The Year of the Flood + For the Birds

For the July 2014 Book Club, we dove into Margaret Atwood’s The Year of the Flood, the second volume in the MaddAddam trilogy. We’re revisiting this as part of our Summer of Sci-Fi, so get ready to speed read! For our younger listeners, we also take a peek at Atwood’s For the Birds. Warning: this episode contains spoilers!

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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 instalment in the critically acclaimed MaddAddam series.

Woven together by the experiences and memories of survivors Toby and Ren, Atwood’s story presents 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.

For this discussion, the Terra Informa team squeezed into our studio to voice our thoughts and answer some of the questions raised in the book. Special thanks to Megan Clark and to Brandon Schatz from Wizard Comics and Games for joining-in.

For the Birds

Just in case post-apocalyptic lit isn’t your cup of Happicuppa, 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 named Samantha whose disdain for the winged is suddenly turned upside down when 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 faced by birds in turn. 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.

Next Month’s Book: Seveneves

We’re reading Neal Stephenson’s Seveneves for our August book club. In this mammoth novel, the moon explodes, rendering the earth a ticking time bomb. In a feverish race against the inevitable, nations around the globe band together to devise an ambitious plan to ensure the survival of humanity far beyond our atmosphere, in outer space. But the complexities and unpredictability of human nature coupled with unforeseen challenges and dangers threaten the intrepid pioneers.

If you’d like to join our discussion, send us your thoughts over Twitter, Facebook, or email by August 28, 2015. We LOVE to hear from you and share your thoughts on the show.

Canada Action’s Secret Tory Ties + The End


Last month, Desmog revealed links between the federal Conservative Party, the oil & gas industry, and the grassroots social media organization Canada Action. We’ll hear about Desmog’s investigation and discuss Astroturfing 2.0. This week, we also hear the eighth and final edition of Science Faction.

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What’s At Stake With Twitter Fake?

Canada Action is one of many groups that claims to be volunteer-run, grassroots organizations taking action around environmental issues—by defending the industry. When these groups turn out to be fronts for industry, we call that “astroturfing.” Recently, Carol Linnet and Donald Gutstein revealed evidence to suggest that Canada Action may be much closer to industry and the federal Conservative Party than they have admitted.

We speak with Carol Linnet, Managing Editor of as well as University of Alberta graduate student Jordan Kinder.

Science Faction: The End

“The End” of Science Faction has arrived! For our 8th and final show, hear from three great Canadian researchers, planetary scientist Dr. Alan Hildebrand, immunologist Dr. Matthew Miller, and climate champion Merran Smith, talk about three possible ways the world could end and how we can avoid TEOTWAWKI (a.k.a. the end of the world as we know it).

Puttin’ that Food and Oil to Good Use

Anatomical drawing of apple tree branches, copyright public use found on Wikipedia We talk the oil road, picking’ fruit and other sustainable food initiatives in this one from the archives.

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Amy Beaith-Johnson: Operation Fruit Rescue

From June to October, Edmonton is a veritable oasis of fruit: apples, pears, and plums—not to mention succulent strawberries, raspberries and saskatoons—are all sitting there patiently, waiting to be plucked. But what happens to this bounty if nobody is around or able to harvest it? Enter: Operation Fruit Rescue—a non-profit, volunteer driven organization dedicated to reducing food waste and promoting locally grown food in Edmonton and surrounding areas. Terra Informa’s Nicole Wiart talks to Amy Beaith-Johnson, the driving force behind Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton, about the organization’s origin, its mission, and how it all works. More in this story: Operation Fruit Rescue Facebook Twitter

The Oil Road

Today, we have a story about a pipeline. Not a pipeline being planned, or protested, but one that had its own share of controversy when it was built over a decade ago.

Every single day, one million barrels of oil travels from landlocked Central Asia to the Mediterrenean. From there it flows through the trade routes, making British Petroleum—also known as BP—billions of dollars along the way. James Marriott and Mika Minio-Paluello travelled this oil road. They visited rural villages and shining new cities, all tied together by the incredible social forces generated by BP’s pipeline.

The Oil Road is also the name of their book, a travellogue and reflection on the state of the global oil industry. One of the co-authors spent a week in Edmonton in 2013. Hear stories of repressive governments, secret police, Canadian attack helicopters, and more.

People’s Potato

I’m sure many of us have expressed concern at the quality of food at public institutions like hospitals and schools. Terra Informa’s Miro Radovic had the chance to talk to K, a member of the People’s Potato — a student initiative started over a decade ago at Concordia University in Montreal to address several food related issues on campus. More Information: McGill The People’s Potato Dalhousie’s The Loaded Ladle 

Biochar + Nexen Oil Spill

Aerial shot of pipeline cut into the forest, leading to sprawl of factories.

Pipeline leading to Nexen’s Long Lake facility (2014 publicity photo).

Today, we talk about charcoal and tar. But we use fancy words! So you might not catch it at first. We’ll explore the world of biochar, an innovative climate & resource solution with a millennia-old history. And we’ll give you a rundown on Nexen’s bitumen emulsion spill in Northern Alberta.

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Ecobabble: Biochar

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

Links: Calgary Journal, Alberta Oil Magazine, Alberta Biochar Initiative

Biochar Innovation Heating Up

Chris Olson is President of Innovative Reduction Strategies, a startup he formed in 2014. Building a company from the ground up is no easy task. To do so with new and unproven technology? Even tougher. But IRSI has a promising business plan. They want to take waste destined for the landfill and turn it into biochar.

Nexen oil spill: what you need to know

On July 15, 2015, a contractor was walking near by the Long Lake bitumen upgrader facility, operated by Nexen, when they happened upon what would turn out to be 5 million litres of bitumen and water leaking out of a pipeline that’s not even a year old.

To help you understand what’s happened, we’ve collected as much information as we could about the spill. We share the essential details: what happened, who is being impacted, what’s being done about it.

Header photo courtesy of Nexen.

Forest Fires and Spider Silk

A depiction of a forest fire in California. "Wildfire in California" by BLM - Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons -

This week, we delve into the science of forest fires and forest rejuvenation, and how climate change disrupts that cycle. Then on Science Faction, we learn about how spider silk can be used by humans in many strange and unexpected ways. Hear from Utah State University’s Dr. Randy Lewis & BioArt Laboratories’ Jalila Essaïdi about “Spider Silk Superpowers.”

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Every Blade of Grass

Cover of Tom Wharton's Every Blade of Grass, feturing a woman facing the sunset. (c) Tom Wharton

Join us as we discuss Thomas Wharton’s Every Blade of Grass. We get into mortality, existentialism, random nature facts — it’s a meaty one!

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The next book club will feature Seveneaves by Neal Stephenson. Grab a copy at your library or local bookstore, and read along and comment @terrainforma or email us at!

Birds, Bugs, and Better Recycling

"Recycling codes on products" by Z22 - Own work. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons -

This week, we talk counting flying things, eating flying things, and recycling. (Not recycling flying things, just recycling.)

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Greys Recycling

Rajan Ahluwalia was raised as an environmentally conscious child. He started recycling as a young schoolboy in Mumbai, India and decades later he is spearheading a recycling project, in Edmonton that will change the way the world thinks of recycling paper. Natalee Rawat spoke to Rajan about his recycling initiatives taking place within the next year in Edmonton.

Great Backyard Bird Count

Whether you live in the heart of the city, out in the country, or on the Arctic coast, birds bring a little sunshine into the winter months. This week bird watchers are teaming up for one of North America’s largest bird counts, but this isn’t an event that’s limited to professionals. From seasoned experts to novices, Canadians are breaking out the binoculars to help scientists better understand where birds are found and how their distributions change with time. Dick Cannings is one of the organizers of the Great Backyard Bird Count and he fills us in on what’s happening.

Eating Insects

When we in North America think ‘delicious” our minds aren’t generally drawn to a fat and juicy caterpillar or a crispy chili-fried tarantula. However, after a recent UN report called for the world’s population to start consuming more insects as a more sustainable source of protein, fats, and minerals, while being easy and quick to produce, we may soon find insects of varying shapes and colours squirming their way onto our plates. Morgana Folkmann talks to entomophagist and advocate Dave Gracer about eating the things. Ryan Abram also shared his eating adventures in South East Asia.

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