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.
Earthgauge Radio January 24: Richard Heinberg on energy, climate change and the fragile world economy
This week on Earthgauge Radio, we launch a new series in which we will feature leading, influential thinkers who can provide some big picture context to the issues that we discuss on this program such as climate change, energy, economics, ethics, sustainability and development. We will kick off this ‘Big Picture, Big Thinkers’ series with a speech today by the influential author Richard Heinberg from the Bioneers Conference back in November 2012. Heinberg is a senior Fellow-in-Residence at Post Carbon Institute, a nonprofit organization dedicated to building more resilient, sustainable, and equitable communities. He is perhaps best known as a leading educator on Peak Oil—the point at which we reach maximum global oil production—and the resulting impact it will have on our economic, food, and transportation systems.
Heinberg has spent his career thinking about critical issues including the current economic crisis, food and agriculture, community resilience, and global climate change. Now he’s contributed to a new book on the topic called Energy: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth. He is also the influential author of The End of Growth, Peak Everything and The Party’s Over, among other books. He is widely regarded as one of the world’s most effective communicators on our global energy future and the urgent need to transition away from fossil fuels.
This speech was recorded by Kelly Pearce of the Chicago Independent Media Center for Radio EcoShock. The talk is called Life after Growth: why the economy is shrinking and what to do about it.
Also on the program we have our usual update on local environmental events and campaigns from Ecology Ottawa.
Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and earthgauge.ca. Stream live on www.ckcufm.com. Check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EarthgaugeRadio where we post environmental news stories from around the world.
Right click here to download today’s show. For more information on building resilient communities around the world (as discussed in Heinberg’s speech), check out resilience.org
This week on Earthgauge Radio, I have a feature interview with Aiden Enns of BuyNothingChristmas.org. We discuss some ideas about how you can have a “greener” and less stressful holiday season. I also have an update from NDP MP Fin Donnelly on his private member’s Bill C-380 to ban the import of shark fins to Canada.
Click the audio player above to stream the show or right click here to download.
Part 1 – Fin Donnelly on his efforts to ban the import of shark fins to Canada
One year ago Fin Donnelly, the NDP MP for New Westminster – Coquitlam in BC, introduced legislation to prohibit the import of shark fins to Canada. Bill C-380 is a private member’s bill that is now slated to go forward to parliamentary committees in February, after which it will go to a vote in the House of Commons. It is estimated that up to 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins, often by a practice called shark finning, where the fins are cut off the shark and the body is dumped back into the ocean to die. In 2009, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature revealed that over one-third of all shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of the inhumane practice of shark finning.
A Canadian ban on the import of shark fins would follow similar legislation in various jurisdictions around the world. Most recently, the European Parliament voted to close loopholes in the European Union ban on shark finning. I attended a screening of the film Sharkwater recently on Parliament Hill. Fin Donnelly spoke prior to the screening and I was able to catch up with him to talk about his Bill, why he feels its so important, and the likelihood of it passing in a Conservative-dominated government.
Right click here to download the interview.
Part 2 – Buy Nothing Christmas
Huge amounts of waste are produced during the holiday season – more than any other time of year. In addition, the pressure to buy gifts, social commitments, entertaining and family expectations can make many people dread the holidays. Is there a better way to celebrate the holidays? Many people seem to think so. We’re increasingly seeing people buying fewer gifts, making their own presents, making donations to charity in lieu of gifts, or giving non-material gifts such as art lessons, theatre tickets, food and so on.
On today’s show we talk with Aiden Enns who is the co-founder of BuyNothingChristmas.org and the publisher and co-editor of Geez magazine. Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative dedicated to reviving the original meaning of the holiday season. They are inviting all of us to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people who are less privileged.
Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and earthgauge.ca. Stream live on www.ckcufm.com. Check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EarthgaugeRadio.
Click the audio player above to hear my interview with Donna Balkan who is the Communications Manager for the Canadian Co-operative Association in Ottawa. Right click here to download the file (14:30).
Did you know that 2012 has been designated by the United Nations as the International Year of Co-operatives? This was done to highlight the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. Now Earthgauge Radio is an environment show of course but if we are to have any hope of solving some of our very serious environmental problems, it seems clear to me that we’re going to have to look at moving towards business models that do not place the profit motive of shareholders as the primary force driving our economies today at the expense of social and environmental concerns. Co-operatives operate very differently. Although they are still businesses and need to make profits to survive, co-ops are guided by other values and the objective to meet the common needs of their members. It may be for these reasons that the popularity of the co-op business model is exploding across Canada and around the world. Co-ops simply seem to be a much more sustainable, and frankly less destructive business model and we can only hope that they continue to grow in importance here in Canada and abroad.
In our interview, Donna explains some of the benefits of co-ops and their potential as an alternative business model.
On Earthgauge Radio this week, I re-broadcast a full feature length interview I did with the renowned UBC ecologist Bill Rees, who was recently honoured with the prestigious Blue Planet Prize.
Rees and Mathis Wackernagel are responsible for coming up with the concept of the ecological footprint, which has revolutionized the way the world looks at sustainability. Basically, the ecological footprint tool is a comprehensive accounting system that measures human carrying capacity and helps assess the risks of overconsumption to planetary stability. In recognition of their work, last month Rees and Wackernagel were awarded the Blue Planet Prize, which is an award given by Japan’s Asahi Glass Foundation to recognize leaders who make a difference in safeguarding biodiversity.
Rees and Wackernagel join the environmental scientist Thomas Lovejoy as this year’s winners whose names are added to a veritable who’s who in the conservation world, with past winners that include Lester Brown, James Lovelock, David Brower, Paul Ehrlich, Theo Colborn, Gustave Speth, Amory Lovins, and James Hansen. A handful of organizations have also been recognized by the prize, including IUCN and Conservation International.
I spoke with Bill Rees last year and this week as part of our Earthgauge Radio summer schedule I am rebroadcasting the full interview in 2 parts. If you’re not familiar with Rees or his work, and even if you are, you’re going to want to check this out as it’s really fascinating and important stuff. The ecological footprint concept is not just about ecology and conservation, it is particularly relevant to our entire economic system and provides an excellent means of understanding why the global economy is so unsustainable.
We also have our usual segment from our friends at Deutsche Welle radio who bring us the latest in interntional eco-news.
Earthgauge Radio is broadcast every other Thursday morning at 7:00-8:00 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa.
Earthgauge radio podcast February 23, 2012: rethinking money and wealth // plus an interview with NDP leadership candidate Nathan Cullen
I’ve often said that on Earthgauge radio we discuss topics that do not, at first glance, seem to be related to environmental issues. Well this is the case today. On Earthgauge radio this week, we’re talking money and politics. Click the audio player above to stream the podcast or right click here to download. I have two interviews for you on today’s podcast:
- Gwendolyn Hallsmith, author of Creating Wealth: Growing Local Economies with Local Currencies
- Nathan Cullen, NDP leadership candidate
No, this is not our take on the growing interference of big money in the political system. Instead, we first take a look at the meaning of wealth in our society and how the concept of wealth been co-opted. Most of us now tend to associate wealth with money but, as Gwendolyn Hallsmith explains, being wealthy means so much more than this. We likely all know individuals who may be financially wealthy yet are unhappy, spiritually or emotionally poor. Likewise, how many people with limited financial means are thriving, active members of their communities, leading fulfilling lives they enjoy and making contributions to improve the lives of others. Are these people not wealthy?
Hallsmith argues that rethinking wealth is of critical importance in this age of environmental and economic uncertainty as we urgently need to think about how we can build the economic and environmental resilience of local communities. She is a Director in the Department of Planning and Community Development for the City of Montpelier, VT and is the co-author of a recent book called ‘Creating Wealth: Growing Local Economies with Local Currencies’.
What does this have to do with the environment? Well, a lot actually. As she tells me in our interview “if you’re interested in the environment, you ought to be interested in the monetary system.” We all know that building strong, sustainable local economies will be critical to increasing both economic and environmental sustainability in the future. Creating Wealth demonstrates how a healthy society can be attained through developing new systems of exchange. This can be done by adopting alternative local currencies to be used as complements to national currencies or by implementing creative initiatives such as time banks, and systems of barter and exchange. Hallsmith believes that these measures can empower cities and towns to build vibrant, healthy, sustainable local economies and in our interview she explains why she is so passionate about the potential transformative power of alternative currencies and why there is such a desperate need to improve our monetary system.
Now for the politics. I also have an interview today with federal NDP leadership candidate Nathan Cullen who spoke at the University of Ottawa last week. He was the environment critic for the NDP so I caught up with him and asked him some questions about the proposed Northern Gateway pipeline which, if constructed, would transport tar sands crude from northern Alberta through Cullen’s riding of Skeena-Bulkley Valley in northern B.C. He has some strong opinions about the pipeline as well as some provocative ideas about how opposition parties can team up to defeat the governing Conservatives in the next general election. His proposal has been generating a lot of controversy so I wanted to find out how it would work and why he feels defeating the government is such an imperative.
I also have some Canadian eco-news on the show and we have our usual segment with Kathy of Ecology Ottawa who updates us on local environmental events and campaigns. I have listed some of the upcoming events below or you can click here to see a complete list with full details.
Contact us at . 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)
- Sunday, February 26, 2012 from 1:00 to 2:00 pm the Kanata Environmental Network (KEN) will host a Sunday afternoon walk in the South March Highlands near Kizzel Pond with Martha Weber. RSVP at [email protected]
- Monday, February 27, 2012 there will be a City Council Meeting of the: Ottawa Forests and Greenspace Advisory Committee from 6:30 to 8:30 pm. City Hall in the Colonel By Room
- Tuesday, February 28, 2012 there will be a City Council Meeting of Planning Committee from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm at City Hall, Champlain Room.
Organizer: Caitlin Salter MacDonald, 613-580-2424, ext. 28136, [email protected]
- Tuesday February 28th there will be a meeting of the Transition Ottawa Peak Oil Discussion Group from 7 to 9 pm at the Montgomery Legion, 330 Kent Street. Come to this 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. You can get the contact information to RSVP for this meeting form the ecologyottawa.ca website. Or email the moderator at
- Just Food Ottawa is hosting a “Storage of Vegetables and Fruits Workshop” on the 28th from 7 to 9. at the Sandy Hill Community Health Centre at 88 Main St. Space is limited, so contact Emily at or call 613-699-6850 x12 to reserve your spot.
- Wednesday, February 29, 2012 City Council Meeting: Transit Commission from 9:30 to 11:30 am at City Hall, Andrew S. Haydon Hall
- Wednesday, February 29th Just Food and FarmStart, will be offering an “Exploring Your New Farm Dream Workshop”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 For more information and to register, please go to: www.farmstart.ca/explorer/ the workshop will take place from 6:00 to 9:00 pm at yet to be announced location.
- Wednesday Feb 29th and Wednesday march 7th Just voices, Ottawa’s only environmental and social-justice themed choir. Will hold their Weekly Environmental Choir Rehearsal from 7 to 9 at the Bronson Centre.
- Did you know It can take up to a year (or more) to get a Community Garden started? Now is the time to start planning for next year so come to the How to Start a Community Garden Workshop. On Thursday, March 1st, 2012 from 6 to 8pm at the carlington health centre located at 900 merivale road. You can reserve your spot by contacting Emily at
- Seedy Saturday is being held on Saturday, March 3rd, 2012 from 10 am to 3 pm at the Ron Kolbus community centre located at 102 greenview avenue. Seedy Saturday is the foremost opportunity to buy, trade, ask about and learn about seeds adapted to the Ottawa area. For more information visit www.seeds.ca and click on “Events” to find out more.
- Wednesday, March 7th, 2012 City Council Meeting: Transportation Committee from 9:30 am to 11:30 am City Hall, Champlain Room
- Wednesday March 7th there will be a presentation as part of the Urban Parks are for People Dundonald Park Project from 7:00 to 10:00 pm at Montgomery Legion, 330 Kent Street. Gil Penalosa, an internationally sought-out speaker and advisor, will deliver one of his trademark lively presentations on making urban spaces healthier. The goal of this project is to educate and empower communities with the tools to transform parks and public spaces into vibrant and active destinations that promote social interaction, mental health and well being for all. .There will also be a series of focus groups and stakeholder meetings from March 7th to March 10th
Jessica Pearce Rotondi: Is Happiness Really Priceless?
For regular readers of Earthgauge, you will know that I have often written of the need to make use of alternative economic indicators besides the GDP (Gross Domestic Product). The GDP is merely a measure of the total economic activity in a country and ignores whether such activity is good or bad for society as a whole. For this reason, more oil spills, litigation and increased cancer rates actually cause the GDP to go up.
This would be no big deal if economists and the media at large didn’t take the GDP so seriously and use it as the principal indicator of whether the economy is faring well. We hear ad nauseum that things are good when GDP growth is going up. When GDP is flat or, heaven forbid, going down, we are told the economy is in a sorry state indeed. Two consecutive quarters of negative GDP growth are, after all, the textbook definition of a recession.
The assumption is that people are suffering when the GDP is not growing and this may indeed be the case for some. But GDP growth does not necessarily indicate that we are any better off either. If we liquidate our forests, for example, the GDP would go up considerably at an obvious environmental and long-term cost. Rapid exploitation of the Alberta tar sands will also boost Canada’s GDP considerably without accounting for the environmental devastation taking place or the tar sands’ contribution to climate change.
There is a desperate need for additional economic indicators to give us a better picture of the true economic, social and environmental health of a nation. This is why I was very pleased to read this article in the Huffington Post today, which describes how the state of Maryland will start using the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) in addition to the GDP in assessing the economic health of the state. From the article:
Turning what “makes sense” in people’s life decisions into actual cents, GPI assigns a dollar value to things like housework, volunteering, and commute time, while subtracting from GPI the cost of crime, divorce, and water pollution. The goal of GPI is to look beyond bottom lines to take into account the many disparate economic, environmental and social elements that make up our lives and using that data as an indicator of social progress.
This is encouraging news indeed. We can only hope that Maryland’s adoption of the GPI is a measure that other jurisdictions will watch closely and soon follow.
Great article in the Globe this week. You have to give credit to Mr Sachs. If only more economists thought this way…
In a time of high anxiety, happiness is …
Here’s an excerpt:
The time has come to reconsider the basic sources of happiness in our economic life. The relentless pursuit of higher income is leading to unprecedented inequality and anxiety, rather than to greater happiness and life satisfaction. Economic progress is important and can greatly improve the quality of life, but only if it is pursued in line with other go
What does this graph from the New York Times showing income distribution in the U.S. have to do with the environment? Well, a lot actually. I’ve written a number of posts about the environmental perils of limitless economic growth. The relationship between growth and actual well-being has broken down in rich countries and it will be ecologically impossible to realize western standards of living the world over.
Yet while growth is still a legitimate goal in most developing countries, it continues to be relentlessly pursued by all governments, under the guise that a growing economy will somehow makes us all better off. This graph reveals that there is in fact no shortage of capital floating around today but it is increasingly concentrated in the hands of very few people.
I’m not talking about socialism. I’m talking about basic fairness. Why must a tiny minority have so much – more than they could ever need – when others have nothing? Someone please explain to me how this is beneficial or fair. There will always be income disparity – some with more, some with less. But why does the average CEO in America make 262 times more than the average worker? Why should the CEO of Walmart earn more in an hour (nearly $17,000) than his average employee makes in a year? Why, following the greatest market crash since the Great Depression, did Wall Street pay out average bonuses of roughly half a million dollars in 2010 (17% more than 2009 bonuses)? I’m not sure what can be done about it, but it sure doesn’t seem right to me.
In wealthy countries, there is already enough money to go around to meet the basic health, education and housing needs for all. Yet because a tiny percentage owns most of this wealth, governments must resort to the tired mantra of economic growth for the rest of us – despite the environmental repercussions of continuing on what is fast becoming a self-destructive path. As Clive Hamilton noted in his excellent book Requiem for a Species, “Even in the face of a ruinous decline in the conditions of life on Earth, it is considered legitimate to quibble over a decline in the economic growth rate of 0.2% rather than 0.1%.”
Make Wealth History.
My review of ‘Prosperity without Growth: Economics for a finite planet‘ by Tim Jackson has just been published in the latest issue of Alternatives Journal. Here it is below…
Prosperity Without Growth: Economics
for a Finite Planet, Tim Jackson, London,
UK: Earthscan, 2009, 264 pages.
Reviewed by Mark Brooks
Former Alberta environment minister
Lorne Taylor was reported to have
remarked to David Suzuki that without
a strong, growing economy, Canadians
simply could not afford to protect the
Most economists today continue to
promote the idea that the wealthier the
economy, the more money we will have
to reduce pollution, invest in green technologies
and protect wilderness areas. So
why on Earth would we want to dispense
with the pursuit of economic growth,
particularly when the global economy is