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Canada’s Zombie Forests

How logging has quietly taken its toll on the country’s woodland.

Logging in Canada.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Although Canada has developed a reputation as a responsible steward of its massive — and environmentally crucial — boreal forests, a new study published in the journal Land calls that reputation into question. The analysis, by researchers at Australia’s Griffith University, found that 35.4 million acres of the country’s evergreen forests in the provinces of Ontario and Quebec have been effectively lost to logging since 1976. The government-approved methods used to regenerate those forests — which require loggers to replant cleared areas or show that the region will recover on its own — have had a devastating result, as similar practices have had in many other parts of the world.

Logging in Canada's boreal forest.Overview of logged forest within the study area from 1976 to 2020.Climate Action Beacon, Griffith University

While 56 million acres of older trees remain across the two provinces, that acreage is now interspersed with patchworks of newly planted trees chosen for their future suitability for logging, not for purposes of ecological diversity or wildfire prevention. “The Canadian government claims to have managed the forest according to the principles of sustainable forest management,” Brendan Mackey, the study’s lead author, toldThe New York Times. “But its notion of sustainability is really tied to maintaining and maximizing wood production and ensuring the regeneration of commercially desirable trees. That has a lot of implications for biodiversity.”

Canada’s forest managers say that “At 0.02% of its forested area, [the rate of] deforestation in Canada is among the world’s lowest,” which sounds impressive until this caveat: “an area with very young trees is still a forest. The term ‘deforestation’ refers to land that has been cleared of trees and permanently converted to another use.” It’s a bit like claiming that a zombie is a healthy, normal person, simply because it seems to be alive. So while Canada may not have widespread deforestation, what it does have are swaths of newer trees that are far less effective than their forebears when it comes to carbon capture, species diversity, and wildfire prevention. “Forest degradation is the more important metric for Canada because it really captures more of what’s actually happening,” Peter Wood, of the University of British Columbia, told the Times. “Canada has downplayed the impact of the forest industry.”

Jacob Lambert

Jacob is Heatmap's founding multimedia editor. Before joining Heatmap, he was The Week's digital art director and an associate editor at MAD magazine. Read More

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Sparks

This Chicken Named Potato Will Teach Your Kids About Climate Change

A chicken from the future, to be clear.

Future Chicken.
Heatmap Illustration/CBC, Getty Images

If I told you there was a chicken named Potato who was going to teach our kids about climate change, would you think I was kidding? Either way, I’m here to inform you that Future Chicken, an “ECOtainment platform” co-created by Catherine Winder and Annabel Slaight, launched last year, including original content like a TV show that airs on CBC and YouTube, games, and a podcast, all aimed at warding off climate doom and instead highlighting climate solutions.

Winder and Slaight have, to put it mildly, impressive resumes, with Slaight having been an executive producer of The Big Comfy Couch and Winder a force behind multiple Angry Birds movies. The show’s premise is fun, and was actually thought up by kids. The main character is a chicken (named Potato) from the year 2050, a time when climate change has seemingly been solved. She travels back and forth between the future and the present, sometimes talking about the solutions of her time.

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Sparks

Uncle Sam Is Helping Americans Buy 675 Electric Cars a Day

New Treasury data just dropped.

An EV charger.
Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Earlier this week, I was thinking to myself, how are we going to know how many people are actually taking advantage of the tax credits in the Inflation Reduction Act?

When I put the question out on Twitter — I mean, X — I heard from Sam Hughes, a researcher inside the Treasury who pointed me to a section of the department’s website that contains data on tax credits by year. The problem is, it hasn’t been updated since 2020. But then today, as if to answer my prayers, I received a taste of the data I was looking for in my inbox.

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Sparks

Get a Grip, New York. It’s Just Snow.

We have forgotten how to winter.

New York City during a snowstorm.
Heatmap Illustration/Library of Congress

It is a time-honored tradition for Americans who live north of the 39th parallel to mock cities like Washington, D.C., and Atlanta when they shut down over a little bit of snow. It is with great regret, then, that I write now to tell you that New York City has fallen. No longer will it be acceptable for us to roll our eyes at Southerners who abandon their cars over a mere inch of snow; no, we in fact deserve to be razzed by New Englanders and Minnesotans, our former partners in razzing. New Yorkers have become, in effect, weak. We’ve forgotten how to winter.

Maybe it’s because it has been 745 days since our last significant snowfall, or maybe it’s because, at some point, we started to lean into our designation as a “subtropical” climate. But no — I won’t make excuses, either. Outside my window in western Queens, the sidewalks are slushy but navigable, the flakes are light, and the city has lost its mind.

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