In Skidegate, British Columbia, a small village on Haida Gwaii, the Spirit Lake Trail winds its way from the island’s main highway, near the ferry terminal that connects Canada’s most westerly region to the mainland.
I follow it through the lush understory, weaving between the gnarled tops of wide tree stumps—the handiwork of loggers plying their trade sometime over the last century. From the tops of the trees, jet-black ravens scan for prey and places to land below, squawking loud objections to my presence. It’s almost as if they’re reminding me to be respectful; that this is a holy place.
Whether it’s the ancient cedar and spruce trees towering above mountainous terrain that continues to thrust ever higher above salt-water waves, or the aging totem poles that dot the many beaches, Haida Gwaii has a sacred quality that’s hard to define. But the area’s indigenous residents are hoping that sacred connection will help them gain control over land they’ve occupied for millennia.
Once called the Queen Charlotte Islands, Haida Gwaii is now the focal point of one of the most advanced Aboriginal rights and title cases in Canadian history, where First Nations and the Crown could create a new, sustainable model for managing the land they share. The Haida people, who have been fighting for control over their traditional territory for decades, contend that they legally own these lands and waters—and that could mean major challenges for industrial projects like the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. The Haida are generally open to industry and development if it is sustainable and aligns with their values, but they argue this pipeline and tanker project should not go ahead, and are taking legal action to stop it.
Poised to deliver big results, the nearly four-year-old Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement continues to rely on the co-operation of former foes.
At the Radisson Hotel’s 12 resto bar in downtown Winnipeg, a collection of foresters, environmentalists, scientists and First Nations representatives huddle around a long table and shake off the early October chill. Seated together, they couldn’t be a truer reflection of the Canadian wilderness — equal parts “hewers of wood” and tree hugger, conservation biologist and northern hunter.
February 2014: Canada Foundation for Innovation (online)
A framework developed at the University of Alberta is helping the forest planners behind the world’s largest conservation agreement see the bigger picture.
In Canada’s boreal forest, a vast landscape that stretches from Newfoundland to the Yukon, woodland caribou and other iconic species live in an environment which alternates between frozen terrain and soppy ground that’s been known to sink heavy forestry equipment with ease.
The region’s wildlife thrives in large, undisturbed forest tracts. And although the boreal forest may seem endless, industrial excursions in the North have left scars, dividing contiguous landscapes with roads and pipelines and disrupting the region’s natural ecology.
Queen’s University civil engineers have the pulse on the water pipes, gas lines and sewers that lie beneath our feet.
We all know it’s there, but it’s easy to take for granted. Buried beneath the ground is a network of pipes that not only makes your life bearable but also keeps you alive. Just like other types of infrastructure, these old water pipes, gas lines and storm sewers are starting to break down, and fixing them is an expensive undertaking.
How new technology is boosting the lifespan of large-scale infrastructure.
The ISIS Canada Research Network has a simple but ambitious mission: to ensure that Canada is a world leader in civil engineering.
Based at the University of Manitoba, in Winnipeg, ISIS Canada works to improve bridges and other key large-scale structures through the use of new materials and designs. The network coordinates the efforts of 185 researchers representing 14 Canadian universities and other government and industry partners who are working to improve infrastructure through the use of fibre-reinforced polymers (FRPs) — a very strong composite material usually made up of glass, carbon, basalt or aramid (a strong, heat-resistant synthetic fibre).
More than 200 researchers enter the “CRIB” to develop and test large-scale infrastructure in real-world conditions.
Structural engineers are always coming up with novel ways to build infrastructure. It’s what they do best. But when they collaborate with materials engineers, who work at the microstructure level to create more durable building materials, they can literally work wonders.
Using a by-product of the pulp and paper industry to create a kind of super glue for cement.
The cement industry’s carbon footprint is massive. From the energy used to extract raw materials to the emissions released throughout the cement manufacturing process, it all adds up to an estimated 6 to 10 percent of the world’s annual greenhouse gas emissions.
University of British Columbia research is making bridges stronger — and smarter.
All urban infrastructure is essential for properly functioning communities, but there’s something about a bridge that really puts the issue into perspective — perhaps because all that separates you from a likely fatal splash below are impossibly huge concrete structures built on towering stilts. Keeping these structures in good working order demands ongoing maintenance of old bridges and, maybe more important, effective monitoring systems to catch deterioration before it’s too late.
June 2013: Canada Foundation for Innovation (online)
Innovative research is a crucial part of the plan to make Canada’s roads, bridges and water systems stronger, safer and more durable.
We often take public infrastructure for granted. We assume that the bridges we cross on the way to work will remain stable, that our taps will always run with clean water, that our buildings will stand straight. But nothing lasts forever. Everything breaks down eventually.
We live in unprecedented times. Along with the rest of the world, Canada is experiencing a massive migration to our urban centres — roughly 80 percent of Canadians now live in cities, a trend that shows no sign of slowing down. This increases our need for new infrastructure, and it further strains and stresses our aging infrastructure, much of which was built during the post-Second World War development boom. All those roads and bridges, water pipes and sewer systems were built to last. But in those days, that meant about 50 years.
Canada’s largest cities are paving the way for more eco-conscious commuting choices.
There’s no use denying it: North Americans are addicted to cars. We’ll curse through morning traffic jams and hop right back into rush hour for the slow drive home. We’ll even sit in the drive-through and wait for our morning coffee.
The transportation network that stocks our supermarkets with Costa Rican bananas and Chinese garlic is the same system that instigated a post-Second World War building boom, setting the stage for urban sprawl and suburban big-box stores. It’s what makes us so dependent on cars for almost everything we do. But cheap and abundant fuel will run out eventually. And like crash-test dummies, we’re accelerating as we approach the wall: global demand is surging as world production sags, causing prices at the pump to skyrocket.