In defence of pothole potlucks

In this week’s newsletter, we talk about why pesky potholes might actually be worthy of dinner party conversation — and the online chatter behind our most-read story of the year so far

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Two workers filling potholes
“Hey now! There’s nothing boring about potholes!” 

Julia-Simone Rutgers, our Manitoba reporter, has a new obsession that’s become an all-consuming topic of conversation at her dinner parties (yes, really). You see, it has been a record year (not the good kind) for potholes in Winnipeg, thanks to an onslaught of spring storms. Those storms, expected to become more frequent as the climate changes, sent the city’s pavement crumbling — forcing crews to fill in a whopping 211,500 potholes (!) and counting in 2022.

As she dug into the issue, Julia-Simone found out there’s an entire research team in Manitoba dedicated to the science of pavement. She joined them in the lab where they’re figuring out how to future-proof our roads to withstand the rigours of climate change.

It’s a problem that’s far from unique to Winnipeg: take B.C.’s Coquihalla Highway, which was torn apart by the impacts of last year’s atmospheric river. 

Then there’s the whole matter of funding: infrastructure debt has reached somewhere in the range of $200 billion nationwide thanks to funding cuts, neglect and a growing number of extreme climate events. In Winnipeg alone, the figure sits at roughly $7 billion. 

“Kudos to my partner for listening to me talk through the numbers out loud while she tried to nap,” Julia-Simone told me. 

So what are cities doing about it? Winnipeg’s newly elected mayor, Scott Gillingham, wants to fix up the city’s roads and widen highways. But climate-focused solutions? They were largely absent from the election. Julia-Simone delved into what Canada’s coldest city should be up to — and how we can tackle the country’s growing road problems.

Take care and bring pothole preoccupations to potlucks,

Arik Ligeti
Director of audience


The Narwhal goes viral

Sometimes a story just takes off when it’s about a jarring plan to limit the power of conservation authorities to say no to developers.

That was the case this week, when this scoop by Ontario reporters Emma McIntosh and Fatima Syed became our most-read story of 2022 so far — while sparking plenty of discussion online.

On Tuesday morning, Fatima was leaked an internal Ontario government document that laid the groundwork for their piece detailing how the organizations responsible for protecting watersheds will no longer be able to consider “pollution” and “conservation of land” when making decisions about development permits.

These changes are packed into a huge omnibus bill Doug Ford’s PC majority government is getting set to pass. Our team is digging through the fine print to keep bringing you important reporting on Ford’s changes to Ontario’s environmental policy (remember that massive list? Stay tuned for version 2.0 ).

If you want to help us pull off more accountability journalism like this, please consider becoming a member today — for less than a coffee a month!

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It’s all fin and games

“How deep can narwhals dive?”

“Which two cities in the world had the audacity to keep narwhals captive?”

At our very first member event in Vancouver this week, mining reporter Francesca Fionda dug deep to ask questions that made a room full of Narwhals scratch their tusks.

As expected, they outsmarted us all, and had some good food and drinks while doing it. After a couple years of not seeing our growing group of Lower Mainland members, we were thrilled to come together to celebrate how far The Narwhal’s reader-funded journalism has come — and to dream about how much further it can go.

All that Narlovin’ warmed our hearts! Make sure to join our pod so you get the invite for our next fun-filled member event.

And in case you were wondering what the answers were: narwhals can dive as deep as 1,800 metres — just not the ones Vancouver and New York kept captive in the ‘60s and ‘70s.


This week in The Narwhal

Photo of northern spotted owl perched on a tree branch
B.C. is opening up old-growth spotted owl habitat to logging — again
By Sarah Cox (she's baaaaack!)
The NDP government is touting efforts to save the critically endangered bird. But it continues to sanction logging in spotted owl habitat, prompting environmental groups to demand the federal government step in to save the species from extinction in Canada.

A series of white painted pipes and other oil and gas infrastructure is set against a landscape of brownish ground and dull blue sky.
How oil and gas lobbyists build ‘very close relationships’ with politicians and governments
By Carl Meyer
A road leading away in the distance, forested on both sides
Federal government moving closer to funding Ring of Fire mining roads: document
By Emma McIntosh
A sign indicating Stage 4 water restrictions on B.C.'s Sunshine Coast due to drought.
9 things that could have been done to prevent the Sunshine Coast’s state of emergency
By Stephanie Wood

What we’re reading

The Globe and Mail: Overheating rivers threatening Newfoundland’s wild Atlantic salmon
The Guardian: Narwhals adapting to climate crisis by delaying migration, study finds
When you want to get out on the road but you’re afraid that road damage from climate change events might harsh your vibe. Don’t worry, our newsletters will let you and your friends know about any developments on that front — just tell them to sign up.
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