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A ‘spooky and cool’ nerd alert

In our latest newsletter, we jump from the forests of Fairy Creek to the sediment at the bottom of Crawford Lake

Did you know sediment at the bottom of a tiny lake in Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment might be the piece of evidence of the moment human activity changed the planet forever? I didn’t. But more on that in a minute.

I’m chuffed to be able to share that The Narwhal has picked up four award nominations from the Canadian Association of Journalists!

Let’s break it all down for you.

First, we’ve got Sarah Cox’s feature on the Pacheedaht First Nation’s stand on Fairy Creek, which is a finalist for best environment and climate change reporting. When everyone was reporting on the logging blockades themselves, Sarah went a step further and revealed the complexity of how the nation was asserting its rights while restoring damaged habitat — and how those choices might not fit perfectly within the vision blockaders have for B.C.’s old-growth forests.

Sḵwx̱wú7mesh reporter Stephanie Wood has been nominated, yet again, for the CAJ’s emerging Indigenous journalist award — and we’re so lucky to have her in our pod. Steph’s recent reporting has included features on the innovative Cheakamus community forest, the legal sagas of the Beaver Lake Cree Nation and Blueberry River First Nations and this first-person view on the work settlers need to do on reconciliation.

Stephanie Wood The Narwhal
Narwhal reporter Stephanie Wood. Photo: Taylor Roades / The Narwhal

Amber Bracken’s work documenting the Wet’suwet’en crisis for The Narwhal has earned a finalist selection for excellence in photojournalism. As you’ve probably heard, Amber was one of the only journalists present in November to bear witness as militarized RCMP conducted raids on land defenders, arresting and charging more than a dozen people — including Amber.

And you might recall back in December I spoke with reporter Hilary Beaumont and photographer Christopher Katsarov Luna to learn about their dogged efforts to produce an investigation on the mistreatment of migrant farmworkers in southern Ontario. Well, that multimedia feature, with 360 imagery to boot, has now been recognized by the CAJ in the labour reporting category.

The four Narwhal nominations are for awards with finalists representing a range of Canadian news outlets, including the CBC, La Presse Canadienne, APTN News, TVO, The Local and The Tyee.

As our executive editor Carol Linnitt tells me, “these sensitive and complicated reporting projects take months to complete and require a tremendous amount of editorial support.”

“The reason our team is able to conduct this kind of reporting is because of the thousands of amazing people who support us as monthly members. They’re the unsung heroes of these nominations!”

Now, about that whole human-activity-changing-the-planet-forever thing (nerd alert warning 🤓).

It all ties into “Anthropocene,” a term that essentially means we’re living in an era that began when human activity first made a visible impact on all of the Earth’s formations at the same time — that time being around 1952, the height of the nuclear arms race, when tests and bombs left radioactive material, well, everywhere. (Fossil fuel residue followed that nuclear layer.)

Ontario bureau chief Denise Balkissoon recently caught up with Francine McCarthy, a professor of earth sciences at Brock University who’s long been studying Crawford Lake — one of 12 sites around the world that have shown signs of being similarly affected at the same time.

An image of a lake sediment freeze core, illustrated with symbols that imagine while lines on the core show events in history.
Every year, a layer of white calcium and carbonate ions settles at the bottom of Crawford Lake on Ontario’s Niagara Escarpment. Geologist Francine McCarthy and her team pull samples like this one out of the sediment beneath the lake, then use the annual lines to detect just when events on Earth are shown in its strata, or layers, like this imagining of when the dinosaurs might have disappeared, or humans evolved. Photo: Conservation Halton. Illustration: Shawn Parkinson / The Narwhal

“No matter whether you’re looking at the Great Barrier Reef or where you are … there is evidence that the planet experienced an existential change,” says McCarthy, who’s part of a global team that’s studying these sites for a shared marker. If there’s agreement, a sample — maybe from Crawford Lake — will be picked to become the standard for the year everything changed. She’s hoping that if a bunch of “boring geologists” think it’s important enough to mark, we’ll all realize just how dramatic of an effect humans are having on the planet.

“I’d never really thought of nuclear fallout landing all over the entire world before, even on coral reefs,” Denise tells me. “That’s sort of spooky and cool at the same time.”

“I also find it touching how different sorts of people try to address or at least bear witness to climate change in whatever way makes sense in their life.”

Take care and bear witness,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience


This week in The Narwhal

How Canada’s new carbon capture tax credit aligns (or doesn’t) with the latest climate science

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks at COP26, the UN climate talks in Glasgow.

By Drew Anderson

Critics argue the technology is expensive and ineffective, but even the UN says it’s necessary for any hope at a zero-emissions future. Read more.


Ontario might reduce its gas tax. Alberta killed its tax. Will this mean more driving?

A road as seen by a driver in the evening

By Denise Balkissoon

Driving decreased after B.C. introduced a fuel tax in 2008. But cutting or lowering gas taxes doesn’t necessarily mean the opposite will happen. Read more.


Land and water in B.C. has a new ministry. We spoke with its leader

Josie Osborne, Minister of Land, Water and Resource Stewardship and minister responsible for fisheries, stands on MacKenzie Beach, in Tofino, B.C., Tla-o-qui-aht territory.

By Matt Simmons

Josie Osborne is now B.C.’s Minister of land, water and resource stewardship and the minister in charge of fisheries, taking on some of the province’s most challenging files. Read more.


What we’re reading

The Walrus: Arsenic and Gold: My Family’s Role in the Poisonous Legacy of Giant Mine
Globe and Mail: From floods in South Africa to drought in Somalia, climate change is devastating millions of lives

A GIF of a dog dressed as a scientist and holding a beaker

When you’re trying to determine the marker for the moment human activity changed the planet forever. Share this newsletter with a friend and tell them make a change in their weekly habits by subscribing and reading The Narwhal.

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We’re on a mission to add 500 new members in May so we can pull off three more ambitious investigations this year — and we’re nearly halfway there! Will you join the thousands of readers who make The Narwhal possible?
‘These are the stories that need to be told’
We’re on a mission to add 500 new members in May so we can pull off three more ambitious investigations this year — and we’re nearly halfway there! Will you join the thousands of readers who make The Narwhal possible?
‘These are the stories that need to be told’