On Earthgauge Radio this week, we take a look at the recently concluded Rio +20 Earth Summit and we discuss Ottawa’s Emerald Ash Borer beetle infestation, which is becoming a growing problem in regions across North America.
I have two interviews on today’s program:
- David Suzuki (courtesy of Democracy Now!) who gives us his take on the Rio +20 Summit
- Meg Sears, an Environmental Health advocate in Ottawa, and Sean Barker of the Eastern Ontario Arborists who discuss the threat posed by the Emerald Ash Borer beetle to Ottawa’s prolific ash tree population and what can be done about it
Earthgauge Radio is broadcast every other Thursday morning at 7:00-8:00 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa. Click the audio player above to hear the full show. Right click here to download today’s full show.
The so-called Rio +20 Earth Summit wrapped up last week in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This was of course a huge international United Nations summit that came on the 20th anniversary of the original Rio Earth Summit back in 1992. And how things have changed since then. 50,000 participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups came together last week to try to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want. And this was in fact the slogan for the Summit: The Future We Want. However, expectations for the summit were quite low and many feel that Rio +20 accomplished very little. We take a closer look at what happened in Rio first up on today’s show.
Also on the program we discuss Ottawa’s Emerald Ash Borer beetle infestation with Meg Sears, who is an Environmental Health advocate and Sean Barker of the Eastern Ontario Arborists. They both joined me for a live interview to discuss the increasing problem of the Emerald Ash Borer. Basically, this is a beetle that is originally from northeastern Asia but has been causing havoc in North America since its arrival in 2002. The beetle has had a devastating impact in the decade since, spreading across 14 US states, southern Ontario, and now the Ottawa Valley and Eastern Townships, killing at least 10 million trees. It has now been unleashed in Ottawa so we’ll find out just what the city is doing about it and what needs to be done.
We also have our usual segment with Ecology Ottawa who update us on local environmental events and campaigns.
On tomorrow’s show, we’re taking a look at the recently concluded Rio +20 Earth Summit and discussing the increasing problem of the Emerald Ash Borer beetle in Ottawa. Earthgauge Radio can be heard every Thursday on CKCU radio 93.1 FM in Ottawa or online at http://www.ckcufm.com. You can also download the podcast right here on earthgauge.ca.
The Rio Summit was of course a huge international United Nations meeting that came on the 20th anniversary of the original Rio Earth Summit back in 1992. And how things have changed since then. 50,000 participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups came together from June 20-22 to try to shape how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an ever more crowded planet to get to the future we want.
And this was in fact the slogan for the Summit: The Future We Want. However, expectations for the summit were quite low and many feel that Rio +20 accomplished very little. We’ll take a closer look at what happened in Rio first up on tomorrow’s show.
Also on the program we’ll be discussing Ottawa’s Emerald Ash Borer beetle infestation with Meg Sears, who is an Environmental Health advocate and Sean Barker of the Eastern Ontario Arborists. They’ll both join me in the studio around 7:30 or so to discuss the increasing problem of the Emerald Ash Borer. This is a beetle that is originally from northeastern Asia but has been causing havoc in North America since its arrival in 2002. The beetle has had a devastating impact in the decade since, spreading across 14 US states, southern Ontario, and now the Ottawa Valley and Eastern Townships, killing at least 10 million trees. It has now been unleashed in Ottawa so we’ll find out just what the city is doing about it and what needs to be done.
What on Earth is going on at the Rio +20 Summit in Rio de Janeiro? Well, this article might provide some indication. If you had low expectations for the so-called Sustainable Development Summit, you’re not alone. Here’s an excerpt from the article that tells you just about everything you need to know:
“We were promised the ‘future we want’ but are now being presented with a ‘common vision’ of a polluter’s charter that will cook the planet, empty the oceans and wreck the rain forests,“ the head of Greenpeace, Kumi Naidoo, said. “This is not a foundation on which to grow economies or pull people out of poverty, it’s the last will and testament of a destructive twentieth century development model.”
Going into the UN’s largest summit ever, few had expected a world-rattling or even an ambitious agreement. In fact, expectations had been low for months. But changes to the text during the last week weakened everything from combating poverty to valuing biodiversity, causing universal condemnation from NGOS. Strong words not only came from Greenpeace, which is known for them, but also the more diplomatic World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) and Oxfam.
So can the Summit be salvaged? Will anything of substance come out of Rio +20?
On Earthgauge Radio this week, we’re taking a look at the state of the global environment and we talk to the founder of the Ottawa-based organization One Change. We hear a recent speech to the United Nations by the esteemed economist Jeffrey Sachs who offers a dire warning in the lead up to the Rio +20 Earth Summit and we review recent sobering scientific reports on the state of the oceans and on progress toward meeting international environmental goals.
Earthgauge Radio is broadcast every other Thursday morning at 7:00-8:00 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa. Click the audio player above to hear the full show. Right click here to download today’s full show. Scroll down to listen to individual interviews only.
It’s a busy time for environmental issues and campaigns right now. We’re right in the middle of Canadian Environment Week. World Environment Day was on Tuesday and World Oceans Day is tomorrow, June 8. This past Monday was Black Out Speak Out, an internet event in which hundreds of organizations and bloggers across Canada, including earthgauge.ca, blacked out their home pages for a day to protest the environmental assaults in the Conservative’s Budget bill C-38.This is the bill that the Harper government is now pushing through Parliament, which scientists feel weaken many of the country’s most important environmental protection measures.
So there is a lot happening on the environment front and in light of all this and with the Rio +20 Earth Summit approaching, today we take stock of how we’re doing exactly with respect to our environmental conservation efforts. First we hear a clip from a video coinciding with the release yesterday of the UN Environment Programme’s long anticipated Global Environment Outlook: Environment for the future we want (GEO-5). This so-called The GEO-5 report was three years in the making and the United Nations’ main health-check of the planet. It found that governments were making significant progress in only four of 90 international environmental goals. Little or no progress has been made in confronting climate change and halting the decline of fish stocks to give just 2 examples.
GEO-5 U.N. report overview:
As mentioned, Tuesday was World Oceans Day so let’s take a quick look at the state of our oceans. How are we doing in this area? Any better? Well, you won’t be shocked to hear that the answer again is no. Check out the clip below from a 2011 study from the International Programme on the State of the Ocean.
IPSO report overview:
This IPSO report found that the combined effects of overfishing, fertilizer run-off, pollution, and ocean acidification from carbon dioxide emissions are putting much marine life at immediate risk of extinction. Fish, sharks, whales and other marine species are in imminent danger of a catastrophic extinction event at the hands of humankind, and are disappearing at a far faster rate than anyone had predicted. The 27 scientists from 18 organizations in six countries who participated in the review of scientific research from around the world concluded that the looming extinctions are “unprecedented in human history” and have called for “urgent and unequivocal action to halt further declines in ocean health.” The main factors are what they term the “deadly trio”: climate change, ocean acidification, and lack of oxygen. Overfishing and pollution add to the problem. Mass extinction of species will be “inevitable” if current trends continue, researchers said.
To get a better perspective on all this, it’s worth listening to a speech delivered to the UN in the lead up to the Rio Summit by the eminent economist Jeffrey Sachs who heads the Earth Institute at Columbia University. Normally I don’t have too much faith in economists but it is worth hearing Mr Sachs as he is that rare breed of economist, one who seems to understand the gravity of the ecological crisis and the failure of our economic system to deal in any meaningful way with the problems we have inflicted upon the natural world. Click the video player below to hear the speech.
So as we approach the Rio +20 Summit in a couple weeks, which by the way we will be covering here on our June 21 show on Earthgauge Radio, it is important to keep all this science in perspective. Not to depress the hell out of you but to demonstrate the disconnect, the chasm between what scientists are telling us on the one hand and how governments are responding to it. This is especially true here in Canada where we are facing what is clearly the most anti-environmental government in this nation’s history – one that appears to be operating in some kind of parallel reality where none of this env devastation seems to make any difference. On the contrary, they have shown themselves to be hell bent on silencing scientists and gutting environmental legislation and regulations in an effort to ram industrial projects and oil pipelines down the throats of Canadians whether we want them or not.
The environmental challenges confronting the global community are simply monumental at this stage and require heroic action that is very unlikely to be led by governments. In fact, some say the Rio+ 20 Earth summit could very well collapse as nations have failed to agree on acceptable language for the final declaration document. Countries are not even being asked by the UN to legally commit themselves to anything, but only to sign up to an aspirational “roadmap”. It is becoming more and more apparent that the kind of change we need will only come from people’s movements and that includes all of us. Perhaps we should take some inspiration from the casserole protests in the streets of Montreal and around Quebec. Whether you agree or disagree with them, you have to admire the students tenacity and resolve to fight for what they believe in. When push comes to shove, I wonder if the rest of us will be equally up to the task.
Stuart Hickox of One Change
Despite all the bad news and the need for public mobilization, there are simple steps that each one of us can take right now to reduce our water and energy consumption. Collectively, these small, individual actions can add up to make a huge difference. So also on today’s show (for a little bit of good news!), we hear from Stuart Hickox. He’s the founder and president of One Change, an Ottawa based organization that is motivating people to make small changes in their lives. The organization was started in 2005 right here in Ottawa and it has now spread throughout North America. Their mission is simple: by making small actions accessible to the public, such as replacing inefficient light bulbs, fixing leaky pipes or making sure tires are properly inflated, One Change believes we can create a gateway to broad public participation in conservation and efficiency programs. They now have water conservation, fuel and energy efficiency campaigns and today, in over 1,200 communities across North America and with the help of over 14,000 volunteers, and 3,500 community groups, One Change has proven how a simple catalyst action can produce broad public participation.
Stuart Hickox interview, right click here to download:
Upcoming local environmental events (courtesy of Ecology Ottawa):
A number of Solar Power Workshops will be hosted by Ecology Ottawa this week, in preparation for the Ottawa Solar Fair taking place on Saturday June 16th at City Hall. Clean energy is a very important topic for Ecology Ottawa, and they would like to encourage everyone to come out and learn how you can be part of the clean energy revolution.
The next Ecology Ottawa Solar Power Workshop will take place on Thursday, June 7th, from 7 to 8:30pm at Queen Elizabeth School on Saint-Laurent Boulevard. Come learn what 40,000 Ontarians have already figured out: how investing in solar power provides a 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. Don’t have a good rooftop? We will also discuss an opportunity to invest in renewable energy through the Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative.
More Solar Power Workshops will be taking place this week: on Monday, June 11th at Nepean High
School in Carlingwood, and on Tuesday, June 12th at Sir Guy Carleton High School in Centrepoint. To learn more about the Solar Power Workshops and the Ottawa Solar Fair, please visit the website at ecologyottawa.ca.
In other events this week; tomorrow, Friday, June 8th, a Heritage Tree Workshop will take place
at the Central Experimental Farm from 8:30am to 5:00pm. This one-day workshop is based on the
Ontario Urban Forest Council publication Securing the Future of Heritage Trees: A Protection Toolkit for Communities. It includes sessions on the value of trees (urban or other), tree stories, protecting heritage trees, and good heritage tree stewardship practices. The workshop will be held at the Central Experimental Farm with a follow-up June 9 field trip to Rideau Hall, the Champlain Oaks, the Arboretum and other locations. Speakers and registration details may be found at http://www.oufc.org.
On Thursday, June 14th, there will be a City Council Meeting of the Environmental Advisory Committee. The meeting will take place from 6:30 to 8:30pm at City Hall. For more information, contact Joel Monfils at 613-580-2424 ext 26837 or email email@example.com.
For more info: http://www.blackoutspeakout.ca/index.php
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:
- Elizabeth May, Leader of the Green Party of Canada and Member of Parliament for Saanich-Gulf Islands
- Raul Alvarez, director of the new film Land Awakening
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 ckcufm.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Facebook address is www.facebook.com/EarthgaugeRadio 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.
The Toronto Star columnist Chantal Hebert said on CBC’s At Issue panel last night that the Conservative Budget 2012 (announced yesterday) was the worst environmental budget she had seen in her 20 years working on Parliament Hill. Remember that Hebert is not exactly an environmental radical – she is a respected pundit who is somewhat moderate in her views in fact.
I already discussed the government’s intention to eliminate the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy (see post below). More attacks on the environment in the budget include:
- The government has cut hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding for Environment Canada, along with grants for scientific research in universities. It also used Thursday’s budget to launch an $8 million campaign at Revenue Canada to investigate and crack down on environmental groups and other charities that do research and analysis on conservation issues and sustainable development.
- Climate change is mentioned only twice in passing in the entire 498 page budget plan.
- Environment Canada’s budget is being cut again, this time by 6%. The Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency (CEAA) is in line for a 40 per cent cut in the new budget year.
- Touting a ‘one project, one review’ principle, the CEAA is up for an overhaul with some responsibilities being downloaded on provinces, newly imposed timelines and a limiting of the scope of reviews. Joint panel environmental reviews are to be limited to 24 months, National Energy Board hearings to 18 months and standard environmental assessments to one year. This will jeopardize peoples’ capacity to participate in reviews and further undermines the ultimate goal of reviews in ensuring environmental protection is a priority in all projects – even if this means refusing to approve certain projects.
- Does anyone doubt that the “streamlining” (read gutting) of environmental review processes has something to do with getting tar sands oil to market as fast as possible through the construction of pipeline projects like the highly controversial Keystone XL to the Gulf of Mexico and Northern Gateway to the coast of B.C.? As Finance Minister Jim Flaherty said in his Budget speech “…it has become clear that we must develop new export markets for Canada’s energy and natural resources, to reduce our dependence on markets in the United States. The booming economies of the Asia- Pacific region are a huge and increasing source of demand, but Canada is not the only country to which they can turn. If we fail to act now, this historic window of opportunity will close.”
- The budget does not renew funding for the EcoENERGY energy efficiency program.
- Budget 2012 does give minimal tax support to ‘clean energy’ and energy efficiency, to the tune of $2 million.
- According to Andrea Harden-Donohue of Rabble.ca $1.38 billion a year is allocated to energy development through subsidies. Some changes are planned for subsidies to the oil and gas industry on Canada’s East coast but tar sands subsidies remain untouched.
What to make of all this? Does this budget amount to what is ostensibly a government declaration of war on environmental advocacy groups in Canada? Perhaps Steven Guilbeault of Équiterre put it best when he summarized the budget this way: “In a budget that seems to have been written for, and even by, big oil interests, the Harper government is gutting the environmental protections that Canadians have depended on for decades to safeguard our families and nature from pollution, toxic contamination and other environmental problems.” Read their full statement.
Among the shocking anti-environment revelations of yesterday’s federal Budget comes the government decision to eliminate the National Roundtable on the Environment and the Economy, which was a panel of business and environmental leaders who made policy recommendations to the government on a variety of sustainability issues.
A widely respected, non-partisan agency, the NRTEE was founded by the Conservative government of Brian Mulroney in 1988. Its reports of late, however, had irked the government as they were mildly critical of government plans to achieve its stated objective of reducing Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions 17% below 2005 levels by 2020. The NRTEE had offered policy road maps on how to achieve this objective that did not square with official government policy (or lack thereof) on climate change.
The result? The Harper government axed them – not just cut their funding mind you – but eliminated the agency completely. They’re gone along with all the policy and support staff who worked there. And according to reporter Mike De Souza of Canadian Press, the Conservatives seemed to take quite a delight in doing so. De Souza tweeted today that in Question Period, the Environment Minister Peter Kent and others on the front bench “grinned and chuckled when asked a question about the demise of the NRTEE.” Meanwhile, wrote De Souza in another tweet, “Former enviro min Baird applauded when Ndp’s dennis bevington said gov’t had killed NRTEE”.
I will have more comment to come shortly on the astonishingly retrograde assaults of Budget 2012 on the environment. For now, I suppose I will consider myself lucky that I didn’t accept that job offer a couple years ago as a policy analyst at NRTEE.
Click the link below to read more about the demise of NRTEE.
This is worth a minute of your time. Coinciding with this week’s Planet under Pressure conference in the UK, this video shows an animated time-lapse of anthropogenic carbon dioxide emissions in map form, spanning the 18th century until this current first decade of the 21st century. Shows the start in England and radiating to Europe, US and then Asia. Now reaching virtually every corner of the Earth.
In their State of the Planet declaration, delegates at Planet Under Pressure concluded that “Research now demonstrates that the continued functioning of the Earth system as it has supported the well-being of human civilization in recent centuries is at risk. Without urgent action, we could face threats to water, food, biodiversity and other critical resources: these threats risk intensifying economic, ecological and social crises, creating the potential for a humanitarian emergency on a global scale.”
It’s official: Scientists say the Holocene is over and the age of human planetary domination is here
We humans have officially conquered the world! Hurrah! But wait, is this any cause for celebration?
This from Deutsche Welle Living Planet:
Scientists are calling for the official designation of a new earth epoch: the Anthropocene. Addressing the ‘Planet under Pressure’ gathering in London, they say one species has left an indelible mark.
Scientists are pushing to officially change the name of the current geological epoch, as the world prepares to take stock of its 20-year record of addressing global environmental problems.
Experts say designating the arrival of the ‘Anthropocene,’ or age of man, would capture the nature and extent of changes on the planet, and could spark a shift in how humanity thinks of its presence on Earth.
Pointing to climate change, dwindling fish stocks, continued deforestation, rapid species decline, and human population growth, Erle Ellis, an ecologist at the University of Maryland, said the vast majority of ecosystems on the planet now reflect the presence of people.
Anthony Giddens, the British political scientist known for his holistic view of societies, described the Anthopocene as a “runaway world” in which we have unleashed processes more powerful than our attempts to control them.