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Eco recap 

Chris Benjamin finds the top 11 environmental stories of 2011, and not many of them are good.

click to enlarge MATTHEW MORGAN

11) FeHEDTA legalized On May 24, Halifax council rejected a recommendation by staff to add the iron-based pesticide FeHEDTA to its allowable list to put the HRM ban in synch with the new provincial ban. A week later, council re-voted---based on procedural issues no one understood. The staff recommendation was approved; for the first time in more than a decade the number of legal pesticides increased.

10) Farmers' Market struggling on weekdays In November, CBC reported that business at the new Seaport Farmers' Market was booming on weekends and busting during the week. The seven-day market is an important attempt to make Halifax a locavore town. We've got a ways to go.

9) Five Bridges protected In October, the province designated almost 8,600 hectares of crown land, the Five Bridges Lakes area near Upper Tantallon, as protected under the Wilderness Areas Protection Act. This is significant ongoing work with the ultimate goal of protecting 12 percent of Nova Scotia land by 2015. We're about three-quarters of the way there.

8) HRM expands blue bag recycling In August, HRM jumped on the bandwagon, becoming the last municipality to expand its blue-bag program to include all plastics. And it created a unique-in-Nova Scotia requirement that the company managing the plastics ensure that materials are recycled responsibly, with sound labour practices in place.

7) Solar City approved, then delayed After tripling capacity for its innovative home-solar subsidy program, the city announced in June it would have to delay the project until spring 2012 because the financing wasn't available until August. It's still a good news story---HRM will have as many solar panels as the rest of Canada within a year.

6) Convention Centre folly In August, the feds coughed up $51.4 million for this boondoggle. The province and city have each committed $56 mil for construction. But the developer needs to find a long-term business tenant. If he does the One Percent may or may not be flying in and out of Halifax to visit the newest downtown monstrosity, which could be the foundation for more starry-eyed big-city-style development in a small population and minute economic base.

5) Bayers Road dominoes By The Coast's estimates, the planned Bayers Road widening will cost over a billion dollars, factoring in property acquisition, utility costs, contingent highway extensions and new intersections and widening urban streets to accommodate new traffic. It would also be the death knell for public transit. In October, council passed a motion deferring voting on the new Network Function Plan (which would allow the widening) until after the regional plan review, to be completed by September 2012.

click to enlarge MATTHEW MORGAN

4) Building for war In October, the city got giddy when Irving won a $25-billion contract to build warships, expected to create 8,500 direct and indirect jobs a year for 30 years. That commits us to making some of the most resource-intensive vehicles on the planet and supporting the most environmentally destructive industry: war. It keeps us rooted in the old economy instead of creating new-economy green jobs.

3) Canada out of Kyoto Actually this is the biggest story of 2006, but the media is just noticing. Canada has been nothing but obstructionist in climate talks since Harper completed his ascension from hell. With a majority, these assholes will plunder Earth at will. Want beachfront property? Try Elmsdale.

2) Fracking fiasco The fracking issue heated up locally this time last year, when the energy department opened up bidding on oil and gas exploration. The backlash from communities and environmentalists was severe and the province initiated an official review in April. The vast majority of the 279 responses opposed fracking and nearly half asked, unsolicited, for a ban. But the province keeps thinking on it.

1) Forestry dies Nova Scotian pulp and paper received a death sentence the same day Jack Layton died, when NewPage Port Hawkesbury announced it was shutting down. Within weeks AbitibiBowater threatened to close its mill in Liverpool if taxpayers and employees didn't cough up serious cash. The province offered a $50-million Band-Aid, but what's needed is the re- invention of the industry from global dinosaur into locally owned green leader.

Chris Benjamin is the author of Drive-by Saviours, a novel, and Eco-Innovators: Sustainability in Atlantic Canada.

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