July 29, 2019
“Unlike the tours you’ll find in the big cities, you come here to see what hasn’t been built.” - Tour Guide, Waterton Lakes National Park - Alberta, Canada
Writing from Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada (5,149 miles driven)
Leaving behind the sea of churning magma buried underneath Yellowstone Valley, we drove north towards the four crown jewels of the Canadian Rockies: Glacier, Waterton Lakes, Banff and Jasper National Parks.
There we found the most striking manifestations of the powerful forces vying for economic development and natural preservation.
Due to climate warming in the region, scientists predict that the last active glacier in the namesake Glacier National Park will be depleted in the coming decades leaving only their hollowed mountainous footprints behind for future generations to fill in with their imaginations.
Anthropogenic causes for glacier retreat and disappearance include carbon dioxide emissions associated with economic activity but most worrying are indirect effects such as the potential for unleashing self-reinforcing environmental feedback loops e.g. melting Arctic permafrost (soil) frees ancient stores of methane which holds ten times the climate warming power of carbon dioxide, kickstarting another turn of the heating cycle’s flywheel.
On the streets of downtown Banff, an iconic mountain town located inside the national park, black plumes of soot poured out of exhaust pipes from oversized pickup trucks onto the plates and drinks of people dining over sidewalk tables, who continued with their meals oblivious to the irony.
In Jasper National Park, specially equipped shuttle buses weighing 25 tons, produced by a company that helps harvest oil from Canada’s tar sands, ferry paying tourists to Athabasca Glacier, offering circumscribed strolls over Athabasca. Again, the irony escaping the enthralled glacier walkers.
But it was on the road back down from mountain high elevation where we had the most interesting thoughts about market-based solutions for balancing anthropogenic carbon emissions.
We’ll share those thoughts in the coming weeks but this week we leave behind the security blanket of Tesla’s rapid charging network to drive through Canada’s Great Plains back into the United States. We may have a few adventures in store as we will rely solely on public Level 2 charging stations and destination chargers (20-40 miles/hour charging) for range.
We hope you enjoy these images (top of page) from the Canadian Rockies.