As some of you might know, the first library I worked at, just before coming to Creston, was in Barrow, the most northern point in the U.S., situated on the edge of the Arctic Ocean. The Inupiaq of the village were allowed to hunt the endangered bowhead whales and had a yearly quota. This year, they can kill 22 whales. Depending on conditions, the men of the village take their boats to the edge of the ice to wait for whales, go out and shoot them and drag them back to the shore that was very close to the middle of town to cut them up. Modern equipment has made finding, tracking and killing the whales a fairly simple process.
Our library enabled the hunt even further with information provided by NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration), a department of the government I became familiar with. Each morning, I would go to the NOAA website and then to their ice desk. Updated daily were satellite images of the ocean ice around Barrow. We would make a printout and post it in the library. Several of the whale hunters would come in, examine the image and take the information back to the rest of the group to make their plans. Barrow also had a NOAA weather station located just outside town. It is an integral part of NOAA’s global monitoring system and Canada was part of this system.
The media has taken this robocall scandal fiasco and run with it, when, in fact, there is another Stephen Harper-instigated event going on with more far reaching and global consequences not making headlines in Canada. That is the government’s muzzling scientists and failure to continue funding for the PEARL (Polar Environment Atmospheric Research Laboratory) project that is essentially, the weather station at Eureka on Ellesmere Island. The project is operated by a consortium of Canadian university researchers and government agencies known as the Canadian Network for Detection of Atmospheric Change. It will be closed in April.
Harper is shutting Canadians off from information essential for dealing with the consequences of climate change and how government funding needs to be directed, considering future climate and atmospheric related events. What we don’t know apparently won’t hurt us and the government does not have to be responsible for it.
Oddly enough, the military will maintain a presence in both Eureka and Alert. Perhaps Harper also plans to store those $23 billion jets up there to maintain Arctic sovereignty, I hear they don’t work that well and we won’t be able to maintain them anyway. The funding for the PEARL research project was about $1 million a year, probably what it cost us to have the letterheads for military stationary changed back to Royal Navy and Royal Air Force.
One small example of how the PEARL project looks in a larger picture is this, directly from the Earth System Research Laboratory page of the NOAA website, under the subheading “A Study of Environmental Arctic Change (SEARCH)”:
“The NOAA Atmospheric Observatory program is establishing long-term, intensive measurements of clouds, radiation, aerosols, surface energy fluxes and chemistry in Eureka/Alert, Canada, and Tiksi, Russia. These measurements will allow comparison with similar observatory measurements in Barrow, Alaska. The three sites in combination encompass three different major Arctic climate regimes. The locations and measurement suite has been carefully designed so that the collected data can be used to determine the mechanisms that drive climate change through a combination of process studies, satellite validation and modeling work. It is anticipated that the Atmospheric Observatory sites will also be the focus of a number of interdisciplinary measurements of regional hydrology, permafrost, ecosystems and the cryosphere that will link the atmospheric measurements into the broader Arctic system. The program is heavily leveraged against Canadian and Russian programs, and has a vigorous interagency cooperation with NSF and DOE.” Harper seems to think there are more important uses for our money.
There is a much larger strategy going on to muzzle Canadian scientists who deal with things like water, fish farming and basically anything to do with our environment, and this includes eliminating any power the Canadian Environmental Assessment agency has. Again, the media mentions this only in passing. There is far more news of it in U.K. publications than Canadian media. The Trent University independent press paper, the Arthur, has a well-written and concise article, “Canada’s Environmental Assessment Law is under Attack by the Harper Government”, in its online edition. It was published on Feb. 27, if you want to Google it.
The government seems bound and determined to keep Canadians ignorant of the consequences of their drive to destroy our environment and resources purely for financial gain. Canadian academic libraries and research institutions have, up until the current government, been well maintained and well funded. The atmosphere of the current government seems to be to reverse that situation and have us become more like China or even North Korea.
Wikipedia provides you with a detailed article on Eureka and the NOAA website is comprehensive, extremely well done and has numerous layers of information you can search easily. It will be interesting to see what passes for news and information in ten years if Harper is still king.
Ann Day is the chief librarian at the Creston and District Public Library.