Archive for April, 2012

‘I withdraw’: A talk with climate defeatist Paul Kingsnorth

April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Ever think, even for a moment, that the job is just too large? That we are so far from making the necessary changes with so little time to make them? That in the end, we probably aren’t going to manage it?

Paul Kingsnorth, a lifetime environmentalist, feels that way. And he has given up all hope on the prospect of sustaining civilization as it currently exists. In fact, the sooner the end comes the better (for the planet at least). This may be depressing stuff indeed but this article is really worth a read. At the very least, it is provocative and challenges us to think hard about what it is exactly we are trying to sustain when we talk about sustainability.

Here’s an excerpt:

These are precarious and unprecedented times … Little that we have taken for granted is likely to come through this century intact.

We don’t believe that anyone — not politicians, not economists, not environmentalists, not writers — is really facing up to the scale of this … Somehow, technology or political agreements or ethical shopping or mass protest are meant to save our civilization from self-destruction.

Well, we don’t buy it. This project starts with our sense that civilization as we have known it is coming to an end; brought down by a rapidly changing climate, a cancerous economic system and the ongoing mass destruction of the non-human world. But it is driven by our belief that this age of collapse — which is already beginning — could also offer a new start, if we are careful in our choices.

The end of the world as we know it is not the end of the world full stop.

‘I withdraw’: A talk with climate defeatist Paul Kingsnorth | Grist.

Canada’s coal industry pressured government to weaken regulations

April 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Perhaps it’s no surprise that the coal industry would try to exert pressure on the federal Conservatives but the fact that their efforts were so successful speaks volumes about who has the ear of this government (hint: it’s not environmentalists).

Briefing notes prepared by Environment Canada in September show that  proposed regulations to crack down on pollution from coal-fired power plants offered an 18-month deferral on enforcement of the regulations “because of the interventions made by ATCO,” an Alberta-based energy company.

Here’s an excerpt from the Postmedia article:

The regulations, if finalized, are slated to come into force by July 1, 2015, but ATCO was seeking the deferral “to the end of 2016,” to protect its existing “Battle River 3″ generating unit.

“ATCO’s views had an influence on the proposed regulations as published,” said the briefing note, produced a few weeks after Environment Minister Peter Kent unveiled his plan.

Tim Weis, director of renewable energy and efficiency at the Pembina Institute, said any further efforts to weaken the regulations would be favouring profits over public health.

Canada’s coal industry pressured feds to weaken regulations, records say.

Rainfall and ocean salinity changing faster than expected due to global warming

April 27, 2012 Leave a comment

Check out this story from Reuters. It seems scientists have detected a clear change in salinity of the world’s oceans and have found that the cycle that drives rainfall and evaporation has intensified more than thought because of global warming.

Why is this significant? Current rainfall patterns are expected to intensify as the planet warms, yet this research concludes that the impacts may be worse than previously believed, leading to even more extreme droughts and flooding in vulnerable areas in the years to come. Here’s an excerpt:

Temperature data shows the planet heated up by 0.5 deg C between 1950-2000. But climate models suggest the world is on track to warm by 3 deg C by the end of the century unless the current growth of greenhouse gas emissions is quickly halted.

A warming of that magnitude would mean the water cycle intensifying by up to 24 percent, with wet regions getting wetter and dry regions drier.

Some ocean regions are saltier, meaning less rainfall and others are fresher, meaning high rainfall, making salinity measurements a good way to measure changes in rainfall patterns.

Earthgauge Radio April 19: Earth Day Special and Climate Impacts Day

April 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Earth Day 2012 - "Mobilize the Earth"

Full program audio:

On Earthgauge Radio this week, it’s our Earth Day Special. Click the audio player above to hear the whole show. We have 2 interviews on today’s program:

  • Jamie Henn of and on their Connect the Dots campaign and Climate Impacts Day on May 5

Earthgauge Radio is broadcast every other Thursday morning at 7:00-8:00 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa. Right click here to download today’s full show.

Earth Day is this Sunday,  April 22 and it marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. So I spoke with the president of Earth Day Canada, Jed Goldberg, who told us about the importance of Earth Day and what is being planned for the 2012 edition.

Jed Goldberg interview (right click here to download):

Also on the program, I spoke with Jamie Henn of the organization about their Connect the Dots campaign and Climate Impacts Day, which is coming up on May 5. Connect the Dots is a campaign to draw the connection between extreme weather and climate change. Climate Impacts Day will bring together thousands of communities to take action to highlight the dramatic climate change impacts we are witnessing around the world so we’ll talk to Jamie about what they have planned for May 5 and how you can get involved in planning your own event or joining an event already being planned.

Jamie Henn interview (right click here to download):

We also had our usual segment with Ecology Ottawa who updated us on local environmental events and campaigns. And we heard the week’s round-up of international eco-news from Deutsche Welle Living Planet.

Remember that Earthgauge Radio is podcast on iTunes if you type earthgauge into the search bar, you’ll find us. Contact us at Facebook address is and Twitter handle @earthgaugeCA. Please do get in touch if you have story ideas, a comment on something you’ve heard or want to get involved or contribute to the show.

Upcoming local environmental events (courtesy of Ecology Ottawa):

Read more…

U.S. Geological Survey confirms fracking causes earthquakes

April 17, 2012 Leave a comment

When I talked with Mark Ruffalo last November – whose organization organization Water Defense is trying to bridge the movements working to stop mountain top removal, hydro fracking and tar sands mining – he said that we had entered the era of “extreme energy”. As supplies of conventional fossil fuels dwindle, we are employing increasingly extreme methods to extract energy resources from the earth.

I was reminded of Ruffalo’s comments today when I read this article, which discusses two separate studies confirming a link between the practice of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” and earthquake activity. Here is an excerpt:

Energy companies are increasingly using the technique across Canada, where there is already regular seismic activity and an ever looming threat of various sized tremors. The process involves blasting water, sand and chemicals deep into the ground to fracture rock to obtain oil and natural gas.

The U.S. Geological Survey is set to release its findings Wednesday that a “remarkable” increase of quakes in the U.S. midcontinent since 2001 is “almost certainly” the result of oil and gas production.

Opposition to fracking has ramped up since the release of the 2010 documentary “Gasland,” which shows residents of small town Colorado setting alight tap water they charge was soured by nearby oil industry activity.

Fracking causes earthquakes, studies confirm – Technology & Science – CBC News.

Sustainability news: Forests, Climate Change and the Health of the Planet

April 15, 2012 Leave a comment

For our January 12 show, Earthgauge Radio took measure of the state of the world’s forests in our look back at the recently-concluded International Year of the Forest. Now new research is showing  that forest die-offs are on the increase and this troubling trend is being linked to global warming. Heat and water stress associated with climate change are making forests vulnerable to insect attacks, fires and other problems.

In a troubling new article from the Environmental News Network, we learn that in addition to the current threats facing global forests, there is now a movement afoot to increase the use of wood as a biofuel, thus increasing the pressure on vulnerable and critical ecosystems around the world. Here is an excerpt from the article:

As reported in an October 2011 New York Times article, millions of acres of forests in the northern and central Rockies are dying. In Colorado, at least 15 percent of that state’s aspen forests are suffering due to a lack of water. The U.S. is not the only country where forests are succumbing to the effects of a warming climate, trees are also being impacted by climate change all around the globe.

Despite the wealth of data supporting global warming and the crucial importance of forests to planetary health, world industry leaders in wood materials gathered in Seattle on April 11-13 to discuss the role of woody biomass for production of biofuels. According to a UBC study, wood-based biofuels could be a competitive industry by 2020. While biofuels offer questionable benefits to the planet, wood based biofuels are even more suspect.

Sustainability news: Forests and the Health of the Planet.

May 5, 2012: It’s time to Connect the Dots between climate change and extreme weather

April 13, 2012 Leave a comment

You’ve got to see this video.

Connect the Dots:

May 5, 2012 is Climate Impacts Day. Protest, educate, document and volunteer along with thousands of people around the world to support the communities on the front lines of the climate crisis. Organize your own event or join one here.

Clocking in at only two minutes, the video above – produced by a volunteer – is a concise and potent reminder of why people everywhere are joining the international day of action to Connect the Dots on 5/5/12.

Budget 2012: At least the war on the environment is going well

Check out my latest article in the Common Sense Canadian on the recently announced federal budget. Here are a couple excerpts:

Until this year, the purpose of the annual Canadian federal budget was to project government revenues, lay out spending priorities and forecast economic conditions for the upcoming year. Reading Budget 2012, announced last week by Finance Minister Jim Flaherty, it soon becomes clear that this government has no intention of being encumbered by such pedestrian fiscal objectives. The Harper government has instead opted to present what is first and foremost a policy document – one that brazenly asserts the government’s ideological agenda for the coming three years.

If the overriding economic policy goal of this government was not apparent previously, with the release of Budget 2012, there can no longer be any doubt. The Harper gang has dispensed with even the pretense of meeting its basic environmental fiduciary responsibilities in favour of the almost totally unimpeded exploitation of Canadian resources.

Just how bad is it? Well, don’t take my word for it. Last week on CBC, the respected columnist Chantale Hebert of the Toronto Star, hardly an eco-zealot, said this was the most anti-environment budget she had seen in her 20 years covering Parliament Hill. Even the very moderate, if not conservative, editorial board of the Globe and Mail singled out the environmental provisions in the Budget saying “The Conservatives are continuing their dishonourable attack meant to intimidate environmental groups, in a budget item that stands out for adding a needless new cost.”

Read the full article here.

Earthgauge Radio April 5: Elizabeth May // Federal Budget 2012 // Land Awakening

On Earthgauge Radio this week, it’s our federal budget 2012 special program. Click the audio player above to hear the whole show. We have 2 interviews on today’s show:

Earthgauge Radio is broadcast every other Thursday morning at 7:00-8:00 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa. Right click here to download today’s full show.

It’s been a big week in politics and for environmental issues here in Ottawa with the federal budget being released last Thurs. In addition to the well-publicized thousands upon thousands of public service job cuts, the budget was described by Chantale Hébert of the Toronto Star and CBC as the most anti-environmental budget she has seen in her 20 years on Parliament Hill. So we talked with Green Party Leader Elizabeth May this week about the Budget and what it means for environmental protection in Canada. Click the audio players below to hear this interview as well as her full speech at the University of Ottawa last week.

Elizabeth May interview. Right click here to download:

Elizabeth May speech at the University of Ottawa (April 2, 2012). Right click here to download:

Also on today’s show, Rosanna has an interview for us with Raul Alvarez, director of the film Land Awakening, which screened in Ottawa last week. A wonderfully inspiring film that challenges us to rethink our relationship with food production, the film is the director’s personal journey to experience hands-on organic sustainable agriculture. This experience becomes a spiritual reflection into our deep and sacred relationship with the land. Click the audio player below to hear this interview. Right click here to download.

Raul Alvarez interview:

We’ll also have our usual segment with Ecology Ottawa who will be updating us on local environmental events and campaigns. We’ve listed some of the upcoming events below or you can click here to see a complete list with full details.

Finally, we hear a clip from our friends at Deutsche Welle Living Planet on their coverage of the recent Planet Under Pressure conference, which took place in London, England last week. As we’re talking about the environmental assaults in the federal budget this week, we thought it was worth listening to what scientists rather than politicians have to say about the current state of our global environment.

I’m pleased to be announcing that as of today we will be moving from a bi-weekly to a weekly show. You can now hear Earthgauge when you tune in every week on Thursday morning from 7-8AM and streamed online at We’re also excited to be introducing a new partnership with the Climate Action Network who, starting next week, will be bringing us monthly features on a variety of themes.

Remember that Earthgauge Radio is podcast on iTunes if you type earthgauge into the search bar, you’ll find us. Contact us at Facebook address is and Twitter handle @earthgaugeCA. Please do get in touch if you have story ideas, a comment on something you’ve heard or want to get involved or contribute to the show.

Upcoming local environmental events (courtesy of Ecology Ottawa)

Wednesday April 11th – the second in a series of Organic Gardening Workshops will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 pm at the Sandy Hill Community Centre. These workshops are a presentation of Canadian Organic Growers Ottawa in collaboration with Just Food and the City of Ottawa. Workshop number 2 will be divided into 2 parts; part 1 will focus on seeding and transplanting, including such topics as organic seed sources, seed starting requirements and transplanting to the garden. Part 2 will focus on winter storage of fruits and vegetables, including temperature & humidity requirements, drying, canning, freezing and more. Call 613-564-1062 to register or for more information.

Thursday, April 12th – the City of Ottawa will be holding a Public Open House at Ben Franklin Place to discuss plans to address the emerald ash borer problem in Ottawa. The emerald ash borer is an invasive insect that poses a serious threat to the survival of ash trees across the city. Councillor Peter Hume and the City Forestry Staff will be leading the meeting. More information will be confirmed closer to the actual date.

Thursday, April 12th – there will be an Ecology Ottawa presentation on investing in solar power at the Ashbury College Chapel, from 7:00 to 8:30 pm. Come learn what 49,000 Ontarians have already figured out: how investing in solar power providesa stable, long term financial return. Solar power generated by panels on rooftops can be sold to the province’s electrical grid at a price that is guaranteed for 20 years. This payment is known as a “feed-in tariff,” made possible by Ontario’s Green Energy Act. Come learn a step-by-step plan for installing solar power on your home. If you don’t have a good rooftop, opportunities to invest in renewable energy through the Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative will also be discussed.

An Environmental Film Festival is taking place at the Museum of Nature starting on April 18 and running to the 20th. Tickets are available online.

Solutions to the grave problem of global overfishing

A couple of stories this week related to the desperate state of many of the world’s fisheries, many of which have been decimated by overfishing. A study by the Wildlife Conservation Society, ARC Centre for Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, and other groups on more than 40 coral reefs in the Indian and Pacific Oceans indicates that “co-management” — a collaborative arrangement between local communities, conservation groups, and governments —  has been largely successful in sustaining fisheries and improving people’s livelihoods.

Blue fin tuna are just one species of fish whose numbers have fallen precipitously in recent years

“Globalized food chains can undermine local, democratic efforts to manage fisheries better. People often assume that local population size is the main driver of overfishing — but our research shows that access to global markets and seafood dependence are more important, and provide possible levers for action.”

You can read more about this promising study here.

In related news, experts in marine science have recommended halving global fishing for crucial prey species such as herring, anchovy, and other “forage fish” to account for their critical role as food for larger species.

A thriving marine ecosystem relies on plenty of forage fish. These small schooling fish are a crucial link in ocean food webs because they eat tiny plants and animals, called plankton, and are preyed upon by animals such as penguins, whales, seals, puffins, and dolphins. They are primary food sources for many commercially and recreationally valuable fish found around North America, such as salmon, tuna, striped bass, and cod.

Read more about the group’s recommendations here.

So cutting catches of prey species and co-managing local fisheries. Sounds like a good start to me. What would it take to make this a reality?


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