Arctic Climate Crisis Journey 2006

A seventy-five year old grandmother's journey to the arctic to learn what effect of global warming and the loss of the Polar Ice Cap will have for the Inuit People of the North, as well as the people of the entire planet.

Friday, July 21, 2006

Leaving Whitehorse, but....


What a sad day this is. Indeed, I'm leaving Whitehorse, but not for the North. Because of some health problems I had kept to myself pretty much, I'm having to abandon my mission half-way.

On the 8th of July, I caught a mystery virus, probably on the Alaska ferry, and although I'm much better now and the high fever is gone, I'm in a lot of pain during the night and am very weak. So I think I'd better head home and find the answer to what's making me sick. The important thing for everyone to know is that I'm no longer in any danger, and I'm certain that I'll soon be fully recovered. I'm sorry to have kept this a secret from everyone; I was just so sure that I could lick it without anyone having to know.

I'm flying back this morning and will be home in the late afternoon. Jessica from the Arctic Youth Network will be driving my car back in another week or so, and I look forward to introducing her to friends and supporters on Salt Spring Island. And I have every intention of taking a carbon offset flight to Ottawa in September to talk to Minister Rona Ambrose about the impending climate crisis.

With great love and good wishes to all of you,


Wednesday, July 19, 2006

The mighty Yukon River

Yukon means "big river" in Athabaskan, and so it is, starting from northern BC and ending in the Bering Sea 3185 Kilometres later, making it one of the longest rivers in the world.

It moves swiftly past Whitehorse, I'm guessing at 50 K or more.

Whitehorse is named for the "Whitehorse Rapids." I'm not sure where that is. From the map I think it's just north of the city.

This may be the last time for a while that I have a chance to post to my blog. I can't be sure of an internet connection in Dawson City. I plan to call my daughter Melissa from time to time so she can let you know where I am.

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Crow Woman

This is the most powerful mural I've seen here. I don't know what it means, but it seems to me that she is suffering, perhaps for her people, perhaps for us all. She is holding our troubled World in her hands.Posted by Picasa

Old days in Whitehorse

One of the many wonderful murals all over town. Posted by Picasa

Susan Walton at Marsh Lake

A lovely friend, one I will treasure for the rest of my life. She, her husband John Streicker and I shared many books and thoughts and much beautiful music during my stay at their home. Posted by Picasa

Ready to roll......

Me with my friend Bonnie, who's son Charles Widrig of Kal Tire here in Whitehorse sold me my wonderful new Brookstone tires.

No room for the recommended two spares on the hood.

I'm going to love having them this winter on Salt Spring. Posted by Picasa

Last night in Whitehorse

Well, I'm getting ready to head north for Dawson, taking two days to get there, so I won't get too tired. Arthritis has flared up during the last few days, making it a bit difficult to sleep at night. But it comes and goes, and I hope I'm about over this bout. I've liked hanging out in this really nice town, especially getting a chance to have a couple of meals with my remarkable Salt Spring Island friend Bonnie, who has just returned from Tanzania, where she made several wonderful things happen. But duty knocks, or is that "opportunity?" And it will feel good to be on the road again, never knowing what beauties or surprises are in store.

I still feel the same wanderlust I first experienced in 1964, when I drove my children across the US from Florida to Disneyland in a slow-moving second-hand VW camper. What a trip that was. And how much I learned from self-guiding trails and the many park rangers we listened to in the evening, the most important thing being a passionate love of the natural world and a profound sense for its fragility and importance.

Our Prime Minister gave two interesting talks while he was in London, England last Friday. At breakfast he announced that "Canada is committed to the Kyoto Protocol" (Randall Palmer for Reuters News Service), but then at dinner the same evening, he became positively poetic about the tar sands project, saying that "it is an enterprise of epic proportions, akin to the building of the pyramids or China's Great Wall. Only bigger."

Hasn't anyone told him the tar sands enterprise accounts for one third of all the CO2 emissions in Canada? How can we take his statement that he supports Kyoto seriously.

Our "Call Stephen Harper: Save Kyoto" flyer has been revised. It now reads: "Prime Minister Stephen Harper needs to hear from all Canadians to ACTIVELY support Kyoto."

For those who might have misplaced his phone number, it's 613-922-4211. If you know someone who can't afford the long distance charges, tell them to e-mail me at and I'll pay for the call.

Of course, there's always hope that Mr. Harper will get a toll-free number. He needs to know how we Canadians feel in order to do his job.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

After a great dinner of caribou stew...

Michael Westlake, Jessica Thiessen of the Arctic Youth Network and her partner Gary.

Jessica was delighted with the gift from the People of Salt Spring Island, to say the very, very least. Posted by Picasa

Three great people from the Arctic Climate Exchange

From the left, John Streicher, Michael Westlake and Katharine Sandiford. Posted by Picasa

On the way from Skagway to Whitehorse

Travelling with Katharine Sandiford back to Whitehorse Posted by Picasa

Haida carver on Alaska Ferry

This man was from Massick in the Queen Charlottes. He recognized my Raven pendant as being by Miles Edgars. I bought it years ago in Queen Charlotte City, and it goes with me on long journeys.

As the Raven brought light to the World, I will try to bring truth to everyone I meet on this journey.

I liked the work of this man. Maybe I can find him someday, when I don't have budgetary constraints. Posted by Picasa

Prince Rupert

This is sleepy, most of the time, Prince Rupert. Just imagine what it will look like after the cargo container superport is built. Ah, "Progress."

Maybe what the World's economy needs is an exoskeleton, like that of a crab or a turtle. Then it wouldn't be able to grow out of control.

Just a thought. Posted by Picasa

Sunday morning south of Whitehorse

I've been staying for the last two nights at the home of John and Susan Streicker about 70 K south of Whitehorse just off the Alaska Highway on Marsh Lake. Marsh Lake isn't marshy at all, just named after someone named Marsh. You look down from the porch here through towering aspens and white spruce to a large lake, brilliant and clear. More on John and Susan later; they're wonderful.

This has proven to be a great spot in which to rest up after a couple of intense days in Whitehorse. Thursday was an especially long day, for that was the day I met with the Yukon Elders Panel on Climate Change. The meeting in the Council of Yukon First Nations building. Six of the eight elders on the Panel were able to attend. This was the first time they had gathered in a year and a half, and I think they were all glad to get a chance to talk together. I certainly felt enormously priveleged to be sitting at the table with them.

At the table, in order of introduction, were Pearl Keenan, Teslin Tlingit Council; Lena Johnson, Kluane First Nation, from Burwash Landing; Charlie Burns, Kwanlin Dun First Nation, from Whitehorse; Johnson Edwards, Selkirk First Nation, from Pelly Crossing; Stanley James, Carcross/Tagish First Nation, from Carcross; myself and Agnes Mills, Vuntut Gwitchin First Nation. Also attending, among others, were John Streicker, Michael Westlake and Katharine Sandiford of the Northern Climate Exchange, Jessica Thiessen of the Artic Youth Network and Michael Fleischman, who does work on legal issues for the CYFN. The meeting was chaired by Bob Van Dijken, Circumpolar Relations Office, Council of Yukon First Nations. Bob is also the coordination for the Yukon for the International Polar Year Node.

There will be a printed transcript of this meeting available in the next few weeks, so I'll hold off writing in detail now and just give you a few of my impressions.

To begin with, these are highly intelligent people and very concerned about the rapid changes they see taking place in their environment and their culture. They are also well aware of the effect that the climate crisis is having on the whole World. They feel a great frustration in not being allowed to participate more fully in decisions that are being made at all levels that profoundly affect their lives and their resources. They want funding from the government so that they can attend important meetings that shape their world, often at great distances.

They range in age from the mid-80's for Pearl Keenan, to the 60's, for Agnes Mills. Sitting at the table with them , you get a sense of their strength and their great courage. I was especially moved when listening to Agnes, who had been taken from her parents in Old Crow as a very little girl to a "residential school." There is an faint echo of that child's voice when she speaks. She must have been so frightened and homesick, but she never lost her great spirit and the pride in who she was. I had never sat next to anyone who had had such a sad experience, and it was hard not to cry for that little girl, and for all the other children who suffered this cruel, degrading experience.

At the end of the meeting, the panel members all stood and said a prayer for me and for success in my journey. I silently vowed not to let them down.

One final note: Stanley James, who as a lay person, continues to inform himself on many issues and has taught himself some law, had a few words to say just before the meeting broke up. It went something like this: "We're learning more and more about climate change. And as we learn more , our voices will get louder."

I certainly hope so. These are voices that must be heard.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Greetings from Whitehorse

This post is entered by Melissa Satterwhite, Dorothy's daughter.

For those of you tracking Dorothy's trip, I got a call from my mother this evening. She has arrived safely in Whitehorse, territorial capital of the Yukon, and is staying with Katharine and Marcus Sandiford. Marcus is a biologist, and Katherine is the Communications Director for the Northern Climate Exchange ( NCE is an independent source of information about climate change in Northern Canada.

Dorothy said the weather in Whitehorse is nearly perfect and the people very friendly. It's a beautiful area (and believe me, if my mom says it's beautiful, it is!). She is going to seek out a high speed connection in the next couple of days to provide more detail. In the meantime, I took a few notes and will try to convey as accurately as possible.
Dorothy has done four interviews (so far) in Whitehorse. The first, Monday, was with Matthew Little at the Whitehorse Star ( Today's interviews were with Gennesee Keevil at the Yukon News (, then off to do a radio interview with Sam Singh, and finally an interview with Al Foster at CBC Whitehorse. The CBC interview is going to be broacast nationally tomorrow. I don't have a URL for the interview, but you can check on the CBC site:

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Off to Alaska

I'm up too early, again. Can't seem to sleep more than six hours. And I haven't been able to take naps, because of all the interviews and driving. Hopefully, I'll be able to rest up a bit on the ferry.

I'll be sorry to leave Prince Rupert. I've met some great people here, and I would love to come back some day.

I did an interview with Shaun Thomas at The Northern Connector the night I arrived here on Thursday and a live interview on CBC with Russell Bowers a little after 6:30 yesterday morning. Then I met with C. J. Volney of Northwest This Week at the Cowpaccino coffee house in Cow Bay. We were joined at the table by a woman who had heard me on the radio and was very interested in what I was doing. She had just come down from the high Arctic and said that the Inuit there are having a lot of trouble hunting now, because they can't trust the ice.

A little later in the morning I visited Rainforest Books, and the owner Gordon Blumhagen took some of the Sierra Club material I've been carrying in my car, including postcards for Gordon Campbell, the Premier of BC. They show a photo of what Vancouver will look like in the very near future, with much of it flooded.

While I was chatting with him, Jennifer Rice with World Wildlife Fund came in with her two pups, a collie/husky cross and....a white german shepherd. I melted. I went back with her to her office and recorded my own interview with her. She and other members of the community are studying the eel grass in the waters of Prince Rupert so they will have some base data to look at before the superport here is built. Yes, I mean superport.

This sleepy little village is about to be totally transformed, with a proposed pipeline from the East and I imagine, a four-lane highway along the beautiful Skeena River. I hate to think about it. Of course, with the lumber mill here closed, people are looking for jobs, so the superport is something that we'll just have to accept.

Let's hope, this time, that the developers will be careful to preserve the natural beauty of this place. It's pretty special.

I should mention that yesterday afternoon, I met with James Vassallo of the Prince Rupert Daily News. He had done a wonderful story about my trip on June 30th, and he gave me some copies of that newspaper. We met at Tim Horton's, which, as it turns out has a great tuna fish sandwich. Nice to know. Need that protein.

Speaking of food, I wisely, I think. skipped the hotel restaurant and went across the street to a Vietnamese spot, not expecting much. Well, they had Pho on the menu, all sorts of kinds, and I was in heaven. A recovering American (very handsome, I might add) joined me and we struck up a good conversation. He keeps his boat in Sidney in the wintertime, so I hope that he and his partner, who is Chilean, will come to visit me later this year. He almost grabbed my check, but of course I wouldn't let him. His name is Doug. Don't know his last name.

It's time to pack up. I'm looking out the window at the harbour, and it looks like it's blowing a gale. This will make getting all my stuff back in the car really challenging.

Hope to be back on line soon....

Friday, July 07, 2006

In Prince Rupert, at last

I arrived here from Smithers yesterday evening around 5:00, pretty tired after a drive of 363 K (still averaging 5 litres per 100 K.) and some interviews along the way.

The drive, following the Skeena River, was extraordinarily beautiful. I would love to do it again when I have more time.

A very busy day in Prince Rupert. I did several good interviews, which I'll list tomorrow. I just realized that I'm about to go to sleep, and because I'll have to be up at five to pack the car and get in line for the Alaska Ferry to Skagway, I'd better hit the hay. I hope to be able to hook up to the Internet tomorrow and Sunday, but there are no guarantees. So this may be all for a few days.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Wanted to mention that this is a carbon neutral journey. Please check out my carbon offsetting programs Terra Pass for car travel and Pembina for air travel. The way it works is you go to the website of an organization like the ones I'm using, type in the information about your car or the number of miles you are flying, etc., and they'll calculate your CO2 emissions. Then you make an appropriate contribution, and they use your donation to invest in clean, renewable energy sources. It's not quite guilt-free travel, but carbon offsetting certainly helps compensate for your CO2 travel emissions.

The Tinder Box

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It was hard to get pictures of the pine beetle infestation, as it was very hazy. Here's one. I would estimate that about a third of the lodgepole pine trees in some areas are visibly affected. And that doesn't mean that the others aren't. Diseased trees may still be green one year, and won't turn "red" until the following year. Then they turn grey and their needles start to fall to the ground.

I heard a scientist from the Forestry Department of the University of BC on CBC radio talking about the need to clean up yard debris to control forest fires. When asked if the dead trees contributed to the danger, he lapsed into typical scientific jargon, like "it's not clear," and such phrases. It's so frustrating to hear this kind of talk. You don't have to be a genius to know that the huge masses of dead trees form a massive tinderbox, just waiting for lightening to strike the match.

The fire season has begun early this year. I can't imaging what it's going to be like in August. Posted by Picasa

Just a quick note right now. If you go to the Prince George Citizen at, you'll see an excellent article by Bruce Strachen about the pine beetle infestation. This is in the July 6th edition. Don't miss it.

I have to meet a reporter from the Smithers Interior News at 8:00 AM, so I'll write more later.

I must say it's much cooler now. I'm at the base of the Hazelton Mountains and could see patches of snow on the peaks yesterday. It's pretty cloudy today, after a thunderstorm last night.

I did an interview with the Prince George Citizen the other day on my way through. Can't find the article on the web but did find this excellent opinion piece by a former BC cabinet minister and current councillor:

Thursday, July 6, 2006

It’s all about the crude, dude

This week Prince George broke high-temperature records that are just about as old as I am. And that’s old, even for a record. In the past 10 years we’ve lost billions in merchantable timber revenues because we haven’t had a good pine-beetle-killing fall frost since 1985.

Does anyone have any doubts about global warming? Look at those red hills and scalped landscapes. Global warming and its affects are here and here to stay.

Scientists – including my opinion-page colleague Todd Whitcombe – tell us global warming is the result of excessive atmospheric carbon dioxide, a condition caused by burning fuels, which includes everything from fossil fuels to biomass to a dried cow flap.

Clearly, to reduce global warming, we must reduce our dependency on burning carbon-based fuels.

A simple, and I trust correct conclusion, yet one that boggles the mind in term of process. How does a country like Canada bring about a massive change in global energy policy, enough at least to reverse the current trend of increased global warming?

I believe we can reduce atmospheric global warming. It won’t be easy or popular, but Canada can play a major role on the world stage of climate control.

By way of a beginning, we know we have excess global carbon dioxide production because fuels are readily available, and until not too long ago, readily available at a reasonable cost.

This evidence would argue the “reasonable cost” factor is the culprit in global warming. Indeed, for far too long, the industrialized world has over utilized fossil fuels, which we now know, is an under-priced atmospheric contaminant.

The result for us, those red trees and sawed-off stumps that now characterize Prince George. For the world, the frequency of increasingly severe storm damage, rising ocean levels, decreasing polar caps and receding glaciers.

The answer then becomes one of increasing the cost of the contaminant. Cost avoidance is at the heart of every economy so let’s look at a couple of energy pricing factors.

Currently, a barrel of crude on the world market is priced at $73 US. Forecasters are predicting a price of $80 US a barrel if another damaging hurricane season hits the U.S. Gulf Coast. World events such as political instability following the Mexican elections, the North Korean nuclear threat, or more Middle East unrest could cause crude prices to jump again to $100 a barrel.

The United States gets 18 per cent of its crude oil supply from Canada; in fact we are the largest supplier of crude to the American market and the U.S. is responsible for 25 per cent of the world’s consumption of oil.

I would suggest a crude oil price hike of 10 per cent over world price for all export Canadian crude. A massive wake-up call to the U.S., but serious notice to all that the war on global warming must be won.

There is no second prize. Our so-called industrial success is killing the planet.

A Canadian petroleum export tax would drive Alberta Premier Ralph Klein around the bend, and the U.S. would grumble about the unfriendly nature of such an act, but that’s tough. With the U.S. dependence on 18 per cent of Canadian crude, we’ve got them by the nozzles. There is no way they can replace 18 per cent of their crude supply from any other source.

But, a Canadian export petro-tax would force American consumers to reduce their use of fossil fuels and their subsequent contribution to global warming. And I believe Americans are smarter then their government when it comes to the reality of global warming accompanied by economic reality.

For example, in business news, the leading auto sales company in the U.S. for the first half of 2006 was Toyota. According to the story, it’s due to sales of the compact Corolla model and Toyota’s expanding line of gas/electric hybrids.

Toyota has convinced a lot of American car buyers that it’s smart to be green. Especially with gas in the U.S. hovering around $3 a gallon. Imagine the U.S. move to petroleum conservation if gas went to $4 a gallon. By the way, at $1.10 Canadian a litre, we’re paying around $4.18 Cdn a U.S. gallon. Think this one through, and our Canadian petroleum industry, aided and abetted by national export tax policy, is giving away a depleting resource to a wasteful economy that in turn is devastating our Canadian environment.

There’s something decidedly and deadly wrong with this picture.

Bruce Strachan is a former B.C. cabinet minister and Prince George city councillor. His column appears Thursdays. E-mail:
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