Canadian beavers and wolverines use borrow pits

This 2017 video says about itself:

This country was built in part on the trapping and trading of the pelt of the Canadian Beaver. This hardworking, intelligent, and industrious animal is truly Canada’s most iconic species.

From the University of Alberta in Canada:

Industry-made pits are beneficial for beavers and wolverines

In Northern Alberta, pits created by industry activity may support beavers and subsequently wolverines

Beavers and wolverines in Northern Alberta are using industry-created borrow pits as homes and feeding grounds, according to a new study by University of Alberta ecologists.

The research examined the relationship between local wildlife and borrow pits, which are industry-created sites where material such as soil, gravel, or sand has been dug up for road construction. The results show that when revegetated the sites provide homes for beavers, which in turn support the survival of wolverines.

“The borrow pits enhance habitats for a number of species of wildlife in the bogs of Northern Alberta,” said Mark Boyce, co-author on the paper, professor in the Department of Biological Sciences, and Alberta Conservation Association Chair in Fisheries and Wildlife.

“The deep water and adjacent forage create excellent habitats for beavers. And wolverines thrive when beavers do. Not only do they prey on beavers, wolverines also have been shown to use beaver lodges as dens where they have their cubs.”

The displacement of wildlife by industrial development is a complex issue, Boyce explains. “In this case, industrial development created the borrow pits that are now used by beavers that actually enhances habitats for our wilderness icon, the wolverine.”

The research was led by PhD student Matthew Scrafford, who formed a partnership with the Dene Tha First Nation that proved instrumental for the study.

“The most important partner on this research was the Dene Tha First Nations,” said Boyce. “Several young people in the area were enthusiastic about the project. They were instrumental in building traps and supporting our research.”

Oil industry pollution costs in Alberta, Canada

This 24 November 2018 video says about itself:

Oil Industry Cleanup Costs Vastly Exceed Alberta Government’s Estimates

Regan Boychuk of Reclaim Alberta explains that Canadian taxpayers could ultimately be on the hook for hundreds of billions of oil industry cleanup costs.

Canadian coyote survives being stuck on car

Coyote stuck on car

After the snowy owl … and the Australian koala stuck in a car grill… now, by Georgie Knox, from Alberta, Canada:

9 September at 12:13 ·

Last week on my way to work in the early morning, a coyote darted in front of my car and I hit it. I heard a crunch and believed I ran over and killed it. Upon stopping at a traffic light by my work, a construction woman notified me that there was in fact a coyote still embedded in my car.

When I got out to look, this poor little guy was looking up and blinking at me. I notified Alberta fish and wildlife enforcement right away who came to rescue him. Miraculously, he was freed and had minimal injuries despite having hitched a ride from Airdrie to Calgary at highway speeds! Their biologist checked him over and gave him the good to go. They released him in Kananaskis. Clearly mother nature has other plans for this special little guy!

Dinosaur with skin, guts content intact

This video from Canada says about itself:

Discovery of Ankylosaur at Suncor’s Millennium Mine

On March 21, 2011 a shovel operator in Suncor’s Millennium Mine discovered an important piece of Alberta‘s history when he uncovered a dinosaur fossil.

By Nina Golgowski:

05/14/2017 03:38 pm ET

Canada Unveils ‘Dinosaur Mummy’ Found With Skin And Gut Contents Intact

“We don’t just have a skeleton. We have a dinosaur as it would have been.”

After 110-million years encased in stone, an impeccably preserved, dragon-like dinosaur has been unveiled by paleontologists in Canada and it’s unlike anything they’ve seen before.

The remains of an armor-plated nodosaur, a 3,000-pound plant-eating horned creature, went on display in Alberta on Friday after its accidental discovery by miners nearly six years ago, National Geographic reported.

“We don’t just have a skeleton,” Caleb Brown, a postdoctoral researcher at the Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology where the fossil went on display, told the magazine. “We have a dinosaur as it would have been.”

Researchers say the fossil is remarkable, with it being a never-before-seen species of nodosaur, as well as the oldest dinosaur ever found in Alberta. It’s preserved skin and gut contents are also providing invaluable clues on these extinct creatures.

“I’ve been calling this one the Rosetta Stone for armor,” Donald Henderson, curator of dinosaurs at the Royal Tyrrell Museum, told National Geographic.

“It’s basically a dinosaur mummy ― it really is exceptional,” Don Brinkman, director of preservation and research, also told The New York Times.

For the last five years, researchers have spent more than 7,000 hours chiseling away at the fossil’s surrounding rock to expose the incredible creature.

The researchers have had their share of ups and downs, with the fossil breaking into pieces upon its removal from Alberta’s Millennium Mine in 2011.

The 15,000-pound, plaster-covered block it was encased in is seen shattering during a video uploaded to YouTube by Suncor Energy [see top of thuis blog post], which owns the mine.

“One of the good things about this, believe it or not, is because it’s in smaller pieces it will make preparation go a little faster,” Darren Tanke, a paleo technician with the Royal Tyrrell Museum, says in the video.

“This is restorable. Everything broke cleanly and in big pieces,” he adds. “It’s unfortunate that this happened but this is restorable.”

Before being assembled into something recognizable at a museum, most dinosaur fossils look to the casual observer like nothing more than common rocks. No one, however, would confuse the over 110 million-year-old nodosaur fossil for a stone. The fossil, being unveiled today in Canada’s Royal Tyrrell Museum of Paleontology, is so well preserved it looks like a statue: here.

Canadian Fort McMurray wildfire, natural and social disaster

This video from Canada says about itself:

5 May 2016

Dashcam video captures Michel Chamberland’s harrowing escape, he talks to Heather Hiscox about his ordeal.

By Roger Jordan in Canada:

Canadian capitalism and the Fort McMurray wildfire

10 May 2016

Millions of people across Canada and around the world have been moved by the images of destruction and harrowing tales of escape that have emerged from Fort McMurray, Alberta, over the past week. On short notice and with next to no forewarning, some 90,000 residents were evacuated May 3, as a huge wildfire began to consume large parts of the city that is the hub for Canada’s massive oil tar-sands industry.

As with other environmental disasters like Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the extensive damage wrought by the wildfire is the direct product of the capitalist system’s rapacious pursuit of profit. The lives of tens of thousands of workers and their families have been turned upside down by a calamity that at the very least could have been mitigated, if not entirely prevented.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley toured the devastated city yesterday with a small group of reporters. They found that some 2,400 structures, including entire residential neighbourhoods, had burnt to the ground and that basic services essential for life, including the provision of fresh water and electricity, are not functioning. Notley has warned it will be weeks before most of the residents can return.

Experts had been warning for many years of the potential for a disaster like that now playing out in Fort McMurray.

Scientists have demonstrated that increased temperatures resulting from climate change and more human activity in the boreal forest—principally due to the expansion of the oil, mining and logging industries—have increased the likelihood of serious wildfires. Dr. Mike Flannigan, a wildfire expert at the University of Alberta, has stated that the area burnt by wildfires in Canada has doubled since 1970, and predicted more than two decades ago that fire seasons would become longer.

Expanded human activity has also resulted in the circumventing of the normal cycle of lightening-induced fires, an essential component of forest regeneration, leaving a large stock of older more combustible forests.

Severe fires hit Kelowna, British Columbia, in 2003 and Slave Lake, Alberta, in 2011, destroying numerous structures and leading to calls, including from a 2012 Alberta government-appointed wildfire review committee, for increased investment in fire prevention and forest management. Experts repeatedly warned that cities in or close to the boreal forest needed to develop fire mitigation measures, including the establishment of fire breaks so as to deprive advancing blazes of fuel before they reach residential areas.

Yet Canada’s political establishment wilfully ignored such warnings. The federal minister of Natural Resources, Jim Carr, was warned in the briefing notes his department gave him on his appointment last November that governments across the country had not done enough to prepare for the spike in wildfires. In Alberta, firefighting budgets were repeatedly cut, including by the current New Democratic Party government just three weeks prior to the Fort McMurray blaze.

The previous federal Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper facilitated the massive and rapid expansion of tar sands oil production, with flagrant disregard for the impact on First Nations’ communities and the environment. Its stated goal was not only to swell the coffers of Canadian big business, but to use the country’s oil, natural gas, uranium and hydroelectric resources wealth to make Canada an “energy superpower,” with increased leverage on the global stage.

However, the Conservatives proved incapable of pushing through the infrastructure projects to realize this strategy, especially the pipelines to transport increased Alberta oil production to Canada’s east and west coasts and the Gulf of Mexico. In part, this was due to the widespread public hostility triggered by the Harper Conservatives’ extensive ties to Big Oil and their unapologetic right-wing program, including the effective denial of climate change.

The Liberals secured the support of the dominant sections of the ruling elite in last year’s federal election, by arguing that they could better pursue austerity at home and the aggressive assertion of it interests abroad, including through increased military interventions, by repackaging them in “progressive” rhetoric.

[Newly elected Liberal Prime Minister] Trudeau was quick to dismiss any “political” explanation for the Alberta wildfire, whether the failure to heed repeated warnings and invest in social infrastructure or the broader crisis caused by climate change. “There have always been fires,” declared Canada’s prime minister. “There have always been floods. Pointing at any one incident and saying ‘This is because of that,’ is neither helpful nor entirely accurate.”

Such obfuscation is politically motivated and deliberately aimed at concealing the reality that while tens of thousands of working people have seen their lives devastated overnight, the oil industry in the environs of Fort McMurray remains almost entirely intact. This is because unlike the people, they were considered valuable enough to be surrounded by wide firebreaks and guarded by specially trained fire crews.

Fort McMurray and capitalism’s socially destructive character

Whilst the oil companies, to use the words of Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale, “will be in a position to get back and running relatively quickly after the danger is past,” many of Fort McMurray’s residents will not have jobs or homes to go back to. Some, thanks to the provisions of Canada’s reactionary immigration laws, could even be thrown out of the country.

The fire catastrophe struck a population already ravaged by the consequences of the global capitalist crisis.

Fort McMurray is a quintessential capitalist resource-extraction boomtown with all that entails. Its population nearly trebled in size from 35,000 in 1990 to over 100,000 at the peak of the commodity boom in 2014. Although there was a chronic lack of housing, a dearth of schools and health care facilities, and they had to pay high prices and often work long hours, workers were drawn to Fort McMurray from across Canada and around the world.

Over the past 20 months, with the oil price plunge, this has played out in reverse. Thousands have left the area after their jobs were slashed. Large numbers of others have had to endure wage cuts, been forced to survive on jobless benefits, or to turn to food banks. A Reuters article published yesterday reported that for some of the city’s homeless, who are now being housed and fed in evacuation camps, conditions of life are actually better than before the fire.

The ruling class’s contempt towards the population, whom they see as a disposable resource to be made available as and when the profit interests of big business dictate, is exemplified by the press commentary arguing that the wildfire provides an opportunity to rebuild Fort McMurray on a smaller scale—one commensurate with the oil industry’s post price-drop dynamics.

The Fort McMurray wildfire is not a natural, but a man-made disaster for which the capitalist profit system bears responsibility. The resources and technology exist to combat the risks posed by forest fires to human civilization, and there have been countless proposals drawn up by scientific studies and conferences outlining what can and should be done.

But all such initiatives immediately run up against capitalism’s irrepressible lust for the accumulation of fabulous sums of wealth. Everything, including the safety of working people, their families and necessities of life, is subordinated to the private interests of a super-rich oligarchy.

Only through the establishment of a socialist society, where production is planned and democratically controlled by the workers themselves, can the vast natural resources of the earth be utilized in a sustainable manner and the necessary measures taken to combat climate change and guard against wildfires and other reoccurring threats to human life. Socialism, a system which places the needs of humanity above the private accumulation of wealth, can free the abundant technological and creative abilities currently suppressed by ever-declining budgets and corporate interests to establish safe and healthy conditions of life for all.

Fort McMurray wildfire will leave toxic legacy, experts say. Mixed with water, ash almost as caustic as oven cleaner, U.S. Geological Survey says: here.

Up to 8,000 oil workers were evacuated from camps north of Fort McMurray, Alberta, Monday after the wildfire that destroyed large parts of the city earlier this month expanded rapidly: here.

Oil sands found to be a leading source of air pollution in North America: here.

Portugal’s response to forest fires undermined by austerity: here.

Alberta wildfire in Canada continues

This 5 May 2016 video from Canada is called Fort McMurray wildfire: A timeline of a disaster.

By Roger Jordan in Canada:

Devastation from Alberta wildfire continues to spread

9 May 2016

The wildfire in the Fort McMurray-Wood-Buffalo region of northern Alberta, the center of Canada’s tar-sands oil production, continues to spread. Officials acknowledge that the blaze, which now encompasses over 1,600 square kilometres (615 miles), could go on for months unless stopped by rain.

Around 90,000 people, including the entire population of Fort McMurray, and the residents of the nearby communities of Anzac, Fort McKay First Nation, and Fort McMurray First Nation have been forced from their homes. A provincial state of emergency declared May 4 remains in force as fires continue to burn out of control in a number of places, including Slave Lake, High Level, and Clearwater County.

During Friday and Saturday, 25,000 people stranded north of Fort McMurray in oil-worker camps were evacuated to Edmonton and Calgary in convoys directed by the RCMP. Police also relocated small numbers of people still in the city who were either unable or unwilling to leave. No Fort McMurray evacuees were left north of the city by yesterday morning.

The only two fatalities reported thus far occurred in a traffic accident Wednesday, when an SUV and a trailer-truck collided on Highway 881 during the evacuation, which was ordered on short-notice and with almost no prior warning.

Alberta Premier Rachel Notley has said that it will be some time—weeks, not days—before residents can return to their homes. Although a turn in the weather yesterday brought rain, the fire continued to spread and reportedly was coming close to the Saskatchewan border, 90 kilometres to the east of Fort McMurray.

Fire conditions have stabilized in Fort McMurray itself, and Notley is set to visit today to begin assessing the damage. First responders began going door-to-door to confirm the state of properties yesterday. Although officials have yet to make a tally of damaged buildings, it is clear that large portions of the city have been destroyed. Officials noted that even buildings that have survived largely intact may have suffered extensive water-damage in the effort to save them. Maclean’s magazine, which was given special access to the city Friday, described the neighbourhoods of Beacon Hill and Abasand as lying in “ruins,” while Waterways, Fort McMurray’s oldest, was also severely damaged.

The catastrophe caused by the Fort McMurray fire is a product of the capitalist system’s rapacious drive for profit. Big Oil has extracted vast riches from the Fort McMurray area over the past four decades, at considerable cost to the environment. Yet hardly anything was done to guard against an entirely foreseeable disaster. As Fort McMurray’s population ballooned to over 100,000 before the 2014 oil price collapse, basic infrastructure and services remained wanting.

Although the full extent of the damage to the city remains unclear, there is a stark contrast between the city’s scorched residential streets and the fate of the oil companies’ tar-sands infrastructure.

At least 1,600 structures in Fort McMurray have been destroyed. The fire also burnt close to facilities operated by Suncor and other oil producers, but because they were surrounded by wide fire breaks and defended by specially-trained company firefighters, none has suffered significant damage. This fact calls into question the claims of senior fire management officials that no fire-break, regardless of its width, could have prevented the fire from laying waste large swathes of Fort McMurray.

Speaking on CTV’s Question Period yesterday, federal Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale confirmed that no damage had been suffered by oil facilities, adding, “They will be in a position to get back and running relatively quickly after the danger is past.”

As with other environmental disasters, like Hurricane Katrina and the 2010 BP Gulf of Mexico oil spill, the devastation wrought by the wildfire has been exacerbated by the capitalist system’s subordination of the safety of the local population and environment to the accumulation of vast wealth. The extraction of tar sands oil by the major oil corporations has produced an environmental disaster in the region, including damaging fresh water supplies, creating pools of toxic waste, and destroying large areas of forest.

Scientists have repeatedly warned about the threat posed by wildfires due to a growing presence of humans in forested areas of the province (principally for oil extraction), the hotter and dryer weather produced by climate change, and the lack of preparedness. Yet few measures were taken to guard against the danger.

Dr. Mike Flannigan, a well-respected expert on wildfires from the University of Alberta, told CBC that the area burnt by wildfires in the country has doubled since 1970. He went on to emphasize the danger of large cities being developed in the boreal forest, and referred to the opinion of a colleague that a fire break of 2 kilometres should be created around cities by removing trees and brush.

He went on to outline the consequences of failing to establish fire breaks around urban areas. “Wildland firefighters are trained to fight wildfire, and municipal firefighters are trained to fight structural fires. Now, you have both types, creating a very dangerous hybrid fire and it’s entering an area with propane tanks, gas stations and other potentially explosive things.”

The frequency of fires in Canada has risen sharply over recent years. Last year, by early September, 6,700 fires had burnt around 4 million hectares. Currently, more than 80 fires are burning in Alberta and British Columbia, and twice as many fires have been reported this fire season as compared to the same point last year.

Successive Alberta provincial governments have cut resources for the management of wildfires and for precautionary measures to prevent their spread. One consequence of this is that from August 16 this year, no air-tanker coverage for the province of Alberta is currently in place, even though the fire season runs until October.

John Innes, Dean of Forestry at the University of British Columbia, gave voice to the frustration in the scientific community when he told Maclean’s, “Our research and modelling we have done over the past ten years has been pointing to this. I hate to say I told you so, but that’s what the scientific community has been saying for some time and trying to get politicians and others to pay attention to.”

The financial elite’s utter disregard for the residents of the affected region is exemplified by commentary in the corporate media that Fort McMurray should perhaps be rebuilt on a smaller scale, now that oil prices have collapsed.

Thousands of evacuees remain unsure if their homes are still standing or if they will have jobs to return to. As one woman told CBC, referring to her partner and herself, “We were six months without work. We just got back on our feet, so now it is a new start.”

Even prior to the wildfire, unemployment in Alberta was rising sharply and was higher than the Canadian average for the first time since the 1980s. Statistics Canada reported on Friday that total employment in Alberta dropped by 20,800 in April.

Many of the residents evacuated from Fort McMurray are among the most vulnerable sections of the population. Workers from outside Canada were brought in to fill low-wage jobs in Fort McMurray in catering, retail and childcare. Due to Canada’s reactionary “temporary foreign worker” laws, a significant number of these immigrants now face the prospect of being expelled from the country. The “temporary foreign worker” regulations stipulate that a worker is bound to his or her employer, meaning that if companies have been put out of business or cannot pay their “foreign workers,” they lose their entitlement to stay in the country.

Some of the Syrian refugees taken in by Canada also lived in the city. Abdul Almouazan and eight other family members were forced to flee Fort McMurray and are now being housed at the Al-Rashid Mosque in Edmonton along with 140 other evacuees, including refugees from Somalia.

More than 11,000 residents of northern Alberta towns have been temporarily evacuated over the past few weeks by the police and armed forces due to out-of-control wildfires. These include the Town of High Level, the Dene Tha’ First Nation communities of Bushe River, Meander River and Chateh, the Paddle Prairie Metis Settlement, Wabasca, and the Bigstone Cree Nation: here.

Fort McMurray, Canada wildfire disaster continues

This video says about itself:

Wildfires Force Canadian City Evacuation

6 May 2016

Nearly all Fort McMurray‘s 90,000 residents have been evacuated from their homes due to several wildfires that are ravaging their city since Sunday.

The huge wildfire that has forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray—the northern Alberta city that is the hub of Canada’s tar-sands oil industry—continued to rage uncontrollably yesterday: here.

Fort McMurray teacher describes chaotic evacuation: here.

Wildfire disaster in Fort McMurray, Canada, tar sands oil center

This video from Alberta, Canada says about itself:

Fort McMurray wildfire: Why the fire engulfed the city within hours

By Brent Patterson in Canada:

Evacuation order issued for Fort McMurray as wildfire threatens area

May 4, 2016

As a wildfire devastates the Fort McMurray area, Council of Canadians chairperson Maude Barlow has tweeted, “Horrible! Hearts go out to residents!”

CBC reports:

“A huge wildfire in Fort McMurray, Alta., destroyed an entire neighbourhood and burned homes and businesses in several others Tuesday, and continues to rage out of control. By late afternoon, the entire city of 60,000 had been ordered evacuated. Residents by the thousands fled the fire, and for hours caused gridlock on Highway 63, and even overwhelmed oilsands work camps [north of the city], where beds and meals were offered. Fire chief Darby Allen said the entire neighbourhood of Beacon Hill ‘appears to have been lost’ and the fire burned many homes in other parts of the city.” …

In addition, the Fort McKay First Nation, which is located about 50 kilometres north of Fort McMurray, has opened camps on its territory to people fleeing Fort McMurray. And Crystal Lameman has posted, “Beaver Lake Cree Nation Spruce Point Camping is available for evacuees, the resort is equipped w: 100 stalls (25 with power). BLCN has also offered the use of community hall parking lot if needed, for trailers.”

The National Observer notes:

“‘It’s apocalyptic,’ said John O’Connor, a family physician who has treated patients with health problems in the region related to oil sands pollution. He said there was no way out but north. ‘The place looks like it’s all going,’ O’Connor said. Anyone breathing the ash-filled air would be facing serious health risks, he added.”

The province’s Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry says there have already been 311 fires in Alberta this season.

Every year an area half the size of Nova Scotia burns in Alberta.

Mike Flannigan, a professor with the University of Alberta’s Western Partnership for Wildland Fire, says the average amount of land reduced to ash by wildfire in Alberta annually has doubled since the 1970s.

The wildfire is being attributed in part to the El Nino effect, which causes warmer and drier winters. Global News highlights:

“Judith Kulig, professor in the faculty of health sciences at the University of Lethbridge, said the effects of climate change are also driving the increase in wildfires, and it’s not going to get better in the future. ‘The whole aspect of climate change and global warming, which is then interrelated things such as insect infestation, so pine beetle increases because it’s not a cold enough winter,’ she said. ‘The trees are infested and drier and more prone to fire. In general, we’ve had less rainfall; we didn’t really have a winter this year. And so consequently we have a very dry environment.'”

Our thoughts are with the people and wildlife affected by this devastating situation.

By Roger Jordan in Canada, 5 May 2016:

A number of tar sands companies have cut or entirely shut down production at plants located near Fort McMurray. Shell has shut down its Albion Sands site, while Suncor Energy has cut staffing levels.

The Fort McMurray blaze is only the largest fire in a growing number burning across western Canada. Dry weather conditions over the winter and an unusually warm spring, linked to the strong El Nino weather effect, forced Alberta to declare the start of its fire season on March 1, a month earlier than usual. Eleven forest fires are currently burning in the province.

Yesterday, 300 residents of Lac Ste. Anne County, including from the Alexis First Nation, were evacuated as a wildfire threatened their homes.

In neighbouring British Columbia, authorities had to turn down a request for help from Alberta because their own resources are seriously stretched by numerous fires raging in the Peace River region in the province’s northeast. Since April 1, almost 200 fires have burned across 230 square kilometres of BC.

Two weeks ago, the Peace River Regional District declared a state of emergency, resulting in evacuation orders for the Baldonnel community, the Blueberry First Nation and parts of Fort St. John. At the time, 48 fires were burning in the area.

Predictions are that the fire season this year will be much worse than previous years, even the record year of 2015 when over 10,000 people were evacuated from communities in northern Saskatchewan and Alberta. Mike Flannigan of the University of Alberta said that the number of fires which have broken out in 2016 is double the number at the same time this year.

Under these conditions, Alberta’s provincial New Democratic Party (NDP) government took the outrageous decision last month to slash this year’s wildfire management budget by $15 million. This comes on top of moves by the previous Progressive Conservative government in March 2015 to cut funding for the Firesmart program, which clears debris and trees in proximity to residential areas to prevent the spread of fires. …

The woeful lack of preparedness at all levels of government for catastrophes like the one confronting Fort McMurray is even less forgivable given the widespread evidence of increased risk of wildfires due to climate change. Last year, Canada had to call on assistance from fire crews as far away as Australia to cover firefighting needs.

The damage wrought by the fire is occurring in a community that has already been hit hard by the economic crisis and the collapse in oil prices. Unemployment in the Fort McMurray and Wood Buffalo region increased 40 percent between January 2015 and January 2016, a figure which is likely an underestimation since many workers in the energy sector travel to the region temporarily for employment. Last month, the unemployment rate reached close to 10 percent.

A teacher from a Fort McMurray school spoke to the WSWS about the evacuation. He was given 15 minutes to pack personal belongings and leave the city, along with his girlfriend, her parents, and two dogs. He added that fire services had kept him and his pupils confined to their school for a large part of the day prior to the evacuation announcement.

After leaving the city, he came to a stretch of highway that had been jumped by the fire. Police officers permitted ten vehicles at a time to make a run for it and drive at high speed across the smoking stretch of roadway. As his truck passed through, a gas pipe under the road exploded next to his vehicle.

Entire Canadian City Faces Being Reduced to Ashes by Huge Fire: here.

Here’s how you can help as the Fort McMurray fires continue to rage (updated), by Mercedes Allen, May 4, 2016: here.

2013 article on tar sands oil around Fort McMurray: Blame Canada: Greedy for oil money, the country is turning into a rogue petrostate: here.

Community members and allies hold healing walk past toxic tailings ponds north of Fort McMurray: here.

By Emily Hunter in 2009:

But in Fort McMurray, it wasn’t what was on the surface or the individual people that presented a problem. What was scary about Fort Mac was how there was something subversive about the town. The driving force behind the town and literally beyond the horizon, past the trees, was an empire that ruled — dirty oil.

It was this dirty oil that everyone in the town either directly or indirectly had a job from. The town’s economy was dependent on oil, the rapid population and infrastructure was coming from it, in turn Fort McMurray had been put on the map because of it. The boom it had created was the source of social evils. And because of the transient nature of the boomtown, few felt that Fort Mac was a home and there was an underlining sense that everyone just wanted to leave.

Fort McMurray was haunting because of this. On the outside, it looks like any town you’d find in North America. But underneath, dirty oil is king. And just as the town has very much been created on oil, it can all go just as fast when the oil boom is over — making it a ghost town one day. Here it is clear that life and communities are but a cost of prosperity.

Canadians Share Shocking Footage From Cities Engulfed By ‘Catastrophic’ Wildfire. “It’s a loss on a scale that is hard for many of us to imagine,” said Prime Minister Justin Trudeau: here.

Canadian big business is increasingly impatient with Justin Trudeau’s Liberal government over its as yet unrealized pledge to bring Alberta tar sands oil to tidewater. While the immediate trigger for the complaints is the stalled Canadian $7.9 billion Kinder Morgan Trans Mountain oil pipeline project, powerful sections of the corporate elite are complaining that investment in Canada is at risk of becoming “uncompetitive”: here.

Plesiosaur discovery in Alberta, Canada

Plesiosaur skeleton

In Alberta, Canada, a fossil plesiosaur from the Cretaceous age has been discovered in November 2011: here.

Talking about fossils: Oldest Hairy Microbe Fossils Discovered.

Canadian dinosaurs’ blood discovery

This video from Britain about dinosaur research says about itself:

4 June 2015

Scanning electron micrographs and 3D reconstructions from serial sections of erythrocyte-like structures. Credit: Bertazzo et al., Nature Communications.

This video shows scanning electron micrographs being reconstructed into 3D shapes based on the serial sections taken of the red blood cell-like structures.

From daily The Guardian in Britain:

75-million-year-old dinosaur blood and collagen discovered in fossil fragments

Scientists accidentally discover what appear to be red blood cells and collagen fibres during analysis of ‘crap’ fossils dug up in Canada 100 years ago

Ian Sample, Science editor

Scientists have discovered what appear to be red blood cells and collagen fibres in the fossilised remains of dinosaurs that lived 75 million years ago.

Traces of the soft tissues were found by accident when researchers at Imperial College in London analysed eight rather shabby fossils that had been dug up in Canada a century ago before finding their way to the Natural History Museum in London.

The finding suggests that scores of dinosaur fossils in museums around the world could retain soft tissues, and with it the answers to major questions about dinosaur physiology and evolution. More speculatively, it has made scientists ponder whether dinosaur DNA might also survive.

Most of the fossils the scientists studied were mere fragments and in very poor condition. They included a claw from a meat-eating therapod, perhaps a gorgosaurus, some limb and ankle bones from a duck-billed dinosaur, and a toe bone from [a] triceratops-like animal.

Intact soft tissue has been spotted in dinosaur fossils before, most famously by Mary Schweitzer at North Carolina State University, who in 2005 found flexible, transparent collagen in the fossilised leg of a Tyrannosaurus rex specimen.

What makes the latest discovery so remarkable is that the blood cells and collagen were found in specimens that the researchers themselves describe as “crap”. If soft tissue can survive in these fossils, then museum collections of more impressive remains could harbour troves of soft dinosaur tissue. Those could help unravel mysteries of dinosaur physiology and behaviour that have been impossible to crack with bony remains alone.

“It’s really difficult to get curators to allow you to snap bits off their fossils. The ones we tested are crap, very fragmentary, and they are not the sorts of fossils you’d expect to have soft tissue,” said Susannah Maidment, a paleontologist at Imperial.

The fossils are a smattering of pieces collected last century, probably directly from the ground, at the Dinosaur Park Formation in Alberta, Canada. To analyse the remains, the scientists broke tiny pieces off the fragments to expose fresh, uncontaminated surfaces inside.

Sergio Bertazzo, a materials scientist at Imperial, had been working on the build up of calcium in human blood vessels when he met Maidment and asked if he could study some fossils with an array of electron microscope techniques.

Months after the specimens arrived, Bertazzo began to look at thin sections of the fossils. He began with the therapod [sic; theropod] claw. “One morning, I turned on the microscope, increased the magnification, and thought ‘wait – that looks like blood!’,” he said.

Bertazzo suspected the blood was historic contamination: a curator or a collector had a cut when they handled the specimen. But Maidment suggested a check. Mammals are unusual among vertebrates in having red blood cells that lack a cell nucleus. If the fossil’s blood cells had nuclei, they could not be human. When they sliced through one of the cells to check, they saw what looked like a nucleus. “That ruled out someone bleeding on the sample,” said Maidment.

Another surprise was to come. Bertazzo was examining another fossil fragment, a piece of rib from some unidentified dinosaur, which had been sliced in two inside the microscope. He spotted bands of fibres, which further tests found to contain amino acids known that make up collagen, the protein-based material that forms the basis for skin and other soft tissues.

More work is needed to be sure the features are genuine blood cells and collagen. The scientists now hope to scour more fossils for soft tissues, and then work out what sorts of burial and environmental conditions are needed for their preservation.

“It may well be that this type of tissue is preserved far more commonly than we thought. It might even be the norm,” said Maidment, whose study appears in Nature Communications. “This is just the first step in this research.”

A detailed study of the soft tissues could unravel some of the long-standing mysteries of dinosaur evolution. The dinosaurs evolved from cold-blooded ancestors, but their modern descendants are warm-blooded birds. When did the transition occur? Red blood cells may hold the answer.

If collagen and red blood cells can survive for 75 million years, what about dinosaur DNA, bearing the genetic code to design, or potentially even resurrect, the beasts?

“We haven’t found any genetic material in our fossils, but generally in science, it is unwise to say never,” said Maidment. Bertazzo is hedging his bets too: “This opens up the possibility of loads of specimens that may have soft tissue preserved in them, but the problem with DNA is that even if you find it, it won’t be intact. It’s possible you could find fragments, but to find more than that? Who knows?”

Anjali Goswami, a paleontologist at University College London, said that if dinosaur soft tissues were found in many more fossils, it could have a transformative effect on research. “If we can expand the data we have on soft tissues, from fossils that are poorly preserved, that has real implications for our understanding of life in deep time,” she said.