has altered the lives and landscapes fed by the Nelson River in the province’s north. The Keeyask dam, the sixth to modify the river’s course, is scheduled to come online in 2021. Read more.
By Fatima Syed
With the U.S. poised to correct course on climate policy, The Narwhal spoke with the new leader of Canada’s Green Party about the future of her party and the country. Read more.
By Ainslie Cruickshank
The president-elect’s promise to ramp up U.S. climate leadership will have far-reaching consequences, not just for the Keystone XL pipeline and the oilsands, but for Canada’s fledgling green economy. Read more.
‘Step in the right direction’: B.C.’s Tulsequah Chief mine inches toward cleanup as receivership ends
By Matt Simmons
The province had been reluctant to start reclamation at the remote site, which has been leaching contaminants into the Taku watershed for more than six decades, because work could have benefitted a future buyer. Read more.
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