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Monarch Mission on Mount Royal

Over the last 20 years, monarch butterfly populations in Canada have declined by 90%. In fact, the species is considered of “special concern” by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC).

To assist in protecting the monarch and developing a national conservation plan for this species, the Montreal Insectarium and several Canadian universities have launched the “Monarch Mission,” which invites the public to take part in an inventory of monarch eggs and caterpillars on their host plant, the milkweed.

One group taking part in this initiative is Les Amis de la Montagne’s conservation team in Mount Royal Park. Each week, the team has been collecting information and reporting its observations to the Insectarium through the website dedicated to this project: www.mission-monarch.org

And this Saturday, August 20, Les Amis de la Montagne is inviting the public to join them on Mount Royal for a blitz census of the monarch butterfly population. So far, about 30 people have registered to take part.

“We’ve identified six sectors on Mount Royal where there are large concentrations of milkweed. We’ll divide into teams, and in this way cover the whole park,” explains Julie Faucher Delisle, Conservation Agent with Les amis de la montagne. To date, she said, they haven’t spotted any monarch butterflies, but they’ll be on the look-out for the eggs and first-stage caterpillars. “It’s also possible we won’t find any. But that’s important information too.”

Why the decline?

There are many reasons for the decline in the monarch population. These include deforestation and urbanization, as well as systemic pesticide use. (See more on COSEWIC’s species profile page for the Monarch.)

Another issue, however, is invasive plant species. Delisle explains that monarchs lay their eggs on a very specific host plant, the milkweed. Sometimes, however, monarchs are attracted to another plant from the same family, commonly known as dog-strangling vine. Yet while the survival rate for caterpillar eggs on milkweed is very high, on dog-strangling vine, it is very low. So the conservation team is also working to identify and remove dog-strangling vine throughout Mount Royal park.

How does the census help?

The information collected throughout the summer will be used to help protect the monarchs. “If we know they’re concentrated in a specific area of Montreal, then we know that may be an ecosystem to protect,” Delisle explains. “This could mean, for example, not mowing a lot that contains a large concentration of milkweed plants and is known as a reproduction site for monarchs.” Since the census is a Canada-wide project, it will hopefully lead to improved protection nation-wide.

If you can’t make it to the mountain this Saturday, there are still many opportunities to help out. While no more “blitzes” are planned for the summer, every Saturday morning the public is welcome to come participate in Les Amis de la Montagne’s Environmental Stewardship Program. No registration necessary: just present yourself at the Smith House (1260 Remembrance Road on Mount Royal) at 10 a.m.

More info:

Les amis de la montagne: www.lemontroyal.qc.ca

Learn all about monarchs and/or the Monarch Mission: www.mission-monarch.org

COSEWIC: www.cosewic.gc.ca

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Stay Green

As regular readers will have noticed, over the last few months, enviromontreal posts have become few and far between. The blog is taking an official break for a time, while I focus on other projects. Meanwhile, stay green!

A retrospective of some topics covered in the past (click on any photo to access the slideshow view).

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What do giant puppet jellyfish, green roofs, old computers, and a tax company have in common?

All were part of projects honoured at a Montreal environment and sustainable development awards gala held last week. Organized by CRE-Montréal in collaboration with the City of Montreal, the annual event aims to highlight innovative and inspiring projects being carried out by partners of Montreal’s Sustainable Development Plan.

While I didn’t attend the gala, the projects are all worth mentioning. In fact, one of the award winners and one of the nominees have already been featured on this blog.

 2012 winners

  • Business and industry category: KPMG, a company that provides audit, tax, and advisory services, won for its initiatives encouraging employees to become active in their community. The company makes social and environmental involvement part of its employees’ annual performance evaluation. It also organizes an annual volunteer day: in 2011, 91% of its employees participated in activities such as planting trees, cleaning up shorelines, and controlling invasive species in Angrignon park.
  • Public bodies and institutions: The Borough of Rosement–La Petite-Patrie won for bylaw changes aiming to reduce urban heat islands. Property developers are now obligated to devote at least 20% of the area to green space. In cases where this is difficult, a green roof (roof covered by vegetation) can be installed. In its first year, the bylaw saw the installation of 300 new green and white roofs (roof covered by reflective materials), and the greening of more than 21,000 km2 — the equivalent of four football fields.
  • Non-profit organizations, associations and groups: In 2011 Insertech Angus started its DÉDUIRre service for businesses, collecting and refurbishing old IT equipment, and then putting it to (re)use in the community. The organization also plays a social role by training and employing young people in difficulty, helping them integrate into the job market. (See enviromontreal post: A social and environmental solution for IT equipment)
  • Finally, the “Coup de cœur” award given out by Culture Montréal went to the Coopérative Les ViVaces for its show “La Conférence,” presented during Earth Day weekend at the Biodome. Using puppets made from recycled materials, it told the story of an explorer who discovers the 7th continent, a mass of garbage in the ocean which may be as large as Europe (a true phenomenon, also known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”).

You can view short videos about each of these projects on the gala’s website (in French). Even if your French is poor, watch the video on Coopérative Les ViVaces to see the giant jellyfish they made using an old umbrella frame and transparent plastic.

Also nominated

The following organizations were also nominated for their work.

  • Business and industry: Communauto, for its new fleet of electric cars; Brasserie Labatt, for its recovery of cooling water used in the pasteurization process.
  • Public bodies and institutions: Borough of Villeray–Saint-Michel–Parc-Extension, for the recycling of excavation materials; City of Montreal’s Direction des immeubles, for its sustainable ice-skating rinks.
  • Non-profit organizations, associations and groups: Accès Fleuve / ZIP Ville-Marie, for its Route bleue du Grand Montréal, a way to discover the Montreal area by canoe or kayak; and the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts for its “Ruelle du réemploi”.

 

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I was a bit shocked and rather dismayed to read this morning about cuts planned by the National Film Board, as a result of funding cuts by the federal government. According to The Montreal Gazette, the NFB will be cutting 73 full- and part-time jobs, closing its cinemas in Toronto and Montreal, closing the NFB storefront office on St. Denis Street in Montreal, reducing the Filmmaker Assistance Program and decreasing the amount of money devoted to film production.

So I thought maybe this is a good time for some enviro-related NFB promotion. Did you know you can watch movies for free on the NFB site? In particular, The Green Channel offers “a close look at our world, the environment and sustainability,” with nearly 30 short and feature-length films available for viewing. You can watch them for free online, order them on DVD, or in some cases, download them for a small fee.

I highly recommend “Never Lose Sight,” a short film by Sarah McNair-Landry on the challenges of garbage, recycling and composting in Iqaluit, Nunavut. The challenges they face in this isolated, northern town are very different from the ones we face down here in the south — and yet, in some larger ways, they are not.

Never Lose Sight, Sarah McNair-Landry, 2009, 21 min 30 s

(also in French as “Pour ne pas perdre le Nord)

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First enviromontreal reader survey!

It has now been one year since I started this blog, and I am celebrating with a reader survey. I’d like to get a better idea of who reads the posts, why, and what you like or dislike about the blog. Many of you have already given me feedback informally, but this will give me a chance to collect all your comments in one place.

There are just 10 short questions, so it should only take a few minutes. (For real.) You have until November 30, 2011 to respond. Respondents are invited to leave their name at the end, but it is not required. Thank you for your participation!

Click here to take the First Enviromontreal Reader Survey

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I am having trouble writing this post. It is very hard to write a cheery, inspiring article on something as seemingly insignificant as getting ready to plant tomatoes in my back yard, when the newspaper headline on the table beside me screams: 10,000 feared dead.

Four days ago I conducted an interview for what was to be my next blog post; that night, the earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

We can always donate to the Red Cross or another aid organization with people in the field, on the ground — as many of us did for Haiti, for Pakistan, for New Zealand. Yet it seems like a paltry gesture.

What does it matter that today I chose to buy whole mangoes, instead of the conveniently cut-up ones in a Styrofoam package, or a loose slicer cucumber instead of an English one sheathed in plastic?

Of course, the more cynical will say, why does this trouble you now? What about the poverty and human rights abuses and conflicts raging across the world every day? Millions of people are suffering all the time, and yet most of us here in North American just go about our daily lives.

The truth is that it always troubles me, but the human brain has a way of pushing these things aside.

I am one of the luckiest people on Earth because I can buy whatever fresh fruits and vegetables I desire, for myself and for my healthy family. Later we will eat them in our comfy, heated house. My son will take his mango for his morning snack at school, where he is being well-educated by highly qualified teachers with access to an ample stock of books, toys and supplies; my daughter will do the same when she is of school age.

I suppose that is the point: living in the land of plenty, free and fortunate as we are, it is not just shameful but downright embarrassing that we waste, that we over-consume, that we over-package, that we produce mounds of garbage, that we pollute and pollute and pollute.

Changing these habits will not prevent earthquakes. But, as we go about our daily lives, perhaps they can inspire a positive shift in the world that is still standing.

I promise I’ll tell you about the tomatoes tomorrow.

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When I told one of my friends that I was starting an environment blog, she said, “Hmm, the environment. That’s hard.”

Hard to write about? I asked her to clarify.

“Everything is designed in a way that prevents you from being environmentally friendly,” she explained. The world goes against it.”

“That’s why I’m starting an environment blog,” I said.

I want to feature Montrealers who are doing interesting and innovative things to protect the environment and to promote sustainability in their community.

I want to talk about environmental issues that matter to Montrealers, and potential solutions.

I’m not exactly a hardcore environmentalist, but I try and do my part. When my daughter was born, I used cloth diapers. I subscribe to a weekly compost collection service. Even with two young kids, my husband and I don’t own a car: we use public transportation or Communauto. We chose to live in a duplex near a metro station, rather than buy a house out in the suburbs.

To some of my husband’s suburbanite colleagues, this is all very radical. Yet next to some of our more bohemian Mile End friends, this is all very tame. After all, we didn’t use the cloth diapers all the time. I still buy little juice boxes and individually wrapped cheese sticks for my kids.

As a writer and journalist, however, I feel the way I can make the greatest difference is by giving a voice to those who are being a bit more daring and enterprising. The aim of this blog, therefore, is to draw your attention to pilot projects, events, educational projects, research, new technology, or other initiatives taking place in and around the city.

My ultimate goal is not just to inform, but to inspire.

So if you know of someone involved in an exciting environmental project in the Montreal area, please let me know!

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