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EG Radio April 18 2013: Earth Day special | Ottawa takes on climate change

April 18, 2013 Leave a comment

This week we celebrate Earth Day and look at why cities are so important in the fight against climate change. I have two features on the program today:

We also have our usual update from Kathy of Ecology Ottawa on local environmental events and campaigns.

Click the audio player above to stream the show or right click here to download.

Part 1 – Earth Day

This Monday is Earth Day so we kick off today’s program by speaking with the president of Earth Day Canada, Jed Goldberg. He tells us what is being planned for this year’s event and we discuss the role of Earth Day activities at a time when many environmental problems around the world seem to be getting worse.

Every year on April 22, more than one billion people take part in Earth Day. Across the globe, individuals, communities, organizations, and governments take action to raise awareness about the importance of environmental protection. This will be the 43rd anniversary of Earth Day. From Beijing to Cairo, Melbourne to London, Rio to Johannesburg, New Delhi to New York, people are demanding that our so-called “leaders” act boldly.

But does any of this make a difference? After all, many environmental problems have gotten worse since Earth Day began back in 1970. The first Earth Day led to many tangible steps forward in environmental protection but, as Nicholas Lemann wrote in The New Yorker just a few days ago, “the original Earth Day remains a model of effective political organizing” but “(t)oday’s big environmental groups recruit through direct mail and the media, filling their rosters with millions of people who are happy to click “Like” on clean air. What the groups lack, however, is the Earth Day organizers’ ability to generate thousands of events that people actually attend—the kind of activity that creates pressure on legislators.”

We’ll find out what Jed Goldberg thinks about all this. Is Earth Day still relevant and effective in raising awareness and changing behaviour?

Part 2 – The City of Ottawa takes on climate change (again)

Did you know that cities in Canada are either directly or indirectly responsible for roughly 45% of this country’s greenhouse gas emissions? Cities have a huge role to play and any solution to climate change will have to involve action at the municipal level. In fact, with an absolute absence of federal measures to reduce GHGs or to set virtually any climate change policy whatsoever, it is the cities that are increasingly filling the policy void in Canada.

The City of Ottawa wants to be a leader in the fight against climate change and on March 23, Ottawa hosted its first ever Greenhouse Gas (GHG)  Roundtable Roundtable.  Last year, City Council committed to host the Roundtable to kick-start the review and update of the 2004 Air Quality and Climate Change Management Plan. The 2004 Plan set GHG reduction targets for 2008 and 2012 and work is scheduled to commence mid-year to determine whether the City and the community-at-large targets were met.  Following that, the City’s work will focus on setting new targets and updating the plan with support from the City of Ottawa’s new Environmental Stewardship Advisory Committee.

The keynote speaker at the Roundtable was Alex Wood of Sustainable Prosperity, a national green economy think tank. SP focuses on market-based approaches to build a greener, more competitive economy. It brings together business, policy and academic leaders to help innovative ideas inform policy development. Alex Wood is the senior director of policy and markets at SP and he explains why climate change is such an important issues for cities.

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.

Tomorrow on Earthgauge Radio: Canadian shark fin import ban and dreaming of a green Christmas

December 19, 2012 Leave a comment

Tomorrow on Earthgauge Radio, it’s our second annual holiday special program. As you probably know, huge amounts of waste are produced during the holiday season – more than any other time of year. In addition, a lot of people find the holidays incredibly stressful. The pressure to buy gifts, social commitments, preparing meals and family expectations can make many people dread the holidays. So we’re going to talk with Aiden Enns tomorrow who is part of a national initiative called Buy Nothing Christmas, which is dedicated to reviving the original meaning of Christmas. These folks are saying no to overconsumption and they invite everyone with a thirst for change and a desire for action to join in. We’ll also have have some ideas for you about how you can be more “green” this holiday season with less waste and less stress too.

Also on the program we’ll hear an update from NDP MP Fin Donnelly on his private member’s Bill C-380 to ban the import of shark fins to Canada. The bill is expected to go forward to Parliament this coming February so we’ll find out why this issue is so important to him and how likely the bill is to pass in a Conservative-dominated House of Commons.

Tune in every Thursday morning at 7:00 AM to Ottawa’s only radio program dedicated exclusively to environmental news and commentary from here in Ottawa and around the world. Earthgauge Radio on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa and online at www.ckcufm.com. Podcasts on iTunes and http://www.earthgauge.ca.

Canadian government will be up to old tricks at Rio+20 Earth Summit

In case you were wondering how the Canadian government is preparing itself for the upcoming Rio +20 Earth Summit, a small excerpt from an otherwise unrelated article in Grist provides some indication. The article is about Earth Summit bureaucracy but in illustrating her point about the mind-numbing multilateral meetings going on behind the scenes at the United Nations, the author provides this paragraph as an actual example of what is currently being negotiated:

We reaffirm support for the implementation of [national – Canada delete; Russian Federation retain] [and sub-national – US, Russian Federation] [energy – Norway] policies and strategies, [based on individual national circumstances and development aspirations – US delete, Belarus retain] [to combine as / using an – US, Belarus, Norway, Russian Federation] appropriate [the – US Norway delete] energy mix to meet development needs …

Need I point out the very first phrase? The sentence provided is incomplete but what we can ascertain is that Canadian officials, no doubt on the orders of their government masters, seem already to be objecting to the implementation of national energy policies and strategies. To be fair, we can only speculate what follows but I think it is safe to assume that, at Rio +20, Canada will once again be assuming its now renowned role of obstructing international efforts to confront global environmental problems.

A brand new low for Canada’s Conservative government

The Budget Implementation Bill C-38 was introduced this past week and it provides the details of the initiatives announced in the March 29 federal Budget. Bill C-38 includes so many changes to environmental laws and regulations in Canada that it would be impossible to discuss them all in one post but I do want to just give you some idea of the extent to which the Harper government is attacking environmental regulations with this Bill. A Toronto Star article this week said that “The Harper government has launched the biggest overhaul ever of federal environmental protections as part of a massive (421-page) bill to implement its March 29 budget.”

Even the right-leaning National Post columnist Andrew Coyne was appalled, saying that Bill C-38 “amends some 60 different acts, repeals half a dozen, and adds three more, including a completely rewritten Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It ranges far beyond the traditional budget concerns of taxing and spending, making changes in policy across a number of fields from immigration to telecommunications, to land codes on native reservations.” Coyne goes on to say that “ this is not remotely a budget bill, despite its name”.

Here’s a sample of what the budget bill says when it comes to the changes the government intends to make on the environment file.

  • It repeals the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act, putting an official end to Canada’s commitment to the international agreement to curb greenhouse gas emissions.
  • The bill sets timelines for environmental assessment hearings and will block participation in the hearings by those not directly affected by the project. It also allows Ottawa to shirk responsibility by handing off assessments to the provinces and consolidates the process in three government agencies: the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission, the National Energy Board and the Canadian Environment Assessment Agency.
  • It empowers the federal cabinet to give the go-ahead to pipelines and other major energy projects regardless of the conclusions of regulatory hearings on the feasibility of the projects. The changes mean if the National Energy Board disapproves of a project, such as the Northern Gateway pipeline from Alberta’s tar sands to the coast of BC, cabinet can overrule it.
  • Finally, it makes changes to how permits under the Species at Risk Act are authorized allowing the National Energy Board to permit activities that kill or harm endangered species. And it shortens the list of protected species under the Act.

Now I’ve railed before against this government’s various assaults on the environment and environmental groups but this Bill really takes their war on nature to a new level. And the fact that all these legislative changes have been tagged on to the Budget Bill is nothing short of cowardly and underhanded. This way, the government hopes that the extreme changes they are proposing will somehow not be noticed by the media and public amongst all the financial details of the Bill. One thing we know is that these unprecedented measures will not be given a fair hearing in Parliament. If the Harper government truly believes these changes need to be made, why won’t they introduce them as separate legislation so that they can be properly debated in the House of Commons and reviewed by the appropriate committees? Of course, the answer is that they don’t want them to be debated or discussed for fear of the backlash that might ensue from the Canadian public.

As Andrew Coyne wrote: this Bill “utterly eviscerates the committee process, until now regarded as one of the last useful roles left to MPs. How can one committee, in this case Finance, properly examine all of these diverse measures, with all of the many areas of expertise they require, especially in the time allotted to them?”

So there you have it. Another glorious day for Canadian democracy.

Earthgauge Radio May 3, 2012: Fish, politics and urban sustainability

On Earthgauge Radio this week, we’re talking fish, politics and sustainability – not necessarily in that order. We have two interviews for you on today’s show:

  • Chris Henderson, co-convenor of the 3i Sustainability Summit, which is taking place in Ottawa May 4-5
  • John Smol, Biology professor at Queen’s University, who will be talking about the Canadian government’s proposed changes to the Fisheries Act

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.

First on today’s program, we talk to Chris Henderson about the 3i Sustainability Summit. This is a unique project that hopes to bring people from many sectors together to learn and collaborate on a shared mission to advance sustainability initiatives in Ottawa. Chris bring us up to speed on what they have planned for the May 4-5 Summit in Ottawa and how to get involved.

Chris Henderson interview (right click here to download)

Next we take a look at the environmental rollbacks in the federal government’s Budget Implementation Bill, which was introduced this week, and we hear from John Smol who is a biology professor at Queen’s University in Kingston and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change. He, and many other scientists, are extremely concerned about changes to the Fisheries Act, which are being covertly rammed through Parliament as part of the Omnibus Budget Implementation Bill. John will tell us how the changes being enacted by the Harper government will substantially weaken laws that are meant to protect fish and fish habitat in Canada.

John Smol interview (right click here to download)

We also have our usual segment with Ecology Ottawa who will be updating us on local environmental events and campaigns. And we’ll hear 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 earthgaugeradio@gmail.com. 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):

The month of May is Bike to Work month in the capital. You can sign up for the pledge at www.biketoworkottawa.com. In addition to saving on fuel and greenhouse gas emissions you’ll be entered in a draw to win some great prizes.

On May 5, this Sunday, 350.org is holding their Connect the Dots event. All around the planet, including Ottawa, people will be gathering to take a photo of a gigantic dot on a sign or banner — each dot representing a local climate impact — and they’ll connect up all the dots to draw the connection between extreme weather and climate change. There are two Ottawa events planned for the Connect the Dots campaign:

What Happened to the World’s Longest Skating Rink?
Saturday, May 5, 11:00 AM
Rideau Canal, Laurier Bridge (by City Hall) Ottawa, Ontario

We will hold up a banner asking where the world’s longest skating rink went this year…with a measly total of 28 skating days, this was less than the number of days in February! What’s going to happen to our beloved Rideau Canal as climate change takes hold in Canada?? Useful articles showing the warming trend for the Rideau Canal: http://climateottawa.ca/236/rideau-canal-skateway/

International Stop The Tar Sands Day
Saturday, May 5, 1:30 PM Parliament Hill, Ottawa Ottawa, Ontario

Tar Covered Zombie Walk: Covered and dripping in ‘oil’ we will moan and groan our way around the front lawn of parliament in protest of governmental and corporate irresponsibility. THINGS TO BRING -FAKE tar/oil that can you feel comfortable covering yourself with. Ways to make fake tar/ oil – Chocolate Syrup – Black Dye – Water Soluble Black Poster Paint – SIGNS that get the message across, preferably comical

Continuing this week after its Earth Day opening is the environmental art show “Where the Wild Things…Aren’t” at the Wall Space Gallery in Westboro. The exhibit, which runs until May 6th, brings together several artists from Ottawa, Toronto and beyond, each of whom responds to the theme of “the human relationship to nature”. For more information, consult the gallery’s website at www.wallspacegallery.ca.

The 3i Summit on Sustainability will take place this Friday, May 4th to Saturday May 5th at Lago Bar & Grill at the Dow’s lake pavilion. This event is a unique project that brings change agents, leaders and connectors from many sectors together to learn from each other and collaborate on a shared mission to advance new initiatives for a better community through a focus on practical, tangible ideas to put into action.

On May 9th , there will a Solar Power Workshop in Barrhaven at Mother Teresa High School from 6:45 to 8. Come learn about how you can generate power on your home using solar panels and be paid a premium price for 20 years. Roof shaded? You will also learn about how you can invest in the Ottawa Renewable Energy Cooperative and help solar projects take off in Ottawa. Check the Ecology Ottawa website for RSVP details.

Next Saturday May 12, 2012, Fair Trade Ottawa presents its f first annual wine-and-cheese fundraiser to celebrate the bounty of Fair Trade in Canada’s Capital. Tickets $25 in advance, $30 at the door and Includes one free Fair Trade cocktail! You can buy your tickets at http://fairtradeottawa.ca/take-a-sip-for-fair-trade/.

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.

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 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 earthgaugeradio@gmail.com. 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.

Globe and Mail: Budget’s new rules unfairly target environmental groups

Even the very moderate editorial board of the Globe and Mail is condemning the Harper government’s attacks on environmental groups in Budget 2012. (See posts below for more details.) Here are a couple excerpts from the Globe’s editorial yesterday.

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.

Non-profit groups will be required to “provide more information on their political activities, including the extent to which these are funded by foreign sources,” budget documents say. 

The Canadian government is only too happy to solicit foreign capital, foreign students (it has special scholarships for them), foreign culture, foreign labour. But foreign charitable donations for advocacy? Why, they’re a threat to the Canadian way of life!

The real target is obvious – environmental groups, especially those opposed to the Northern Gateway pipeline proposed to run from Alberta through British Columbia, to take oil-sands bitumen to ocean tankers for delivery to Asia. In January, Natural Resources Minister Joe Oliver issued a public letter – diatribe, more like – denouncing “environmental and other radical groups” who “hijack” regulatory bodies and “use funding from foreign special interest groups to undermine Canada’s national economic interest.”


Budget 2012 continued: Has the Conservative government declared war on the environment?

March 30, 2012 Leave a comment

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:

  • 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.

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