Keeping Oil Underground + Inside Animal Minds


This week, we speak to a cognitive psychologist and crawl into the minds of animals—specifically, the minds of our cats. But first, we discuss how tricky it will be to avoid climate change by keeping the world’s oil in the ground.

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Keeping Canada’s oil in the ground

On January 8, the top scientific journal Nature published a letter that outlined the amount of fossil fuels the world needs to leave in the ground to limit global warming. Titled “The geographical distribution of fossil fuels unused when limiting global warming to 2 degrees Celsius”, it was written by Christophe McGlade and Paul Ekins. The article drew a lot of mainstream attention, particularly here in Canada, due to the claim that 85% of Canadian bitumen reserves are unburnable. The Enbridge Professor of Energy Policy at the University of Alberta, Andrew Leach, is a contributor to Maclean’s magazine and wrote a response to the article. Andrew Leach spoke to Carson Fong about the issue.

Cats on cats

After speaking with cognitive psychologist Robert Cook about animal minds, Trevor Chow-Fraser asked a few of his friends to talk about their cats. And while they’re sometimes loving and hilarious — other times, they just don’t make any sense at all! Here’s his story about crawling inside the minds of our alien companions, including contributions from Robert Cook, professor of psychology at Tufts University, and the University of Alberta’s Hannah McGregor and Clare Mulcahy.

Saving native plants, Alberta geothermal, regenerative buildings

Screen Shot 2015-01-18 at 7.53.24 PM

When it comes to tackling climate change, some focus on mitigation and others on adaptation. This week, we learn about promising technologies for energy, architecture and urban planning that could help stop the climate crisis in its tracks. But first, one for the skeptics: we’ll meet someone going all out to help rare plants survive the coming, planetary heat wave.

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Jennine Pederson is saving Alberta’s plants

D: We all know that even now species are going extinct at an alarming rate. Tasmia Nishat met with Jennine Pederson, a Master’s student in Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, to talk about her research on preventing the loss of biodiversity. Jennine studies rare plants, and looks at how we can save them from the most devastating effects of climate change.

Geothermal Energy in Alberta

Last fall, Trevor Chow-Fraser spoke with Alison Thompson, director of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association. Part of that conversation (which we’ve held back until now) touched on a surprising fact about Alberta: it turns out the province best known for oil and gas has significant geothermal potential. Learn about Alberta’s alternative energy future with Trevor, Alison and policy advisor Justin Crewson.

Regenerative Buildings

We’ve all heard of net-zero buildings—structures designed so they give back to the grid as much electricity as they take. But what if a building could actually regenerate its habitat? What if it could send electricity back to the grid, recharge the aquifer below it, and more?

Back in 2012, we first heard about the Centre for Interactive Research on Sustainability—or CIRS—at the University of British Columbia. Chris Chang-Yen Phillips spoke with one of the CIRS’ architects to learn how this incredible building was giving back to the environment. Since then, the CIRS has been certified LEED Platinum, making it one of the greenest buildings in Canada.

In this story, learn all about CIRS from architect Martin Nielsen, principal at Perkins + Will Canada.

Bugs Can Show Us a Thing or Two

White-lined sphinx moth from Wikimedia Commons

This week, we’re taking cues from creepy crawlies—for solving crime, and for innovative new technologies. And we’re beginning a new partnership with the show Science Faction. Today, they’ll divulge the fascinating secrets of fire ants.

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Piecing Together a Murder using Bugs

Piecing together a crime can be a messy business. Police can run up against unreliable witnesses, or destroyed evidence. But what if the animals around a body could tell you a story about what happened? Chris Chang-Yen Phillips has this story from forensic entomologist and Simon Fraser University professor Gail Anderson in Vancouver.

Science Faction: The Physics of Fire Ants

This week because, we’re starting our inaugural partnership with the show Science Faction. They’re committed to telling unbelievable science stories, with none of the jargon. Once a month you’ll get a tagged-team show, and this month, we hear about one of the most fascinating family of insects out there: the ant. Specifically, the fire ant. What you’ll find out will surprise you.

Science Faction starts at the 14 minute mark.

What’s Happening

BioBlitz with Wildlife Society and Beaver Hills Initiative – January 18th

On Sunday, January 18th, from 1 – 4 PM, at the Strathcona Wildlife Center, the Alberta Chapter of The Wildlife Society & Beaver Hills Initiative will be hosting a fun-filled BioBlitz . Activities include: meeting a live owl and some cold-blooded friends; a short talk on how biologists count moose from above, find clues from scat, and learning about the fascinating world of beavers; heading out on the trail with a professional biologist to learn more about the study of wildlife through tracks, signs and sounds; short demonstrations on using wildlife cameras, radio telemetry and the art of tracking, and a scavenger hunt. At the end there’ll be a hot drinks and campfire snacks. You can walk, ski or snowshoe (equipment rentals available) – fun for the whole family!

Edmonton WaterCity 2040 – January 19th

On Monday, January 19, the Edmonton Transformative Leaders of the Future Team are putting on their first in a series of events that examine future scenarios for the City of Edmonton. The event will explore Edmonton WaterCity 2040, a scenario planning initiative that maps out a sustainable water strategy for the next twenty five years. Attend the event to learn about how the initiative applies innovative thinking and design strategies to create a water system that is resilient, responsible, and responsive. You don’t need to be a water expert to attend! The event starts at 6PM and takes place at the University of Alberta.

Sustainable Building Advisor Program – January 16 to May 2

The Sustainable Building Advisor (SBA) Program is a comprehensive certification program that trains you in practical, forward-thinking ways to design, construct and manage buildings that are resource efficient, environmentally responsible, cost effective, and healthy for all occupants. The SBA Program is applicable to new construction and existing buildings, in both the commercial and residential sectors.

The program is delivered in the form of interactive lectures taught by subject experts, with hands-on exercises and field trips to exemplary projects. The course culminates with a final presentation based on team projects and an exam that earns you the designation Certified Sustainable Building Advisor, (CSBA). The early bird deadline is November 14, 2014.The program is being provided through the Canada Green Building Council.

Your Fracking Answers + Warning: May Contain Climate Change

Industrial well and buildings on the horizon of a green field. How do you deal with issues that seem too big to handle? Well, first, you learn about what the issue entails, and then take some action. Here at Terra Informa we bring you the nitty-gritty of what fracking actually is, what’s up with Alberta’s deregulated electricity market, and a smart answer to the behemoth of the problem that is climate change.

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What The Frack Do We Know?

For some it’s the dirty energy with the dirty-sounding name. For others, it’s a revolutionary new way to provide clean energy. We’re talking about fracking. You probably feel you belong in one camp or the other—but have you thought about why? How well do you really know the actual risks and benefits of fracking? Trevor Chow-Fraser and Danielle Dolgoy realized they didn’t even know exactly what fracking is. So they researched and talked with experts who do. This story brings together the expertise of Dr. Avner Vengosh, Dr. Daniel Alessi, C. Alexia Lane and Dr. Rick Chalaturynyk. All together, we answer three big questions that we found you had about fracking. +Bonus! Extended cut with expert policy recommendations starting around the 15 minute mark.


Terra Informa at Night

This week, a re-broadcast of  one of our favourite episodes: Terra Informa at night! Listen in for stories about light pollution and sustainable lighting, life on other planets and night photography, plus the beauty of wandering outside at night. We recorded this on-site last November, outside the Telus World of Science Observatory, and the Queen Elizabeth II Planetarium in Coronation Park, Edmonton, Alberta.

Photograph of Aurora Borealis by Yuichi Takasaka:

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Light Pollution/Sustainable Lighting

Star light, star bright. What is night without darkness? As cities grow bigger, our nights grow brighter.What is light pollution? How are industry and municipality incorporating light efficient design? Kathryn Lennon spoke with Alan Luck, Energy Engineer at Shell’s Scotford Upgrader, in Strathcona County, Alberta, and Sherrilyn Jahrig, Director of Light Efficient Communities and Beaver Hills Dark Sky Preserve Coordinator for the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada.

More information: International Dark Sky AssociationStrathcona CountyLife in the HeartlandEdmonton Sun

The Fermi Paradox i.e. Counting the little green men & big blue planets

Paul Gilster enjoys one of the most unlikely of day jobs: writing full-time on the science of space travel as the lead journalist for the Tau Zero Foundation. You can find his nearly daily updates on the website Centauri Dreams. Trevor Chow-Fraser got in touch with Paul to help us understand one of the central mysteries of outer space, the question we’ve all had at some point when looking up at the stars—are we alone in the big vast universe? Or, is there life up there in the stars? And if so, well why the heck haven’t they come calling? That’s the question scientists call the Fermi Paradox.

More information: Centauri Dreams – The News Forum of the Tau Zero FoundationFermi paradox – Wikipedia, the free encyclopediaDoes a galaxy filled with habitable planets mean humanity is doomed?

Night Photography

To get a sense of the wonder of being outside at night, we called photographer Yuichi Takasaka in Lumby, BC. His pictures of wildlife and the night sky helped build momentum to declare Jasper National Park a designated dark sky reserve. Takasaka is also one of the photographers behind The World at Night, a collaborative international effort to capture the night sky.

More information: Blue Moon Promotions (Yuichi Takasaka’s website)The World at NightJasper Dark Sky Preserve

Another night-related link:

“To bring awareness to night vision problems, the Canadian Association of Optometrists has launched a campaign called “Drive Away the Glare.” You can visit the accompanying website to check the status of how well you see at night”.

Blue Future and Festive Symbols

(c) Rcbutcher on wikipedia. Depicts Christmas tree farmer tending to trees in Waterloo, Nova Scotia.

In this week’s archival show, we talk Maude Barlow’s Blue Future and whether artificial or au-naturale is the way to go for a certain festive symbol.

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Maude Barlow’s Blue Future

When we think about water security and sustainability in Canada, the first name that comes to mind is Maude Barlow. Her newest book, the third and final in her series focused on water sustainability, is called Blue Future. Here is Terra Informa’s Matt Hirji with an interview captured at the beginning of her latest book tour.

Christmas Tree Showdown

We’re starting to get to that time of year when many of us are on the lookout for a new Christmas tree for our living rooms. We’re usually faced with one of two options: springing for the real deal, or going artificial. But who wins in the ecological showdown between the two types of trees? Each has its pros and cons, but when it when it comes to deciding which is naughty and which is nice, the answer isn’t so cut-and-dried. Before sprucing up your den this holiday season, you might want to hear some of the facts, which Hamdi Issawi will take us through.

Links: Ellipsos, Kansas State University Saint Joseph’s University

What’s Happening

Christmas Bird Count – Regina, Saskatchewan

From December 14 through January 5, 2014, tens of thousands of volunteers across Canada take part in an adventure that has become a family tradition among generations. Families and students, birders and scientists, armed with binoculars, bird guides and checklists go out on an annual mission – often before dawn. For more information you can email

New Year’s Eve Party at Bow Habitat Station - Calgary, Alberta

Ring in 2015 with the whole family this New Year’s Eve! Join us for fun, family-friendly activities from 10 am to 4 pm , and for a ‘Countdown to Noon’ dance party from 11:45 am to 12:30 pm. Activities include: a trip to feed the fish, build your own noisemaker, face painting, family photo booth and more. Cost: Adults, $10. Seniors/Students, $8. Youth (5-17), $6. Children 4 & under, free. For more information you can email

Just Eat It


To celebrate the winter holidays, we’re watching Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. In this season of excess, it’s the perfect time to talk about the excessive food waste that goes on year-round. Listen to this week’s Terra Informa Film Club discussion and then send us your reflections throughout the holiday season. Tweet us your comments @terrainforma or email us at

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Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story

We all love food, so how could we be throwing nearly 50% of it in the trash? Vancouver filmmakers Jen Rustemeyer and Grant Baldwin take us on a personal journey of discovery about the issue of unnecessary food waste by turning their challenge of living off discarded food into a labour of love.

Watch it for free on Knowledge Network, B.C.’s public broadcaster.

Burnaby Mountain Protests & The Buffalo Child

Black and white photo of man in First Nations headdress standing in front of large stone on a snowy plain.

To learn more about this photo, please visit Cree Literacy.

You probably know that those protesting Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion in Burnaby, B.C. have been released. But did you know that five protesters are still facing a $5 million lawsuit? We speak to one of those named. We’ll also hear traditional story from Dr. Dwayne Donald, about The Buffalo Child and a certain rock well-known to First Nations on the plains.

Download Episode Updated 11 December 2014: sorry for the horrible soundtracking glitch!

Reminder: Upcoming Film Club

To celebrate the winter holidays, we’re holding a film-club. Join us to watch Just Eat It: A Food Waste Story. It’s streaming for free on Knowledge Network. Watch it, and tweet us your comments @terrainforma or email us at If you’re in Edmonton and would like to join in on the review, let us know before December 9, 2014.

The Story of the Buffalo Child

Math, geography and… storytelling? Teachers are regularly focused on a particular style of education that focuses on a prescribed curriculum. However the standard curriculum can lack voice, perspective and meaning without including one key aspect. Story. Dwayne Donald has challenged the norms on how we view education and curriculum through his unique position in the academic and Aboriginal communities. Dwayne toes the space between how and what we teach with his powerful message on curriculum.

Yvette Thompson spoke with Dwayne Donald, Professor in the Department of Education at the University of Alberta in September 2014. Today, we’re playing the story of The Buffalo Child, as told by Dwayne Donald.

Link: Dr. Dwayne Donald

Ecobabble: Ecosystem-Based Management

Recently on the show, you heard Tzeporah Berman. After helping stop logging in Clayoquot Sound, she joined forces with groups across B.C. to protect an even larger forest. The Great Bear Rainforest stretches all down the coast, over 30,000 square kilometers. It’s one of the last remaining temperate rainforests in the world, and home to iconic animals like the ghostly white Spirit Bears.

If you can’t keep the loggers out of an amazing forest like that, what’s the best way to let them in? One way is to implement “ecosystem-based management.”

Burnaby Mountain Protesters Hit With Lawsuit

Photo of Stephen Collis from Vancouver Observer. Click for original article.

One of the biggest news stories of November has been the protests taking place on Burnaby Mountain. Texas oil giant Kinder Morgan wants to triple the size of its Trans Mountain pipeline. At close to 1 million barrels per day, that would make it larger than Keystone XL and much larger than Northern Gateway too. So community leaders in Vancouver concerned about climate change aren’t too happy. And when they started to organize demonstrations and speak out, Kinder Morgan slapped them with a great big lawsuit.

Stephen Collis is one of the five people named in the suit. He’s a literature professor at Simon Fraser University and Trevor Chow-Fraser called him up earlier in December.

Links: Poetry Foundation News, Stephen Collis on Twitter, Beating The Bounds

Photos of Burnaby Mountain protests by Mark Klotz, freelance photographer on Flickr.