No doubt 2013 was a fascinating roller-coaster year of news stories, tragic events, and political dilemmas.
Back in February we were watching the skies as Asteroid 2012 DA14 took a close swing by Earth. What made the event unique was that the asteroid’s flyby was the closest ever-predicted Earth approach of an object this size. And that was just days before the 19-metre meteorite strike in Chelyabinsk, Russia. All those rocks spinning so close to Earth took on a whole new meaning not to mention some thoughts about preventive management.
The May election saw Christy Clark’s government back in power much to the stunning surprise of everyone after pollsters predicted the Liberal party would go up in flames. Not without some angst, Clark he lost her own Vancouver-Point Grey seat but solved that issue with a successful by-election, grabbing the safe Liberal seat of Westside-Kelowna.
The year made us smile. In London, Kate (Duchess of Cambridge) gave birth to baby George, adding to the cluster of princes-in-waiting for their time on the throne. Between princes Charles, William and the new little George, there’s close to another century of assured British monarchy.
And we smiled with admiration at courageous Malala Yousafzai, the (then) 14-year-old shot in the head by the Taliban in Pakistan. They were attempting to silence her opposition to girls being denied an education. She survived, took her message to a global level and this fall was a contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.
But we cried. Remember the tragedies of the Boston marathon in April, the July train tragedy at Lac Megantic, Quebec, the horrendous account of the African rock python that strangled two young boys in Cambellton, New Brunswick, and the devastation caused by Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines.
Politics kept us focused, the most glaring topic of which has been the Senate scandal, the removal of senators Mike Duffy, Pamela Wallin and Patrick Brazeau, Nigel Wright and the infamous $90,000 cheque, and the unravelling of the influence of the PM’s office. Then there was the issue of Harper’s tight control and his maddening policy of muzzling scientists, many of whom have come forward to express frustration that their research findings are blocked from public access when they are out of step with government policies on environmental protection, climate change, or oil sands development.
Speaking of bitumen oil and B.C.’s pipeline future, that whole debacle took a major step forward (or backward for some?) this month with the National Energy Board joint review panel approving Enbridge’s $6.5 billion Northern Gateway Pipeline, but with 209 conditions. It’s all conditional on the federal government’s final approval but you can bet Harper’s reaching for his rubber stamp.
Albertans are of course delighted. That land-locked province is desperate to find export pathways for its oil. But folks in B.C. are pretty uncomfortable. We’ll take the brunt of the risk for pipeline oil spills either on land or on the coast where a major spill into marine waters would be absolutely devastating. The bitter argument has always pitched protection of the environment against potential for employment. Pipelines and power politics will remain high profile and become a 2015 election issue for sure.
So too will climate change keep conversations lively. Arctic melt, extremes of droughts and floods (remember southern Alberta?) continue the trend of warmer and dryer times. According to Roger Pannett, volunteer weather observer for Environment Canada “With fall mean temperatures at 11.59 C (0.69 C above normal), it was the mildest September to November period in 15 years.”
No doubt 2014 will have much more of the above in store.