Every week, Terra Informa delivers environmental news and stories from across Canada and around the world. Our award-winning show is currently in its eleventh season, produced at CJSR Radio in Edmonton, and broadcast in more than 50 communities from coast to coast to coast.
This week we are bringing sustainability-related pieces from the archives. First, we hear from Dr. Kelly Swing about how Ecuador has enshrined the rights of nature in its constitution. Then we hear an interview with Winona LaDuke, an indigenous economist about the effects of colonization on Indigenous economies and food systems. Finally, we bring you an interview with Julian Agyeman, chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University about how sustainability should be considered holistically.
When we think of a constitution we think of basic “human” rights. We, as humans, have the right to vote, the right to practice religion, the right to own property. But what about nature? Ecuador was the first country in the world to establish the rights of nature at a national level, including it in the 2008 constitution. Terra Informa’s Nicole Wiart talks to Doctor Kelly Swing of the Tiputini biodiversity station in Ecuador about how this constitutional change is great in theory, but in practice, there are a lot of hurdles to still overcome.
Winona LaDuke, Anishinaabe Activist
Winona LaDuke is an Anishinaabe environmental activist, economist, and writer. She spent her entire career as an unflagging advocate for food and energy sustainability. She’s the kind of person who can tell you centuries of history about the corn her community grows and then rally it together to build a wind turbine. She ran as the U.S vice-presidential nominee for the United States Green Party in 1996 and 2000, and she remains a leader in North America on issues of locally based sustainable development. Terra Informa correspondent Matt Hirji spoke with Winona LaDuke from her home on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.
Julian Agyeman is chair of the Department of Urban and Environmental Policy and Planning at Tufts University in Boston-Medford, Massachusetts. His research focuses on the intersections between social justice and sustainability, an idea which he terms “just sustainability.”. He describes “just sustainability” as “the need to ensure a better quality of life for all, now and into the future, in a just and equitable manner, whilst living within the limits of supporting ecosystems.” Kathryn Lennon spoke with him about the need for the sustainability movement to broaden its work beyond ecological and conservation issues, to include issues of inequality and social justice.
Solar Trade Show: February 25th, Edmonton, Alberta
The Solar Trade Show is an event for everyone: homeowners, business owners, community organizations, job seekers, and Indigenous communities. Presentations and workshops will discuss careers in solar energy and how to finance solar energy projects. The event is organized by the Solar Energy Society of Alberta.
We discuss great environmental writing that captures our attention. First off, Gail Anderson-Dargatz, the author of The Spawning Grounds, tells us how she writes about the land as a character. Next, ecology graduate students discuss the different styles of two environmental writers during the conservation movement. Finally, Mika Minio-Paluello discusses co-writing the travelogue The Oil Road and reflects on the journey following the BP pipeline from Central Asia to the Mediterranean.
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. The Oil Road Every single day, one million barrels of oil travels from landlocked Central Asia to the Mediterranean. 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 traveled 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 and it is a reflective travelogue on the state of the global oil industry. Mika Minio-Paluello spent a week in Edmonton in 2013. Hear stories of repressive governments, secret police, Canadian attack helicopters, and more.
Gail Anderson-Dargatz is a twice Giller shortlisted author and she released her lastest novel, The Spawning Grounds in 2016. The Spawning Grounds is set in Thompson-Shuswap region of B.C. and it begins with a river’s flow reduced to a trickle leaving salmon unable to reach their spawning grounds. Conflict arises between the white settlers and Indigenous community and three young adults are left trying to navigate the conflict. Gail Anderson-Dargatz shares her writing process and how she writes about the land as a character in this interview.
This week on Terra Informa, we look to the archives to discuss the future of humanity and the place oil has in that future. First off we have Chris Chang-Yen Phillips with Brandon Schatz talking about science-fiction and its reflection of our current and future states. After that we talk to Jennifer Jacquet about the effectiveness of shaming in modern protest. And lastly we talk with Todd Hirsch about the future of oil in Alberta and the his view on the future economic framework of this province.
Not everyone likes reading books about the future. Unless you already read science fiction, speculative fiction, or science-fiction as they’re collectively called, you might feel like the whole genre is just about slapstick robots and Orion slave girls. To be fair, some of it is about slapstick robots and Orion slave girls. But Sci-Fi can also teach us a lot about the way we live today. And help us imagine something different. For more on why your summer reading list should venture into the world of ansibles, hyperspace, and pigoons, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips spoke to Brandon Schatz, manager of Wizard Comics in Edmonton.
Shaming Our Way Past Petrol
For activists trying to get all of society to shift to a renewable energy future, does it work to shame those keeping us in the past? Shame is divisive and combative. But Jennifer Jacquet thinks shame is a great tool in the activist toolkit. This academic in New York University’s department of Environmental Studies published the book Is Shame Necessary? New Uses for an Old Tool.
Alberta’s Post-Oil Future
As demand for Alberta’s oil drops lower and lower in the decades to come, how will the province’s economy change? How will we move forward and learn to prosper in new ways? For some perspective on these questions, we turned to Todd Hirsch, chief economist at ATB Financial.
We all know bugs are important in the function of ecosystems but did you know about their importance in the world of forensics, or in the study of physics? This week on Terra Informa, we go to Chris Chang-Yen Phillips to discuss a murder investigation with a forensic entomologist. And after we hear about the physics of fire ants from our partners over at Science Faction.
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.
They say photos speak louder than words, but what words have the people taking the photos? This week, we’ll listen to the thoughts of photographers Edward Burtynsky and Sara Lindstrom. As well, Kerry Oxford, a spokeswoman for Iron & Earth, voices the environmental conscience of those who work in the Alberta Oil Sands, the men and women directly exposed to the dilemma of our modern existence.
If support for the oil sands and support for the environment were concentric circles, Iron & Earth is an organization that is occupying the apparent no man’s land in between. But Iron & Earth’s position is that the two aren’t mutually exclusive. Terra Informer Tasmia Nishat spoke to Kerry Oxford about how the organization aims to bridge the gap.
Environmental Photographer of 2016 – Sara Lindstrom
Raised in Sweden, Sara Lindstrom is a globetrotting photographer who won the 2016 Atkins Ciwem environmental photographer of the year award with the above photo of a wildfire in the southern Alberta rocky mountains. Terra Informer Shelley Jodoin speaks with Sara about the winning shot, and her goal of using her impressive photography talent to inspire people to take care of the earth.
Burtynsky’s Photos Speak For Themselves
Canadian photographer Edward Burtynsky has photographed extreme landscapes made by humans: abandoned marble quarries, mountains of e-waste, never-ending freeways, infinite suburbs. Rather than putting any judgement on the people who created these landscapes, he tends to let his photographs speak for themselves.
Terra Informa’s Trevor Chow-Fraser works at the University of Alberta’s Office of Sustainability and helped bring Edward Burtynsky to Edmonton for International Week in January 2014. That’s how Chris Chang-Yen Phillips got a chance to speak to the photographer about his approach.
This past September Terra Informers Tasmia Nishat and Amanda Rooney took a trip to the Edmonton Waste Management Center. The Edmonton Waste Management Center is well known throughout Canada as a leading innovator in the business of dealing with municipal waste. The Center is able to divert 50% of the city’s residential waste from the landfill every year. In this piece we join a group on their tour of the Center and it’s facilities. Free tours of the facility are available to the public, every Friday morning at 9am and every Friday afternoon at 12:30pm. The tour is 2 hours long. Reservations are required. Call 780-496-6879.
Terra Informer Julianne Hayes explains how arctic plants adapt to a warming tundra.
Maintaining the Biodiversity of Alberta’s plants
We all know that even now species are going extinct at an alarming rate. Tasmia Nishat met with Jenine Pederson, a Master’s student in Renewable Resources at the University of Alberta, to talk about her research on preventing the loss of biodiversity. Jenine studies rare plants, and looks at how we can save them from the most devastating effects of climate change.
ID Cards for Plants
Have you ever wondered about which plants are indigenous to the area you are living in? What are the different uses for the plant and what are the plant’s names? What has contributed to the dwindling of indigenous species of plants in some areas and what are the impacts? Terra Informa’s Annie Banks asked John Bradley Williams and Jennifer McMullen to tell us about a set of Indigenous plant identification cards that they’ve created. The cards help readers identify plants on the unceded Coast Salish Territories of Vancouver Island. John Bradley and Jen describe the cards and the ideas behind their creation.
Painting by P. Matthews (1838) of the trial of Bill Burns, a man prosecuted for beating his donkey.
This week’s theme is speciesism! Speciesism refers to the belief that the human species is superior to all other species. Mark Devries is the filmmaker behind “Speciesism: The Movie,” a film that documents the immense scale of pig farms in North Carolina using drone surveillance. Inspired by the animal rights discussion, we’ve included a podcast episode produced by Science Faction that discusses the evolution of land species from fish.
Mark Devries is a filmmaker interested in the ethics of livestock practices used in North Carolina. His documentary, Speciesism: The Movie, shows how large-scale livestock farms raises the issue of animal rights and raises concerns about environmental protection and human health. Tasmia Nishat interviewed Mark Devries about the visual impact of these livestock farms, his ethical concerns, and the methods he used to capture film of private farm property, including using a small plane and drone surveillance.
Science Faction: Fish with Feet
Science Faction is a Canadian miniseries that explains scientific research using 1000 of the most commonly used words. “Fish with Feet” takes listeners on a journey to the lab of Dr. Emily Standen at the University of Ottawa to learn about fish that can walk. They discuss how Dr. Standen’s lab is raising fish out of water and how her work elevates our understanding of the evolution of ancient fish species into land species.