Missing: The Gateway April 1970-September 1971

The Gateway is missing. From March 13, 1970 until September 9, 1971 it is nowhere to be found. Does anyone know where it could be? Since the dissertation is about the University and environmentalism and the student newspaper does a decent job of telling me what was happening on the University of Alberta campus. This makes the missing year kind of a big problem.
I noticed the missing year over the past weekend while working on a paper about what issues spurred Edmontonians to take-up the environmentalism cause. The issue that spurred action in Edmonton was air pollution — specifically that created by Refinery Row, the 105th Street power plant, and automobiles. Anti-pollution advocacy and activism initiative began in January 1970 and came from two University of Alberta based groups; STOP (Save Tomorrow, Oppose Pollution) and the Edmonton Anti-Pollution Group. The former focused on public awareness and changes to legislation through political action and the latter produced scholarly reports to show the problems of pollution with facts and figures. The date environmental activism in Edmonton took off make the missing Gateway issues significant. Between March 13, 1970 and September 9, 1971 a lot happened in the history of environmentalism and I have no idea how the University of Alberta students reacted to it.
The first significant event occurred on April 20, 1970: Earth Day. From looking at other universities in Western Canada, I know Canadian university students observed the inaugural event. Each school took a slightly different approach but I have yet to find reference to how the University of Alberta marked the occasion. Normally The Gateway would be my go to source, but there are no issues from April 1970. This is a problem, and it gets worse. In early 1971 Alberta did two things before the federal government; created a provincial Ministry of Environment, and created a Clean Air Act. Again, I have no idea how students responded to these events because The Gateway is MIA.
I have a hunch that the sudden disappearance of The Gateway is linked to a censorship dispute with University Print Services during the 1969/70 academic year. However, I have nothing to support that hypothesis because when the paper returns in September 1971 the editorial staff makes no mention of the long absence. This would not be the only student newspaper in Canada to get into a spat over censorship with university administration – the University of Victoria’s The Martlet changed its name to The Cougar City Gazette from January 16 to March 20, 1970. So, was it censorship issues that caused The Gateway to disappear? And if it was, did the students launch an alternative newspaper in protest? Were the issues simply lost, though it seems unlikely based on the excellent preservation of the paper through the Peel’s Prairie Provinces database?
I have no answers for these questions and would really like to know why this newspaper went missing at what happens to be a very important period for what I study. If you have answers or alternative hypothesizes please send them along. I am eager to find out what happened to The Gateway and what was happening on the campus of the University of Alberta during a very active year in the history of environmentalism.

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Environment vs. Economy: The Perpetual Alberta Conundrum

The Gateway Pipelines public hearings have landed in Edmonton and the proceedings will probably get less press than the hearings with Aboriginal communities in British Columbia.
Most communities along the proposed pipeline routes (Gateway and Keystone) have the opportunity to say ‘no’ to the oil industry coming into their backyard. They have the benefit of seeing what the industry has done to Northern Alberta and can make the informed decision to choose environment over economy. It gives the communities power to choose environment over economy, an opportunity Albertans never got.
Alberta did not get that opportunity because the Provincial Government decided to invest in the tar sands as a source of future economic prosperity nearly a century ago. In 1919 the Provincial Government created the Scientific and Industrial Research Council of Alberta. Two years later (in 1921) the Research Council hired chemist Karl Clark to work at the University of Alberta on solving the problem of getting oil out of the tar sands. By 1951 the first industrial test plant was in operation in the Athabasca Basin. By the mid-1970s the province had invested millions in developing the tar sands and an enticed oil and gas companies from around the world to construct mining and upgrading facilities. It was at this point the people of Alberta spoke out against the tar sands as reports of excessive air and water pollution surfaced in the local press. However, it was already too late for Albertans to choose environment over economics.
Since the 1970s groups in Alberta have tried to change the course of action in the tar sands. Since the 1970s people in the province have been coming to grips with the repercussions of a decision that was made for them in 1919. Albertans are stuck with the unenviable task of knowing what the tar sands are doing to the environment and being handcuffed by decades of legislation and business practices that privilege the economy over the environment. The inability of interested Albertans to force change in the tar sands is not evidence of disinterest or agreement with the rampant development in the area as much as it is the product of nearly a century of institutional favouring of the economic potential of the tar sands.
Albertans never got the chance to say ‘no’ because the environmental costs of developing the tar sands is too high. Those costs only became apparent after decades of investment and when it was too late to stop the juggernaut. BC and Nebraska can say ‘no’ and make an informed argument against the spill-over from the Athabasca Basin polluting their backyards. Albertans can make an informed argument backed up by decades of studies showing the enormous environmental consequences of extracting and upgrading tar sands, but choice was made before that information was available and now it is too late to say ‘no’.
The pipeline hearings in Edmonton will allow those who oppose the tar sands to express their frustrations and objections. It will give them access to media outlets who may circulate their story. But the hearings are unlikely to change what is already happening in Alberta even if they are able to stall the pipelines and force greater attention to mitigating environmental issues in other areas. A century of feeding research and development, and subsidizing oil companies created a web of connections the favour the economy over the environment even in the face of evidence to the contrary and protest from the citizenship.

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RIP Eastman/Kodak

Kodak is dead. Today, after weeks of speculation, the media announced the fabled camera company had filed for bankruptcy. It is a great loss that in the age of planned obsolescence and a public that seems to constantly drool over the next new, better, big, thing will probably go unnoticed by the masses. Photographers, Luddites, and hipsters will shed a tear at the loss of a pioneer in film technology — though the hipsters will only shed an ironic tear just like they did when Polaroid stopped manufacturing film a few years back.

The news will, no doubt, be bittersweet for visual historians because without Eastman Kodak much of the sources they use would not exist. Kodak is central to the rise of visual culture and the entry of photography into mass culture of the twentieth century. The arrival of the affordable Eastman pocket cameras at the turn of the 20th century allowed the middle class to start documenting their lives in a way they never could before. It made the masses part of the visual archive. It democratized the visual sphere because it made the technology of creating photographs affordable, easy to operate, and accessible.

Think of the piles of photographs in your grandparents home; how many of those piles have snapshots dating back to the 1920s? 1940? 1950? Sure the images are not great works of visual art, but they show how people understood the world around them. The subjects of the photographs are more than snapshots of nameless people and forgotten events in vaguely familiar places. They are a window into what was important to the person standing behind the camera. The images of the middle class are also images of what they thought and felt and loved and hated and believed.

Kodak is the reason I could write a masters thesis on what locals did for winter recreation in Banff in the 1920s. Without Kodak the boys who pioneered skiing would never have carried an Eastman pocket camera with them to document their day trips to the Eau Clair Lumber Camp, or the first runs they cut on Mount Norquay, or the spills on the Grizzly Street ski jump. They would not have shared their prints with each other and created albums rich in visual stories of the places and activities and people they held dear. The local story of skiing in Banff would be lost without the albums those boys created in the 1920s. On a broader level, without Kodak the Banff Winter Sports Committee could not have loaded promotional booklets with pictures of what locals did in the winter to entice tourists to come to Banff in the off-season. Without Kodak, Norman Luxton could not fill the pages of The Crag and Canyon with calls to locals and tourists to “Kodak as you go!”

None of the people whose photographs I used for my MA thesis could be considered upper class. They were all hard-working people of the middle class or the working class and the only reason they had access to the technology of photography was Kodak made it affordable. So, as the Age of Film comes to an end think about the long-term implications of what Eastman Kodak did in making photography affordable for the masses. Maybe even dig out some of those old family photographs — the ones stamped with “KODAK” on the back — and think about the memories that would be lost without those little pieces of paper to keep them alive.

-lw

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Dissertation Arithmetic, or 56hrs/wk

As the semester begins graduate students, like the undergraduates, get back to work. The difference is the grad students probably didn’t take much of a break from working during the week universities close between fall and winter semesters. This is all because of simple grad school math because for grad students time is the prime currency.

Hours in a Week: 24×7=168hrs
Optimal hours of sleep: 8×7=56hrs
TA/RA work: 6-12hrs
Committee-type work: 3-6hrs
P/T Work: 12-20hrs
Min. life (meals, socializing, exercise): 18hrs (6hrs for each)
Dissertation: Whatever is left over. [168-56=112-(12+6+20)=74-18=56]

SO under ideal conditions you have 56 hours a week to work on your dissertation. The formula works out differently for each graduate student as not all have to TA or work part-time, but many teach and rarely will you find a grad student who gets more than 6 hours of sleep most nights.

56 is my magic dissertation number. Everyone’s number is different and rarely can we actually devote that number of hours to our dissertations.

The reality of this like exercise in arithmetic is while a grad student has around 56 hours a week to work on their dissertation those hours are quickly whittled away by life in general. What is amazing about the number at the end of my little equation is how much grad students get done in those hours. It is even more amazing when you consider that increasingly the dissertation is a second job to the paid jobs done to afford to go to graduate school (this is often even true of the handful of students with major external funding).

Do your math and find your magic number. Post it in the comments and we will see what kind of work load grad students are putting in.

Then take a listen to some Los Campesinos!

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Archives and the Digital World

The University of Alberta has a digital archive called ERA (Education and Research Archive) where any one working at the university can deposit electronic records. The items deposited include drafts of published papers, datasets, research materials, conference presentations, course materials, anything produced as part of the academic life of the institution is welcome. At the time of deposit, the contributor can determine what type of copyright restrictions are on the item as well as if it is accessible to the general public or restricted to the UAlberta community. It is an innovative system and the people who look after ERA are passionate about the archive and the example it sets for other institutions to move towards a purely digital archive — though it must be noted that ERA does not replace the University of Alberta Archive which continues to collect physical documents created by the university.
Until May 2011, I was not familiar with ERA and hadn’t given much thought to the implications of a digital archive on the items it held. Then, as mentioned in a pervious post, I got a summer job with the Canadian Circumpolar Institute (CCI) creating the metadata for a collection of slides and photographs for digitization and deposit into ERA. I am well versed in using archives, but I am a historian not an archivist and have nothing but respect for the work archivists do because it makes my work so much easier. That respect has only increased over the past seven months — deciding what subject/keywords best suit images is a greater challenge than it might seem. With the metadata completed, it came time to start scanning slides and uploading them to ERA, I encountered an interesting problem.
The slides and photographs in the collection I am dealing with depict everything from flying across the Canadian Arctic in every season to medical conditions to families at community dances to travelling by dog sled to trips to Russia and Iceland. The problem is many of the photographs show people and many of those people are identifiable – though not necessarily identified. These images come from predominately aboriginal communities and show almost exclusively aboriginal people – there are some of the family of the collection’s creator – which means there are issues of cultural sensitivity, post-colonial relations, and respect for local authority that need to be considered. This presents a stumbling block for adding the images to a purely digital archive because unlike a traditional archive where access is limited to people who consult the physical collection, anyone at anytime and from anywhere can consult this collection of images once they are on the ERA site.
There were no access restriction placed on the collection by the donor. They wanted people to be able to use what is a very interesting collection of images. The piece I did about this collection for The Otter speaks to the various groups who could get great value out of the collection. There has always been hesitance around the medical images because of doctor-patient confidentiality and from the beginning this portion of the collection was to be kept dark – you would need permission from CCI to consult the images – or restricted to UAlberta researchers through the same system that only allows students and faculty to use library journal subscriptions. This portion of the collection does contain images that were clearly reference images for writing academic papers and never meant to be shared with the public. But want about the images of daily life where faces are clearly visible and people who are still alive could be identified by friends and family? Are those images restricted to UAlberta researchers? Or are they made public so, like a collection in a traditional archive, the collection’s integrity is maintained and researchers – academic or local – can consult the images freely?
The historian in me hesitates at the prospect of leaving any part of the archive behind a wall, except for the medical portion which must be handled with care. To limit open access means limiting what a visual historian can learn about the transformation of the Canadian Arctic in the decades after the Second World War. More importantly, it means limited the ability of the communities whose recent past is depicted to access their visual heritage. There is interest in the North in the photographs taken by southern sojourners for the purpose of identifying friends and family members the community does not have pictures of. A collection like the one in question also details traditional life visually and through the annotations to each image. For example there is a set of slides from a dog sled trip to hunt seals in the Pangnirtung area that does into great detail about exactly how to ice sled runners using a mixture of oatmeal and blood and water while showing each step of that process in a slide. This collection is of value to so many that to restrict access because someone might look at it and see a photograph of them-self or a family member they don’t really like seems ridiculous (again, the medical images where this could be a legitimate issue will not be public).
The policies and guidelines for digitization of images with identifiable people are not set yet and are part of the trick process archives are currently undergoing as they try to move into the digital world. This move is essential for the survival of archives and growing the user base of archival collections but it is fraught with stumbling blocks like the one I am trying to navigate around making public images of identifiable people even if the people are not identified (and thus not Google-able). For now, the collection will slowly go up on the ERA site but until a consensus is reached only the images without identifiable people can be made public — unless the image has already been made public as is the case with this image through the published biography of Otto Schaefer. It is unclear if the 50 year rule so frequently encountered when dealing with federal and provincial archives would come into play in this situation because so many of the people in the images are not identified.
I’ve spent much of the past few weeks working on this issue, trying to locate a document somewhere that speaks to issues of privacy and archival images and digital archives, but nothing seems to exist. Is there a place I haven’t looked that is known only to archivists? Or is my gut right and such a document does not exist yet? If you were in my place, would you similarly conflicted over the desire to makes the collection as accessible as possible while simultaneously doing everything possible to protect the privacy of the unidentified people in the images?
Thoughts? Suggestions?

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Canada vs. Iceland: The National Park Edition

Canada celebrates nature. It celebrates nature as ‘wilderness’ that much attacked idea that for nature to matter it cannot be touched by human hands. This is the legacy of the human history of Canada as a settler society that was – and remains – so sparsely populated that there is ample space that can fit the idealized image of nature. This historical narrative of settlement also constructs a sense that undeveloped, unsettled, untouched environments are constantly threatened by settlement and general human meddling. This fear helps fuel the national parks movement and parks supporters use it to justify creating new parks and restrictions on access to existing ones. The sense that unless it protected by a boundary and park designation wilderness will cease to exist is problematic because it creates blinders to the value of environments humans have established relationships within and how certain uses of the land can create new environments that are reflective of human history. The fingerprints of humans do not always need to be erased from the land and recognition of how humans alter nature is valuable to understanding why we place the cultural values we do on the environment. National Parks outside North America are not focused on the ideal unpeopled and untouched wilderness and allow for humans to have a place in protected environments.

Banff National Park (taken in the Banff townsite)


A comparison of national parks in Canada and Iceland illustrates the different understanding of the place of humans in nature well. Despite the vast size difference between the island in the North Atlantic and the Great White North, both have small populations relative to land mass. In both the majority of the population are concentrated in specific areas – most Canadians live within 250km of the border and 2/3 of Icelanders live in and around Reykjavik. Literacy rates are high in both countries, though higher in Iceland, and both countries rely heavily on automobiles for transportation.

Farm near Hotel Búðir inside a nature preserve adjacent to Snæfellsjökull National Park


If you want to visit a national park in Canada or Iceland you are probably going to drive as only the most remote park in Canada require chartering an aircraft to visit. This is where the first important difference between how the nature within a national park appears. When driving up to the edge of a Canadian park signs will let you know you are approaching a protected area. From there, signs direct you towards little booths where you must pay a fee to enter the area – the exception to this are the parks the Trans-Canada highway passes through where as long as you are driving straight through and not stopping to use parks infrastructure or services there is no fee. When you pay the parks entrance fee the attendant will present you with a handful of pamphlets and booklets detailing the rules, regulations and seasonal cautions. Beyond the obvious (no hunting) the best known of these is “take only pictures, leave only footprints.” Once inside the park, where you can and cannot go within the is clearly marked through well manicured trails and ample signage. Park Wardens and other staff paid to ensure you obey the rules and help out if you run into trouble and millions of dollars spent on infrastructure to ensure positive visitor experience. It is this maintenance that you are paying for with your park fee as well as a portion of your taxes. Canadian parks are controlled nature. Human hands are all over them, and yet they are held up as spaces where we have made nature paramount.

In Iceland it is possible to be in the middle of a national park and not know it. There are no gates marking your movement into a special space of nature. No fee is paid to a waiting attendant. No list of rules to adhere to. Sheep and horses continue to roam the moss-covered lava fields and functioning farms and harbors and communities go about their daily life in the same way those outside the park do. There are maintained trails but those also exist outside parks in areas popular with tourists and locals alike. There are no special national park signs for a places of historical or ecological significance, just a conveniently placed pull-out on the road or the same red and white place of interest signs found across the country. This signage is sparse and there are many places of natural beauty that are simply marked as a point on a map rather than a place of interest.

Djúpalónssandur


The presence of humans does not prevent a space from being a national park in Iceland, which is typical of national parks in European nations. National parks established to preserve flora, fauna, ecosystems, and human history so there is no need to distinguish between a national park and a national historic site as is the practice in Canada. There is no effort to erase human history from national parks or relegate it to controlled spaces as seen with the Cave and Basin in Banff National Park or Green Gables in PEI. When a Snæfellsjökull National Park was created in 2001 farmers were not bought out and removed from the land as occurred when national parks were created in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and PEI. Allowing humans to remain part of the environment does not take away or undermine the importance of the nature being protected. The beauty and ecological importance of the Snæfellsjökull glacier is not diminished by the presence of sheep in the lava fields on the slopes of the mountains. The birds nesting on the cliffs between Arnarstapi and Hellnar are still protected even though fishing boats continue to come and go from Arnarstapi’s harbour. The activities of the people living within the national park are part of what makes the landscape and the environment. They contribute to the area’s importance by showing the ongoing relationships humans have with the natural world. The Snæfellsnes Peninsula is teeming with the wilderness Canadian parks erase people from to protect and the quiet presence of humans among the black peddle beaches and glacial crevasses and waterfalls and ocean-worn cliffs enhances the continued existence of wilderness.

Arnarstapi Harbour


Wilderness does not have to mean an absence of people – and as William Cronon’s much cited article “The Trouble with Wilderness” argues wilderness is a human creation. The wilderness of a national park has ample space for humans and nature; for protecting the natural environment and respecting the legacy of human use of an ecosystem. In this year when the centenary of the creation of Parks Canada is celebrated across the country we should pause to consider if it is time to recognize the constant presence of humans in our protected wilderness spaces. Maybe the second century of national parks in Canada can follow the lead of Iceland and other European parks and blur the heavy-handed boundaries drawn between wilderness and humans.

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Stop the Great Canmore Rabbit Invasion

It finally happened. The little problem Canmore, Alberta has been having with feral rabbits for the past two decades hit the national news last night. I did a short information piece in the summer on the “bunny problem” for Highline Magazine. The bunnies are cute but that does not change that they are also a pest, an invasive species, and drastic action needs to be taken to control their population. However, information circulating in Canmore and now across the country regarding the rabbits is turning what should be an simple issue to deal with into a three circus.

The bunnies are not a native species. They are the result of irresponsible pet owners in South Canmore and decades of the town not taking action. The rabbit problem could have been prevented if there had been a cull or a mass sterilization when the population was restricted to the area around Lawrence Grassi Middle School and the Bow River. Instead, the town council and the majority of citizens choose to look the other way and when 4 years ago rumblings of a cull began the response that the local papers choose to share in their “Letters to the Editor” was “my children love chasing the bunnies, if we kill them what will that teach them?” The answer is two-fold. First, it will teach them that pets need to be treated like pets and that it is not acceptable to set them free when you are tired of looking after them. Second, it will teach them about invasive species, how delicate ecosystems are, and the cycle of life. Though children could learn the same lessons when a hungry cougar wanders into Canmore in the winter in search of a bunny feast and instead happens upon something more substantial like the family dog or, as has happened before, a human.

The reaction of groups like “Save Canmore Bunnies” is just as worrying as the sentiment that culling the rabbits will not teach children appropriate things about the natural world. The intention behind the movement to trap, sterilize, and relocate the rabbits comes from the same place as the impulse to ensure wildlife are not killed on highways and endangered species are protected. The cost of such an endeavour when the rabbit population has ballooned as it has in Canmore and the inability of relocation alone to combat this problem raises questions about how feasible a solution it is. The sanctuary approach does not work as seen by the recent move by the University of Victoria to stop trapping, sterilizing, and relocating their problem rabbits in favour of the only guaranteed way of controlling the population – trapping and euthanizing.

There has been nearly a decade of debating what to do about the rabbits the population has continued to grow. Inaction is part of what allowed feral rabbits to overrun parts of Australia and New Zealand in the early twentieth century. Nearly a century later these countries are still trying to get what is often referred to as “the rabbit plague” under control. Given the ecological sensitivity of the Bow Valley and the proximity of Canmore to the boundary of Banff National Park there is no time left to debate and look at alternatives because when the bunnies become a problem in the National Park there will be no debate.

If the Canmore rabbits were hares and their populations were declining as a result of rampant development of the Bow Valley this would be an entirely different debate. But the rabbits are the pet store variety and their populations have boomed alongside the development of the Bow Valley. This is not a species at risk, or under threat, or endangered and in need of protection. This is a species that is disrupting the ecological integrity of the area (or what is left of it), posing a risk to native species, and increasing the visits made by large predators to the townsite. None of these are good things and the most effective way to combat them is to eliminate the source – the rabbits.

This species has wreaked havoc around the world. Australia and New Zealand were so over run with rabbits that they have destroyed unique ecosystems and it has taken decades of culling to bring them down to numbers that are nearly manageable and still the rabbits remain a problem. At the University of Victoria, where in the 1960s someone living in residence set their pet rabbits free on campus, the problem got to be so bad that sterilization attempts were ineffective in controlling the population increase that the university was forced to cull the rabbits. Keep in mind UVic is a smaller and more contained area than the Town of Canmore. Even Iceland has a burgeoning bunny problem which an Aussie living in Reykjavik pointed out with calls for caution in the Iceland Review last week.

Canmore need to take drastic action about the bunnies. Action that should have been taken twenty years ago when the rabbits were only in South Canmore. At this point it is impossible for the people who let the original rabbits free to be identified and punished for irresponsible pet ownership, as proposed to Council by the Humane Society of Canada. (It is an open secret among people who have lived in Canmore for more than twenty years how the bunny problem started.)

Council needs to stop pandering to the bleeding hearts and take action about the bunnies. The necessary action will not be popular but it is essential to finally bring the bunny problem under control. The rabbits are an invasive species. They are attracting more coyotes into the town because they are easy prey. If nothing is done they will attract more dangerous animals than coyotes – cougars. If the rabbits are not culled there will be bigger problems than homeowners having to shell out hundred of dollars for rabbit-proof fencing and traps to take control of the problem in their own neighbourhood.

The bunny problem has moved far beyond a neighbourhood headache. It is now an issue of wildlife attraction as well as health and safety for the entire town. A significant portion of rabbit population must be culled, not trapped, sterilized, and relocated, culled. This is the only way to gain a hand up on a species that is bred to reproduce as the pet store rabbits are.

Posted in Canada, Environment, Opinion | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 14 Comments

Stop the Great Rabbit Invasion of Canmore

It finally happened. The little problem Canmore, Alberta has been having with feral rabbits for the past two decades hit the national news last night. I did a short information piece in the summer on the “bunny problem” for Highline Magazine and managed to suppress my own opinion on the topic. The bunnies might be cute but that does not change that they are also a pest and invasive species and drastic action needs to be taken to control their population. However, information circulating in Canmore and now across the country regarding the rabbits is turning what should be an simple issue to deal with into a three circus.

The bunnies are not a native species. They are the result of irresponsible pet owners in South Canmore and decades of the town not taking action. The rabbit problem could have been prevented if there had been a cull or a mass sterilization when the population was restricted to the area around Lawrence Grassi Middle School and the Bow River. Instead, the town council and the majority of citizens choose to look the other way and when 4 years ago rumblings of a cull began the response that the local papers choose to share in their “Letters to the Editor” was “my children love chasing the bunnies, if we kill them what will that teach them?” The answer is two-fold. First, it will teach them that pets need to be treated like pets and that it is not acceptable to set them free when you are tired of looking after them. Second, it will teach them about invasive species, how delicate ecosystems are, and the cycle of life. Though children could learn the same lessons when a hungry cougar wanders into Canmore in the winter in search of a bunny feast and instead happens upon something more substantial like the family dog or, as has happened before, a human.

The reaction of groups like Save Canmore Bunnies is just as worrying as the sentiment that culling the rabbits will not teach children appropriate things about the natural world. This group and others view the rabbits as just as natural to the environment as elk, bears, cougars, wolves, marmots, and other native species to the ecosystems of the eastern Cordillera. Once again, the rabbits are the same one you can buy in a pet store. They come from breeders. They are not natural and it would be a waste of resources to set up a sanctuary for them as is done for bears outside Golden. If you would like to save the bunnies, I suggest you offer up your backyard as a sanctuary and let anyone who catches a bunny drop it off. Just make sure none of the bunnies can escape and be sure you are prepared to take care of a few thousand of these creatures.

What is most worrying about the “save the bunnies” response from an environmental history perspective is how symptomatic it is of the sever disconnection from the processes of the natural world in modern western culture. This disconnect has been growing since the beginning of the rush away from the farm and towards the city at the turn of the 20th century. Even in Canada where until the late 1960s the majority of the population lived in rural areas, people are so disconnected from nature from the natural rhythms of the world, from how species interact with each other and with their environments that a domesticated animal can become a “natural” part of the ecosystem worth saving.

If the Canmore rabbits were hares and their populations were declining as a result of rampant development of the Bow Valley this would be an entirely different debate. But the rabbits are the pet store variety and their populations have boomed alongside the development of the Bow Valley. This is not a species at risk, or threatened or endangered and in need of protection. This is a species that is disrupting the ecological integrity of the area (or what is left of it), posing a risk to native species, and increasing the visits made by large predators to the townsite. None of these are good things and the most effective way to combat them is to eliminate the source – the rabbits.

As I pointed out in “Bunnies for Sale” this species has wreaked havoc around the world. Australia and New Zealand were so over run with rabbits that they have destroyed unique ecosystems and it has taken decades of culling to bring them down to numbers that are nearly manageable and still the rabbits remain a problem. At the University of Victoria, where in the 1960s someone living in residence set their pet rabbits free on campus, the problem got to be so bad that sterilization attempts were ineffective in controlling the population increase that the university was forced to cull the rabbits. Keep in mind UVic is a smaller and more contained area than the Town of Canmore. Even Iceland has a burgeoning bunny problem which an Aussie living in Reykjavik pointed out with calls for caution in the Iceland Review last week.

Canmore need to take drastic action about the bunnies. Action that should have been taken twenty years ago when the rabbits were only in South Canmore. At this point it is impossible for the people who let the original rabbits free to be identified and punished for irresponsible pet ownership, as proposed to Council by the Humane Society of Canada. (It is an open secret among people who have lived in Canmore for more than twenty years who started the bunny problem.)

Council needs to stop pandering to the bleeding hearts and take action about the bunnies. The necessary action will not be popular but it is essential to finally bring the bunny problem under control. The rabbits are an invasive species. They are attracting more coyotes into the town because they are easy prey. If nothing is done they will attract more dangerous animals than coyotes – cougars. If the rabbits are not culled there will be bigger problems than homeowners having to shell out hundred of dollars for rabbit-proof fencing and traps to take control of the problem in their own neighbourhood.

The bunny problem has moved far beyond a neighbourhood headache. It is now an issue of wildlife attraction as well as health and safety for the entire town. A significant portion of rabbit population must be culled, not trapped and sterilized or relocated, culled. This is the only way to gain a hand up on a species that is breed to reproduce as the pet store rabbits are.

When I was in Ms. Hauck’s grade six class (in the version of Lawrence Grassi that was torn down a few years ago) there was a poster on the wall that read “What is right is not always popular. What is popular is not always right.” The opinion I’ve expressed here is not popular but is the popular opinion regarding the bunnies really the right solution?

If you are for drastic action being taken write to the Canmore Leader or Rocky Mountain Outlook, voice your opinion to Council and Mayor Casey. As it stands the more vocal side of the debate is the “save the bunnies” league. Their message is dominating what the rest of the country is hearing about what citizens of Canmore want done with the bunnies but they are not the only opinion.

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Research happens

Usually researching is a conscious decision. You go to the archive to look at specific collections or spend an afternoon with secondary sources to situate your argument or sit down at the computer to consult digitized documents (not check email). This researching is planned, often requires travel, and you know that for a set period of time your job is ‘research’.
But other times researching happens out of the blue. You’re out with friends and meet someone who works in the area you study or open the newspaper to see an article on your topic. Today I sat down to decompress before finishing prepping for a 36 hour research trip to Vancouver tomorrow and saw this commercial from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers. It is not often that watching a TV commercial suddenly becomes researching.

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Silent Summer: Noisy Fall…

Summer is an interesting time for graduate students. There are conferences to attend, research trips to take, much writing/editing to do, and always the need to find some sort of gainful employment to pay the bills during the 4 months without funding. This situation is not conducive to keeping blogs up-to-date. Plus when you are out of the reading/comps stage of the a phd and onto the proposal/research/writing stage there are many days when the thought of typing out yet more coherent sentences causes your brian to shut down completely. At least that is the case for me after a long day of writing and editing.
Now that I am on to the researching, writing, editing portion of the phd there will be much less text and many more images on this blog as I like to share the fun things I find while researching. Some will be about environmentalism, and universities. Others will just be entertaining things I stumble upon.
This falls under the stumbled upon category. This weekend has been devoted to reading as many issues of The Ubyssey as possible in preparation for the first of three 36 hour research trips to the UBC Archives. Advertisements like the one below are in every issue of the student newspaper in the 1970s and are not something you often find in student newspapers in the 21st century. At least in my decade in post-secondary I haven’t come across many of them. Times they are a changin’ and that is a very good thing in this case.

Shiny things advertised in EVERY ISSUE...


This advertisement and others like it were run in the same student newspaper that regularly ran articles promoting women’s rights and equality. Coming out with editorials like the one below.

More in keeping with the students were debating in The Ubyssey...

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