Words, Words, Words

Open book on top of grass.

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.

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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  

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.

Image source: Kaboompics, pixabay

Speculating the Future and Utilizing Shame for Good


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.

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Lenses on the Future

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.

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Photo by: Chris Yakimov (https://www.flickr.com/photos/doucy/)

Crime, Bugs and the Physics of Fire Ants


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.

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Investigating with 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

Here is a link to Science Faction’s website. This was the first episode in an 8-part miniseries.

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Photo by: AV Design

Photos, Fires, Iron and Earth


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.

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Iron & Earth

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.

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Standing Rock and Indigenous Rights in Alberta


Upper Lake Oahe (Reservoir), between Cannon Ball, North Dakota, and Pollock, South Dakota, as seen from space, October 1985. South is at the top of the photo.

This week, Indigenous Elder Taz Bouchier speaks about her experience at Standing Rock and organizing a prayer camp in Edmonton in solidarity with the Standing Rock water protectors. Indigenous rights activist Eriel Deranger discusses the conflict between Indigenous and colonial perspectives and how Indigenous Climate Action is working to uphold the rights of Indigenous peoples.


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Standing Rock and Edmonton Prayer Camp

Just over a week ago, from Thursday November 24th – Saturday November 26th, a three day prayer camp was set up in Churchill Square in Edmonton, in solidarity with Native people protecting water against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline in Standing Rock, North Dakota. The prayer camp was organized by Elder Taz Bouchier a descendant of the Original People of this land and a Social Worker. Taz has worked in the areas of justice, social services, addictions & recovery, advocacy, employment & training and community development. Terra Informer Dylan Hall spoke with her after the closing ceremony of the prayer camp in Churchill Square…

Alberta Indigenous Peoples and the Climate Crisis

Terra Informer Lauren Carter interviewed Eriel Deranger, an indigenous rights advocate and member of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation (ACFN). She highlights the current climate crisis faced by Indigenous peoples of Alberta and the moral and legal obligation of governments to work with Indigenous peoples in building progressive and aggressive climate change solutions.


Army Corps of Engineers announcement

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe response

Indigenous Climate Action

International Mountain Day

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Photo by NASA

Nature and the Meaning of Life


This week on Terra Informa we’re discussing the connection between nature and psychology as part of CJSR’s special week of mental health programming. Tune in to learn how connecting with nature enhances well-being, and gives meaning in life. Prescriptions are free. 

Holli-Anne Passmore on Nature, Well-Being, and Meaning in Life

In this special episode focusing on mental health and nature, terra informer Dylan Hall speaks with Holli-Anne Passmore, a PhD Student in Psychological Sciences at the University of British Columbia. Holli-Anne is a positive psychology researcher whose main research areas include 1) how connecting with nature can enhance well-being; 2) meaning in life; 3) full aliveness. She recently started a Nature / Meaning in Life research lab (the Nature-MILL) at UBC for undergraduates interested in pursuing similar research interests. She will also be teaching a course on Meaning in Life at Grant MacEwan university this summer (2017). Listen in to find out how noticing nature inspires feelings of awe, connection, and purpose.  Then, look at the nearest plant, pet your dog, or go outside!

To find out more about Holli-Anne’s most recent study and the noticing nature intervention (and many more well-being interventions) check out The Greater Good in Action: https://ggia.berkeley.edu/practice/noticing_nature#

For more information on Holli-Anne Passmore: https://people.ok.ubc.ca/hapassmo

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Image by Simone Kousol-Graham.

COP 22 with Dessima Williams, UN Special Advisor


Heads of delegations at the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP21), which led to the signing of the Paris Agreement. 

First up, news headlines on COP22 in Morocco from Climate Radio, a temporary FM radio station covering the Marrakech Climate Change Conference. Then, an ecobabble from our archives looking back at the 2015 Paris climate talks, followed by Climate radio’s inspirational interview with Dessima Williams, UN special advisor, urging young people to get involved with climate action.


What you need to know about the Paris climate talks

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is held once a year, bringing together members of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The 2015 conference was held in Paris, France from November 30 to December 11. This EcoBabble was made leading up to the conference last year, to explain why it would be an especially important conference.

Dessima Williams, United Nations Special Advisor

Exclusive for Climate Radio, Dessima Willams, UN Special Advisor, calls on young people to demand and take sustainable development goals and climate action.

Sounds of Space & Thoughts for Our Future.


Future Landscape by Naomi Vona, 2013

This week we take a look into the past and the great void, to shine some light on our current situation. First Shelley and Dylan talk to some Terra Informa Alumni about their experiences with Fun drive this year. Following that we listen to Ronald Wright as he discusses the past, and allows us to use this information when looking into the future. Lastly, we hear from Dr. Abram Hindle about his creative process when making music inspired by outer space.

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Talking Fun drive with some Alumni  

Alumni of Terra Informa talk with Shelley Jodoin and Dylan Hall about their experiences as Terra Informant’s at this years Fun drive.

The Trap of Progress

Last November, The Parkland Institute kicked off its sixteenth fall conference in Edmonton, Alberta. The theme was Petro, Power and Politics, and the opening keynote was delivered by writer Ronald Wright. Wright is best known for having delivered a CBC Massey Lecture which he called A Short History of Progress. For his lecture at the Parkland Institute, Wright drew on this earlier work to discuss our modern environmental crisis, including climate change and loss of biodiversity. To chart our possible future, Wright looks back to examine the collapse of civilizations all across the world. It’s depressing business, and more than one audience member asked the obvious question: is there any hope at all?

The Sound of Science: What the Universe Sounds Like

Alyssa Hindle and Matt Hirji interviewed Dr. Abram Hindle, a local computing science professor and Noise musician. Alyssa’s brother Abram uses his programming background with inspirations from nature and physics to create unique, and very technically based, sounds. Alyssa Hindle and Matt Hirji spoke with Abram Hindle about his Noise performances and music production.

More information:

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