Posts Tagged ‘geology’

Cree George Poitras: Ottawa Tarsands Action Monday

Cree George Poitras: Ottawa Tarsands Action Monday

OTTAWA TARSANDS ACTION – Why am I attending?


Posted 24 September 2011, by George Poitras, Censored News,


George Poitras is a former Chief, Mikisew Cree First Nation


George Poitras

In the past year and even more so in the past few weeks a lot of debate has focused on the tarsands in northeastern Alberta as “ethical oil.” Advertisements taken out on the Oprah Winfrey Network by, why Oprah Winfrey has endorsed this propaganda by big oil is anyone’s guess?! The advertisement suggests why should America be dependent on Saudi Arabian oil, “a state that doesn’t allow women to drive, doesn’t allow them to leave their homes or work without their male guardian’s permission.” That there is a better alternative, “Ethical oil from Canada’s oil sands.” Apparently meaning a more human alternative.

Names synonymous of this “ethical oil” notion include Alykhan Velshi, Ezra Levant. Proponents who happily began to espouse the controversial two words include Canadian politicians like environment minister Peter Kent and prime minister Stephen Harper as they traverse the globe promoting investment in the tarsands.

The tarsands have been mined, primarily open-pit, for the past 40 years in what is known as the traditional lands of many Treaty 6 and Treaty 8 First Nations. The total tarsands deposit, the size of England, is known to be the second largest oil deposit in the world, second to Saudi Arabia. Only 3% of the total deposit has been mined in the past 40 years and Dr. David Schindler, a world renowned water expert, proved last year that there has been virtually no monitoring of what has also been characterized the largest industrial project in the world. A claim that the local Indigenous peoples have made for decades with proof of deformed fish, observation of poor water quality, receding water levels, impacts to animal health, and more recently in Fort Chipewyan, an increase in rare and aggressive cancers.

Tarsands a humane alternative?

When local physician Dr. John O’Connor raised concerns of disproportionate numbers of unusual cancers in Fort Chipewyan in 2006, the government of Canada, or physicians from the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch lodged complaints against him including a charge of “causing undue alarm” to residents of my community of Fort Chipewyan. Canada’s charges against a family physician has never before been heard of in the history of Canada. For my community of Fort Chipewyan, this unprecedented action by the government of Canada essentially signaled to us that Canada didn’t care what claims Dr. O’Connor was making or that people in Fort Chipewyan might be living in a situation with an epidemic of rare and aggressive cancers. The claims were eventually proven by an Alberta Cancer Board Study in 2009 because of our unrelenting efforts; perhaps we shamed the Canadian and Alberta governments into doing so by successfully making our concerns a part of the international debate of this “dirty oil” campaign and not because the governments felt it was the “ethical” or “humane” thing to do.

Despite this, both the Alberta and Canadian governments continue to this day, to deny there is any concern with cancers in Fort Chipewyan.

The governments of Alberta and Canada have for the past 15 years relied on the Regional Aquatics Monitoring Program (RAMP) to monitor the Athabasca River and the fish health. Every study since then has concluded that there was little to no impacts from tarsands development on the water or the fish health. A position that was proven wrong by Dr. David Schindler. Essentially, the RAMP which is 100% funded by the oil companies and who’s data is proprietary, and the Alberta and Canadian governments have been lying to the downstream impacted communities but also to Albertans and Canadians. They both shamefully admitted this following Schindler’s study just days before Christmas in 2010.

Fishermen in Fort Chipewyan have been saving deformed, tumoured, discoloured, and other problem fish for many years. Many residents in my community have chosen not to eat any fish from the Athabasca River or Lake Athabasca, a sad commentary to impacts on a peoples way of living. In June 1970, a Suncor pipeline break spilled 19,123 barrels of oil, roughly 3 million liters, into the Athabasca River which reached Lake Athabasca. This shut down the fishing industry on Lake Athabasca for two consecutive years. The fishermen held a press conference in October 2010 in Edmonton, Alberta displaying many of the collection of problem fish. This generated further international attention to the tarsands industry and its impacts to water and fish health.

Indigenous leaders in the downstream community of Fort Chipewyan have been chastised by oil company executives when they speak publicly to the press about their concerns of impacts from tarsands. They have gone so far as threatening, that should the Indigenous leaders continue, there would be repercussions to their First Nation-owned company’s contracts within certain oil company sites. Oil company executives regularly question the Indigenous leaders when their own community members speak out publicly on issues and I have seen those members silenced.

Two years ago I attended a protest in Trafalgar Square in London, England. We drew a crowd of about 500 supporters and this protest generated so much publicity internationally by England’s BBC and Canada’s CBC who were present and did live interviews. Three weeks after this action which I dubbed the “bloody oil tour” an executive from a major oil company flew to my community to meet with my Chief & Council and in no uncertain terms stated that they didn’t like that I traveled internationally and generated so much negative publicity on the tarsands industry. They also stated that they knew of all my actions in the past years because they said they had a binder “this thick” to prove it. He further suggested that somehow I should be “silenced” or even “terminated” or there would be repercussions. Two weeks later, the First Nation-owned company contracts worth millions were terminated displacing approximately 65 employees. I chose to leave my employment shortly thereafter.

An ethical, humane future for impacted communities?

In a recent trip to the Amazon and in conversation with a colleague from Nigeria, I told him many of our issues, our concerns, the repercussions we receive for being vocal. He was in complete disbelief. He said in a million years he would not believe all of this would occur in Canada, a developed G8 country. He said Canada is known as a safe country for its citizens. Canada is known as a country that prides itself for protection of human rights within its own borders and beyond.

I also tell my fellow leaders in Fort Chipewyan and to those young, brave members of my community, that the repercussions for speaking publicly is nothing compared to what we will see in the future. That if only 3% of the total deposit has been mined and the environmental impacts are so significant, that there will be many more generations of our people who will take up this challenge and they will face much more backlash than what we are seeing today from what has become a ruthless and aggressive race to exploit the tarsands. That many of our people will continue to see the early demise of their lives from rare and aggressive cancers the same way we watched our youngest victim at the age of 28 succumb to his cancer just months after being diagnosed. That if we see our environment in such a negative state today, do we think that we are capable of handing down to future generations a healthy environment? That if Canada and Alberta today ignore and repeatedly, knowingly infringe on our Constitutionally protected Treaty Rights, will our future generations be able to meaningfully exercise their right to hunt, fish and trap? Will our people in 20 years from now be able to enjoy a traditional diet of fish, moose, ducks, geese, caribou?

While I do not condone any ill-treatment on women in Saudi Arabia, Indigenous peoples in Canada’s tarsands should not be a pawn or be sacrificed to allow certainty for Canada, Alberta and multinational corporations to exploit the tarsands at all costs! From an Indigenous perspective, watching and being victim to the 40 years of unrelenting, unfettered, unmonitored development of the tarsands, there is nothing “ethical” or “humane” about the development of the tarsands!

I will be in Ottawa on Monday, September 26th to oppose the approval of the Keystone XL Pipeline because an approval means an expansion of production of tarsands by a million barrels a day, further exacerbating local Indigenous peoples grave concerns about the development of the tarsands.


Sociology of a shaping tsunami

Sociology of a shaping tsunami


Posted22 September 2011, by Jawed Naqvi, Dawn,


TSUNAMIS and earthquakes come unannounced but their apparent `suddenness` is embedded in decades, possibly centuries, of subterranean activity.

Political tsunamis are equally hard to detect or predict. But we know that they move along societal fault lines. The world missed Iran by a long shot and it is today trying to divine a glimpse of an Arab Spring even if it all looks more of a media expediency than a movement.

India`s main TV channels and through them much of the world have similarly misread recent events in the country that were and still are projected as tsunamis of sorts. These are, however, more likely to prove to be a figment of the way India`s corporate elite wants to see the country developing.

For their vision not to remain a pipe dream India must first become a police state. It may be getting there but there`s still some steps left to invoke complete disaster.

The media build-up of Narendra Modi`s three-day fast (or fest) in Gujarat and its slightly longer version in Delhi by the quixotic anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare presented an elitist politics as popular to the exclusion of complex issues that traumatise the majority.

We now know that both events were tailor-made to impose a political choice in the Uttar Pradesh elections due early next year. A rare Dalit woman runs the state and whoever dethrones her or wins her support will be best equipped to capture power in 2014 when general elections are due.

Modi is the political mascot of India`s right. Hazare has idolised him as a model for the country`s economic development. Hazare`s view on Modi tallies with that of business captains dominating India`s economic skyline.

They all see in the Gujarat chief minister their next prime minister who would deliver them from Dr Manmohan Singh`s unexpectedly curtailed zeal for unpopular and environmentally untenable prescriptions. Outlook Indian Express

Delhi`s magazine recently carried a cover story on how the middle class had dumped Manmohan Singh. There are warnings now that the world may be preparing to disown him. A typical column in the advised Dr Singh to accelerate pro-market reforms or prepare for a rude regime change. Durbar Express

“If the current government is not seen as a credible interlocutor, outsiders can only get impatient for the next set of rulers to take charge of the Delhi .” WikiLeaks has already established how the BJP has been making a beeline to the US embassy to reiterate its pro-Washington credentials. Given this, the columnist makes eminent sense.

When earthquakes occur they lay bare not just a people`s material capacity to cope with natural disasters, they also test victims` social cohesion. The massive tremor centred in Gujarat`s Bhuj district in 2001 framed not just the geological fault lines but also its victims` sociology. Upper-caste Gujaratis refused to share shelters with the lower castes.

Modi`s antidote dovetailed with corporate exigencies. He fomented hatred of one community to cement his other constituents. There are no more agitating mill workers in Gujarat. They have become polarised Hindus and Muslims.

But the prospective prime minister is suddenly projecting a hitherto absent religious tolerance. His public embrace of visually identifiable Muslim clerics — replete with beards, caps and cloaks — though some reports said they were rented for publicity — indicates a political quandary.

In India, political challenges are often reflected in acronyms. The composition of Gujarat votes thus carries the sobriquet of KHAM (Kshatriya, Harijan, Adivasi and Muslim). In Rajasthan, this takes the form of MAJGAR (Muslim, Ahir, Jat, Gujar, Adivasi and Rajput). Laloo Prasad deployed the MY factor (Muslim-Yadav) to beat the political odds for years in Bihar. There are countless such acronyms that are the building blocks of India`s sociology and thus its politics.

It is this reality that constitutes India`s parliament. It was this that would become an obstruction to domestic and foreign economic prescriptions. It was thus that MPs had to be bribed to pass a vote first on Dr Singh`s economic agenda that did not have a popular mandate and then to push a nuclear deal with Washington that growing throngs of ordinary people (minus the televised middle class) want to shun.

Chernobyl, Fukushima and the recent disaster in France have all contributed to the coalescing of a growing resistance against a rush for energy by any means at any cost.

It was therefore tamely predictable that TV cameras and anchors that had built up Anna Hazare and Narendra Modi as messianic leaders who had shunned food for the national cause would completely ignore the 127 men and women who could perish due to their indefinite fast going on for a week now against a nuclear plant in Tamil Nadu.

There were violent protests earlier this year in Maharashtra against another nuclear project. That the new protesters are backed by hundreds of thousands of villagers in Koodunkulum is of no importance to private TV. That the very coast had suffered a tsunami havoc seven years ago is of no consequence to the televised middle classes.

Another hitherto silent political tsunami is building in the sensitive Arunachal Pradesh, bordering China, not far from the epicentre of Saturday`s devastating earthquake.

Away from public gaze the government has quietly called in dozens of foreign firms to the ecologically fragile zone to build a series of dams there, a move the local tribes resent and fear. Their resistance has so far gone unnoticed in the rest of India. But already there is ferment in Assam about the consequences for its lower riparian regions. Indian Express

International and domestic pressures on the government are enormous, as the columnist has indicated, to deliver or perish on what is an obvious bonanza involving rape of the environment and uprooting of its traditional inhabitants.

Corporate greed is not abating and it could only happen in India that a ragtag army of Maoist guerrillas, whose peers didn’t spare a chance to rape the ecology in China, are compelled to defend it in Chhattisgarh.

This doesn’t mean that people who resist the plunder of India will win. All that they know is that there is yet a small chance of averting an unimaginable disaster.

The writer is Dawn`s correspondent in Delhi.


Surviving the Warmth of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum


Surviving the Warmth of the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum


Posted 21 September 2011, by Staff, CO2 Science (Center for the Study of Carbon Dioxide and Global Change),


McInerney, F.A. and Wing, S.L. 2011. The Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum: A perturbation of carbon cycle, climate, and biosphere with implications for the future. Annual Review of Earth and Planetary Sciences 39: 489-516.

During the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum, or PETM, of some 56 million years ago, it is believed that large amounts of carbon were released to the ocean-atmosphere system and that global temperatures may have risen by 5-8°C. Thus, the authors write that study of the PETM may provide “valuable insights into the carbon cycle, climate system and biotic responses to environmental change that are relevant to long-term future global changes.”

What was done
McInerney and Wing reviewed much of the scientific literature pertaining to the insights being sought by biologists concerned about potential species extinctions due to CO2-induced global warming; and they give their assessment of the current status of the grand enterprise in which many scientists have been involved since the early 1990s, when the PETM and its significance first began to be recognized (Kennett and Stott, 1991; Koch et al., 1992).

What was learned
In summarizing their findings, the two researchers write that although there was a major extinction of benthic foraminifera in the world’s oceans, “most groups of organisms did not suffer mass extinction.” In fact, they say “it is surprising that cool-adapted species already living at higher latitudes before the onset of the PETM are not known to have experienced major extinctions,” and they remark that “this absence of significant extinction in most groups is particularly interesting in light of the predictions of substantial future extinction with anthropogenic global warming.” In addition, they note that “low levels of extinction in the face of rapid environmental change during the Quaternary pose a similar challenge to modeled extinctions under future greenhouse warming,” citing Botkin et al. (2007). And, last of all, they indicate that “rapid morphological change occurred in both marine and terrestrial lineages, suggesting that organisms adjusted to climate change through evolution as well as dispersal.”

What it means
McInerney and Wing wrap up their review by noting that “research on the PETM and other intervals of rapid global change has been driven by the idea that they provide geological parallels to future anthropogenic warming.” And in this regard, the many research results they review seem to suggest that earth’s plants and animals, both on land and in the sea, may be much better equipped to deal with the environmental changes that climate alarmists claim are occurring in response to anthropogenic CO2 emissions than what many students of the subject have long believed to be possible.

Botkin, D.B., Saxe, H., Araujo, M.B., Betts, R, Bradshaw, R.H.W., Cedhagen, T., Chesson, P., Dawson, T.P., Etterson, J.R., Faith, D.P., Ferrier, S., Guisan, A., Skjoldborg-Hansen, A., Hilbert, D.W., Loehle, C., Margules, C., New, M., Sobel, M.J. and Stockwell, D.R.B. 2007. Forecasting the effects of global warming on biodiversity. BioScience 57: 227-236.

Kennett, J.P. and Stott, L.D. 1991. Abrupt deep-sea warming, palaeoceanographic changes and benthic extinctions at the end of the Palaeocene. Nature 353: 225-229.

Koch, P.L., Zachos, J.C. and Gingerich, P.D. 1992. Correlation between isotope records in marine and continental carbon reservoirs near the Paleocene/Eocene boundary. Nature 358: 319-322.




Fracking Mother Earth for Dollars Scheme Exposed

Fracking Mother Earth for Dollars Scheme Exposed

Non-Indians target Blood Nation, Kawacatoose and Fort Peck


Posted 13 September 2011, by Brenda Norrell, Censored News,


Blood Nation women blockade /Photo Arnell Tailfeathers

Non-Indians have targeted First Nation and American Indian lands in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada, and Fort Peck Assiniboine and Sioux Tribes in Montana, throwing large sums of money at elected leaders for oil and gas drilling, with no regard for future generations or the environment.

Blood Nation women formed a blockade to halt fracking on their land on Friday, exposing a non-Indian corporate scheme behind the new fracturing Mother Earth for dollars.

Lois Frank said the Blood Nation members were never consulted about the widespread oil and gas drilling and fracking that they are now faced with in southern Alberta, near the Montana border.

In the corporate flush of dollars, an in-between fixer has emerged, the non-Indians at Native American Resource Partners in Utah. NARP is designed to entice First Nations and American Indian elected leaders with large sums of money. NARP, as shown on its website, is owned by non-Indians who use the name “Native American” because the company targets Native American lands for exploitation. 

NARP owners began destroying the land for oil and gas drilling on Southern Ute in Colorado and on Uintah and Ouray lands in Utah, before expanding into Canada.

NARP’s investment money comes from another corporation of more non-Indians, Quantum, based in Houston, who are exploiting natural resources around the world.

Besides entering into an agreement with the Blood Nation, NARP also entered into an oil and gas deal with Fort Peck in Montana. The Fort Peck Energy Company formed a new co-partnered Tribal energy company with NARP in August, according to the Fort Peck Journal. NARP provided capital dollars to Fort Peck.

Fort Peck Energy Company is initially owned 50 percent by the Tribe and 50 percent by NARP, with the capital investment made by Quantum, Fort Peck Journal reported.

NARP also provided dollars to the Kawacatoose First Nation in Saskatchewan, focusing on treaty land rights, in August.

NARP announced a partnership with the Kawacatoose First Nation (Kawacatoose) of Saskatchewan, Canada. “The newly-created company, Kawacatoose Energy Company, will pursue the development of resource projects on lands and minerals secured by the Nation through the Saskatchewan Treaty Land Entitlement program (TLE,)” according to the press statement.

On the Blood Nation in Alberta in April, Kainaiwa Resources, Inc., the natural resource development company of the Blood Nation, announced that it had formed Kainai Energy in partnership with NARP.

Kainai Energy entered into two joint venture agreements, with NARP kicking in $100 million in capital commitment, according to the Blood Tribe’s press release.

“In forming Kainai Energy, the Blood Tribe has retained all of its rights to royalty payments from development of its reserve land by industry partners Murphy Oil Company Ltd. (“Murphy”) and Bowood Energy Ltd. (“Bowood”), while securing needed capital to participate in its own resource development. The Tribe has also retained exclusive rights to reserve lands outside the existing joint ventures for future development.”

Kainai Energy will initially focus on the existing joint venture areas in the Alberta Bakken, the press release states.

Hydraulic fracturing poisoning drinking water and rivers

Hydraulic fracturing is already poisoning drinking water and rivers, according to the New York Times.

The New York Times obtained concealed documents from the government and drilling industry that show hydraulic fracturing of gas and oil wells is even more dangerous than previously known.

The secret documents from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and drilling industry participants, prove hydraulic fracturing wastewater from gas drilling operations contains high levels of radioactive contaminants. It is being released into waterways supplying drinking water.

The process of injecting “fracking” fluid at extreme pressure creates fissures in the rock formations and extracts gas that was previously trapped.

Drilling companies use between two and five million gallons of “fracking” fluid in the hydrofracking of just one gas well. This toxic cocktail is a mixture of water, sand and hazardous chemicals. Then, 50 percent to 75 percent of fracking fluids stay in the ground, potentially leaking into soil and ground water by way of rock faults or faulty well casings, according to the New York Times.

Then, the situation becomes more critical. The used fracking fluid, called produced water, once it comes back up, is even more dangerous after exposure to rock deep in the earth. This drilling wastewater is hazardous waste because it now also contains heavy metals, radioactive elements such as radium, known carcinogens including benzene and other toxins.

Sewage treatment facilities of the wastewater are incapable of removing some contaminants from drilling wastewater, including radioactive contaminants. These releases are discharged into rivers and waterways and are currently contaminating drinking water sources.

The media is playing its role in the exploitation and destruction of Mother Earth, cheerleading for revenues and economic development, without researching the detrimental effects of oil and gas drilling, or fracturing,  on the land and health of the people. 

Blood Nation: Toxic drilling and dealsBlood Nation members released this statement on Friday:

“The first issue is the toxic nature of the drilling and its capacity to do irreversible damage to the land and water on the Blood Reserve and surrounding areas. Furthermore, fracking poses a major threat to human health, wildlife and livestock.

“The second issue at hand is the nature of the deal between KRI, Murphy Oil, and Bowood Energy. We believe this to be highly problematic for a number of reasons: Blood Tribe members were not consulted during the negotiations of this deal even though the drilling will occur on Blood Tribe land.

“KRI and the Blood Tribe Chief and Council neglected to maintain any degree of transparency during and after the negotiations. Ultimately, leaving a large population of tribal members completely unaware of the situation until after the deal was made.

“Above all else, the health and well-being of Blood Tribe members and all future generations will be compromised due to the rash and reckless decision by KRI and Blood Tribe Chief and Council to sign this deal with Murphy Oil and Bowood Energy.”

Infographic Explains How Peak Oil Cycle Affects Us


Infographic Explains How Peak Oil Cycle Affects Us


Posted 12 September 2011, by Matt Smith, Green Building Elements (Important Media),



For several years now, people have been aware that our over-reliance on fossil fuels, specifically oil, is dangerous because it is a finite resource and soon the supply won’t be able to reach our outrageous demands. This infographic, from, describes the peak oil problem and how we have arrived at this point. It also describes why the few alternative fossil fuels are equally as unfeasible. The infographic mentions that there are positives to the peak oil problem, in that because we are aware that the oil is running low, people are more interested in trying to find alternatives to oil. Hopefully that sort of research will bear fruit, because it is clear that we can’t continue to rely so heavily on oil as a means to power our world.



A magisterial Connemara odyssey

A magisterial Connemara odyssey

Galway boy: Tim Robinson.Photograph: Brian Farrell



Posted 10 September 2011, by Eamon Grennan, Irsih Times,


LANDSCAPE: Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom, By Tim Robinson, Penguin Ireland, 407pp. €25

IN WALLACE STEVENS’S poem The Snow Man , the last line has the protagonist beholding “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”. This line kept whispering in my head as I read Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom. For, in this, the triumphant conclusion to Tim Robinson’s magisterial Connemara trilogy, the rooted hard facts (of landscape, history, people living and dead) and floating nonfacts (myths, stories, legends, far-fetched anecdotes) of a small geographical space are transformed into the endlessly mobile fixture of a literary masterpiece.

With the abounding knowledge of a shaman and the discursive manners of a simpatico rationalist (part unbridled enthusiasm, part sceptical detachment), this mapmaker extraordinaire explores, excavates, renders visible and audible in three, no, four and more, dimensions the world apart – of townlands, parishes and baronies – that is Irish-speaking south Connemara. It is an area that includes Ros Muc, An Ceathrú Rua, Ros a’ Mhíl, Casla, Carna and the broken, immeasurable jigsaw puzzle of tiny islands that make up Garomna and na h-Oileáin. And more. For wherever Robinson walks, bikes, halts, on his astonishing odyssey, there is always more: more to see, more to hear, more to think about, more to say.

Like its predecessors, this book defies easy definition, simple classification. Part travel account, part sociological analysis, part cultural commentary, part scientific explanation, part lyrical depth-response to landscape, part philosophy, part autobiography and memoir: heterogeneity is its essential nature, variety its wandering bedrock unity, with “no dominating theme but the multiplicity of themes”. On one page, so, you’ll find yourself immersed in the romantic Gaelic nationalism of Patrick Pearse; on another you’ll be treated to a clear explanation of fractal geometry; one moment you’ll be receiving a little history lesson on the origin of the name of a “low glacial hill” near Camas, and on another you’ll be listening to the sweet notes of some sean-nós singer or those of the tragically short-lived Ros Muc poet Caitlín Maude. Or maybe you’ll be hearing the startling story of the great singer Joe Heaney’s contribution to John Cage’s Roaratorio .

Stories flow into topographical descriptions and out again into genially informed social diagnosis, mythic tale, sacred memory. “Here lives a story,” Robinson says of every rock, nook, holy well and sea-washed cranny he pauses at, granting every one its due.

Everywhere, too, there are simple yet eloquent proofs of Robinson’s insistence on the interweaving of place and its successive human inhabitations, always signalling the collisions and collusions of landscape and language. In fact, one of the glories of the book is the way, in his persistent use of Irish, Robinson has reclaimed this landscape for the Irish language. He demonstrates again and again how a placename, even in its anglicised, colonised form (often sensitively managed by the “translators” of the 1839 Ordnance Survey, one of agnostic Robinson’s small bibles), contains a topographical fact, which in turn contains a story, a fragment of history, a glimmer of myth, whatever.

Wherever he lays the affectionate scrutiny of his attention, Robinson makes us feel both the loss and the presence of the Irish language, the “felt sense of life” as it has been and continues to be lived in south Connemara. But he never sentimentalises it, seeing rather the need of both languages, Irish and English, which between them create that interweave and interconnection by which the world itself – as viewed through Robsinson’s holistic lens – exists and sustains itself.

One of the things I’ve always loved about Robinson’s work is how it becomes an enduring homage to the work in prose of Synge, whose palpable spirit, watchful and all ears, sits arms-folded and pipe-smoking in the wings as his beloved Connemara (the “distressed districts” he and Jack Yeats visited and described in 1905) is once again centre stage. For, like Synge, who blends lyric evocations of landscape, portraits of characters, anecdotes and stories, sociological, anthropological and cultural commentary, along with elegiac interludes of great power and universal application, Robinson (who adds etymology as well as contemporary geological, mathematical and cosmological knowledge to the mix, not to mention his own continuous idiosyncratic thread of philosophic pondering) is determined to offer a presence, not a picture, a feel for what has been a hidden life and way of life. Like Synge, he aims at a complicated, beautifully layered fullness of response. Enormous as his undertaking is, I can’t help feeling its small, vigorously fertile seed lies in Synge’s The Aran Islands , a useful edition of which has been edited by Robinson himself.

Robinson’s literary strategy is one of weaving and cross-weaving his ramifying digressions into a coherent journey, its innumerable details made coherent by the clarity, concreteness and often self-mocking humour of his writing. Like a good novelist, he has never met a fact he wouldn’t stop for, an overgrown lane he wouldn’t walk down, a stranger he wouldn’t pause to chat to and leave with the mutual pleasure of a gift exchanged – the gift of information.

Nor has he ever passed a heap of stones he wouldn’t puzzle over and interrogate for its story. A holy well? The remains of a kelp kiln? A broken boulder flung by one mythic bully at another? A bit of a long-gone demesne wall? The remains of a tiny quay for a currach or two?

By bringing such facts and their contained stories to light, he has reanimated a landscape in its past and its often bustling present (for he also considers the remarkable development of contemporary south Connemara). By such tireless means he has illuminated a whole region, a region that for most of us has probably been,apart from its scenery, more or less inert, featureless except for its bare rocks, its sudden flashes of water, its formidable, gorgeous hills, its stony inlets and its “coral” strands. In his work (his own practical poetics of space), this stony, chosen place comes alive in multidimensional ways that dazzle imagination and inform knowledge.

More than 20 years ago Robinson made his indispensable map of the area, and his subsequent prose works have been a sort of layering on top of that enterprise. Repetition, layering, weaving, going over and over again the same material: it all suggests how a poet might work,revisiting themes and subjects and notions and images. Finding at each fresh visitation another layer of meanings, deeper possibilities of understanding, yet wise enough too – as Robinson is wise and sceptical enough – to know there is no end point, no finality. To know, that is, that one lives in any space as a series of discoveries, a spiral of visions and revisions that render reality itself a denser, thicker, more enthrallingly real experience.

Confined to their usual word quota, a reviewer could spend a whole review teasing out and commenting on the style and substance of any couple of pages of Connemara: A Little Gaelic Kingdom. But then there’d be so many other pages to ferret about in and comment on. For this is a book to savour in gulps or in sips, an exhilarating journey with a thought-riddled, miraculously informed and good-humoured guide, whose clear, plainly eloquent voice manages a striking balance between steely self-confidence and diffidence before the “vastitude” of his undertaking, an undertaking that amounts to a mapping of what he himself has called “my time in space”.

It’s a mapping that has been for Robinson himself, I’d say, an undertaking, an enterprise and a journey of love. Willing to enter, as he has, wholeheartedly into Wallace Stevens’s “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”, he has managed to do what John Donne said love does, turning a “little room” into “an everywhere”. It seems fitting, so, that Yorkshire-born Robinson concludes his Odyssean exploration and celebration of this little kingdom, his little everywhere, on the word “home”. In this context, this space, no one has earned greater right and title to this little big word.

Eamon Grennan’s most recent collections of poetry are Out of Breath (Gallery Press) and, in the US, Out of Sight: New and Selected Poems ( Graywolf Press)


University students in Tofino for ‘Clayoqout Biosphere Immersion’

University students in Tofino for ‘Clayoqout Biosphere Immersion’


Posted 01 September 2011, by Yasmin Aboelsaud (Special to the Westerly News), (Postmedia Network Inc.),


Professors and students from the University of the Fraser Valley are spending eight days in Clayoqout Sound as part of an intensive ecosystem course hosted at the Tofino Botanical Gardens field station in Tofino.

The course is called the Clayoqout Biosphere Immersion, and it was first taught four years ago.

“I love this area so much and I really wanted to introduce students to something that I think is amazing and needs to continue to be protected. There’s no better way to do that than education,” said Dr. Allan Arndt, biology professor.

Arndt said that when students think of visiting pristine environments, they think of exotic overseas destinations.

“They have no ideas what amazing ecological setting they have in their own backyard.”

The course exposes the senior university students to a maritime ecosystem, First Nations culture, and teaches them about some of the socioeconomic and environmental issues in the area.

“It really enriches our educational spectrum,” said Arndt, adding that some of the students had never visited the West Coast before the trip.

“I think the nice thing about Tofino is it offers an opportunity to cover not only intertidal, but forest ecosystem, the bogs, and we can teach more than intertidal zone. It really exposes them to the whole spectrum of field work in biology,” said professor Pat Harrison.

As part of each course visit, the students study and identify species at specific locations.

Arndt said over time, the data can show how things are changing. They plan to share the results with the local community.

The course also includes a field-sampling examination of the diverse inhabitants in mud flats.

On one of their course days, Dr. Jonathan Hughes, biogeography professor, led the students on a morning exploration in the Ducking Flats on Meares Island.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring students out to those sites and show them some of that intertidal stratigraphy and show how marshes develop over time, but also how they could be archives of past events like earthquakes, and resulting tsunamis,” said Hughes, who worked in the intertidal wetland and salt mud flats in the Esowista Penninsula for his PhD research.

During their time at Ducking Flats, the students learn about the different species in each level of marsh, low marsh, middle marsh and high marsh.

They dig through the ground, count the species and understand the diversity along the elevation gradient.

Students also study the stratigraphy beneath the marsh’s surface and identify the sand layers resulting from tsunamis.

Arndt said the students are engaging in typical field techniques that are used in research publications, and getting training for further research in these areas.

The course, which is part of the summer semester, is still fairly new and not part of the professors teaching loads.

Each professor volunteers to take the time and bring the students to Clayoqout Sound, but all believe the course is valuable for the educational value it provides.

Harrison calls it a baseline for future courses and studies in the area.

They are grateful for the Tofino Botanical Gardens, which provides them the facilities to use during the course.

“This is mostly about education for the students and to help spread the message that Clayoqout Sound is a pretty special place,” said Ardnt. “In the future hopefully we’ll be able to expand [the course] and use these developing databases to develop ongoing research projects.”

To date, the course ran in 2008 and 2009, then again this year.

Arndt said the plan is to return in two years.

“If we could get the students, I would probably run this until I retire,” he said.

© Copyright (c) Postmedia News