Archive | August 2013

Where have all the butterflies gone?

ImageAug 22

Why is it this summer I’ve seen more dead butterflies than live ones? Of course, I’m not talking about cabbage butterflies, the drab white ones that resemble little pieces of tissue paper fluttering in the breeze. Or those small yellow ones, that are also everywhere. The long list of disappearing butterflies includes Red Admirals, Mourning Cloaks, Monarchs, Viceroys and Swallowtails. I used to see them all the time when I was a youngster, growing up in Charlottetown when our family home fronted a broken field.

I haven’t seen any of those in the years since, although less than three weeks ago I saw my first swallowtail in easily a decade.

And it’s not just butterflies. I haven’t seen any fireflies in years and prior to a week ago, I can scarcely remember seeing any dragonflies. I was shocked to see a pair, the first in ages. They were everywhere when I was a youngster, a staple of insect collections I started in Grade 4.

It’s very disturbing to think children can grow up anywhere in Canada without seeing a Monarch butterfly or a Luna Moth or a firefly.

It’s truly sad. And yet, I have to admit the landscapes in PEI are indescribably beautiful – bright hues of green and gold and yellow. It almost as if they were painted by an artist using only the most vivid colours in his palatte.

How is that possible?

Such beautiful landscapes, and yet a steadily decreasing variety of wild creatures to populate them.

Moving further up the chain of life, I simply don’t recall seeing any frogs this summer or over the past several years. I’ve heard a few peepers in the spring near the family cottage in Fernwood – but their voices were so muted, I almost felt I must have imagined them.

We Islanders sure know how to shine up our properties, but we don’t seem to show the same respect and care for the insects and animals that once called much of PEI home.

It’s like owning a luxury home, and allowing it to rot on its foundation.

 

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Libraries deliver terrific value

Want to see an example of socialism that works? Go visit any of PEI’s 20 or so libraries.

You can order a book from any corner of the country, and if you are prepared to wait up to six weeks you can receive a brand new title only months off the printing press for a price that can’t be beaten.

The cost? Why, nothing at all. Not one Canadian penny. Not even the expense involved in mailing a book from  a library in Vancouver to the Kensington branch of the PEI library system. They did all that for me earlier this summer.

It’s such a sweet deal, I don’t know why our free-enterprise loving federal government isn’t stepping in to end it. Lend stuff for free? Isn’t that the very definition of socialism? Why anyone visiting a library, from a social assistance recipient to a corporate CEO, has the same chance at a signing out a book, DVD, CD, E-book or audio book. Not to mention that libraries offer Internet access to many who can’t afford it in their homes, and kids’ story hours and family-themed activities and games. All free.

How can this be allowed to happen? I’m sure many right-wing zealots are all aflutter about freeloaders getting stuff for nothing, paid for by hardworking taxpayers. Only senators, lobbyists and corporate buddies who know how to game the system should be allowed this privilege.

Find that far-fetched? Not so long ago Toronto Mayor Rob Ford, a towering intellect in the Canadian Conservative movement who likely has Stephen Harper and several of his cabinet members on speed dial, was prepared to hack away at Toronto’s library system to save a few bucks.

Still think it won’t happen? Just consider how the Harper government cracked down on Atlantic Canadian EI recipients earlier this year – making it much more difficult for seasonal workers to qualify for payments. How can they let libraries off the hook who don’t sell anything to justify their existence? Libraries can’t be counted on to provide meaningful revenue for government coffers to help pay for tax cuts for the wealthy, fighter jets or booty to buy off voters in key ridings.

Our tax dollars are even paying the salaries and expenses of the people who work at libraries who otherwise contribute little to society, other than to improve reading skills and overall knowledge about the greater world, as well as to keep potential shut-ins, including many seniors, engaged and active.

Not so long ago, libraries were dying on the vine. They were considered too far behind the times, too connected to a quaint era when reading and writing skills actually counted for something – in other words the pre-digital, Jurassic age.

Who would have predicted they would have transformed themselves almost overnight into important players in the community, and in society? That kids, from rich and poor families, and their parents, would suddenly become interested. That readership would soar. 

I bet you the last time many Conservative cabinet ministers visited a library the Dewey Decimal System had just been invented and librarians wore ratty old sweaters, granny glasses and serious scowls – always with fingers held to pursed lips mouthing the word, “Shush.”

For the sake of the future of our libraries, I pray we keep it that way.

Trout fishing losing its appeal

I’m done angling for the season. Actually I laid up my fishing rod, tackle box and bait bucket in late May, months before I was legally required to.

It’s becoming more difficult every year to fish into June, July and August when my favourite trout holes are stained green with suffocating, fertilizer-nourished aquatic vegetation. That’s just when farming season rolls into high gear and hot weather, spurred on by global warming, shrinks many watercourses to a trickle.

And of course, you would have had to be living under a rock not to hear distressing news reports, yet again, of fresh fish kills in Western PEI, likely caused by chemical runoff from farmers’ fields.

I have no doubt at all provincial officials are worried about an accelerating trend of falling revenues from the sale of fishing licenses. 

Why don’t they recognize the obvious? The best fishing has always been from opening day, April 15, through to mid-May when temperatures are cooler and ponds, rivers and streams aren’t choked with sea lettuce.

I’m beginning to wonder why any resident angler would want to go through the hassle of purchasing a license and conservation card for the entire season.

Personally, I think the Ghiz government should offer a limited license, extending exactly one month, to May 15. Of course the price would be greatly discounted. But it seems only fair. For years I’ve felt like I’m been ripped off every time I buy a license.

It’s even possible, if the PEI government introduces a one-month license, revenues could stabilize and even improve. Despite diminishing catches every year there is still a determined, hardcore group of fishermen who will fish from April to mid-September. They’ll fish even if a warming climate decimates trout populations.

But I won’t be one of them.

It’s just not worth it.