Ever wondered where your water comes from and where your wastewater goes? How much garbage do we produce in Ottawa and where does it go? What did the city look like a couple hundred years ago? Where does the gas come from that fills up our tanks? How much of our food is produced locally?
On this week’s edition of Earthgauge, we’ll discuss all this and more with Janice Ashworth. She helped put together a handy little booklet called ‘The Ecology of Ottawa‘ and she’ll be joining me for a feature 2-part interview.
Also on the show, hear my interview with Ali Howard and Andrew Eddy about their film ‘Awakening the Skeena‘. The summer of 2009 saw Ali Howard become the first person on the planet to ever swim the entire 610km Skeena River. After 26 days of whitewater, boulder gardens, crazy currents and community celebrations, she did it! Why? Well, it turns out that the Skeena is threatened by various forms of industrial development and she wanted to bring awareness to the the threats to one of Canada’s great salmon rivers.
We also have our weekly update from Graham of Ecology Ottawa on local environmental events and campaigns in the Ottawa area.
Click the audio player above to stream the show or right click here to download.
Part 1 – Awakening the Skeena with Ali Howard and Andrew Eddy
Interview with Ali Howard and Andrew Eddy (right click here to download):
Canadian ethnobotanist Wade Davis has called the headwater region of the Skeena River in northwestern B.C. “the Serengeti of Canada” because of its abundance of wildlife. He says it is “a landscape that is as beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen, in my experience as an explorer in residence for the Geographic, going to as many as 30 countries a year.” This valley in a rugged corner of the province is the birthplace of three of Canada’s most important salmon rivers: the Stikine, the Skeena and the Nass. Known as the sacred headwaters to First Nations living in the region, it has tremendous economic, cultural and spiritual importance. The rivers support a $100-million wild salmon economy that sustains communities along the Skeena and includes First Nations fisheries, commercial fishing, and recreational angling.
Three proposals for mining in the region have drawn fierce opposition from local residents, particularly Shell Oil’s plans to mine for coal bed methane near the headwaters. Ali Howard was one of those concerned residents when in 2009 she decided to do something to to raise awareness about the importance of the Skeena and the threats to it. What did she do? Protest and organize? No sir. She decided to swim the entire length of the 610km river in 26 days.
I know we often have our fair share of grim environmental news on Earthgauge but I am pleased to tell you that this story has a happy ending! Thanks to Ali’s efforts and those of many others such as the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, in December 2012 coalbed methane development was permanently banned from the headwaters and Shell withdrew its plans to develop. Further evidence that with hard work and determination positive change can and does take place. A film was made about Ali’s heroic swim called Awakening the Skeena and she came to Ottawa last week for a screening. So I caught up with her and the film’s director Andrew Eddy.
Part 2 – The Ecology of Ottawa
Part 1 of Janice Ashworth interview (right click here to download):
Part 2 of Janice Ashworth interview (right click here to download):
Now as you well know, we have an impact on and we are impacted by our local, natural environment and that’s why on today’s show we’re talking about regaining the connection between ourselves and the places in which we live whether it be in the remote, far-flung reaches of northern BC or right here in the Ottawa valley. It’s easy for us to lose sight of the natural world around us and how we impact it, and we sometimes lose the connection between ourselves and the Earth and water that keep us alive. Many of us don’t know where our wastewater goes once it’s flushed down the drain or where our electricity and heat come from. What about the gas that fills up our tanks? How much garbage do we produce and where does it go? How much of our food is locally produced?
I myself didn’t know the answer to many of these important questions and I thought it was about time I found out. It turns out our friends at Ecology Ottawa have produced a handy little booklet called The Ecology of Ottawa that answers all of these questions and many more. I caught up with Janice Ashworth, one of the people who helped produce the book, to discuss some issues that all of us living in Ottawa should really know. I am pleased to present a feature 2-part interview with Janice on today’s program.
Our show today is all about regaining the connection between ourselves and the places in which we live. Of course, the best way to connect with the local bioregion that we call home is to get out there and explore it for ourselves. We are truly blessed here in Ottawa to have such spectacular recreational opportunities at our door step year round. As the intro to ‘The Ecology of Ottawa’ booklet says,
it’s easy for us to lose sight of the natural world. We lose the connection between ourselves and the Earth and water that keep us alive. We flick on a light switch without thinking about where the energy comes from or what it does to the earth. We flush the toilet without knowing where the wastewater goes and our garbage is whisked off to some distant place called “away.” But we are deeply connected to the water, land, and air. It affects us and we affect it, every single day through the water, energy and other resources that flow through our homes.
Earthgauge Radio airs every Thursday morning at 7:00 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa and online around the world at www.ckcufm.com. Ottawa’s only radio program dedicated exclusively to environmental news and commentary from Ottawa, across the country and around the world. Podcasts on iTunes and right here on earthgauge.ca.
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?
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.
Oil companies operating in the tar sands of northern Alberta make much of the fact that they are working to restore the land after it has been ravaged by their open pit mining operations. Yet about 60 per cent of the boreal forest that overlays the tar sands is in fact composed of wetlands and some researchers believe at least half the region’s wetlands will be permanently lost. They say millions of tonnes of carbon will be released.
Check out this HuffPo article for more info on this issue.
On Earthgauge Radio this week, we talk about green building projects in New Orleans’ Lower Ninth Ward and recent logging protests in Gatineau Park over the expansion of Highway 5 north of Wakefield, Quebec. I have two interviews for you on today’s show:
- Stephen Svenson, PhD candidate at the University of Waterloo and author of the article ‘Those Brad Pitt Houses’ in the current issue of Alternatives Journal.
- Ian Huggett, director of the Ottawa-Gatineau environmental organization EcoWatch.
If you’ve been listening over the past few months, you know that on Earthgauge we define environmental issues in the broadest sense in the belief that the environment is inseparable from economic, social, cultural and even political concerns. In this spirit, our first feature on the program today examines some of these broad connections. I speak with Stephen Svenson who is a Phd candidate at the Univ of Waterloo. He’s written an article in the current issue of Alternatives Journal called ‘Those Brad Pitt Houses’, in which he takes a hard look at reconstruction efforts in the New Orleans Lower Ninth Ward after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
It seems that Brad Pitt’s organization the Make it Right Foundation has been building houses for some residents of the Lower Ninth that are on the cutting edge of both architectural and environmental design. Sounds like a great initiative on the surface doesn’t it? Well, you might be surprised to learn that some locals there don’t entirely appreciate the efforts of Make it Right. This is a story of good environmental and social intentions that don’t necessarily correspond with the real needs of the people who are the supposed beneficiaries of the charity. It is an important story in that it really challenges some of our assumptions about sustainability initiatives and the importance of taking social and cultural considerations into account as we try to build a greener, more eco-friendly world. There is of course also a deeper question here about the role of government vs. that of private citizens when it comes to these kinds of relief efforts.
We also take a look at what is going on in Gatineau Park with the extension of Hwy 5 north of Wakefield. You may have heard about the arrest of tree sitters who were protesting the removal of a significant amount of forest within the park boundary to make way for the Hwy 5 expansion. We get an update from EcoWatch director Ian Huggett. He tells us what this is all about, why some residents are opposed to the project as it currently stands and what other plans may be in store for the Park as the expanding urban areas of Ottawa-Gatineau put increasing development pressures on the park. Check out www.a5x.org for more information on the highway expansion and the protest.
Off the top of today’s program, we’ll have our usual segment with Kathy of Ecology Ottawa who will be updating us on local environmental events and campaigns and talking about home energy efficiency initiatives. I’ve listed some of the upcoming events below or you can click here to see a complete list with full details.
We also have international environment news courtesy of Deutsche Welle’s Living Planet podcast. For more environmental content, check out their web site where you’ll find TV materials and projects like like Global Ideas, which provides ideas on solutions to environmental challenges.
Contact us at earthgaugeradio ‘at’ gmail.com. Please 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. You can also download our podcasts on iTunes. Just type “earthgauge” into the search bar and you’ll find us.
Upcoming local environmental events (courtesy of Ecology Ottawa)
Thursday, March 8, 2012
City Council Meeting: Environmental Advisory Committee
When: 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Where: City Hall, Andrew S. Haydon Hall
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
City Council Meeting: Planning Committee
When: 9:30 to 11:30 am
Where: City Hall, Champlain Room
Thursday, March 15, 2012
City Council Meeting: Pedestrian and Transit Advisory Committee
When: 6:30 to 8:30 pm
Where: City Hall, Richmond Room
Saturday, March 17, 2012
Exploring Your New Farm Dream Workshop
Offered by Just Food and FarmStart, this series of workshops is a course for people who are thinking about starting a commercial farm business. The course helps aspiring farmers learn what it would take to start and manage their own farm dream and decide whether this is the right path for them.
For more information and to register, please go to: www.farmstart.ca/explorer/
When: 9:00 am to 5:00 pm including half-day farm tour
Where: Central location in Ottawa (location to be announced)
Screening of the Clean Bin Project
An entertaining and informative documentary film about a regular couple and their quest to answer the question “is it possible to live completely waste free?” Movie makers Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin will be on hand to speak and discuss their movie. This is a Pay What You Can event to raise money for Trinity’s ongoing ministries.
When: 1:30 am to 4:00 pm
Where: Trinity Anglican Church, 1230 Bank St
March 19-25, 2012
Canada’s 2nd Annual Water Week
You can join in celebrating Canada Water Week by hosting an event that will inspire questions and discussion on how we use water in so many aspects of our lives—and what we can do to make our water footprint a little smaller.
Visit www.canadawaterweek.com to find out how to get involved this year.
Monday, March 19, 2012
City Council Meeting: Transportation Committee
When: 7:00 am to 9:00 pm
Where: City Hall, Honeywell Room
Wednesday, March 20, 2012
City Council Meeting: Transportation Committee
When: 9:30 am to 11:30 am
Where: City Hall, Andrew S. Haydon Hall
Click the audio player to hear my interview with the award-winning journalist Andrew Nikiforuk, author of several books including ‘Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent‘ and his latest, ‘Empire of the Beetle: How Human Folly and a Tiny Bug Are Killing North America’s Great Forests‘.
In our interview, we discuss his latest book in which the author exposes some startling connections between beetles and humans and investigates the continent’s massive forest die-off. We also discuss an emerging concept in economics called Energy Return on Investment. As it turns out, as fossil fuel supplies dwindle, we are using up more and more energy just to extract each barrel of oil. He explains why this is potentially a very serious problem for our economy and our environment.
Andrew Nikiforuk is an award-winning Calgary journalist and author of several books. Over the past two decades he has tackled subjects ranging from education and economics to the environment, in the process winning a Governor General’s Award (for Saboteurs) and the Rachel Carson Environment Book Award in 2009 for ‘Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent.” He is a regular contributor and writer in residence for the online news publication The Tyee and his work has appeared in Maclean’s, Canadian Business, Chatelaine,Equinox, both national newspapers and other publications.
Right click here to download the interview.
Earthgauge interview with Tzeporah Berman of Greenpeace International on climate change, forest conservation and 20 years as a leading Canadian environmental activist
Click the audio player to hear my full interview with Tzeporah Berman, co-director of the Greenpeace International Climate and Energy program. A skillfully edited version of this interview was broadcast earlier today by my good friend Tamara Kramer on her CKUT show on Jewish arts and culture, Shtetl on the Shortwave.
For almost twenty years, Tzeporah Berman has been an influential environmental activist and leader. In the early nineties she helped organize the protests to save the endangered rainforests of Clayoquot Sound on Vancouver Island. For her role she faced nearly one thousand criminal charges and up to six years in prison. She later co-founded ForestEthics and took on the lingerie company Victoria Secret to pressure them to stop using paper made from old-growth forests. She was named one of the 50 Visionaries Who Are Changing Your World by the Utne Reader, and she’s currently the co-director of the Global Climate and Energy Program with Greenpeace International in Amsterdam. Tzeporah Berman is also the author of a recent memoir called This Crazy Time: Living Our Environmental Challenge.
Tzeporah has been called everything from an eco-terrorist to an ‘enemy of the state’ by some in industry and government, while others in the environmental community have criticized her heavily for her role in negotiating conservation agreements with industry. In other words, she’s been attacked from all sides and, in our interview, she makes no apologies for her strategies over the years, saying some conservation agreements (e.g. Great Bear Rainforest) would not have been possible without negotiation and engagement. It is not enough for the environmental movement simply to oppose, she says, we also need to propose solutions when protests and activism have captured the attention of media and government leaders. She also discusses some of the campaigns she’s been involved with (including one at her synagogue when she was a child) and how her Jewish heritage has influenced her activism.
Right click here to download the interview.
From forest management to conservation to celebrating the beauty of the world’s forests, the latest issue of Alternatives
Journal looks at the general theme of forestry. Author Jeff Gailus (The Grizzly Manifesto) takes a critical look at Parks Canada in their 100th year to peek behind the curtain to see how they really measure up. This issue also features Andrew Nikiforuk on the wake of the pine beetle, Margaret Atwood on the Greenbelt movement, and the best photos of 2011 from the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society.
Click the audio player above to hear my podcast version of the magazine, in which I feature the following interviews:
Jeff Gailus on Parks Canada’s 100th anniversary (13:20)
Tenille Bonoguore discussing the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement (10:40)
Will Turner on Conservation International’s 10 global forest hotspots (14:12)
Right click here to download the podcast.
On Earthgauge radio this week, we’ll be talking about forest conservation. 2011 was the United Nations International Year of Forests so now that the year has passed, we are taking stock to reflect on the state of forests both here in Canada and around the world. Right click here to download the entire program.
We have 3 interviews on our special show today:
- Will Turner, VP of Conservation Priorities and Outreach for Conservation International
- Tenille Bonogoure, publisher of Alternatives Journal
- Ken Wu, co-founder of the Ancient Forest Alliance
The UN said the promotion of 2011 as a special Year of the Forest was meant to raise awareness of sustainable management, conservation and development of all types of forests. Why are forests so important? Will Turner explains the importance of forests in considerable detail in our interview but as a primer, according to the World Bank, more than 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihoods. Over 40% of the world’s oxygen is produced by rainforests. 80% of terrestrial biodiversity is found in forests and as we lose them, it becomes increasingly difficult to solve problems such as reducing poverty and limiting climate change impacts. Forests also provide food, medicine, shelter, jobs to name just a few benefits. It is said that more than one quarter of modern medicines originate from tropical forest plants worth $108 billion annually. Yet the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that every year 130,000 km2 of the world’s forests are lost due to deforestation.
So now that the 2011 Year of the Forest has passed, just how are we doing? Well, to help answer this question I spoke with Will Turner who is is VP of Conservation Priorities and Outreach for the environmental NGO Conservation International based in Arlington Virginia. CI is an environmental organization that has identified the 10 most threatened global forest hotspots. To kick off the program today, Will talks to us about these hotspots and discusses the state of the world’s forests more generally.
For Canadian perspectives on forestry conservation, we hear from Tenille Bonogoure who is the publisher of Alternatives Journal. She wrote an article in this month’s edition of the magazine on the Canadian Boreal Forest Agreement, which was a 3-year deal negotiated in 2010 between forest companies and environmental organizations. Tenille gives us an update on the agreement now that we’re halfway through the deal. Finally, I talk with Ken Wu who is the co-founder of a new B.C. organization called Ancient Forest Alliance. He has some very interesting things to say about forest conservation campaigns both in BC and in Canada.
Also on today’s show, we’ll be starting a new, regular segment in which we’ll hear from the local environmental organization Ecology Ottawa about some of the work they’re doing on local environmental initiatives and some upcoming environmental events around town. I’ve listed a few of the upcoming events below and you can click here to see a complete list with full details.
Contact us at earthgaugeradio ‘at’ gmail.com. 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. You can also download our podcasts on iTunes. Just type “earthgauge” into the search bar and you’ll find us.
Upcoming environmental events in Ottawa (see full list here)
Meeting – City of Ottawa Environmental Advisory Committee
Meeting Date: Thursday 12 January 2012
Meeting Location: Andrew S. Haydon Hall
Meeting Time: 18:30
Contact: Joël Monfils 613-580-2424 ext 26837, Joel.Monfils@ottawa.ca
Green Drinks Ottawa
Thursday January 12th, 2012 @ 5:30 pm
Location: Fox @ Feather Pub & Grill, 283 Elgin Street
Green Drinks is an open invitation to anyone interested/working/studying all things environmental. Come and join us for interesting, and inspiring conversation. We’re an informal, self-organizing network and meet every second Thursday of the month. For more information, contact: email@example.com
Building Community Power Meeting in Orleans
Thursday January 12th, from 6:30 – 8:00pm
Orleans United Church, Lounge, 1111 Orleans Blvd. (entrance at rear)
We will discuss actions we can take to improve the environment in Orleans: renewable including solar energy, energy efficiency, and transportation. Please RSVP to: firstname.lastname@example.org and feel free to spread the word and invite other people interested in making Ottawa the green capital of Canada. For more information please contact: Janice Ashworth, Community Organizer: email@example.com
Surviving Progress at the Bytowne
Sunday January 15th – Wednesday January 18th, 2012 (see Bytowne website for show times)
325 Rideau St
This film explores the concepts of progress in our modern world and the idea of progress traps. It explores technology, economics, consumption, and the environment. For more information visit: http://www.survivingprogress.com
City Council Meeting – Ottawa Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee
Meeting Date: Monday 23 January 2012
Meeting Location: Colonel By Room
Meeting Time: 18:30
Contact: Jodi Collins 613-580-2424 ext. 15899, Jodi.Collins@ottawa.ca
Transition Ottawa Peak Oil Discussion Group
Tuesday January 24th, 2012
Montgomery Legion, 330 Kent street (downstairs)
Meet nearby advocates for peak oil awareness. Come to our informational monthly discussion group meeting to discuss ideas and actions on how to survive the consequences of the inevitable decline in oil production and economic collapse. Please RSVP to ensure the meeting is not cancelled. To RSVP or for more information please visit (http://transitionottawa.ning.com/group/peakoildiscussiongroup) or contact the moderator, Ron at 613-852-5063, firstname.lastname@example.org
Driven by powerful agribusiness interests, a bill is moving through the Brazilian Congress that could cripple the decades-long effort to protect the Amazon rainforest. The Amazon rainforest stores massive amounts of carbon, which, if released, would make a major contribution to changing the global climate. According to a 2010 World Bank study, a 20% reduction in forest cover, combined with droughts, fires and climate change, could cause a dramatic dieback of the Amazon, converting large areas to savannah.
Deforestation in the Brazilian Amazon, tracked closely by Brazil’s National Space Research Agency (INPE), dropped dramatically in recent years. From 2006 to 2010, it was two-thirds below the annual average from 1996 to 2005. But in March and April, it spiked 470% compared with the same period last year, which experts link to an expected relaxation of the Forest Code.