'World's Largest Skating Rink' Provides Carbon-Free Commute
Love winter? Like to skate? Then you need to know about Ottawa's Rideau Canal Skateway, a four mile frozen canal system that connects suburbs to the heart of the Canadian capital. Dubbed "the world's largest skating rink," it's a cultural attraction and also an emissions-free mode of transport for outdoors-loving Ottawans, who can often be seen commuting on blades to work at downtown offices and to classes at the university.
Last year my wife and I spent an exhilarating weekend there during a brutal February cold snap. It was skate-able for a record 59 days in 2015, a good long season, but alas, the Skateway hasn't been fully open for much in 2016 due to freakishly warm temperatures brought on by El Nino and climate change, which has caused many high temperature records to fall. After opening most of its length by late January as usual, it was then closed again due to thin ice.
On weekends during normal winters, the ice is mobbed with courting couples, hockey games and families of multiple generations. One can rent skates and also big Santa-style sleds, into which are loaded anyone who can't skate, like babies and grandparents, so their families can push them along, often at a good clip. Hot drinks, food and the ubiquitous "bear claw" sweets are hawked by vendors whose stalls are towed out on the ice. There are even ATMs out there on skids for those low on cash.
To celebrate this popular local asset and UNESCO World Heritage Site, the city grooms the ice all winter and also puts on what it calls "Winterlude," a 3-week canal-side celebration from late January to mid February with events day and night, from ice sculpture competitions to late night reggae shows in sub zero temperatures. This year's thin ice problem led during its brief closure to the unfortunate moniker "Waterlude," however.
The El Nino winter is surely a disappointment to the many Ottawans who love this institution—each year it enjoys 900,000+ visitors, including many foreigners who love to skate. So many folks use the Skateway daily that ice conditions are even announced on local radio stations as part of the traffic report.
Happily, the Canal is almost fully open again (check here for conditions) and many people will come for the many Winterlude events happening between now and Feb. 15. In fact, the warmer temps have probably led to greater attendance at outdoor events, organizers have noted with some irony.
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At first glance, you wouldn't think avocados and almonds could harm bees; but a closer look at how these popular crops are produced reveals their potentially detrimental effect on pollinators.
Migratory beekeeping involves trucking millions of bees across the U.S. to pollinate different crops, including avocados and almonds. Timothy Paule II / Pexels / CC0<p>According to <a href="https://www.fromthegrapevine.com/israeli-kitchen/beekeeping-how-to-keep-bees" target="_blank">From the Grapevine</a>, American avocados also fully depend on bees' pollination to produce fruit, so farmers have turned to migratory beekeeping as well to fill the void left by wild populations.</p><p>U.S. farmers have become reliant upon the practice, but migratory beekeeping has been called exploitative and harmful to bees. <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2019/05/10/health/avocado-almond-vegan-partner/index.html" target="_blank">CNN</a> reported that commercial beekeeping may injure or kill bees and that transporting them to pollinate crops appears to negatively affect their health and lifespan. Because the honeybees are forced to gather pollen and nectar from a single, monoculture crop — the one they've been brought in to pollinate — they are deprived of their normal diet, which is more diverse and nourishing as it's comprised of a variety of pollens and nectars, Scientific American reported.</p><p>Scientific American added how getting shuttled from crop to crop and field to field across the country boomerangs the bees between feast and famine, especially once the blooms they were brought in to fertilize end.</p><p>Plus, the artificial mass influx of bees guarantees spreading viruses, mites and fungi between the insects as they collide in midair and crawl over each other in their hives, Scientific American reported. According to CNN, some researchers argue that this explains why so many bees die each winter, and even why entire hives suddenly die off in a phenomenon called colony collapse disorder.</p>
Avocado and almond crops depend on bees for proper pollination. FRANK MERIÑO / Pexels / CC0<p>Salazar and other Columbian beekeepers described "scooping up piles of dead bees" year after year since the avocado and citrus booms began, according to Phys.org. Many have opted to salvage what partial colonies survive and move away from agricultural areas.</p><p>The future of pollinators and the crops they help create is uncertain. According to the United Nations, nearly half of insect pollinators, particularly bees and butterflies, risk global extinction, Phys.org reported. Their decline already has cascading consequences for the economy and beyond. Roughly 1.4 billion jobs and three-quarters of all crops around the world depend on bees and other pollinators for free fertilization services worth billions of dollars, Phys.org noted. Losing wild and native bees could <a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/wild-bees-crop-shortage-2646849232.html" target="_self">trigger food security issues</a>.</p><p>Salazar, the beekeeper, warned Phys.org, "The bee is a bioindicator. If bees are dying, what other insects beneficial to the environment... are dying?"</p>
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