Fracking and other Earthly Stories

"HydroFrac2" by Mikenorton - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

This week, we re-air the award-winning piece What the Frack Do You Know from Terra Informa’s Trevor Chow-Fraser and Danielle Dolgoy. Plus, since we’re doing book club soon, on Tom Wharton’s Every Blade of Grass: a story on environmental stories that pop out of the page!

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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.

The Magic of Environmental Writing

Do you ever wonder why some authors can make their words ring out and sizzle right off the page, but some can’t write a catchy sentence to save their life? Terra Informer Chris Chang-Yen Phillips has been curious for a while about the difference between two writers from the early days of the American conservation movement: Aldo Leopold and John Muir. Why is there so much poetry, so much fire in Leopold’s books? Chris was snowshoeing in Kananaskis a little while ago with ecology grad students Paul Cigan and Sonya Odsen. You can imagine his glee when he overheard them talking about just this question.

What’s Happening

Burns Bog Summer Camp, July 2 to August 8th – Delta, BC

Solar Open House, July 4 – Toronto, ON

Learn about Dragonflies and Damselflies, July 7th – Guelph, ON

Finicky Flowers, Resourceful Rodents

One of the OSPF's orchids at the Muttart Conservatory in Edmonton. (c) Tasmia Nishat

This week, we uncover Edmonton’s best kept secret. Well, if you’re a plant nerd, anyway. Also, we talk about everyone’s favourite fluffy rodent!

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Orchid Species Preservation Foundation (Say that 5 Times Fast)

Most citizens of Edmonton are aware of the Muttart Conservatory, but not a lot of them know about the ginormous orchid collection that resides there. You may know orchids as that overly fancy flower stores sometimes sell. Or as something you put in baked goods at times, because fun fact: vanilla is an orchid. How did this collection come to be? And what’s up with orchids, anyway — why do people care enough to form an entire society around them?
Tasmia Nishat speaks with Dave Nixon of the Orchid Species Preservation Foundation, or OSPF for short, to get to the bottom of this. Plant nerds, this ones for you!

The Little Squirrel That Could

The Red Squirrel of the Yukon Territory weighs less than half a pound. They can be seen spending their days collecting pine cones, and scampering up trees. They are an animal that wouldn’t be out of place in your favorite children’s cartoon.  Not a very formidable presence when you consider their imposing surroundings in the great wilderness that is the Yukon.  But as we’ll soon find out, the red squirrel has a little trick up its sleeve. Matt Hirji spoke with University of Alberta biologist Stan Boutin to find out more.

Whats Happening

Tuesday, June 23rd, Windsor ON – Medicinal Plant Class

Starting Saturday, June 27th, Vancouver BC – Permaculture Design Certification

Sunday, June 28th, Edmonton AB – MEC Paddlefest

Environmental Violence + Your Mom’s Ex


Today Erin Konsmo of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network tells us about the effects of pollution on the reproductive health of First Nations communities. And we learn how your mom’s ex can shape your face.

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Erin Konsmo

This week we’re excited to be kicking off a new segment on youth and environmental justice. I was fortunate enough to speak with Erin Konsmo of the Native Youth Sexual Health Network, an organization by and for Indigenous youth that works within the full spectrum of sexual and reproductive health, rights, and justice across the United States and Canada. Oftentimes pollution is thought of as impacting the land and the water but what about the impacts that pollution, industry, contaminants and environmental degradation have on nearby communities and individuals and their sexual and reproductive health? And why is this critical for environmentalists to learn more about? What is environmental violence and how are communities defining, responding to and resisting environmental violence? Here is my interview with Erin.

More on this story: Report on “The 2nd Declaration For Health, Life and Defense of Our Lands, Rights and Future Generations” (PDF)

I Look Like My Mom’s Ex

Dr. Angela Crean from the University of New South Wales Australia tells the Science Faction team about her shocking experiments that reveal that a mom’s previous mating partner can influence the appearance of her future offspring, at least in flies.

Mapping Safety & Ghost Bikes


It’s the second part of our show, recorded live at Edmonton’s MEC Bike Fest. This time, we talk to two people tackling bicycle safety in their own ways: one using open mapping technologies, the other with public memorials. We also hear some of your memories and learn about Bike To The Symphony.

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Open Maps Make Good Neighours

Bike lanes—somewhat unbelievably—have become one of the most divisive issues in Canadian cities. They cost a lot of money, but advocates believe they save lives. How can anyone argue the price on that?

Matthew Dance and Conrad Nobert think part of the problem is data. City planners have it, the rest of us don’t. City planners can see the most dangerous streets on a map and know where bike lanes would help most. Matthew Dance wants to share that map with the world.

Ghost Bikes

Every once in a while, you might see a bicycle painted entirely white—frame, handlebars, wheels, drivetrain—locked up on a streetside lamp post. Here in Edmonton, the ghost bikes are an initiative Edmonton Bicycle Commuter Society. Trevor Chow-Fraser spoke with their executive director, Chris Chan, to learn more about this poignant bicycle safety project.

Bike To The Symphony

Danielle Dolgoy works with the Edmonton Sympony Orchestra and sat down with her co-worker and one of the main organizers, Molly Staley, to talk about Bike To The Symphony. Late Night Gershwin is on June 12, 2015 at the Winspear Centre. The bike ride starts at Roots on Whyte at 7:30 p.m. and the concert begins at 9:30 p.m., with the after party lasting long into the night.

Credit Note

Thank you to foley artists on, including Kikuchiyo, Chemicatz and JamesRODavidson.

Naked Bike Maintenance


We’re live at Edmonton’s MEC Bike Fest with a two part special all about cycling. This week, we’ll show you how to take good care of your ride, why you should jump on a World Naked Bike Ride, and what’s going on across Canada for Bike Month.

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Taking Care of Your Bike

Chris Chan from Edmonton Bicycle Commuters gives some tips on basic bicycle maintenance, and shares the one thing that he finds himself neglecting on his own bike.

World Naked Bike Ride

It’s a day when people just ride their bikes—naked. Why? We find out when Tasmia Nishat speaks with Julie of World Naked Bike Ride Edmonton.

Update: Due to weather, the World Naked Bike Ride event in Edmonton date has been changed to Saturday, July 4th.

Bike Month Across Canada



First Annual Rayside Balfour Bike Rodeo


Toronto’s Bike to Work Day began in 1989 and is now one of the largest events of its kind throughout North America.

Toronto, Mississauga, York region and Hamilton

Bike Month

@BikeMonth on Twitter


Carbon Cycle Lake-to-Lake overnight bicycle trip from Lake Ontario to Lake Erie.


Bike To Work Ottawa


Pedal Palooza


Bike Week Winnipeg


Ride the Road hands-on course


Bikeology: Bikey Breakfast

Out for an early morning ride? Going to work or school or practice? Woke up early and are pondering possibilities? Have a gap in your schedule between 7 – 9 a.m.? Check out to our Bikey Breakfasts where you can find tasty food and beverages provided by local restaurants, information about cycling in Edmonton, a listing of all the events happening during Bike Month, AND have your bicycle checked by one of our cheery mechanics.

Bikeology: Foodie Fridays

We recognize that some folks just don’t have time to stop… they wanna get where they are going and we might want to go with them! So we created Foodie Fridays with the intent of gathering hordes of cyclists, riding to one or several restaurants every Friday ALL DAY (or for the major meal portions) and then #yegbike -ing the heck out of the ride, the resto, the meal, and the groovy time had by all…EVERY Friday in June!

Bikeology: Commuter Challenge Race

Held during the Commuter Challenge, this race demonstrates the efficiency of various modes of transportation. It’s a friendly competition where we invite participants (including you!) to use various transportation modes (bus, car, bicycle, skateboard, walking/jogging, roller blading, camel) to make their way from a starting location to a finish line in downtown Edmonton. We have developed a highly scientific bagel unit of energy to determine the efficiency of your transportation choice. And, of course, bagels are part of the light breakfast you can look forward to at the finish line.

Bikeology: Mocktails on the Bridge

If early mornings aren’t your stchick and coffee not a draw, then drop by the Handle Bar at the High Level Bridge for a pedal-powered smoothie and a chance to catch up on local goings-on in the bikey world.

Bikeology: Outdoor Ride-In Movie

A simple concept really, it’s a drive-in movie for bicycles, powered by bicycles. The movie is often preceded by music, until it’s dark enough to see the screen (I know, hey?). Bring your own snacks, mozzie repellant, blankets, and something warm and dry to sit on. If you have any suggestions for what bikey film you’d like to see, tell us!

BikeWriters’ Nights

Wax poetic about your ride! The Bikewriters’ Nights take place at Mike’s Bikes and Beans, where our host Mike makes his living ensuring Edmontonians have access to bicycles by either selling bicycles or fixing bicycles. And when he’s not fixing, or out riding, he’s writing! Join the Bikeology Gears and Mike whilst they wax lyric about their favourite object – the bicycle. And Mike makes a mean coffee, just saying…

Coffee Tour of Edmonton

Derek Pluim invites you to join him on his quest for the perfect coffee. Be there to quell your coffee addiction in the most pleasant of ways! Derek says: “some people believe that there isn’t enough coffee in the world for them to become a morning person. I intend to test the validity of that statement. Join me for an invigorating mid-morning ride as we meander our way to some of Edmonton’s best local coffee shops.”

Local Bike Store Day

Local Bike Store Day is slated to be an internationally celebrated day observed the second Thursday of June each year. Its purpose is to celebrate the contributions that independent bicycle stores make: encouraging local jobs, providing local services, ensuring cycling is accessible and affordable everywhere to everyone.

Critical Lass

Critical Lass is an inclusive monthly ride for female cyclists in street clothes, on a route suitable for novice riders, to promote cycling as an approachable, fun, everyday activity, organized by the Loop-Frame Love co-bloggers in Edmonton since June 2010.

Kidical Mass

What, you ask, is a Kidical Mass? It’s a lighthearted family- and kid-centred group ride that is now running in most North American cities. Once again hosted by the lovely ladies at Loop-Frame Love. The first ride was held in April 2008 in Eugene, Oregon and has now spread to over a dozen communities throughout North America and it debuted in Edmonton last year. The rides are meant to be family friendly bike rides through a community. All types of bikes, trailers, trail-a-bikes, Xtracycles, longtails, bakfiets, Long Johns, tandems, folders, trikes, and whatever rolls are welcome! We celebrate the fact that Kids are Traffic Too and aim for family fun on vehicles that don’t hurt the future! It’s just another excuse to pedal around town with your family.

Book Club: The Golden Spruce

Grant-Hadwin-2 Now in our second year, Terra Informa’s book club is an official tradition. This week, join the discussion on John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce. The worst excesses of resource extraction, radical environmental activism, First Nations traditions run roughshod, harrowing stories of betrayal and hypocrisy—this book truly is “a true story of myth, madness and greed.” Download this episode now. The Golden Spruce The “Golden Spruce” was a rare Sitka spruce tree that grew along the Yakoun River. Regarded as sacred to the Haida Nation, the tree met a tragic fate when activist Grant Hadwin cut it down in protest against the logging industry. John Vaillant’s The Golden Spruce shares Hadwin’s story, from his beginnings as a legendary forest engineer and wilderness man, through his crisis of faith, and beyond his mysterious disappearance in February 1997. Alongside all of this, Vaillant gives an insightful history of forestry in North America and its effects on the Haida people and the land we share. The Golden Spruce won the Governor General’s Award for non-fiction, and the Writers Trust non-fiction prize in 2005. It has recently been adapted into the film Hadwin’s Judgement. Listen to our interview with filmmaker Sasha Snow to learn more.

Join in the discussion

Join the Terra Informa Book Club. Pick up a copy at your local library or independent book store. Then share your thoughts by emailing or tweet us @terrainforma.

YVR Bunker Oil :: YEG Beekeepers


In April 2015, a relatively minor leak turned into a full blown oil spill in Vancouver’s English Bay. We explore the reasons why and what we can learn for The Big Spill coming down the line. Elsewhere in the show, we drop in on one of the first legal deliveries of bees to an Edmonton backyard.

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Lessons from the MV Marathassa oil spill

Vancouver went to sleep on April 8 with no idea what was leaking into the ocean waters right on its doorstep. The MV Marathassa, a brand new ship, had started leaking highly toxic bunker fuel into English Bay. A boater discovered something going wrong at 5pm. But it was hours before the Coast Guard responded. The thick, sludgy petrol continued to leak into Vancouver’s waters all through the night.

Why did it take so long for the Coast Guard and clean-up crews to respond? And given the delay, did they really clean up 80% of the spill in 36 hours? What can we learn from this incident for next time?

To find answers to these questions, Trevor Chow-Fraser turned to some outspoken Vancouverites who have raised their voices in the month since the accident. Mike Cotter is General Manager of Vancouver’s Jericho Sailing Centre. Leila Darwish is a community organizer, the author of Earth Repair and one of the original Terra Informers.


Urban Beekeeping

There are plenty of frontiers in urban agriculture: community gardens, backyard chickens—beekeeping might be the one that makes neighbours and politicians the most nervous. But after years of debate and a pilot project eased us into the idea, Edmonton has finally opened the doors to backyard beekeeping.

Edmonton’s City Council changed its bylaws in April 2015 to allow residents to get their own licensed beehive. So what does it look like (and sound like) to get a delivery of thousands of bees?

Chris Chang-Yen Phillips joined Kyla Tichkowsky, Steph Ripley and Lisa Lumley to find out.

Book Club

Just a reminder to join us for next week’s book club. We’re discussing The Golden Spruce: A True Story of Myth, Madness, and Greed by John Vaillant.

It won the Governor General’s Award and Writers Trust Non-Fiction Prize in 2005. And it’s now adapted into a documentary film called Hadwin’s Judgement. We featured an interview with filmmaker Sasha Snow and writer John Vaillant last week.

Tune in next week for the discussion and chime in on Twitter @terrainforma.


Photo credit: Kent Lins on Flickr.