July Book Club: The Year of the Flood and For the Birds

A photo of Margaret Atwood

A photo of Margaret Atwood

For the July edition of Terra Informa’s summer book club, we dive into Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, the second volume in the MaddAddam trilogy. This week we’ll discuss some of the issues raised by the book and our own thoughts on the story. For our younger listeners, we also take a peek at Atwood’s children’s book For the Birds. Warning: this episode contains spoilers!

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July’s Book: The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood's The Year of the Flood

Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood

Imagine a future where governments are replaced by cold and calculating corporations, climate change has reconfigured the global landscape, and entire species are annihilated on the daily while gene-spliced hybrids run amok in their stead. This is the not so distant (or unlikely) world against which Margaret Atwood stages The Year of the Flood, the second installment in the critically acclaimed MaddAddam series.

Woven together by the experiences and memories of survivors Toby and Ren, readers are presented with a glimpse of the world as it might be both before and after the Year of the Flood: a catastrophic pandemic that all but wipes the entire human race from the face of an already broken planet.

This week, the Terra Informa team pulled together and squeezed into a tiny little studio to voice our thoughts on the book and answer some of the questions raised in the story.

Special thanks to this weeks guest Megan Clark  for joining us in studio, and Brandon Schatz from Wizard Comics and Games in Edmonton, AB, for joining the conversation.

Megan Clark can be heard on Why Folk Why Not, which can be heard Monday evenings on CJSR 88.5 FM in Edmonton. She’s also an associate producer on CKUA’s ArtBeat which runs Sunday afternoons and Wednesday evenings.

Alternative Reading: For the Birds (also) by Margaret Atwood

Just in case post-apocalyptic lit isn’t your Happicuppa coffee, we’ve decided to include a second book that doubles as an option for our younger listeners.

For the Birds, also penned by Atwood, follows the adventure of a young girl name Samantha whose disdain for birds is suddenly turned upside down after she’s magically transformed into a bird herself. Along with a crow named Phoebe, Samantha embarks on a migratory adventure to South America while learning about the environmental problems of the day and the dangers these problems pose for birds. Full of  fun illustrations by John Bianchi, and feathered with facts supplied by Shelly Tanaka, For the Birds is an informative read for all ages…so long as you can find it. Unfortunately, this book is out of print.

Next Month’s Books…

By popular vote, we’ve decided that next month’s book choices are Kill-site by Tim Lillburn and Alligator Pie by Dennis Lee.

If you’d like to join our discussion, pick up one of these two books (or both) and send us your thoughts over Twitter, Facebook, or email by August 27 . We LOVE to hear from you and share your thoughts on the show.

The South Saskatchewan Regional Plan is finished. Here’s how the final version reflects your feedback.


Thoughts on the plan? How will it affect ranchers, endangered species like the Greater Sage Grouse, and communities affected by fracking?

Originally posted on Alberta Environment and Sustainable Resource Development:

SSRP bannerThe SSRPhas been a long time in the making. Over three phases of consultation we heard from 7,500 Albertans and received 2,000 online workbooks and written submissions.

The views and ideas we heard were diverse to say the least (you can check out all the summaries of the consultation sessions here). But there were also some concerns and ideas that we heard in almost every community we visited. We’ve made changes based on those comments.

Today, we’re happy to announce that the SSRP has been finalized. Here are some of the changes we’ve made to reflect your feedback: SSRP sign Taber 2013

  • More land for the Castle Wildland Provincial Park (now 54,588 hectares) and Pekisko Heritage Rangeland (34,356 hectares)
  • A formal commitment to work with our stakeholders to explore conservation opportunities in the Twin River and Onefour Heritage Rangeland Natural Areas of the grasslands
  • Improved connectivity for wildlife habitats, both within…

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Years of Living Dangerously, Biochar, and Water Conservation

Misting sprinklers watering a lawn sidewalk

Misting sprinklers watering a lawn and sidewalk

This week on Terra Informa we hear from Katie MacKissick, a Californian who tells us why she’s proud of her dry, dead lawn. We also share a discussion on Years of Living Dangerously, Showtime’s new documentary series on the effects of climate change, plus a Ecobabble that gives you the dirt on biochar.

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Years of Living Dangerously

They say we’re living in a golden age of television. Hour-long dramas with high production value and season-long narrative arcs like Breaking Bad, The Walking Dead, and Game of Thrones have taken over programming schedules and PVRs alike.

This summer, there’s a new drama about men behaving badly and the end of the world, but this one’s no fiction. It’s a documentary series called Years of Living Dangerously and it’s getting rave reviews while delving into the controversial topic of climate change.Terra Informa’s Trevor Chow-Fraser is joined by Eric Athanas for a conversation on this provocative new program.

You can catch Year of Living Dangerously on Showtime or watch for the full series on DVD when it hits shelves on September 7. Click here to watch a full-length, sneak-peek of the first episode on Youtube.


Ecobabble: Biochar

Environmental biologist Tracy Flach explains how new use of an ancient technology could help stabilize our climate and our soil.

Links: Calgary JournalAlberta Oil MagazineAlberta Biochar Initiative


Saving Water: What Works?

It drips through every part of our lives: rinsing veggies for dinner, filling glasses at restaurants, and washing towels and sheets at every hotel. But just because water seems to be everywhere doesn’t mean it is or that always will be, or that we shouldn’t stop to think.

In fact, cause for concern has led the City of Vancouver to request lawn sprinkling regulation while California’s State Water Control Board is expected to institute a mandatory state-wide water restriction.

We all know that cutting back on water usage can be tricky, so to learn what some people are doing,  Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips reached out to Donny Wong, Waterworks Design Branch Manager for the city of Vancouver, and Katie McKissick, a web cartoonist and writer for Scientific American with an idea that just might stick.

More information: United Nations – The Decade for Action, Water for Life 2005-2015

What’s Happening

North Saanich  Moon Walk

On July 25 from 10:00-11:30 am, enjoy a moon walk along Coles Bay Regional Park in North Saanich, BC. Park staff will guide you on a walk in search of crabs, sea stars, and the elusive moon snail. The event is free and fun for all ages, but be prepared to get wet! Attendees should meet at the information kiosk in the parking lot off Inverness Road and Ardmore Drive.

Guelph Yellow Fish Roads

As part a national environmental action project The City of Guelph, ON, is running a program called Yellow Fish Roads to inform the public about pollution entering rivers and lakes through storm drains. Volunteers are needed to help paint yellow fish symbols next to neighborhood storm drains through out the city and distribute fish shaped door knob hangers to residential homes. This project runs in cities call across Canada. To find out how you can participate in yours visit yellowfishroad.org

Nova Scotia Eastern Shore Property Celebration

On July 26, there will be a Property Celebration on the Eastern Shore . All are invited to attend this community celebration of a new conservation success on the Eastern Shore. While you’re there, consider taking in a boat tour of Nature Trust conservation lands including the newly-protected Borgles Island.


Cold Lake: Something in the Water (Update)

This week on Terra Informa we are re-airing an important piece that was recorded in the area of the Cold Lake First Nation, where several leak sites have brought attention to Canadian Natural Resources Ltd.’s high-pressure steaming process of bitumen extraction. The story was originally aired nearly a year ago, and since then, not a lot has changed for the people who reside in this area, the CNRL operation there, or the Alberta Energy Regulator’s approach to projects of this sort.

Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips and Nikki Wiart walk the streets of Cold Lake First Nation, Alberta in search of residents willing to share their views on the summer oil spill.

Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips and Nikki Wiart walk the streets of Cold Lake First Nation, Alberta in search of residents willing to share their views on the summer oil spill.

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Terra Informa’s own Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, Trevor Chow-Fraser, and Nikki Wiart spoke to residents of this town and First Nation near the Saskatchewan border. You’ll hear their personal opinions and experiences surrounding the pollution Cold Lake waters experienced this summer.  Residents are speaking out about the destruction of Canadian wildlife as well as the lands their families have inhabited for years.

Canadian Natural maintains that the spill has been cleaned up and contained, but not before more than 1100 cubic meters of bitumen emulsion had been recovered from the surface spill sites, and over 82,000 tonnes of impacted solids were removed.

Cold Lake, Alberta: The Spill

You may already have heard about the bitumen leak that’s been welling up North of Cold Lake, Alberta. By the end of July over 1 million liters had seeped up in the bush and muskeg. Communications around this environmental disaster has been confusing. Canadian Natural Resources Limited finally allowed media to visit the leak on the Primrose Air Weapons Firing Range on August 8. But Terra Informa decided to head into Cold Lake itself on August 9.

We wanted to hear how this leak had affected the lives of residents in town and on the First Nations reserve. Cold Lake residents that offered up opinions and views on the situation include Doug Longmore, a staff member at the Cold Lake First Nation band office, and Karen Collins, the President of Metis Nation of Alberta Region 2.

We are happy to finally bring you these voices. In three weeks, much has changed in the way the government and CNRL are responding to the mess. But one thing hasn’t changed: in August 2013, the oil that was first discovered in May—it’s still leaking.

Location of the CNRL Primrose leaks, Pembina Institute

Location of the CNRL Primrose leaks, Pembina Institute

Though Canadian Natural originally attributed the spill to mechanical problems with faulty wellbores nearby, just last week, an initial causation report was submitted to the Alberta Energy Regulator.

According to the report, which is posted on the Canadian Natural website, both natural fractures in the capping shale above the bitumen deposit, and fractures induced by the injection of steam to help retrieve that bitumen, may have contributed to the leak.

For more information on this story:

Edmonton Journal

Canadian Natural’s official statement on Cold Lake incident

Pembina Institute