Earthgauge Radio June 7, 2012: State of the Global Environment

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, 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

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

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 protected].

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