Tommy Douglas Collegiate students tackle the problems and opportunities in Saskatoon’s urban environment
Welcome to the 2022 instalment of our annual partnership with the students at Tommy Douglas Collegiate’s Off The Grid program. Off The Grid participants are grade nine students immersed in a half-day, year-long program where they learn about nature, the environment, sustainability and social justice. This feature collects 10 short essays students have written over the past few months on urban environmental issues. We hope Planet S readers will enjoy this early glimpse into the minds and hearts that will help shape Saskatoon’s future! —Editor
Bee The Change You Want To See
by Aliyah Bloomquist and Cassidy Kardal
Bees are a vital part of our ecosystem. Along with other pollinators, they’re also crucial to human well-being.
Unfortunately, our fuzzy friends aren’t doing so well.
Drastic temperature changes in North America have caused a 46 per cent drop in the total number of areas populated by bumblebees. This has caused a decline in the pollination of essential plants. It’s also affecting local rooftop and community gardens, not to mention city and household gardens around local neighborhoods.
And obviously, the decline in pollination is a big blow to Saskatchewan farmers, who have quite enough to worry about these days.
David Suzuki says the solution is urban. “Cities hold the key to reversing bee decline,” Suzuki wrote in his March 21, 2019 Science Matters column. Cities, he points out, can create community gardens, launch bee-friendly educational campaigns and subsidize beekeeping/bee-friendly equipment for public use.
More gardens lead to healthier eating habits for our population too. Talk about a win-win!
Saskatoon has a buzzing beekeeping society that can teach you how to host your own hive. Check out the Saskatoon Bee Club at saskatoonbeeclub.com.
Climate Change Vs. Goal Posts
by Ariston Klemmer and Kobey Olson
Saskatoon’s city council has promised to greatly decrease CO2 emissions. Saskatoon plans to reduce emissions by 80 per cent below 2014 levels by the year 2050, and by 40 per cent in 2023.
That sounds great but given that Saskatoon took five years (2014–2019) just to get to this point, it’s safe to guess this isn’t going to happen.
Saskatoon needs to shake things up. We need to help drivers switch to electric vehicles, help homeowners use solar panels to power our energy grid and improve city transit and bike routes at a rapid pace.
Even though 2050 seems far off, it’s important that our city councillors don’t settle for small percentage drops. We need strong changes to happen now so that when my generation is older we don’t have to make up for lost time.
Join The Dark Side. Save The Fish.
by Joaquem Waight and Lucas Omer
Most people see the “Dark Side” as evil, but in this case it’s what we humans need to embrace to help save the … wait for it … fish?
Light pollution happens when excessive artificial light impacts ecosystems all around it in a negative way. You the reader might be saying, “Well golly gee, how is light harmful to fish?” WELL, It involves fish psychology and stuff, and how fish cannot tell when it’s daytime or not.
If fish see too much light after sundown it messes up their internal fishy-clocks. And that’s a problem, because fish are a lot like humans: they do most of their baby-making at night.
When fish can’t tell when it’s daytime and when it’s night, they make way fewer babies. Fewer babies means fewer fish. Fewer fish means food chain disruption. Food change disruption is bad.
Light pollution comes from outdoor lighting, advertisements, street lights and even indoor lighting glowing through windows. We all need to pull our blinds and shine light only where it’s needed.
The Dark Side is pretty cool. Join us!
Chicken Vs. Egg: Saskatoon’s Bus Conundrum
by Kale Duetscher and Emery Desmond
What’s stopping you from riding the bus? Probably the fact Saskatoon’s transit system needs improving.
Bussing in this town is inefficient. Buses are usually swamped during the day’s most important hours. They sometimes aren’t safe for passengers based on weather and, unfortunately, crime. Less than one per cent of buses are electric, which means that our public transportation system — although better than cars — still creates a lot of emissions.
For too many people, bussing doesn’t work. Some can’t afford the passes, others can’t use them given the time it takes to get places.
These problems can be fixed, but improving things means Saskatoon needs more riders. This is not a chicken or egg question, though. With climate crisis at hand, the city needs to buy the chicken and bet on the eggs eventually coming.
More buses equal fewer cars on the road, which allows our city to invest in better shelters for elderly people who wait for the bus and subsidize costs to make riding more affordable.
Communities all over the world can be our inspiration. Transit can be a better way to travel!
Building A Better Tomorrow, The Saskatchewan Way
by Kaleb Mohr
With the scientific community demanding urgent climate action, Saskatchewan homes need to be ready for a sustainable future. As we build more structures for our rising population, our province must adopt new building standards that use environmental and economic technologies.
Fortunately, there’s a building method with a Saskatchewan connection that fits our needs. It’s called Passive House, and it uses designs and materials that massively reduce energy use for heating and cooling. While the term comes from the ’80s, the ideas come from experimental homes built in North America — including Saskatchewan! — in the 1970s.
Saskatoon recently brought in a rebate system to promote sustainable building practices, but this needs to become the new code, not just an incentive. Materials to build a Passive House cost, on average, nine per cent more than a standard house, but owners will make back the difference in energy bill savings. Using solar panels to help run electric heating and cooling systems during our cold winters is a great combination with the extra insulated walls of a Passive House.
With Saskatchewan supposedly trying to lower emissions, housing is something our province has to look at more seriously. A Passive House saves money, the environment and has the potential to make a huge difference lowering Saskatchewan’s carbon footprint which is THREE TIMES the national average. Let’s build better!
How You Protest Says A Lot About Who You Are
by Leo Raycraft and Delilah Szabo
Protests can be informative, but people don’t always agree on what’s right or wrong. In today’s polarized society, standing up for what you think is right has never been more controversial. Even the response to protests can be controversial, as seen with the RCMP’s drastically different dealings with the Wet’suwet’en environmental protests and the recent anti-Covid regulation demonstrations.
In a time when misinformation is everywhere, protests are nevertheless important. They help people learn more about a topic one way or another. But if you’re part of a protest where people are swearing and yelling at other groups, you may want to rethink who you’re hanging with. Protests should be about helping your fellow humans and protecting our environment for future generations.
We all have the right to gather peacefully to express ourselves. Let’s just be nicer to each other while we do it.
Plastic In The Wrong Places
by Madison Wiebe and Chloe Baron
Did you just chug a bottle of water, look around you to see no recycling, and then proceed to throw the bottle in the trash? SHAME! Did you know that 90 per cent of plastic in Canada gets dumped into our landfills, lakes, parks, and oceans? SHAME! This leads to air pollution, soil and water contamination, and higher levels of biodiversity loss.
With all the plastic we’re dumping, the city of Saskatoon projects our landfills will no longer be able to accept garbage in approximately 46–54 years. TOO MANY RECYCLABLES ARE SIMPLY NOT BEING RECYCLED!
To prevent the wanton dumping of plastics we need better public education on recycling that’s easily accessible.
Being more sustainable and limiting plastic use will make a huge difference. Next time you can’t find a recycling bin, look harder! And maybe don’t drink bottled water.
by Owen Yule, Carson Holcomb and Spencer Wiebe
Homelessness has many causes, from substance/child abuse in households, to systemic racism and mental illness to the lack of housing and social supports. A recent study showed that 30–35 per cent of all homeless people had or have some sort of mental illness, so the ability to treat them would be great.
But that makes it sound like we’re treating disadvantaged people as a problem. When it comes to sustainability, there are plenty of things the rest of us can learn from this disrespected demographic.
Homeless people have some of the smallest carbon footprints of all of the people in the world. They don’t have cars or big homes to heat, and they consume a lot less than most. They also do a wicked job of collecting bottles and cans, which helps clean streets and supports local recycling businesses. They reuse practically everything and understand the importance of community.
As a society, we can learn more from the homeless. They deserve the safe and secure housing so many seem to begrudge them.
Is Clean Water A Human Right? Depends Which Human You Are.
by Ryla Senger and Amelia Perry
Welcome to Canada, one of the world’s richest countries where we have clean water with a turn of a tap. But not everyone here has clean drinking water. In 2015, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised to “eliminate all water advisories on First Nation reserves within five years”. Didn’t happen. A University of Calgary researcher states that “at any one time in Canada there are over 100 boiling water advisories in place in First Nations communities.” That’s easily 1,000 indigenous families struggling to simply drink a cup of water!
This is taking a huge toll on indigenous health, which impacts education and jobs. Our support of extraction-based industries that pollute lakes, rivers and reservoirs across the province are a driving force behind inequity in First Nations.
Our Federal Government spent 18 billion dollars in oil and gas subsides two years ago, but couldn’t find the money to build water treatment plants in Indigenous communities? That’s strange. We need to demand our governments fund specific water projects and create awareness campaigns in cities to make this an election issue again.
The Cyclists Have SPOKEn
by Spencer Nave and Emmett Stabler
In case you’re new to Saskatoon and looking to bike, yes — it is safe to bike here. Saskatoon is trying to be a bike-friendly city with spaces to ride and the safety of some bike lanes.
But there’s more to be done.
We could learn from places like the Netherlands, where biking is super popular in all seasons including winter. The Dutch government prioritized active transportation and more people biked, which made more bike lanes happen and so more bikers biked. Pretty simple stuff.
Can we do that here? We don’t see why not!
Biking is good for our mental and physical health, and it helps pump the brakes on climate change which should make it a huge focus for Saskatoon. So let’s keep pushing for a city where biking is the main source of transportation! We bike every day, and so can you.