VICTORIA – British Columbia’s public safety minister says he hopes the province’s wildfire situation is not the new normal but the issue of climate change and its impact on forests must be taken into account.“Obviously we know that climate is changing, we know that the fire season is starting earlier … we have been doing planning earlier, getting aircraft earlier, but it is a situation that we have to take seriously, the issue of climate change,” Mike Farnworth said Wednesday shortly after the government declared a provincewide state of emergency in response to hundreds of wildfires.It’s the second time in as many years that a state of emergency has been declared during the wildfire season and the fourth time in just over two decades. Provincial states of emergency were also declared in 1996 and 2003.The BC Wildfire Service said 559 fires were burning Wednesday in all corners of the province, with 31 new starts since Tuesday. Just over 1,800 blazes have been recorded since the wildfire season began April 1.The latest state of emergency will remain in effect for 14 days but can be extended or rescinded as necessary, Farnworth said, adding it ensures federal, provincial and local resources can be delivered in a co-ordinated manner.In northwestern B.C., a 333-square kilometre fire has destroyed more than 40 homes and properties in and around Telegraph Creek, said Forests Minister Doug Donaldson. Nearly a dozen agencies including firefighters from local First Nations and crews from outside the province were working to save homes in the community, he said.“This state of emergency improves our ability to increase that co-ordination as we see risk increasing in other communities,” he said.Farnworth, who is also the province’s solicitor general, said the emergency was declared based on recommendations from the BC Wildfire Service and emergency management officials.“As wildfire activity is expected to increase, this is a progressive step in our wildfire response to make sure British Columbia has access to any and all resources necessary,” he added.Kevin Skrepnek of the Wildfire Service said more than 1,500 properties were on evacuation order at midday Wednesday and at least 10,000 were on an alert, with residents advised to be ready to leave on short notice.“Certainly, given the number of fires we have going on right now, given the fire activity we are seeing out there, and given the fact that we really see no relief from the weather, there’s definitely the potential this season is going to get worse before it gets better,” he said.The province is waiting for the arrival of 200 Armed Forces’ members. Skrepnek said most of them would likely be sent to the Okanagan to help with wildfire mop-up.The RCMP said Wednesday it would send officers and equipment to assist detachments in central, northern and southern B.C. that have been most affected by fires, which could include vehicles, supplies and additional officers to help at check points or provide relief to local detachments.By this time last year, hundreds of homes been lost to wildfires and tens of thousands of people had been displaced. The human cost has not been as high this year, but the total number of fires is greater, said Skrepnek.The most severe losses this year have been in the Telegraph Creek area, which Donaldson visited on Tuesday.“In the town site we saw the random nature of forest fires … there’d be a house standing and three doors down there’d be a house totally destroyed, all that was left was the foundation and some twisted and melted metal,” he said.Crews were protecting heritage buildings in the old part of town and setting up sprinklers on the roofs of other homes, he said.Donaldson described the situation as volatile, adding “a change in wind direction could change everything.”Environment Canada issued air quality advisories for much of B.C., all of Alberta, and parts of Saskatchewan and Manitoba, as smoke from the fires drifts east. It advised children, the elderly and those with heart and lung conditions to limit their exposure.The dense smoke also made it more difficult to find fires that were sparked by lightning last weekend, said Skrepnek.“We can almost guarantee that there are fires out there that haven’t been detected yet,” he said, adding that rain is the only solution to the increasing risk but that isn’t in the forecast.“Rain is going to be absolutely critical. That is what we need to see and not just a small, quick event. We need to see a widespread rain across the entire province to alleviate the situation.”— By Beth Leighton in Vancouver
At a press conference held on Friday at the well known Hotel Foroyar in Torshavn and live streamed worldwide, actress and activist Pamela Anderson joined Sea Shepherd Global, Sea Shepherd USA and Sea Shepherd France to show her support for Sea Shepherd’s Operation GrindStop 2014 campaign and to shine a spotlight on the brutal and archaic mass slaughter of pilot whales and other cetaceans known as the ‘grindadrap’ or ‘grind’.Present with Anderson to represent Sea Shepherd were Lamya Essemlali, President, Sea Shepherd France and GrindStop2014 Offshore Campaign Leader; and Rosie Kunneke, Chapter Coordinator for South Africa, GrindStop 2014 Onshore Campaign Leader for Sea Shepherd USA.A long-time animal protection advocate, Anderson emphasized that though the Faroese people once needed to kill pilot whales for food, there is no longer any need in the modern world to kill cetaceans.“This is not for survival. There are very few things that happen like this, that are this brutal,” said Pamela Anderson. “We have to put this behind us and move on, and let the whales swim freely by. And I think it’s much more important for us in the future to save our oceans and the biodiversity of our oceans that the whales are very important to.”Anderson added that cruel traditions must die out, and that it will be the next generations who bring the grind to a halt. “Young people probably feel pressure to follow in the footsteps of their ancestors. I think this is the perfect time to not listen to your parents, to think for yourself. Maybe there’s going to be a movement like there have been movements for many other things in the world where you look inside yourself and say ‘Is this something I should be doing just because my parents did it and my grandparents did it?’ This is a new time and the world is at risk…I think this is the generation that has to stand up and say ‘That was then, this is now; this is what I’m going to do.’”Sea Shepherd has led the opposition to the grind slaughter in the Faroe Islands since the 1980s. Operation GrindStop 2014 is Sea Shepherd’s largest Faroese campaign to date, with approximately 500 volunteers set to patrol the land and waters of the Faroes over the course of the campaign. Sea Shepherd’s on- and offshore teams will be present in the Faroe Islands throughout the traditionally bloodiest months of the hunt season – from June until October 1st.In a statement, Pamela Anderson said: “I have traveled to the beautiful Faroe Islands today to publicly oppose the needless killing of intelligent, sentient pilot whales and other dolphins and to support Sea Shepherd¹s Operation GrindStop 2014 campaign.“It is important to understand we are NOT AGAINST the Faroese. WE ARE FOR the whales and dolphins. We are their voice. But the eyes of the world are upon the Faroese today and it is now time to end this archaic abomination called the Grind. I support Sea Shepherd¹s efforts to end this cruel and ruthless massacre of defenseless whales and dolphins who are highly intelligent and so much like us. They have families like we do, they love them and care for them like we do, they have their own language and individual names for one another like we do, and a very complex social structure like we do.“The killing is a stain on this pristine country which no longer needs the meat of these animals to survive. When we know better, we do better. And we now know that these are sentient creatures who suffer greatly not only during the slaughter but during the very stressful drive itself. They are very socially complex animals and their entire families are being killed in front of them in a manner that would never be permitted in any slaughterhouse in the world. In addition, the meat of these animals is tainted with toxic contaminants including mercury, which is particularly harmful to pregnant women and young children.“I am fortunate to have some of my family with me today. They are surfers. What a beautiful eco-tourism destination these islands would make if only you would bring the grind to a halt. But until then the waters remain tainted with blood, staining the reputation of the Faroese. The time has come to stop the grind.”The only grind to take place this year occurred on May 18, before Sea Shepherd arrived in the Faroe Islands in June, claiming 13 pilot whales. The year before, the same Faroese town, Fuglafjørður, killed a staggering 267 pilot whales in one grind.Should a hunt commence during the course of the campaign, Sea Shepherd will take direct action to intervene and stop the grind from taking place using land, sea and air tactics. This week, Sea Shepherd’s crew was able to spot a pod of pilot whales and guide them back out to sea, safely away from the Faroese killing bays. As no preparations for a grind had begun, Sea Shepherd acted within Faroese law by chasing the pod away from shore.For hundreds of years, the people of the Danish Faroe Islands have been herding migrating pilot whales and other small cetaceans into shallow water and slaughtering them. Entire family units are destroyed, wiping out several generations of animals at a time. The Faroese claim that without the meat from these cetaceans, the people would starve. Whether or not people would have starved in the past without eating pilot whale is irrelevant. There is certainly no one in the Danish Faroe Islands who would go hungry today, much less starve, if no more cetaceans were killed.Today, the ‘grindadrap’ (whale slaughter) or ‘grind’ is a barbaric and cruel relic of history that has no place in modern civilization. The wholesale slaughter of entire families and the unimaginable horror inflicted upon these sentient, intelligent beings is unconscionable. The continued pillage of the oceans is causing disastrous consequences. Even the meat of these creatures is dangerous to consume. The European Union does not allow such activity, but the Danish Faroe Islands manage to side-step EU restrictions with their overfishing and harm to marine mammals. Sea Shepherd has taken action against the grind in years past and will do so again for GrindStop 2014.