Archive for the ‘Food, soil, agriculture’ Category

EG Radio March 14: food glorious food!

March 15, 2013 Leave a comment

On Earthgauge this week, we discuss food security from the global to the local level, and what we can do to help build a more equitable and sustainable food system. From the geopolitics of global food (in)security to the benefits of eating locally, this special program considers how the food choices we make on a daily basis have a real impact both on our environment and on the people who produce what we eat. Click the audio player above to stream the show or right click here to download.

I have two interviews on today’s show:

  • Matt Roney, a research associate at the Earth Policy Institute
  • Heather Hossie of Just Food Ottawa

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

Part 1 – Global food (in)security with Matt Roney of the Earth Policy Institute


(Right click here to download)

Did you know the world has an additional 219,000 new mouths to feed each and every day? That’s the reality given current rates of global population growth and this is happening at a time when grain stocks around the world are dropping, water shortages are becoming more common and climate change is causing unprecedented droughts, flooding and heat waves, all of which are taking a toll on global food supplies. In his latest book, Full Planet, Empty Plates: the Geopolitics of Global Food Security, the pioneering environmentalist Lester Brown makes the case that food, not energy security, may well be our civilization’s weak link. Brown is the president of the Earth Policy Institute, a research organization based in Washington DC and I recently had the chance to speak about his new book with Matt Roney, a research associate at Earth Policy and in our interview he explained why world food supplies are tightening, the environmental, political and social implications of growing global food insecurity and what we need to do about it.

Part 2: Local food security and sustainability with Heather Hossie of Just Food


(Right click here to download)

We have perhaps no closer connection to the land than through our food. Simply by making better and more informed food choices, we can have a real impact on helping to build a sustainable and equitable food system. For the local perspective, I speak with Heather Hossie of Just Food, an organization working for a sustainable and just food system here in Ottawa. She works on Community Economic Development (CED) initiatives at Just Food, a local grassroots, non-profit organization that is working to ensure that Ottawa is a food secure city and that our system of food production and distribution is environmentally, socially and economically just. Heather has been coordinating the Savour Ottawa initiative since its inception and also presents the Reel Food Film Festival each year. In our interview, she tells me what each of us can do to help support and promote a sustainable food system in our local communities.

Earthgauge Radio airs every Thursday morning at 7:00 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa and online around the world at 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 Radio February 14 2013: Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown and Climate Science 101

February 15, 2013 Leave a comment

This week on Earthgauge, I present a feature interview with the Ottawa Riverkeeper, Meredithfeature_holder Brown and we talk climate science with Eric Galbraith of McGill University. Click the audio player above or right click here to download the show.

First up….it’s Climate Change 101! Ever want to know about some of the fundamentals of climate science so you can easily refute that climate change denying buddy of yours? Well, we have a Climate Change 101 session with Eric Galbraith of McGill University. He is a Professor of Earth and Planetary Science and he’ll explain just why it is there is virtually no disagreement among climate scientists that the planet is warming and humans are to blame. Additional resources that provide excellent information on the fundamentals of climate science include,, and

Later on the show, I speak with the Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown. Founded in 2001, Ottawa Riverkeeper is an independent voice for the Ottawa River, providing leadership and inspiration to protect, promote and improve its ecological health and future. The organization works collaboratively to inspire others to take action, to encourage responsible decision making, to hold polluters accountable and to recommend alternative practices and policies to safeguard our local waterways. Ottawa Riverkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, an international grassroots organization founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Meredith Brown is a strong science-based voice for the Ottawa River, acting as its full-time “watchdog”. Since 2004, Meredith has significantly raised the profile of the Ottawa River and brought important issues such as sewage dumping and radioactive waste to the attention of the public and decision-makers.

In our interview, we discuss the health of the Ottawa River, changes to federal environmental regulations, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and the Ottawa River Action Plan.

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

Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and Stream live on Check out our Facebook page at where we post environmental news stories from around the world.

Earthgauge Radio September 20, 2012: National Organic Week, Fast for Climate Justice, and the impacts of Ottawa’s summer drought

September 20, 2012 Leave a comment

Lots happening these days on the environmental front in Ottawa and beyond so on Earthgauge Radio this week, I have 3 interviews for you:

  • Stephanie Lane of Canadian Organic Growers (Ottawa chapter) tells us about Canada’s National Organic Week (Sept 22-29)
  • David Koch gives us his report on how the summer water shortage in the Ottawa region impacted farmers
  • Lyn Adamson talks about the Fast and Vigil for Climate Justice taking place on Parliament Hill from September 21-October 2

Click the audio player above or right click here to download today’s podcast.

First on the show we talk organic food: The last ten years have seen a phenomenal explosion in the organic food movement as it has moved from niche market to main stream. Today, it is the fastest growing segment of the food industry attracting all of the major food corporations. This coming Saturday kicks off Canada’s National Organic Week so we catch up with Stephanie Lane  of Canadian Organic Growers (Ottawa chapter) to talk about National Organic Week and find out why organic food is better for the planet, for farm workers and for you.

Interview with Stephanie Lane:

David Koch also comes into the studio to tell us about how the brutally hot and dry summer drought here in the Ottawa region impacted farmers Ottawa region. Is this a sign of things to come in a changing global climate?

And finally we talk to Lyn Adamson about the Fast and Vigil for Climate Justice  taking place on Parliament Hill from September 21-October 2.

Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. News and interviews on environmental stories from across Canada and around the world. Podcasts on iTunes and Stream live on

Categories: Climate breakdown, Earthgauge radio, Food, soil, agriculture, Global warming, Podcasts Tags: Fast and Vigil for Climate Justice, National Organic Week

The Rio +20 Earth Summit and the Emerald Ash Borer beetle infestation on Earthgauge Radio tomorrow

June 27, 2012 Leave a comment

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 You can also download the podcast right here on

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.

Will UN Summit on Sustainable Development make anyone happy?

June 21, 2012 Leave a comment

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?

Will UN Summit on Sustainable Development in Rio make anyone happy?.

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

April 15, 2012 Leave a comment

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

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

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

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

Sustainability news: Forests and the Health of the Planet.

Pesticides can have devastating impact on bees

March 31, 2012 1 comment

For years now, scientists have been trying to figure out why so many bees have been disappearing around the world. In what’s become known as colony collapse disorder (CCD), entire colonies have vanished in unprecedented numbers. Now new research suggests that, surprise surprise, it may our profligate use of potent pesticides that is causing the collapse of bee populations.

A controversial type of pesticide appears to scramble bees’ sense of direction, making it hard for them to find home. Starved of foragers and the pollen they carry, colonies produce fewer queens, and eventually collapse.

The phenomenon is described in two new studies published March 29 in Science.

Why should we care about bees? This article in the Guardian provides a good explanation of why bees are very important to us. Writes Alison Benjamin:

“Insects pollinate a third of everything we humans eat – most fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, and forage for our livestock. As we become more and more dependent on a monoculture system of growing food, we become more reliant on the honeybee to do the bulk of this work; trucked into an area for just a few days or weeks when a single crop is blossoming, they can be moved in their hives to more fertile pastures when the orchards and fields turn into a barren wasteland. Not so the bumblebees, solitary bees, moths and butterflies who have suffered a sharp decline as a result of modern farming practices…with honeybees dying around the world, our global food production is far from secure.”

Researchers say there is an “urgent need” to re-evaluate the safety of the pesticides, known as neonicotinoids, and do followup studies in this country where some bumblebees are teetering on extinction.

Earthgauge news: Monarch Butterfly decline linked to genetically modified crops

March 24, 2012 Leave a comment

A new study suggests that the increased use of genetically modified (GM) crops may be causing a decline in monarch butterfly populations. From 1999 to 2010, a period when GM crops became more common on U.S. farms, the number of monarch eggs in the Midwest declined by 81 percent, according to researchers from the University of Minnesota and Iowa State University.

An 81% decline? Wow. Read more at the link below.

sustainability news: Monarch Butterfly decline linked to genetically modified crops.

Categories: Biodiversity, Conservation, Food, soil, agriculture, News Tags: genetically modified crops, GMO, Monarch butterfly

Water conflicts rising around the world

March 23, 2012 Leave a comment

Lack of water is predicted to cause significant problems in coming years.

On Earthgauge Radio yesterday, we discussed some of the looming problems of global water scarcity in an age of rising demand and climate change. Appropriately,  this story only confirms that we are in for a rocky road in the coming decades if action is not taken to address some of our serious water challenges.

A new report by the U.S. office of the Director of National Intelligence said that areas including South Asia, the Middle East and North Africa will face major challenges in coping with water problems that could hinder the ability to produce food and generate energy.

The language employed in the report does not equivocate. This is not the report of an environmental organization. This is an Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA) prepared by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence on a request made by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton to assess the impact of global water issues on U.S. national security interests over the next 30 years. Their findings? Fresh water supplies are unlikely to keep up with global demand by 2040, increasing political instability, hobbling economic growth and endangering world food markets.

Here are a couple excerpts from the report. Read the news release here.

During the next 10 years, many regions will experience water challenges – shortages, poor water quality, or floods – that will increase the risk of instability and state failure, increase regional tensions, and distract them from working with the United States on important U.S. policy objectives. Between now and 2040, fresh water availability will not keep up with demand absent more effective management of water resources. Water problems will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, posing a risk to global food markets and hobbling economic growth. As a result of demographic and economic development pressures, North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia will face major challenges coping with water problems.

While wars over water are unlikely within the next 10 years, water challenges – shortages, poor water quality, floods – will likely increase the risk of instability and state failure, exacerbate regional tensions, and distract countries from working with the United States on important policy objectives, according to an assessment prepared by the U.S. Intelligence Community (IC).

For more info, check out this article in the U.S. Insurance Journal.

I’ve seen the future and it is hemp: Earthgauge interview with Greg Herriott of Oilseed Works

November 25, 2011 1 comment

Click the audio player above to hear the interview I did with Greg Herriott for the Alternatives Journal podcast. Greg is the owner and founder of Oilseed Works. His company was honoured with a 2011 Hometown Hero award by Earth Day Canada and, in the interview, he talks about some of the amazing products he has created from hemp over the years.

Given its many benefits, you have to wonder why hemp products are not more widespread. One can only suspect it may be due to outdated and misinformed notions of hemp’s association with a certain other plant. From healthy, nutritious foods to extremely strong hemp bale fibres to clothing to paper to renewable energy that can fuel vehicles and heat homes, hemp is truly a wonder plant. It is also one of the fastest growing plants we know of, producing up to 25 tonnes of dry matter per hectare per year. Hemp also requires few pesticides and no herbicides.

So why don’t we see more hemp products in our stores? Well, hemp is currently experiencing an explosion in interest but, in our interview, Greg explains some of the challenges he has had to overcome in getting his products to market and in getting widespread public acceptance of hemp. Not surprisingly, this has been especially difficult in the U.S., where the government does not always distinguish between the marijuana plant and the non-psychoactive Cannabis used for industrial hemp.

Right click here to download the interview.

Categories: Clean energy, Food, soil, agriculture, Health, Podcasts, Sustainability Tags: Greg Herriott, hemp, Oilseed Works
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