The Gateway Project’s proposed freeway system is far from being the only option for development in the Fraser Valley Regional District (FVRD). Extensive research has been done to propose alternative development plans for the region. Alternatives to the South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) fall under two groupings: those that wish to abolish entirely the development of a freeway system throughout the FVRD, and those that offer an alternative freeway route.

The Canadian Pacific Gateway Strategy is a federal initiative outlined in Bill C-68, also known as the Pacific Gateway Act (“Gov.” 2005). The Pacific Gateway Act sets policies to increase the economic prosperity of Canada through international trade with Asia. With rapidly expanding Asian economies, the coast of British Columbia is intended to serve as a gateway to Asia through exporting Canada’s natural resources, in return for cheap consumer products (“Gov.” 2006).

Regardless of the Pacific Gateway Strategy, a significant growth in population for the FVRD is expected to occur over the next 40 years. Vancouver’s current population of 2 million is expected to be 3 million by 2025, and 4 million by 2050 (“Sustainability” 2007). Most alternatives to the Gateway Projects freeway system do not address whether they advocate getting rid of the current proposed freeway system for the FVRD. Most alternative plans focus on how to manage an increasing population; however, it becomes clear that the two are undeniably linked.

Vancouver-based transportation consultant Deming Smith calls Vancouver “one of the healthiest and most liveable cities on the continent” (Doherty 2004). This is because Vancouver is “the biggest city in North America that does not have a freeway running through its heart” (Doherty 2004). According to Northeast Environment Watch, “one reason for Vancouver’s success is B.C.’s province-wide farmland protection policies, which established the ALR in the 1970s” (“Northwest” 2002). Seattle spreads across ¾ more land per resident than Vancouver. It has been estimated that if Vancouver had adopted Seattle-style sprawl development, approximately 4/5ths of the agricultural land that remains today would be developed.

Yet this is now the direction that development is heading in Vancouver with the Pacific Gateway Strategy and provincial Gateway Project. The SFPR and the other proposed freeways will encourage greater urban sprawl by making areas such as Delta, Langley, and Surrey more accessible by car. This will encourage increased development, and possibly even more roads in the future, which would mean removing more land from the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) for these purposes. Building compact communities is essential to preserving agricultural land. Instead of building Vancouver like another Seattle or Los Angeles, Patrick Condon of the University of British Columbia (UBC) has led a team of researchers and architects to come up with a 50 year vision for the region that promotes compact communities as well as a variety of transportation alternatives to the automobile. This plan is called “Sustainability by Design” (SxD), and does not involve building any new roads, yet it would still accommodate the projected population growth for the region. Dense urban nodes, and low-intensity transit such as walking, cycling, and a tram system, are at the heart of this plan.

The SxD plan does not necessarily imply that the Pacific Gateway Act be eradicated. By building compact communities that encourage walking and cycling, as well as investing in public transportation, already existing roads may be freed up to allow a greater transfer of goods (Doherty 2004). Eric Doherty, a master’s graduate from UBC’s School of Community and Regional Planning (SCARP), wrote his thesis on alternative transportation ideas to the proposed freeway system in the FVRD. Eric argues that while freeway expansion has shown to increase car usage, when connected and located properly, transit expansion has shown to increase transit ridership (Doherty 2004). Doherty recommends buying more Skytrain cars instead of twinning the Port Mann, because the current Expo and Millennium Skytrain lines are only being used to half of their capacity: the tracks and station are designed for trains up to 2X as long as currently exist. He also recommends improving bus services South of the Fraser in Surrey, Langley, and Delta, which would improve connections to the Skytrain and reduce pressure on the Port Mann. This would not only eliminate the need for a new bridge, it would also eliminate the need for the SFPR – regardless of whether the Pacific Gateway Act is carried through.      

More dense urban communities and increased transportation has also been proposed by the City of Vancouver in their Regional Growth Strategy (RGS). This strategy recognizes that 5.4% of the FVRD’s 1.4 million hectares is highly productive agricultural land, and it aims to support and enhance the agricultural sector – among other things. It states that “the RGS promotes the development of a transportation system that supports compact urban development, promotes a network of sustainable communities, and minimizes intrusions on rural, recreational and agricultural lands” (RGS 2004). However, the city’s plans have been overridden by the larger provincial and federal strategies.

One alternative to the SFPR that does not challenge the idea of a freeway system for the FVRD is the Hoover/Naas Proposal. This plan would help to protect much of the farmland and the bog that is currently being threatened by the SFPR; however, as it would still encourage urban sprawl, it would increase the threat of future development in these areas. In short, the new route would follow an existing railroad line that goes out to where the rail line crosses with Hwy. 99. From there, semi-truck traffic could either go South on Hwy. 99 or North on Hwy. 91, and trucks would not be allowed access to the Massey Tunnel. There would also be a tunnel under the area from Surrey to Nordel and Hwy. 91, which would be much less destructive than building a highway right along the river bank. This proposed alternative highway would be faster and cheaper to build, and less disruptive to Delta residents. It would also protect Burns bog, as well as preserve farmland. This proposal has been rejected by the province because “The Hoover/Naas proposal to limit truck access to the George Massey Tunnel would significantly impact the transportation services necessary for a strong economy” (Haig 2008).

As worded by the Sustainability by Design proposal, “Our challenge, in this generation, is to transform our liveable region into a sustainable one” (“Sust.” 2007). A sustainable region is one that consists of substantial farmland to feed its citizens. All of the alternatives discussed here attempt, either directly or indirectly, to protect local agricultural land and to preserve the ALR: the Gateway Project does not. The SFPR threatens food security in the FVRD by paving over valuable farmland while more food will be imported from California – even though “a recent report by the National Geographic Society warns that studies predict the Southwestern U.S. is descending towards drought conditions, making it vital that we protect all farmland for a sustainable food supply” (Haig 2008). For this reason, among many others that have not been discussed here, the SFPR is not in the best interest of the FVRD, and alternative development strategies should be adopted.


Government of British Columbia. Pacific Gateway Strategy Action Plan, April 2006.

Web. December 1 2009.

Government of Canada. Bill C-68, October 2005. Web. November 25 2009.

Doherty, Eric (2004). Freeway Insanity. Seven Oaks Magazine. Web. November 23,


Haig, Wilma. “Re: 163107 ‐ South Fraser Perimeter Road.” Message to Minister of

Transportation. 4 March 2008. E-mail. Web. December 3, 2009.

Sustainability by Design 2.0: 2007-2020. UBC Design Centre for Sustainability. Web.

November 25, 2009.

Regional Growth Strategy. City of Vancouver, 2004. Web. November 23, 2009.

Students of this year’s Student Directed Seminar in the Geography of Food Security have come together this year to work on a documentary movie that showcased the recent history of the UBC Farm (aka ‘the Farm’). Our intention was to provide a historical introduction for new and upcoming students who are not aware of the events that have led to the protection of the Farm. The movie focuses on student involvement from a student’s perspective. We intend to show how students have come together to protect the Farm from preset developing plans.

Guided by Andrea Morgan’s narrative, president of the Friends of the Farm AMS Club, the movie starts with a description of activities that take place at the UBC Farm. “When you walk around at the Farm, you are literally looking at hundreds of different projects without knowing”, says Andrea. “UBC students grow over 250 different varieties of fruits and vegetables”, and the research that takes at the Farm encompasses several faculties, including “Forestry, Land and Food Systems, Education, Medicine, Family Studies, The Institute for Aboriginal Health” among many others, and the “number of user groups and the number of projects just increases every year, and [the Farm] is becoming hugely important” regionally”.

Viewers are taken through a journey that starts at the genesis of the Friends of the Farm phenomenon into the infamous Fall of 2008 Campus and Community Planning (CCP) ‘consultations’, and the development and implementation of the Great Farm Trek plan, which raised awareness for the Farm at a whole new level. Andrea explains that “in 2000, students began to take special interest in the Farm because of its label in he Official Community Plan as ‘future housing reserve”.

Seeing the deep flaws inherent in the consultations set up by the UBC administration, UBC students, in collaboration with the Friends of the Farm, created the UBC Farm Design Workshops, which took place in late 2008 at the First Nations House of Learning.This workshop was incredibly successful, and its process, creative, participatory, and engaging, contrasted deeply with the deeply flawed ‘consultations’ set up by CCP – the differences were staggering – students were able to get more participation, feed people, and produce better materials, and get world renowned supporters to speak on their behalf (e.g., Michael Ableman) for under $3,000 whereas the CCP spent over 1 million dollars in a highly contested and problematic ‘consultation’ process that triggered a social movement on behalf of the UBC Farm.

Students organized, created the Great Farm Trek concept, and secured the support of the Alma Mater Society, the largest student union in the country with about 47,000 members. This alliance was strengthened by over 15,000 signatures collected by Farm supporters, and delivered to the UBC President, Prof. Stephen Toope, who pledged to support the Farm. Farm supporters did not hold back and approached the Metro Vancouver Council with  request for support to the 24 hectare UBC Farm. Metro Vancouver Council responded with their unanimous support, and wrote a letter to the UBC administration voicing their unwavering support to the 24 hectare Farm.

Over 2,000 Farm supporters participated at the Great Farm Trek, on April 7th 2009. Shane Point, speaking on behalf of the Musqueam Nation, on whose territory the UBC Farm rests, told the public that “they [the administration] should not take away from future generations”. “None of us have the right to take away anything of beauty from future generations”, he said “you good people are saying it needs to stop, here at UBC, on Musqueam territory, and I agree with you – I am humbled today by your presence and your commitment”. For Morgan, the Trek was really important, because “it demonstrated that despite there being this apathetic culture at UBC” students managed to make the Great Farm Trek a “really huge thing” and “people all over the city were willing to come out to UBC that day in support of the Farm”. For Morgan, “watching thousands of people walk through the newly constructed Wesbrook neighborhood, in the middle of cranes and a huge construction zone, and then just take that right turn down to the UBC Farm, where the atmosphere changes completely… it was magical, and emotional, and really a pivotal moment in this entire thing”.

World renowned Greenpeace founding member and activist Rex Weyler also spoke at the Great Farm Trek, asserting that “we don’t need huge mega projects, new highway, new bridges, new everything, new apartment houses – we need each other, we have to take care of each other, look after each other and build sustainable communities”. For Weyler, “we have to calm down and learn about the earth – to do this, we are going to protect this Farm, like Shane says, not just for ourselves, but for our children and their grandchildren”. Weyler cautioned, referring to the plans preset by Campus and Community Planning ‘consultation’ processes, that “wrecking half the Farm and saving a little corner of it, that is not saving the Farm”. This comment drew a very loud cheer from the crowd. Weyler finished his speech by making a point about food security, asserting that “when things really get bad we are going to be glad that we have that Farm and so are our children and our grandchildren”.

With their efforts, students and Farm supporters from the greater Vancouver area were able to secure, for the Friends of the Farm, their input and participation in the South Campus Academic Plan Committee, which will ultimately determine the future of the Farm. According to Morgan, “if planned and thought out properly, the Farm could become a seriously important and innovative space for research as it relates to sustainability, human, economic, social, and ecological – all based around food production and place”.

A preview of the movie will be presented at the “Ethical Eats – Chow down & Act up!” event, to take place at the Agro Café, on Granville Island, December 18th 2009, 8PM. This event is hosted by our Student Directed Seminar – GEOG 442, Environmental Communications: Improving our Food System by Increasing Awareness.

Link to the EVENT on Facebook:


Removed by Author

Save-on-Foods? Or Save-the-Environment?

We all know that there is no such thing as a free lunch, you don’t get something for nothing and everything in life has a trade off; and the trade off for cheap food is the environment. Today’s consumers demand rock bottom prices, and when it comes to food only a small percent of the population is willing to spend the extra cash to buy local and organically grown produce. It is obvious that when purchasing produce at your ‘not-so’ local Safeway, quality is often sacrificed for quantity.  This paper explores why we buy produce without knowing where our produce came from or how far it traveled to arrive on isle 2. The time has come for people to know that most of the produce that we purchase has been grown on enormous farms that produce only one crop and these plants have been injected with nutrients and sprayed with pesticides in order to make them grow larger at a quicker rate. It is important that our oil/food interdependency is shown to the public, and the environmental impacts of foreign produce are presented to the public.

We, as consumers in the developed world, can eat whatever we want whenever we want. “Everything is in season somewhere, and there is no doubt that it will find its way to [Vancouver]”[1]. The part that makes me sick, mainly because I am a guilty of this act of lunacy, is that most people in the supermarkets feel good about being smart shoppers, “Today consumers demand it all at any time, anywhere and for cheap”[2]. I constantly look for the bargains and I am aware of the impacts hidden behind produce that we import from foreign lands. Yes, “[c]onscious consumers can be seen reading labels so they can avoid things like modified oils and refined sugars. Those concerned with the environment seek local products that have not been shipped around the country”[3]. But not enough of us, in fact only a small handful, really practice eating local.

But who has time to consider what impact our choices of produce are having on our health and our environment? We have many hours of the day to facebook, twitter and send text messages but we don’t have time to acknowledge where our food comes from.  We wonder why our strawberries have no flavor in December and we complain that the local tomato is ugly and deformed, not to mention expensive. Do we as a culture demand ‘good-looking’ produce at the cost of our own health and the health of the environment? Why would we concern ourselves with where our food comes from we can carry on with our daily lives and live off cheap imports?

It is very important to know how much the farmer is paid and if it is a fair price in relation to whether the vegetable was grown using sustainable, environmentally friendly farming practices. In addition it is necessary to understand how much fuel was used to ship your avocado to Safeway and to know that the avocado you are holding has come from a country where labor costs are much lower than in North America.

David Pimentel who is an expert on food at Cornell University has estimated that, “if all of the world ate the way the United States eats, humanity would exhaust all known global fossil-fuel reserves in just over seven years”[4]. We as consumers must understand the environmental impacts when purchasing produce, “[r]ight now it takes between five and 10 calories of oil energy to generate one calorie of food. By comparison, the opposite was true in the 1940s when the average U.S. farm produced over two calories of food for every calorie of oil burned”[5]. Yes it is a good thing to be well traveled, unless you are a fruit.

There seems to be more bad news than good. What will really put you in even more of a morose state is that, “four to five mega companies still control 60-80 per cent of global food supply and everything along the system, from production and transportation to warehousing and packaging”[6], and the deforestation, labor exploitation and fuel burned for transportation seem to be of small concern for these companies. But there is a light at the end of the tunnel and communities around the developed world are staring to grow more local. The city of London is promising to construct over 2,000 mini-farms all over the city[7]. Not to mention that the rooftop salad garden is gaining popularity with penthouse owners across the developed world. Here in Vancouver across from the library the Vancouver convention Center is getting a new living roof, and “just across the street there is a chef’s garden on the roof of the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel […] hotel accountants say the roof garden produces fruits, vegetables, herbs, and honey worth $16,000 annually” [8]. In Japan some of the rice used to brew Japan’s popular Hakutsuru sake grows atop the company’s Tokyo office”[9].  Even Michelle Obama has begun digging an organic garden on the White House lawn. The First Lady has good intentions and she said her hope is, “that through children, they will begin to educate their families and that will, in turn, begin to educate our communities about healthful, locally grown fruit and vegetables…”[10]. Eating local produce will not only taste better but it will be healthy for you and Mother Nature.

In order to maintain positive relations with local farmers it is essential that we begin to buy local produce as this paper has demonstrated.  With the introduction of buying local and the recent education about foreign produce, it is important that we realize how commodities can connect space, and as we begin to understand that we are all a part of the chain of life in this geographic space we call home. The question is: “can we make Vancouver and the world a better place through thinking and acting with more sustainable stomachs?”[11], and the answer is yes. It is time for someone to educate the customers of supermarkets around the developed world where their produce comes from, the pesticides, the labor, the fuel and the distance used in producing these foods. In order to make a difference, public statements need to be made in supermarkets of the developed world. Along with promoting the local farmers market we need to expose the environmental impacts associated with the exotic fruits in Safeway.  The understanding of the impact that buying these foods has on the environment is important on a local and global level.

Works Cited

Bartosh, Glenda. “What Cost this Food? From Mom’s Kitchen Table to UN Tables, the Outlook isn’t pertty.” Pique News Magazine 26 Nov. 2009: 82-82. Print.

Burros, Marian. “Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House.” The New York Times [New York] 20 Mar. 2009: A1. Print.

Damaskie, Kevin. “Acting With More Sustainable Stomachs.” Pique News Magazine 26 Nov. 2009: 51-51. Print.

Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “Up on the Roof.” National Geographic May 2009: 84-103. Print.

Lapshinoff, Alison. “Harvest Time.” Pique News Magazine 19 Nov. 2009: 42-45. Print.

Manning, Richard. “The oil we eat: Following the food chain back to Iraq.” Harper’s

Magazine Feb. 2004: 37-45. Print.

[1] Lapshinoff, Alison. “Harvest Time.” Pique News Magazine 19 Nov. 2009: 44. Print.

[2] Ibid

[3] Lapshinoff, Alison. “Harvest Time.” Pique News Magazine 19 Nov. 2009: 42-45. Print. 43.

[4] Manning, Richard. “The oil we eat: Following the food chain back to Iraq.” Harper’s

Magazine Feb. 2004: 37-45. Print.

[5] Bartosh, Glenda. “What Cost this Food? From Mom’s Kitchen Table to UN Tables, the Outlook isn’t pertty.” Pique News Magazine 26 Nov. 2009: 82-82. Print.

[6] Ibid, 82

[7] Ibid, 82

[8] Klinkenborg, Verlyn. “Up on the Roof.” National Geographic May 2009: 89. Print.

[9] Ibid, 98

[10] Burros, Marian. “Obamas to Plant Vegetable Garden at White House.” The New York Times [New York] 20 Mar. 2009: A1. Print.

[11] Damaskie, Kevin. “Acting With More Sustainable Stomachs.” Pique News Magazine 26 Nov. 2009: 51-51. Print.

UBC Farm: An Exploration of Factors Affecting the Global and Local Players in Nutritional Education

By: Ruth Anne Crowle

As I sit in my Land and Food Systems lecture, a weekly question is always presented to the class, “what is going on in the food news?”  One student reports an article in the New York Times announcing the prohibition of bake sales in schools due to the obesity crisis at hand; this brought up issues of economic loss for the school and its needs.  Another student raises their hand to announce rising grain prices, one of the principle food sources for the animals commercially produced for our consumption (Feedlot Advisory Committee, 1998).  The class discussed the implications of this on the profit margin, price changes, and the overall demand for this product.  For the first fifteen minutes of class we mull over the utter complexity of our food system and the affects the current system has had on both us and the land.  In terms of nutrition and health, there are many factors that come into play; Policy which it is governed by, Land administered for food production, Communities encompassing this land, Collaborative Learning within these communities, and the end result of Food or nutrients which enters the body to contribute to our personal and global health.  I was fortunate enough to be in contact with a Food and Nutritional Science fourth year undergraduate, Stella Lukman, and her experience with the UBC farm regarding many of these topics; her undertaking will be utilized to draw on their significances.

According to Food Wars, “there is no one food policy or one food policy maker: there are policies and policy makers; all of which contribute to the overall process (Lang & Heasman, 2004).”  Given the diversity of this system it seems inevitable that conflict should arise, as Lang and Heasman put it, “Food Policy is contested terrain: a battle of interests, knowledge, and beliefs” (Lang & Heasman, 2004).  The UBC farm has had their fair share of battles within the context of land zoning.  When discussing the legal battles with Andrew Rushmere, (academic coordinator of the farm and participant supervisor of Stella’s research project), he explains the dilemma of the Official Community Plan’s designation for the farm land as future housing reserve (Rushmere, 2009); he also notes the tendencies for UBC to plan each development separately with little or no integration into existing developments.  The appeal was taken to Metro Vancouver board of directors and the farm issue won their unanimous support (Rushmere, 2009).  The UBC farm debacle is a prime example of how policy can affect land use and in Stella’s Case, the irreplaceable tool which is now being used for her research.

The UBC farmland brings people together from all over in community to share in many common intrests.  Native to Indonesia, Stella expressed her desire to come to Canada and pursue a degree in Food and Nutritional Sciences (Lukman, 2009).  Given that her former resident land is one that depends on agriculture to make a living, she was motivated to learn more about where the food comes from, how it is processed, and what nutritional value it holds (Lukman, 2009).  Through Stella’s first experience at the farm (volunteering at the Saturday morning market), she learned the importance of the farm being sustainable while providing locally grown produce to the community of UBC.  The great farm trek (April 7, 2009) was a phenomenal demonstration of devotion to the farm by its community.  It was a way to “send a very clear message to UBC that thousands of people from the academic and wider community support the Farm and wish to see it preserved and supported for the future of students and faculty at UBC, residents of Vancouver and B.C., and citizens of the world concerned about sustainability“ (Alma Mater Society of UBC Vancouver, 2009).   The farm has extended the intensity of its passionate community into kids’ learning programs, “each year hundreds of urban children connect with UBC farm through the Landed Learning program, Farm Discovery tours, and Wonders Day Camp” (UBC Farm Blog, 2009).  Not only is it bringing together the Vancouver community but it has been a direct learning tool for students in research and hands on learning.

In 2007, “over 2000 students from 41 UBC courses utilized the farm” (UBC Farm Blog, 2009).  An instructor in the faculty of Forestry and Land and Food Systems, Maja Krzic, has been responsible for the introduction to soil science class and has struggled to keep the outdoor classroom available as there are no other nearby resources that are comparable; she notes that over the seven years there have been more and more spaces disappearing from their lab spaces at the UBC farm (UBC Farm Blog, 2009).  Stella has expressed her appreciation towards the farm, giving her a sense of knowledge and understanding of how and where food is grown by means of hands on research; given that she (and her team) was required to develop their own method for each experiment in sensory evaluation.  Stella also received personal satisfaction and achievement in developing a research project to determine which variety of kale is the most favorable to be grown in UBC Farm in the future, based from the customer preference and nutritional content (Lukman, 2009).

Though land use policy still conflicts with the farm, it is still able to be used in collaboration with the city and school population as tool of knowledge, creating a diverse community of learners.  Nutrition is not a one compartment model; rather it requires contributions from many different factors facilitating a food system which allows us to nourish our bodies and minds.  Stella’s vision that a healthy body will enhance one’s state of mind has brought insight to her last stages of research in the nutrient content of kale; she supplements the global scheme of nutrition and the food system of which we depend so greatly upon.  Without the UBC farm much of this fundamental learning may not have taken place as it provides a common space for people of all ages, faculties, and walks of life to participate in the fortification of health, both mentally and physically. The policy, through a series of relationships (aforementioned), ultimately affects the way our food is grown and the quality of nutrients which enter our bodies.  It is important to realize that we as a society can be proactive in policy making to make the most efficient use of the resources we have at our disposal to ensure optimal results. It may be possible that a relationship exists between the quality of nutrients, our mental health, and the motives behind food policy; as I sit in my class and listen to the recent food news: McDonald’s has been kicked out of Iceland due to lack of business, I think that maybe this notion is starting to hold some validity.

Works Cited

Alma Mater Society of UBC Vancouver. (2009). The Great Farm Trek ‘09: HOW YOU CAN HELP SAVE UBC Farm. Retrieved December 4, 2009, from AMS Student Government: http://www2.ams.ubc.ca/index.php/student_government/sub%20page/category/great_farm_trek_09/

Feedlot Advisory Committee. (1998). COMMERCIAL FEED LOT APPRAISAL GUIDE. Kansas: Kansas Department of Revenue, Division of Property Valuation .

Lang, T., & Heasman, M. (2004). The Global Battle for Mouths, Minds and Markets. London: Earthscan.

Lukman, S. (2009, December 1). (R. A. Crowle, Interviewer)

Rushmere, A. (2009, November 11). (R. A. Crowle, Interviewer)

UBC Farm Blog. (2009). Jen Rashleigh’s UBC Farm Video part 1. Retrieved December 4, 2009, from UBC Farm Blog: http://friendsoftheubcfarm.wordpress.com/media/jen-rashleighs-ubc-farm-video/#comments


As Sprouts closes its doors for the semester, the organization will include a few additional achievements to its repertoire.  In November alone, Sprouts recorded its highest level of attendance at its second last Community Eats event, feeding over 300 people.  What’s more, its first general meeting of the year hosted unprecedented numbers of members, and according to its President, for the first time Sprouts has had no shortage of volunteers.  What has contributed to this newfound interest in Sprouts?  Is this initiative solely a UBC phenomenon?  The paper will examine the role of student led initiatives as contributing to the movement of local food and addressing food security through the case study of the Sprouts café. 

Sprouts: Setting the precedent

A quick survey at Community Eats found that Sprouts has developed a following of students for its nutrient rich food, low costs, as well as its support for the UBC Farm and its awareness campaigns surrounding food security and the local food movement.  After having emerged from the depths of a $40,000 debt, with a weak volunteer base, Sprouts has strengthened its ties with the University community.  This year’s executive committee, lead by its President Caitlin Dorward, has focused on increased “academic involvement from all faculties” enhancing its exposure to the student base (Ubyssey, 2009). 

The Farm Connection

Although Sprouts only occasionally receives its produce from the Farm, both organizations are student led initiatives addressing local food security, and their relationship is often overemphasized by the UBC community.  The Farm is supported primarily by students in the Land and Food Systems faculty, but is increasingly expanding its following into the Botany and Forestry, First  Nations Science, as well as Global Resource Systems,  to name a few, in addition to support from administration and faculty(Land and Food Systems, 2009).  The Farm has hosted over 38 courses for research, engaging with over 1,100 students and is evidence of a successful student led organization advocating for local food through raising its own free range chickens, and organically growing produce year round according to COABC guidelines, while making their food accessible to both the campus and surrounding community (ibid).  

 Institutional student involvement

It is evident that class involvement engages a wide range of students to programs such as Sprouts and the Farm.  As a result, the nature of courses on campus play a large role in ensuring these organizations remain supported through both gains in patronage and their volunteer contingent.  Such courses are not necessarily dependent upon faculty initiative, but rather can be formed by students themselves, through the Student Directed Seminar program at UBC.  Recent courses including “The Food Network: A multidisciplinary approach to the modern meal” and “Sustainability in Vancouver” and “Think Globally, act locally” address these very issues, as does our own “Communications in Food System Analysis,” facilitating a two-fold benefit where students are academically challenged through their own seminars, while creatively engaging with issues of sustainability at the campus level (LEAP, 2009).

Currently, Sprouts is engaging with a graduate student in the musical department with an outreach program in the Downtown Eastside.  Similarly, they are planning to run events in the following semester with the Student Environmental Center, and will be showcased at the Geography 442 Ethical Eats event in identifying campus actors that are vocal in food system communication. 

 A Growing Movement

Support for such initiatives is no longer unique to UBC.  Although Sprouts was awarded the 2007 oikos Award for Student Entrepreneurship in Sustainability as Canada’s largest student run co-op, Dorward explains that the demand for their expertise has grown nationwide (oikos International, 2007,).  The executive team has consulted students at other universities including the University of Toronto to form their own initiative, the Hot Yam, which caters to a community “with a concern for environment and food politics” (Hot Yam, 2009). However, whereas Hot Yam does not yet receive funding or  from the University, both Dorward and Vice President Heather Russell attribute part of Sprouts’ successful re-launch to AMS support through waiving their rental fee and subsidizing their utilizes (Ubyssey, 2009).  Furthermore, support from Lorianne McGowan , general manager of Wescadia Catering, has allowed the club to make inroads with institutional supports at UBC. 

Similarly, The People’s Potato is a vegan soup kitchen addressing “student poverty…social justice and environmental sustainability” at McGill University (People’s Potato, 2009).   The kitchen has extended their services to feed people outside of the University, through their street initiative, serving over 500 clients on a daily basis (ibid).  The People’s Potato also runs its own community garden; however neither the Potato nor the Yam has access to the level of resources that the UBC farm provides in both physical resources as well as knowledge.

 Students and food security in literature

A study conducted in Israel at the Ben-Gurian University by Roni Kaufman examined the university’s role in acting as a “catalyst” to instigate change in Israel’s food security issues (166).    Students created soup kitchens, established community partnerships, and developed a social justice forum on campus (168).  The study suggests that successful initiatives are subject to university and university sponsor validation as well as incorporating activities into both the classroom and extracurricular organizations.    However, Kaufman cautions the role of universities in not for profit dominated realms, as it they can potentially pose as a threat to existing organizations, although Kaufman also recognized the potential for universities to instigate policy changes in the realm of food security (176).  

 Indicators of success

It is clear that Sprouts has evolved into a popular yet serious actor in the university’s dialogue in food security.  Furthermore, the club has facilitated student involvement in this issue through both academic and extracurricular avenues.  What remains to be seen however, is whether Sprouts will gain further support from UBC administration, as according to Dorward, their efforts at addressing local food issues is often the first to be removed from the institution’s agenda.  Dorward hopes to attain funding through a portion of student fees, in mirroring the financial model of McGill’s alternate student run café, the Midnight Kitchen.  In doing so, Dorward views such a move as increasing the club’s legitimacy and ensuring its legacy on campus.   Student engagement in issues of food security have demonstrated the power, potential, and production of change in and around campus, however as both literature and experience illustrate, such engagement remains subject to the political motivation of the powers that be.


Hot Yam!  2009. “Hold on to your yams!”  Hot yam!  Retrieved December 1st, 2009 from: http://hotyam.blogspot.com/2009_01_01_archive.html

 Kaufman, Roni.  2005.  A university-community partnership to change public policy: Pre-condition and processes.  University –community partnerships: universities in civic engagement.  New York: Routledge.

 Land and food systems, UBC.  2009.  “Education.”  UBC farm at the University of British Columbia. Retrieved November 29th,2009 from: http://www.landfood.ubc.ca/ubcfarm/index.php

 LEAP.  2009.  “Current courses.”Student directed seminars.  Retrieved November 30th, 2009 from http://leap.ubc.ca/get-ahead/student-directed-seminars/current-courses/

Oikos International.  2009.   “University of British Columbia student wins oikos award 2007.”  Oikos student entrepreneurship award. Retrieved December 1st, 2009 from http://www.oikos-international.org/index.php?id=2069

 People’s Potato. 2009.  “Back with a bang!”  People’s potato.  Retrieved December 1st, 2009 from : http://peoplespotato.blogspot.com/

 Sprouts.  2009.  “About us.”  Sprouts, Healthy sustainable, food at UBC.  Retreived December 1st, 2009 from http://ubcsprouts.ca/about.html

 The Midnight Kitchen Collective.2006.  “A brief history.”  The Midnight Kitchen.  Retrieved November 30th, 2009 from: http://themidnightkitchen.blogspot.com/2006/02/brief-history.html

Thorn, T. 2009.  “Student run vegan eatery popular lunch option.”  News at the University of Toronto. Retrieved November 30th, 2009 from: http://www.news.utoronto.ca/campus-news/studentrun-veganeatery-popularlunch-option.html

Zhou, L.  2009.  “Sprouts re-opens.”   The Ubyssey.  Retrieved November 20th, 2009 from http://ubyssey.ca/culture/?p=10239


fig. 1- Proposed Gateway Project retrieved from http://wildernesscommittee.org/gateway_freeways

 By Georgia Campbell

British Columbia’s already vulnerable salmon populations are put increasingly at risk through the provinces “Gateway Program”.  The Gateway Program is a plan to build and expand highways, bridges, railroads, rail yards, and port facilities, encouraging trade with Asia-Pacific (Cuff 2007).  Unfortunately, this development will have an extreme impact on our air quality, our marine and river habitat, and our local wildlife (Ibid).  Specifically, the Gateway Program will have an adverse affect on our pacific salmon populations through the construction of a major highway known as the South Fraser Perimeter Road (Ibid).

The South Fraser Perimeter Road (SFPR) is a proposed highway that will follow the south side of the Fraser River (see fig. 1). The Fraser River watershed drains almost one-third of the province, extends from the Rocky Mountains to the mouth in Vancouver, and spans a distance of 1,400 km (Rand et al 2006).  The Fraser River is the largest salmon-producing river system in Canada (Farrell et al 2008) and a large contributor to our provincial economy (Cox & Hinch 1997).   By building a highway along the Fraser River, salmon populations will be affected in three main ways: through highway construction, highway presence, and increased urbanization (Wheeler et al 2005). This will, in turn, negatively affect our local economy and provincial food security.

Presently, our salmon populations are barely sustainable and are increasingly vulnerable to environmental changes. The collapse of our BC sockeye salmon population this year has created an extreme problem for First Nations food security and for the provincial economy.  BC’s Fraser River this August expected 10.6-13 million sockeye salmon returning to natal spawning grounds and only 1.7 returned (Hume 2009).  The collapse caused sockeye fisheries on the Fraser River to close in July, causing a serious problem for First Nation’s communities who relay on salmon for sustenance and a principal source of protein (Karp 2009).  Increased construction, pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions produced by the new South Perimeter Road highway will only increase the fragility of the salmon ecosystems, and decrease the resiliency and sustainability of our local salmon.

Our local salmon populations are born in the freshwater headwaters of the Fraser River.  Once mature enough, the salmon migrate to the ocean northward to the Gulf of Alaska (Cox & Hinch 1997).  Once reproductively mature (about 4 years of age), the salmon use precise homing skills to return to the Fraser River and their natal streams to spawn and, after which, die (Ibid; Rand et al 2006).  Because sockeye salmon only spawn once in their lifetime, it is crucial that they succeed in their homeward migration in order to propagate.  The SFPR will interfere with the migration of both sea-bound juvenile salmon and stream-bound spawning salmon, and decrease salmons’ ability to survive and propagate.

During the SFPR highway construction, an increased amount of sediment will likely enter the Fraser River (Wheeler et al 2005) harming migratory salmon (Lake & Hinch 1999).  Research shows that “fine sediment pollution from highway construction can immediately alter macroinvertebrate and fish communities” (Wheeler et al 2005, 145), and can reduce the amount of fish by 50% (Ibid).  Sediment has such a profound effect on fish because it can clog gills causing severe damage, thus reducing feeding abilities and oxygen consumption (Ibid), and can cause anoxia, stress, and eventually death (Lake & Hinch 1999).

Along with sediments, highway construction will also introduce harmful pollutants into the waterway (Wheeler et al 2005).  During construction the use of heavy machinery can cause chemical pollution, and materials used for highway construction are “highly toxic to aquatic biota” (Wheeler et al 2005, 144).  Because of proximity, this pollution will surely enter the Fraser River and pollute salmon habitat (Wilderness Committee n.d.).

Extended use of the highway—referred to as highway presence—will continue to pollute the river and harm salmon populations.  Highway and road surfaces are impervious in nature, and therefore accumulate chemical pollutants and heavy metals from automotive traffic (Wheeler et al 2005).  These pollutants, including zinc, iron, lead, cadmium, nickel, copper, chromium, phosphorus, and petroleum (Ibid) are then transported into the river by stormwater (Sandahl et al 2007).  Studies show that chemical concentrations are directly related to traffic volumes (Wheeler et al 2005).  Thus, projected traffic increases on the SFPR will only increase pollution levels, and affect salmon in numerous ways.

Toxic chemicals can increase the viability and infectivity of parasites (Couillard et al 2008).  This has extreme implications on salmon because they are already prone to numerous fatal parasites that can cause kidney failure, and severe gill damage (Crossin et al 2008).  Further, studies suggest that exposure to chemicals, such as PCBs, can trigger migration earlier than historically observed (Couillard et al 2008).  Early migration has had detrimental effects on salmon populations as they are making their migration during warmer than average periods, which is potentially lethal as salmon are a cold-water species, and sensitive to even slight changes in temperature (Ibid).

Lastly, copper in urban runoff damages the olfactory sensory epithelium in pacific salmon (Sandahl et al 2007).  A major source of copper in runoff is emissions from automotive exhaust and brake pad wear (Couillard et al 2008).  Studies show that “copper is a neurobehavioral toxicant in fish” (Sandahl et al 2007, 2998) damaging their olfactory sensors that they rely on to detect food, navigate to natal spawning grounds, and avoid predators (Ibid).  Mortality rates will therefore increase as salmon will be unable to detect chemical alarm cues and predators, find food, or find natal spawning grounds (Ibid).  Exposure to even modest amounts of copper can cause permanent damage (Ibid).

Studies show that highway growth encourages “sprawling development” and increases urbanization (Cuff 2007).  In turn, this will increase the amount of harmful pollutants being emitted into our atmosphere and our aquatic environments.  Because copper has a wide variety of industrial, commercial and residential uses, copper in urban runoff will continue to increase with urban expansion (Sandahl et al 2007).  As our salmon become increasingly exposed to heavy metals, toxic chemicals, and PCB’s our local food security will continue to be affected.  By consuming contaminated fish people put their own health at risk, impinging on peoples right to food security, food sovereignty, and access to local healthy food—that is if pacific salmon will even be available to consumer.

Because of the Gateway Project, GHG emissions are predicted to increase by 31% (Cuff 2007).  Global warming resulting from an increase in GHG emissions will further increase water temperatures and thus increase salmon mortality in BC.  Increased water temperatures cause extreme exhaustion, energy depletion (Crossin et al 2008), smaller stock size (Cox et al 2008), and susceptibility to disease in Pacific salmon (Crossin et al 2008).  This will therefore decrease reproductive capabilities and increase mortality rates.

Through highway construction, presence, and inevitable urbanization, Gateway’s SFPR will damage the Fraser River and cause mortality among pacific salmon.  Our provincial salmon are currently declining at alarming rates, proving they are living in an already fragile ecosystem.  The SFPR will only contribute to this fragility by polluting the Fraser River, increasing sedimentation, and increasing water temperatures through global warming.  In the face of the Gateway Program, our local salmon have little to no chance of survival—negatively affecting our regions biodiversity, economy and food security.


Couillard, Catherine M., Robie W. Macdonald, Simon C. Courtenay, Vince P. Palace. 2008. Chemical—environment interactions affecting the risk of impacts on aquatic organisms: A review with a Canadian perspective—interactions affecting exposure. Environmental Review, 16: 1-17.

Cox, Sean P., Scott G. Hinch. 1997. “Changes in size at maturity of Fraser River sockeye salmon (Onchorhynchus nerka) (1952-1993) and associations with temperature.” Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54: 1159-1165.

Crossin, G.T., S.G. Hinch, S.J. Cooke, D.W. Welch, D.A. Patterson, S.R.M. Jones, A.G. Lotto, R.A. leggatt, M.T. Mathes, J.M. Shrimpton, G. Van Der Kraak, and A.P. Farrell. 2008. “Exposure to high temperature influences the behaviour, physiology, and survival of sockeye salmon during spawning migration.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 86:127-140.

Cuff, Nick. 2007. Gateway to global warming. Wilderness Committee Educational Report, 26.2

Farrell, A.P., S.G. Hinch, S.J. Cooke, D.A. Patterson, G.T. Crossin, M. lapointe, M.T. Mathes. 2008. “Pacific Salmon in hot Water: Applying Aerobic Scope Models and Biotelemetry to Predict the Success of Spawning Migrations. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 81(6): 697-708

Hume, Mark. 2009. Fraser River’s salmon stocks ‘beyond a crisis.’ Globe and Mail, online, 13 August 2009.


Karp, David. 2009. Sockeye salmon numbers crash as bust replaces anticipated bounty on B.C. coast. Vancouver Sun, online, 27 July 2009. <http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Sockeye+salmon+numbers+crash+bust+replaces+anticipated+bounty+coast/1832698/story.html&gt;

Lake, Randal G., Scott G. Hinch. 1999. Acute effects of suspended sediment angularity on juvenile coho salmon (Oncorhynchus kisutch). Canadian Journal of FIsheries and Aquatic Science, 5:862-867.

Rand, P.S., S.G. Hinch, J. Morrison, M.G.G. Foreman, M.J. MacNutt, J.S. Macdonald, M.C. Healey, A.P. Farrell, D.A. Higgs. 2006.  “Effects of River Discharge, Temperature, and Future Climates on Energetics and Mortality of Adult Migrating Fraser River Sockeye Salmon.”  Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 135: 655-667.

Sandahl, Jason F., David H. Baldwin, Jeffrey J. Jenkins, Nathaniel L. Scholz. 2007. A Sensory System at the Interface between urban Stormwater Runoff and Salmon Survival.  Environmental Science and Technology, 41: 2998-3004.

Wheeler, Andrew P., Paul L. Angermeier, Amanda E. Rosenberger. 2005. Impacts of New Highways and Subsequent Landscape Urbanization on Stream habitat and Biota. Reviews in Fisheries Science, 13:141-164.

Wilderness Committee of Western Canada.  n.d.  Stop Gateway.  Retrieved online 15 November 2009 at <http://wildernesscommittee.org/gateway&gt;

               Although the Agricultural Land Reserve (ALR) was created to protect those lands within BC that have the potential for agricultural production its success in doing so has had its share of difficulties. One recent example is the Gateway Program being implemented by the Provincial government of British Columbia, which in its ability to effectively remove (arguably) the finest of arable lands from the ALR, has increased the social and environmental awareness of the surrounding communities.  In arguing for the economic needs of a better regional transportation network the Gateway Program had muddled itself within the academic dialectic discourses of Private/Public and Local/Global which continue to threaten more immediate issues such as climate change and food sovereignty.

                The roots of the Gateway Program began to grow in 2006 when the federal government launched the Asia-Pacific Gateway and Corridor initiative to improve western Canada’s economic options by enhancing the transportation infrastructure deemed necessary for international trade (Lindsey 2007). As a result of this initiative several major transportations are underway within the Region of Metro Vancouver, including the South Fraser Perimeter Road Project which is planning to construct a four lane, 40 km highway through some of the provinces richest farmlands. In doing so the federal and provincial governments hope that increasing trade volume within BC will capitalize on the severe congestion being experienced in American ports (Lindsey 2007: 1-2). However, in procuring the necessary lands from the protective arms of the ALR through arguments for private property rights and global trade the Gateway Program is finding itself under increased scrutiny.

                The most poignant example of Gateways strategies for land removal involved the signing of the Tswassen First Nation Treaty, the first urban treaty in the history of British Columbia and the first modern treaty negotiated under the British Columbia Treaty Commission process. As well as recognition of Tsawassen First Nation’s constitutional authority to make laws in many areas of jurisdiction that are traditionally federal, provincial and municipal in nature, the provincial government also included a capital transfer of $33.6 million, self-government funding of $2.9 million annually as well as  approximately 724 hectares of land, of which 434 hectares are provincial Crown land and 290 hectares are former Indian reserve (Aboriginal Relations and Reconciliation 2009). With Tsawassen First Nation’s recognition as an equal partner in government-to-government relationships with Canada and British Columbia, the treaty also included promise of future economic vitality through the expansion of the Delta Port, now situated on First Nations land (Milke 2008). However despite all parties claim to the finality of the treaty, 38 future consultations and explicit requirements are built into the Tswassen treaty, creating uneasiness about the sincerity and security of such agreements (Milke 2008).

                Although the removal of Tswassen lands from the ALR means the Delta Port Expansion is no longer considered part of the Gateway Program, for many opponents the seemingly suspicious strategy exercised by the provincial government is representative of the strong arm tactics utilized by the provincial government (Citizens 2009).  While some opponents have accused the provincial government in manipulating private property rights within the Tswassen Treaty process (Milke 2008, Woolford 2004), citizens living of the adjoining South Fraser Perimeter Road Development have incorporated a more local/global perspective in their efforts to protect ALR lands within their community.

                By acknowledging the growing concerns over the immediacy of issues such as environmental degradation and local food security, the Gateway Programs focus on international trade has become a central argument against highway expansion. For many the creation of bigger highways and increased international trade over the preservation of green spaces, such as farmland, is short-sighted and unsustainable in light of increasing evidence in support of climate change (Owens 2009). However as in the case for many environmental struggles, the difficulty in argument exists in that not all ecological benefits, such as species diversity or clean air, are immediately or materially apparent as the economic benefits of business, a point not forgotten by Gateway proponents (Owens 2009). 

                Since underutilization has often been a source for the removal of lands from the ALR, especially in the case of the South Fraser Perimeter Road Development of the Gateway Project (ALR 2009), many local opponents are arguing for the consideration of food security. As in the original spirit of the ALR, the preservation of local food sources has increasingly important in the case against the Gateway expansion (Wilderness 2009).  In this sense, an increased demand for a productive local food system not only preserves ALR lands but has a number of additional benefits through the provision of:  a secure food source, control over the safety of the food we eat and a reduction in our ecological footprint (Wilderness 2009).

                As described there are many complex layers of cultural, political, social and economic influence at play in the ongoing struggle between the ALR and the Gateway Program. From the importance of public and private lands rights within treaty negotiation to the debates over social, environmental and economic benefits of local and global business, finding a common solution is daunting. However when one reconsiders the central importance – including social environmental and economic benefits –  of agricultural land to our overall well being, it is not difficult to understand the importance of having an agricultural land reserve.


Lindsey, Robin 2007. Transportation Infrastructure, Investments, Pricing and Gateway Competition: Policy Considerations. Department of Economics: University of Alberta.

Milke, Mike 2008. Incompleted, Illiberal and Expensive: A Review of 15 Years of Treaty Negotiations in BC and Proposals for Reform. Studies in Aboriginal Policy. Fraser Institute: Vancouver.

Owens, Cameron 2009. Challenges in Evaluating Livability in Vancouver, Canada. Case study prepared for Planning Sustainable Cities: Global Report on Human Settlements.

Woolford, Andrew 2004. “Negotiating Affirmative Repair: Symbolic Violence in the British Columbia Treaty Process”. The Canadian Journal of Sociology, Vol. 29, No. 1.

Composting: an overview

I walked out into my mom’s backyard a few weeks ago and couldn’t help but notice a bin she had recently acquired, standing at the back of the yard. It was fairly large and had no markings on it; naturally, I was curious. When I asked her, she told me it was her new compost bin and that her good friend Lynn—whom had just attended the 19th Annual National Composting Conference, had convinced her to start composting. The benefits of composting are obvious and it turns out it is incredibly easy for anyone to do, so I called Lynn to ask her some questions about it.

At the conference which was held from September 30th to October 2nd, she got to be involved in a huge variety of activities that got her engaged with the composting community. On the first day they took a tour of the Comox Valley Regional District Compost Facility (CVRDCF) where they create and sell compost. The difference between this and composting at your own home is the quality of the composting itself. According to their website cited above, small-scale composters  are not able to reach the temperatures necessary to eliminate certain bacteria as well as deter animals that may contaminate the compost with their own waste, so certain products such as meat and dairy are not recommended to be included in backyard composting. The larger scale composters such as the CVRDCF have the technology and facility to control for these factors.

                After the tour, the council put on a series of interactive activities for educational purposes as well as networking.  The next day, the conference began the workshops where guest speakers lectured on a huge variety of topics. The first workshop Lynn attended was an overview of compost regulations from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency  which included information on what is allowed to go into compost as well as systems of grading—among other things. 

Next they had a “Zero Waste Lunch” followed by a lecture on the uses of composting and another about compost promotion on a municipality level.

Overall she said her experience was incredibly informative and she was overwhelmed by the turn out. There are an enormous number of people interested in composting and  I definitely plan on looking into joining in on the next conference in 2010. You can find more information about the previous conferences at the Composting Council of Canada website.

You too can join the composting community; a few simple steps and you will be on your way.  There are many different ways to get started and it really depends on the space you are working with. Compost bins can be set up in almost any place—although because of the potential smell it is best to have your compost outside. If you live in an apartment you can put your compost bin on your patio.

If you are not feeling particularly up to building your own bin, you can purchase a plastic bin with a lid (to keep animals out). Make sure there are plenty of holes in whatever you choose to make it out of (drill holes in the bottom, sides, and top if necessary) to allow ventilation which helps decomposition.

Now it’s time to fill your compost bin. If your bin is open (no lid) avoid putting too much food in at once to avoid attracting animals but if you have a lid this should be an effective deterrent. You can include things like leaves, coffee grounds, grass clippings, fruit cores/peels, egg shells etc. To effectively start the decomposition process quicker, add dirt to the bin layered with your compostable materials. Keep the bin out of the sun to avoid drying out the soil—you can even spray it with water from time to time to keep it moist. Do not keep it too wet or you will notice the smell because the decomposition will be slowed by the extra moisture.

Every few days remember to shake your bin or stir it up to keep the air flow going through the bin.

If you want to take it another step further you can find/purchase some earth worms to help the composting process along. You can find out more about this process here .

It’s hard to determine when compost is “ready” as the decomposition process will continue even after it is ready for garden use. However Lynn mentioned she was told at the conference that “when it looks like dirt, it’s ready”.

I plan to start my composting adventure as soon as possible and if you do as well, good luck! And happy composting!

By Georgia Campbell

The collapse of our BC sockeye salmon population this season has created an extreme problem for First Nations food security and for the provincial economy.  BC’s Fraser River this August expected 10.6-13 million sockeye salmon returning to natal spawning grounds (Hume 2009).  Only 1.7 returned (Ibid).  The collapse caused sockeye fisheries on the Fraser River to close in July, causing a serious problem for First Nation’s communities who relay on salmon for sustenance (Karp 2009)—and have done so for thousands of years (Bottom et al 2009).  Ernie Crey, an advisor for the Stó:lo Tribal Council states that “most Indians who live in the Fraser watershed are low-income or poor… the fishery is their principal source of dietary protein” (Karp 2009).  This year our province lost over 8,000 tonnes of sockeye salmon (Akin 2009).  Prime Minister Stephen Harper in response has recently ordered an inquiry into the matter to uncover the cause of salmon depletion (Ibid).  Although there are probably numerous factors, one principle cause appears to be warming ocean temperatures (Ibid).

BC’s Fraser River watershed drains almost one-third of the province, extends from the Rocky Mountains to the mouth in Vancouver, and spans a distance of 1,400 km (Rand et al 2006).  The Fraser River is the largest salmon-producing river system in Canada (Farrell et al 2008), and the largest producer of sockeye salmon in the province (Rand et al 2006)—economically the most valuable salmon species in BC, and the second most abundant (Cox & Hinch 1997).

All wild salmon are born in freshwater rivers, such as the Fraser, where sockeye salmon in particular remain for the first 2 years of their life (Cox & Hinch 1997).  The salmon then migrate to the ocean and spend typically the next 2 years of their life migrating northward to the Gulf of Alaska (Ibid).  Once mature, the salmon use precise homing skills to return to the Fraser River and their natal streams to spawn (Cox & Hinch 1997; Rand et al 2006).  Upon entering the Fraser River salmon cease feeding and relay on energy reserves to make it up the river (Ibid).  After spawning the salmon die, usually resulting from complete exhaustion (Ibid).  Because sockeye salmon only spawn once in their lifetime, it is crucial that they succeed in their homeward migration in order to propagate.

For this migration, sockeye have an optimum temperature of 15ºC (Farrell et al 2008).  But, with climate change some sockeye salmon runs are experiencing temperatures in excess of 19ºC—a temperature at which no salmon run has ever historically been successful (Ibid).  Further, global circulation models predict an increase in temperature of 2-4ºC in the next 50-100 years (Rand et al 2006), virtually making salmon survival impossible, as salmon have a 5-day lethal temperature of 22ºC (Crossin et al 2008).

At present levels however, our salmon populations can barely sustain themselves.  With increasing temperatures salmon’s metabolic rates increase (Ferrari et al 2007).  Heart-rate increases, oxygen consumption increases (Farrell et al 2008), and they burn more energy than they would at optimum temperatures (Ibid; Crossin et al 2008).  Often, this results in energy deficiencies and many salmon have begun to die of exhaustion before even making it to spawning grounds (Crossin et al 2008).  Further, those that do make it to spawning grounds are often so energy depleted that they either die, or fail to have enough energy to produce sperm or eggs for reproduction (Farrell et al 2008).

An increase in temperature also causes an increase in disease (Rand et al 2006; Ferrari et al 2007; Crossin et al 2008).  In warmer waters salmon are more susceptible to numerous diseases involving parasites and fungi than in cooler waters (Ibid).  These diseases can cause kidney failure, respiratory failure, fungal infection, and eventually death (Crossin et al 2008).  Further, infection increases death by exhaustion, as infection can cause increased energy depletion through increased stress levels and thus increased metabolic rates (Ibid).

Although raising temperatures may not be the only factor depleting the sockeye salmon stocks, it is certainly a contributing factor.  We can only hope that this misfortune can act as an aid in highlighting the urgency at which our country needs to fight against climate change and lower our greenhouse gas emissions.  Currently, our country has continued to decline in performance in air quality, biodiversity, and greenhouse gas emissions (Galloway 2009), posing a serious threat to our environment, our economy, and our food sovereignty.  It is time for our country to step up, and do something about our climate problem—for our fish, our economy, and our people.


Akin, David. 2009. Judicial inquiry to examine B.C. salmon loss. The Province, online, 5 November 2009. <http://www.theprovince.com/news/Judicial+inquiry+examine+salmon+loss/2188822/story.html&gt;

Bottom, Daniel L., Kim K. Jones, Charles A. Simenstad, and Courtland L. Smith. 2009. Reconnecting Social and Ecological Resilience in Salmon Ecosystems. Ecology and Society 14(1).

Cox, Sean P., Scott G. Hinch. 1997. “Changes in size at maturity of Fraser River sockeye salmon (Onchorhynchus nerka) (1952-1993) and associations with temperature.” Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences 54: 1159-1165.

Crossin, G.T., S.G. Hinch, S.J. Cooke, D.W. Welch, D.A. Patterson, S.R.M. Jones, A.G. Lotto, R.A. leggatt, M.T. Mathes, J.M. Shrimpton, G. Van Der Kraak, and A.P. Farrell. 2008. “Exposure to high temperature influences the behaviour, physiology, and survival of sockeye salmon during spawning migration.” Canadian Journal of Zoology 86:127-140.

Farrell, A.P., S.G. Hinch, S.J. Cooke, D.A. Patterson, G.T. Crossin, M. lapointe, M.T. Mathes. 2008. “Pacific Salmon in hot Water: Applying Aerobic Scope Models and Biotelemetry to Predict the Success of Spawning Migrations. Physiological and Biochemical Zoology 81(6): 697-708

Ferrari, Michael R., James R. Miller, Gary L. Russell. 2007. “Modeling changes in summer temperature of the Fraser river during the next century.” Journal of Hydrology 342: 336-346.

Galloway, Gloria. 2009. Harper digs in heels as Obama heads to Copenhagen. Globe and Mail, online, 25 November 2009. <http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/politics/harper-digs-in-heels-as-obama-heads-to-copenhagen/article1376880/&gt;

Hume, Mark. 2009. Fraser River’s salmon stocks ‘beyond a crisis.’ Globe and Mail, online, 13 August 2009.


Karp, David. 2009. Sockeye salmon numbers crash as bust replaces anticipated bounty on B.C. coast. Vancouver Sun, online, 27 July 2009. <http://www.vancouversun.com/news/Sockeye+salmon+numbers+crash+bust+replaces+anticipated+bounty+coast/1832698/story.html&gt;

Rand, P.S., S.G. Hinch, J. Morrison, M.G.G. Foreman, M.J. MacNutt, J.S. Macdonald, M.C. Healey, A.P. Farrell, D.A. Higgs. 2006.  “Effects of River Discharge, Temperature, and Future Climates on Energetics and Mortality of Adult Migrating Fraser River Sockeye Salmon.”  Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 135: 655-667.