Ecologist Alejandro Frid fights for a better world for his daughter

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      BOOK REVIEW

      A World for My Daughter: An Ecologist's Search for Optimism

      By Alejandro Frid. Caitlin Press, 224 pp, softcover

      Conservation biologist Alejandro Frid wears his science on his sleeve. And sometimes, this has led him to take dramatic action to make a point.

      The adjunct professor at the University of Victoria joined other prominent British Columbians, including energy researcher Mark Jaccard and former Vancouver city councillor Fred Bass, in getting arrested during a 2012 protest against coal shipments through White Rock.

      Last year, Frid spent a few hours in a jail cell after participating in a mass protest on Burnaby Mountain against Kinder Morgan's proposed pipeline.

      So why would a scientist potentially jeopardize future job prospects in this way?

      From reading Frid's elegantly written new book, one can only conclude that it's out of a deep love for his daughter, Twyla Bella, and for the future of myriad species on Earth.

      A World for My Daughter is a collection of letters to Twyla Bella that reveal her father's passion for the Earth, the animals that populate it, and ensuring that future generations inherit a habitable future.

      Frid, science coordinator with the Central Coast Indigenous Resource Alliance, is an expert on the interactions between marine predators and their prey. And he outlines in disturbing detail how climate change is upsetting ecosystems and unravelling complex interactions that have existed for centuries.

      Want to learn how rockfish reproduce? Are you intrigued to know why tadpoles with less access to food move differently than those with more plentiful supplies? Have you ever wondered what impact overfishing might have on predation of Stellar's sea lions? It's all here, delivered in an easy, free-flowing style.

      But this is more than just a science primer. Frid also reveals how Coastal First Nations have been irrevocably harmed by corporate greed that puts burning carbon ahead of everything else.

      In the book, Frid shares with his daughter how he has tried to educate federal Conservatives, including Stephen Harper, about the consequences for the planet. But it's not just the politicians that Frid is attempting to convince.

      In one section of A World for My Daughter, Frid describes how he applied for a job as a conservation biologist with the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute.

      He was shortlisted for the position. It required examining local impacts of developing fossil-fuel infrastructure for the liquefied-natural-gas industry.

      After giving this considerable thought, Frid decided to revoke his application for ethical reasons: he couldn't abide by the restriction on only looking at local impacts.

      In the book, he reproduced his letter to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute. It's a detailed denunciation of the global climate impacts of the 470-kilometre Pacific Trails Pipeline.

      According to what the website said in 2012, it would transport a billion cubic feet of natural gas per day, which would amount to the equivalent of 19.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being emitted per year.

      "The impact on biodiversity and ecosystem services of releasing that much CO2e into the atmosphere would, in my opinion, trump the accomplishments of any project focused on local impacts of infrastructure," Frid wrote in his letter to the Smithsonian.

      He later wrote about this in an online publication called Conservation Bytes.

      Frid also reveals in his book that he's raised uncomfortable questions in Conservation Bytes about scientists' propensity for flying around the world to attend conferences. He makes a solid case that carbon offsets are a flawed concept and may do more harm than good when applied to international travel.

      Frid is a fighter and he tells some great tales in A World for My Daughter. More importantly, his book reminds readers that we all have a duty to act in the best interests of the planet. He's set a powerful example not only for the public, but also for his fellow scientists.

      Alejandro Frid will join Trees on Mars author Hal Niedzviecki  in conversation with Janos Mate at the Cherie Smith JCC Jewish Book Festival. They'll be at the Jewish Community Centre at 7:30 p.m. on November 25. Tickets are available online for $18. Frid will also appear at an offsite event for high-school students on the same day at 10 a.m.

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