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The Tyee’s 25 Most Read Stories in 2021

In a year with plenty of gripping issues to choose from, these were the big draws in our pages.

David Beers 31 Dec

David Beers is founding editor of The Tyee.

The pandemic’s grip on British Columbia and Canada extended to our list of the most read stories on The Tyee in 2021. Most of the heavy hitters were about COVID-19 and what we should be doing as it morphed into variants including Delta and Omicron. In the mix, too, pieces about orcas, trees, ferries, residential school horrors, Mexican resort towns, Greens and Genghis Khan. The fact that Andrew Nikiforuk penned 52 per cent of this list underscores the phenomenal impact of his award-winning work in 2021.

Here are the 25 most read stories published by The Tyee this year, starting with the undisputed winner.

The Virus Changed. Now We Must ‘Get to Zero’ or Face Catastrophe
Half measures haven’t worked. It’s time to beat the virus the way other places have done. By Andrew Nikiforuk

This prescient call to action published on Jan. 28 as the Delta variant loomed into global view pointed down the road we might have taken in the months that followed. Nikiforuk quoted experts arguing for a full-scale effort to test, trace and cordon off areas where infections flourished. Had we followed their advice, where might we be today? It’s an interesting enough question that nearly 300,000 people have read this article.

A Giant Old Growth Tree Rolling Down a BC Highway Went Viral. What’s Its Story?
As a new ‘war in the woods’ brews, a social media post has emerged as a rallying call. By Andrew MacLeod

Someone snapped a photo of a seemingly impossibly big tree trunk on a truck bed trundling down a Vancouver Island highway and posted it with incredulity on social media. The Tyee’s Andrew MacLeod tracked down the back story, read by over 100,000 people.

If You Want to Avoid the Variants, Read This
In the debate over how COVID-19 travels, the answer is clear. We must guard against aerosol spread. By Andrew Nikiforuk

Believe it or not, back in April there was still some disagreement about whether COVID was much transmitted via aerosols projected by people through the air. Nikiforuk masterfully settled the matter.

We Could Have Been Largely Free of the Pandemic by Now
How Canada’s leaders chose a third wave by deciding to muddle along. By Andrew Nikiforuk

Third wave? That was in March. Now we face a crashing fifth wave. Enough said.

The Pandemic Speaks
Are you finally ready to listen to me now? If so, here are my 10 timeless truths. By Andrew Nikiforuk

More than one expert on epidemiology has on social media declared this tour de force to be the best piece written about the pandemic.

Tracking Orcas with Tech: ‘The Images Took Our Breath Away’
UBC scientists attached cameras to drones, and the whales themselves. Here’s the result. By Kerry Banks

Compelling images and sharp scientific storytelling combined to make this a favourite deep dive.

Why the P1 Variant Poses So Great a Threat to BC
The virus mutation emerged in Brazil. It spreads explosively and slams the young. By Crawford Kilian

For a while it looked like the most dangerous evolution of COVID-19 had surfaced in Brazil, and The Tyee’s ever vigilant Crawford Kilian conducted a mini-master class in virus mutation, Brazilian health policy idiocy and why more variants were in our future.

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The guy next door to BC keeps popping up in The Tyee’s most read pieces.

And the ‘Stupidest Public Health Response to the Pandemic in the G7’ Award Goes to... Alberta
In a few weeks, those with COVID-19 will no longer need to isolate, or do anything else, really. By David Climenhaga

Speaking of health policy idiocy, Alberta offered a head-scratching example in July when Premier Jason Kenney basically declared the threat over. Well, we tried to warn him.

Genghis Khan, Feminist
When his sons ruined the empire, it was a woman who recreated Mongolia in the late 15th century. By Crawford Kilian

Speaking of unpredictable viral behaviour, this story we published in 2010 suddenly caught fire again, attracting nearly 50,000 page views. Some 13th-century emperors never go out of style.

Canada Is One Big Pandemic Response Experiment. It Proves ‘Zero COVID’ Is Best
So concludes a major French study that scanned many nations. By Andrew Nikiforuk

Three months after sounding the alarm that the Delta variant demanded aggressive measures, Nikiforuk again pressed for policies designed to eliminate the virus rather than let it linger to mutate and rule our existences. Readers clearly showed more interest in such an approach than did our leaders.

Canada’s Crazy Pandemic Response
As the third wave has built and now may drown us, our leaders keep blathering about ‘balance.’ By Andrew Nikiforuk

Nikiforuk kept up his bugle call, citing many experts and case studies from other nations, and readers kept tuning in.

‘The Story of a National Crime’
A century ago, Dr. Peter Bryce demonstrated that residential schools were designed to kill. Canada’s government ignored him. By Andrew Nikiforuk

When the remains of 215 children were found buried at the residential school site in Kamloops, the discovery only confirmed what the Truth and Reconciliation Commission said was the case — that the residential school system claimed hundreds of young Indigenous lives yet to be accounted for and memorialized. Andrew Nikiforuk’s piece reminded that the death toll was no accident.

How BC Fumbled the Third Wave
Four experts say leaders were warned of the variant threat but misread key data and failed to respond fast enough. By Andrew Nikiforuk

“Besieged by variants and now breaking record case counts, B.C. has joined the ranks of some of Canada’s worst performing provinces. Why?” begins this widely read piece, which provides answers.

Alberta Joins Team ‘Just Give Up’
Kenney’s new policies are unscientific, self-serving and place his government among a growing global club. By Andrew Nikiforuk

Nikiforuk again, this time training his laser analysis on summertime Alberta. He saw “a modern government admitting it can no longer deal promptly and effectively with undeniable threats to the greater community. Alberta’s is not the first government do so, and don’t expect it to be the last.”

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Is there a more responsible way to visit small resort towns like Bucerías? Or should snowbirds fold their wings? Photo by Samaria Castellón.

The High Cost of a Cheap Break in the Sun
The retirement tradition of flying south for the winter has consequences. But Global North consumers can still make choices. By Ximena Gonzalez

Where Canada’s snowbirds migrate, they upset social and economic ecosystems. Witness the transformation of the little town of Bucerías on Mexico’s Pacific coast.

BC Ferries Ups the Pressure to Pay $17 Reservation Fee
With more space allocated for drivers who reserve, travellers face more waits unless they pay up. By Andrew MacLeod

Just as COVID restrictions eased and travel beckoned, British Columbians had a new reason to be frustrated: a sneaky way of grabbing more money from ferry travellers.

Talking with the Botanist Who Talks to Trees
Diana Beresford-Kroeger is famed for her writing on nature. We visited her home, drank whiskey, savoured her genius. Part one. By Andrew Nikiforuk

This first in a five-part series drawn from two days spent with a renowned tree scientist was first published in February 2020 but its popularity endured like a sturdy oak.

The Most Important Climate Action You Can Take? We Asked Paul Hawken
A Tyee interview with the eminent environmentalist on his new book, ‘Regeneration.’ By Olamide Olaniyan

Tyee associate editor Ola Olaniyan’s fascinating discussion with the American entrepreneur, author, eco-economist and activist drew a crowd.

The Man Who Upended Canada’s Green Party
As Annamie Paul dodges a non-confidence vote, former aide Noah Zatzman scoffs at the idea he put her career in peril. By Christopher Guly

We profiled the little-known advisor to the Green leader whose social media attacks on MLAs in his own party helped trigger a spectacular implosion. The resulting account is like watching a car crash in slow motion (if the cars were electric).

‘Mother Trees’ Are Real. They Model Sharing and Generosity
Suzanne Simard’s book on forest complexity is as sturdy, impressive and beautiful as a big red cedar. By Dorothy Woodend

The UBC scientist who revealed the relationship between trees and mycorrhizal networks in 1997 and gave it a catchy name — “The Wood-Wide Web” — waited 24 years to tell her story in full. Result: the bestseller Finding the Mother Tree: Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest, part memoir, part biology lesson. Dorothy Woodend did the book justice with a review that branches in many directions.

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UBC ecologist Suzanne Simard wrote a bestseller and Dorothy Woodend’s review was among the best read Tyee articles.

Meet the Albertans Ditching the Jason Kenney Government
Doctors, entrepreneurs and businesspeople are packing up. That’s bad news for the province’s future. By Tim Ford

As one MD who fled to B.C. succinctly told us in January: “And so here we are, and boy, am I happy to not be in Alberta anymore.”

Jason Kenney’s Lethal Negligence
His decisions have led to hundreds of deaths. Who will hold him accountable? By Andrew Nikiforuk

By August, those Albertans who chose not to leave found themselves in a province that had lifted all public health measures (everything from contact tracing to masks and school reporting), with nearly 500 dead as a result. Nikiforuk presented his case for the prosecution.

Mapping the Flood in Abbotsford
From the long-gone Sumas Lake, to our worst-case flooding scenario. A disaster visualized. By Christopher Cheung

People heard the news bulletins and saw the photos of devastation, but they wanted a different way to comprehend how we got here and what stood in the way of even worse catastrophe. Our Christopher Cheung connected the dots using data and maps.

Omicron’s Here. We Invited It In
With good policy this massive fifth wave could have been avoided. Instead our leaders embraced four big myths. By Andrew Nikiforuk

With just nine days left in the year, Nikiforuk shared this analysis of why we’re in the Omicron mess we’re in. It’s still fast piling up readers as you read this.

David Schindler, the Scientific Giant Who Defended Fresh Water
Among the world’s greatest ecologists, his boreal research has touched all of our lives. By Andrew Nikiforuk

Schindler was a peerless scientist and informed many pieces by Andrew Nikiforuk, who wrote a movingly eloquent testament to his friend. The overwhelming response to the tribute confirmed Schindler’s lasting legacy.

So that’s our most read 25. With a wild card to throw in. One of the top dozen pages people went to most this year — nearly 45,000 times in fact — is the one that explains how to support The Tyee.

You see, The Tyee’s existence depends on readers who pledge monthly contributions to help pay for our independent, paywall-free, no-junk journalism. We are in fact wrapping up a drive to add more Builders today, and there’s still time to hop on board.

A big thanks to all of you who read our stories and serious gratitude to all who give what they can. Thanks to you, we’ll be back at it in 2022.

Happy holidays, readers. Our comment threads will be closed until Jan. 3 to give our moderators a break. See you in 2022!  [Tyee]

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