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Elana Evans

Name: Elana Evans           Degree: M.Sc. candidate

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Thanks to the soil, thanks to the water, thanks to the sunlight, there is life. Rather than expressing our gratitude to this magnificent earth we often abuse her. Mining the minerals from her core, extracting the blood from her veins, dumping our waste in her waterways. Yet, despite our carelessness and destructive behaviour the earth has a tremendous capacity to recover. Ever changing, ever evolving and self-restoring, Thich Nhat Hanh describes her response to calamity as showing equanimity and forbearance. How does she do it? How can we be guardians of this beautiful earth and stewards of her restorative processes?

I grew up in Toronto and Calgary. I moved to Montreal to do a Bachelor’s of Arts and Science in the Interfaculty Program in Environment offered at McGill University and had the opportunity to participate in a field study semester in Panama. I was deeply inspired by folks who interacted closely with the land, whose food production was local and who observed the subtle changes of weather and landscape to inform their actions and inputs.

Following my degree I moved to Ecuador to volunteer with a small but noteworthy NGO called E-Tech International. There I worked alongside engineers and coordinators who support  mostly indigenous communities who do not typically have access to independent technical advice.

In the summer of 2014, one of Canada’s worst mining disaster took place on traditional Secwepemc territory near the town of Likely in the Cariboo region of B.C. The breach of the Mount Polley gold and copper mine, operated by Imperial Metals, resulted in 18.6 million cubic meters of material entering Quesnel Lake; material that includes liquid and solid tailings waste as well as native soils from Hazeltine Creek.

To date the focus has been on immediate mitigation and reconstruction of the failed tailings facility. Imperial Metals has been given a conditional permit to re-open operations despite the fact that the longer term effects of the tailings as they respond to the new weathering environment has received little or no attention. Under the supervision of Les Lavkulich, I will be undertaking a M.Sc in Soil Science with the hopes of better understanding the aftermath of this major environmental disaster.

It is well understood that fresh (recently exposed un-weathered) tailings reacts chemically and releases a range of new compounds such as sulfuric acid. During this weathering process several heavy metals, many of which are potentially toxic to aquatic life, are released and result in metal-contaminated water supplies. Long-term, will potentially toxic metals, in concentrations above environmentally acceptable levels, be released from these freshly deposited tailings and at what rates will this occur? What environmental conditions will contribute to the release of these potential contaminants and how can this be mitigated or remediated?

I am interested in working in collaboration with those who self-identify as having been affected by the spill, whether by geographic or cultural association with the land. I believe in a holistic approach to research. I think that restoration work should include both social and cultural components and that it should challenge the systems responsible for causing the damage. Through my research I wish to empower people with the tools needed to advocate for their rights and make decisions over their lands.

As a student of the 2015 UBC Farm Practicum, one of my other main concerns and passions is food security and food as a cornerstone of cultural identification. My interest in agriculture is linked to responsible and compassionate guardianship of the land. Soils, water and sunlight grow our food. Our role should be stewardship and gratitude. The effects of Mount Polley may be felt most heavily by the Sockeye Salmon of the Fraser River run, a traditional food source and sacred being to many First Nations communities.

My intention is to conduct research with integrity and to share what I learn in a way that is accessible and useful to all those who are stewards and guardians of this life-giving earth. Without healthy soils, clean water, and radiant sunlight there is nothing left.

Research Interest: Understanding the responsible and compassionate guardianship of the land and wish to empower people with the tools needed to advocate for their rights and make decisions over their lands

Supervisor: Dr. Les Lavkulich

 

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