Protecting The Hudson Bay Lowlands

By Dr John Bacher and Danny Beaton, Mohawk of the Turtle Clan.

In Memory of Alicja Rozanska.

National Geographic Magazine Identifies Hudson Bay Lowlands as Critical Protection Priority.

National Geographic Magazine had a compelling theme to mark its 2020 Earth Day issue. There were two covers for the issue, which expressed very different views as to what Earth would be like in 2070. One cover, dominated by a reddish glow, showed Earth from Space and gave a theme of, “How We Lost the Planet.” The other was titled, “How We Saved the World”, and was radiant with the blue colors of a healthy ocean.

The bleak forecast is summed up in the words of one of the most powerful writers, Elizabeth Kolbert. She warns that “The world will be a much more dangerous place, where flooding, drought, fire, and unrest have forced millions from their homes.” What is frightening in these prophecies, is that the condition of the planet now in November 2021 is much more resembling of this bleak condition now than when they were penned in April 2020.

As part of a plan to avoid catastrophe, National Geographic published a map of Protection Priorities put together by Irene Berman-Vaporis and Matthew Chwastyk. The authors call for “The strategic placement of newly protected areas” to “help conserve the world’s biodiversity and safeguard carbon stocks.” They conclude that protection of these lands “could help save millions of species and mitigate climate change.”

Three of the large mass of protection priorities consist of tropical rainforests in the Amazon, the Congo Basin, and South-Eastern Asia. These landscapes are not only important for biodiversity, but for sequestering carbon. One of the critical regions is the Congo Basin’s Cuvette Centrale. Its importance comes from being one of our planet’s largest carbon-storing peatland complexes.

Outside of the tropical rainforests, the world’s greatest protection priority is right here in Canada. It stretches around the southern shore of the Hudson Bay from the Churchill River in Manitoba to about fifty miles into Quebec, east of its border with Ontario. It is the Hudson Bay Lowlands, which are a massive “Carbon trap.” The Protection Priorities Map warns that the Hudson Bay Lowlands are “one of the largest peatlands in the world; they shelter massive stores of carbon.”

Most of the world’s greatest carbon trap is not threatened. Sanely, there are no plans for new dams by Ontario, Manitoba or Quebec here. The region also remains protected from large scale commercial logging and clear-cutting. There are also no roads that connect to the road network of North America, and only one railway, whose purpose is largely confined to tourism operations. It is protected by the Cree and Ojibway, whose civilizations have evolved in harmony with this land since the retreat of glaciers. It is the core of the world’s largest remaining intact forest.

The only threat to the Hudson Bay Lowlands should be a focus of global protest. The Earth’s refrigerator is under attack by a nickel-mining proposal of a Canadian company, Noront Resources, recently backed by investors from Australia. It would put massive new roads into one of the world’s largest remaining roadless, intact forests. New roads can dam and dry out cooling peatlands turning them into net emitters of carbon instead of earth saving sinks. This recently happened to similar treed bog wetlands in Fort McMurray, burning up much of the city in the process.

The threat to the Hudson Bay Lowlands should be understood as a stupid gimmick which imperils a landscape whose protection is critical to reversing our current state of climate change catastrophe. Past claims for this speculative gamble with our future were based on the mining potential of chromite, which is now experiencing a glut in markets. Nickel-mining can be and has been in the past, subject to similar cycles; and electric cars are evolving in ways which have shown can be manufactured with less of this metal than current models.

If roads to facilitate nickel-mining are allowed to penetrate the heart of the world’s refrigerator, Canada’s commitments to work to become a climate change leader are a fraud. Disrupting the heartland of the world’s largest forest is a path to catastrophe. It is a disgrace that none of our parliamentarians or political parties can recognize this basic truth.

* * *

By Danny Beaton:

What we see is Mother Earth being put under a profit-seeking microscope by mining companies and developers, who continually look for resources to extract at any cost, no matter how much flooding or pollution is created. Yes, the lawyers of profit-seekers have slick words to explain how all is protected, safe and passes environmental inspection. But, all we need to look at is the planet and use common sense to see that Mother Earth could not be in more danger from the abuses she is taking.

The Hopi and Haudenosaunee Prophecies tell us that if we do not listen to their messages, that Mother Earth cannot take the abuses, we Human Beings will suffer dire consequences, including sickness from viruses, famine, floods and disease. But are mining companies listening to Indigenous people when they beg them to stop destroying their homeland?

Indigenous people have lived on traditional territories for thousands of years and know the animals, birds, fish and insects need clean fresh air, earth and water. Life is a fragile web of life that must be honoured and respected. But are these profit-seekers concerned with the idiosyncrasy of ecosystems that have survived millions of years without being walked on, like the Hudson Bay Lowlands, that can nourish and heal our Mother Earth when she is sick? Our elders have been giving this Sacred Message over and over that we are destroying Mother Earth. Now, it is the people of the four colors who should come together for our children's future before it is too late.

The Ring of Fire can destroy life here in Canada and around the world, if it is not protected.

Photo Credit: Danny Beaton at a rally by Stan Williams, 2016.

Local Chapter: