Infrastructure for the People

ibke path

This week on Terra Informa we are talking about cycling! In this archive episode, Terra Informers Shelley Jodoin and Amanda Rooney speak with Vice Chair from Paths for People, Conrad Norbert, an Edmonton non-profit organization advocating for the creation of infrastructure with pedestrians and cyclists in mind.

In June of 2017, Paths for People released multi-use trail policy recommendations. We discuss re-imagining the use of public space, hopes and ideas for the future, and the policy recommendations recommendations.

Download the program log here

Download the episode here

Victoria’s Bicycle Powered Compost Pickup Service

If you’re worried about the environmental footprint of the garbage you produce, Victoria may be the city for you. It’s home to what’s surely Canada’s most environmentally friendly waste disposal service. Local company Pedal to Petal picks up residential and commercial food waste by bicycle and composts it for use in gardens. Today they tell us all about their service and how it works. We also talk to  sociologist and author Dr. Michael Carolan about his new book, The Real Cost of Cheap Food.

Download today’s show.

Pedal to Petal's Trevor Van Hermet hauls a load of kitchen scraps for composting.

Pedal to Petal
Pedal to Petal is Victoria’s Bicycle Powered Compost Pickup Company. They are a carbon-negative social enterprise that’s found a unique way of transforming kitchen waste to treasure, and livelihood. They describe themselves as “a permaculture-based collective of bicycle loving food security activists who are taking direct action to reduce carbon emissions and landfill waste and to feed the soil and the city’s hungry”.  They do this through a bike-powered kitchen scrap pick up service, building edible landscapes, and composting. Trevor Van Hemert of Pedal to Petal talks to Terra Informa about innovations in compost set-up and how to run a business that thinks outside the box.

Real Cost of Cheap Food
Michael Carolan is a sociologist who’s got some interesting things to say about how our food is made. Food certainly looks cheap at the supermarket, and the average north American pays far less for food relative to incomes than people did only a generation ago. But Michael Carolan argues that this cheapness is a product of bad agriculture policies that are pushing the costs onto the environment, onto other countries, and onto future generations. Michael Carolyn is based at Colorado State University, and just published a new book called The Real Cost of Cheap Food. He joins us today to talk about his work.

News Headlines
On Saturday, hundreds of people marched through Prince Rupert, BC to voice their opposition to the proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline. The rally was so large that it filled the streets, with people spilling over onto the sidewalks. Enbridge wants to build the pipeline to carry crude oil from refineries near Edmonton to the BC coast where it would be loaded into super tankers. Protesters were concerned with the risk of oils spills, either from the pipeline itself or the super tankers. The rally comes in the lead up to federal review panel hearings which will be getting underway in Prince Rupert next week. Protests also took place last Thursday to greet the review panel as it visited Fort St. James, 500 km to the east.

More on this story: Vancouver Sun, CBC News, CTV News, Opinion 250 News

This past Friday, Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent and Alberta’s Minister of Environment and Water Diana McQueen announced a new monitoring program for Alberta’s oil sands. Proclaimed as scientifically rigorous, comprehensive, and transparent, it’s designed to provide an improved understanding of the long-term cumulative effects of oil sands development. Data collected under the new program will be made publicly available. Its work will also be scientifically peer reviewed every five years.  However, it has already drawn criticism. At least for the time being, the program will be reporting to government rather than to an independent body, as had been recommended

More on this story: CBC News, Vancouver Sun (1), Vancouver Sun (2), Vancouver Observer

In Nunavut, a new study reports that melting sea ice is allowing killer whales to move further north and in greater numbers. As top predators, the killer whales can take a heavy toll on seals, narwhals and even belugas and bowhead whales. Researchers interviewed more than 100 Inuit hunters and elders from communities along Hudson Bay and Baffin Island to collect information about the species’ movements and behavior. The increased presence of killer whales could result in significant changes to the structure of the ecosystem. It has also raised concerns among Inuit who fear they will now have to compete with the whales for limited food.

More on this story: Nunatsiaq Online, Toronto Star, CTV News

Mining Accountability, Bike Festivals

We’d like to welcome two new volunteers to the Terra Informa crew this week, Nimo Bille and Ashlet Smart.

This week on Terra Informa, our correspondent David Kaczan investigates corporate responsibility in respect to Canadian corporations overseas mining operations. Our in-house bicycle expert, Karly Coleman, tells us about the upcoming bicycle festivals across Canada so you can get your bike on. And of course, we have our weekly news headlines brought to you by Rebecca Rooney and Nimo Bille. Ashley Smart is this weeks brand-new host!

Download this week’s show.

BMX End Table, Bike Art Auction, courtesy Edmonton Bicycle Commuters' Society

 News Headlines


Last week the nuclear industry was back in the news in Ontario, where the Ontario Power Generation company released a controversial proposal to bury low- and mid-level radioactive waste at the Bruce Nuclear Power Plant near Kincardine, on the eastern shores of Lake Huron.

The plan is to bore more than 650 m into the limestone bedrock and construct  a deep geologic repository, really just a network of tunnels and storage caverns able to store more than 200,000 cubic meters of nuclear waste.

Executive Vice President Albert Sweetnam assured the media that the bedrock in question is water tight and so the project would be safe

For years the Bruce Power Nuclear Plant has stored low and medium level radioactive waste at the surface, and some feel it would be safer to store it deep below ground.

However, greenpeace spokesman Shawn-Patrick Stencil claims there is no safe way to store nuclear waste.

NDP environment critic Peter Tabuns agreed, and referenced the recent Japanese nuclear problems as an example demonstrating that it is impossible to plan for every contingency.

According to OPG’s estimates it would take close to 100,000 years for some of the mid-level waste to decay to the same level of radioactivity found in the surrounding bedrock.

The plan has been in the works for the past 6 years, but leaped to public attention last week as the recently released environmental impact assessment for the project drew fire from concerned American neighbours.

A joint panel of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency and the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission will likely hold hearings on the plan next year.

Additional Info:

The Council of Canadians

The Mark News

The Toronto Star

CBC News


This week “the international conservation community warns that Alberta’s population of grizzly bears is in increasingly dire straits in the Castle wilderness just north of the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park. As a result, clear-cut logging slated for the Castle this summer is receiving international scrutiny.

Biologists have warned for years that grizzly bears are on a steep decline in Alberta, as a result of the destruction of wilderness habitat by roads and industrial development.

A recent survey of the adjacent Alberta communities found 75 percent of residents opposed the logging and support fully protecting the Castle for water and wildlife as a legislated Wildland Park. More than 50,000 people from across North America recently sent letters to the Alberta government supporting the designation of a Wildland Park in the Castle.

In the United States, grizzly bears are protected under the federal Endangered Species Act. Whereas here in Alberta the grizzly bears are listed as threatened. The Alberta government  declared the Castle a protected area “on paper” in 1998, but recently OK’d large-scale commercial logging there.

According to the Senior Wildlife Advocate for the Natural Resources Defence Council Louisa Willcox, clear-cutting further degrades grizzly habitat in the Castle. Instead she would like the US and Alberta to work together to ensure a healthy future for the grizzly population.

Additional Info:

Sierra Club of Canada

Lethbridge Herald

Calgary Herald

Fast Forward Weekly

Northern Canada

Oil spills from pipelines seem to be increasingly common, and last week the Northwest Territories saw yet another.  Enbridge filed a preliminary spill report with the National Energy Board after its Norman Wells pipeline near spilled about four barrels of oil near Willowlake River, north of Fort Simpson.  This is a small spill compared with Alberta’s Plains Midstream Canada pipeline leak, which spilled about 28,000 barrels of crude oil near Peace River a week earlier.

But regardless of its size, Enbridge is treating it as a top priority and are currently improving access to the site in order to bring in larger clean up equipment.

Given the amount of opposition Enbridge is facing with regards to its proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline, it is no wonder they would want to clean up this most recent pipeline spill quickly.   According to a statement released by the environmental group Forest Ethics, at a rally in Prince Rupert, B.C., last week half of the 500 demonstrators raised their hands when asked if they would use civil disobedience to stop Northern Gateway pipeline.

Enbridge has a history of leaks and spills.  Last summer, an Enbridge pipeline spilled millions of litres of crude into Michigan’s Kalamazoo River. Its U.S. affiliate said Thursday that it will spend US$286 million to replace portions of the ruptured line, called Line 6B.

Additional Info:

CBC News

Winnipeg Free Press

The Canadian Press

Western Canada

According to provincial forestry experts in Manitoba and Ontario, it’s no longer a matter of if, but when the destructive mountain pine beetle will spread east of Alberta through Canada’s northern boreal forest.

University of Alberta biologists and geneticists said the beetle has been found in jack pine north of Edmonton after jumping species from the lodgepoll pine of westernmost Canada.

Jack pines are the main tree in Canada’s boreal forest, which stretches from the Yukon territory to the island province of Newfoundland.

Last week a study published in the journal of Molecular Ecology states that researchers fear there is nothing stopping the infestation from reaching the Atlantic coast.

According to research team leader Janice Cooke, “Jack pine is the dominant pine species in Canada’s boreal forest and its range extends east from Alberta all the way to the Maritime provinces.”

The bug, which is about the size of a grain of rice, attacked more than 155,000 square kilometers (60,000 square miles) of forests in British Columbia and killed 675 million cubic meters (23.8 billion cubic feet) of timber.

The hard-shelled insects spread by flying and with the aid of wind currents. Researchers currently have no estimate for the speed at which the insect might continue to spread eastward.

Additional Info:

The Independent

CBC News

Globe and Mail

Orkin Canada

British Columbia

This year may mark the 100th anniversary of the creation of the B.C. Parks system, but according to The Wilderness Committee, the parks have seen better days.

The Wilderness Committee topped the headlines last week when they released scores of government  documents obtained through a freedom of information request that detail the decay of provincial parks following severe cuts to funding in 2009.  The documents reveal chronic shortages of rangers and other key resources.

Gwenn Barlee of the Wilderness Committee made the request.

Chronic underfunding is even leading to potentially dangerous situations in parks.  For example, in some documents, park staff plead for the resources install an avalanche warning sign and to buy $100 worth of bolts needed to repair a potentially dangerous bridge.

B.C. Premier Clark announced the removal of unpopular parking meters in BC Parks and the restoration of $650,000 in Parks funding after an earlier release of documents by the Wilderness Committee revealed that the parking meters had driven away hundreds of thousands of visitors from BC Parks and were in fact losing money.

The Wilderness Committee states, however, that it will take more to undo the damage and decay caused by a decade of underfunding to B.C.’s provincial parks.  Current park budgets are 25% below those of 2001 and the number of rangers had been cut by 60%.  The Wilderness Committee is calling on the province to restore funding and staffing to 2001 levels.

But According to B.C. Environment Minister Terry Lake, that’s not likely to happen in these tough economic times.

Additional Info:

Wilderness Committee

News 1130

The Canadian Press

The Vancouver Sun

CBC News

CTV News

Mining Overseas Responsibilities

Canada is the mining capital of the world. But our miners don’t just dig up minerals here, they head overseas in search of bigger finds and bigger profits. However, the environmental, human rights and labour laws in many countries are deficient by Canadian standards, and at the moment, Canadian companies can get away with acting in ways that would not be acceptable back home. Environmental and human rights groups aren’t impressed, and they’re pushing for change.

Bicycle Traffic Report

From coast to coast cyclists are celebrating the return of sunny weather with their very own festivals. Today Terra Informa’s bicycle traffic reporter, Karly Coleman, stops by to tell us about what goes on at bike festivals and give us a bit of a run down of the various events being held across the country.

Bicycle Festivals Across Canada

Vancouver – Bike Month
Vancouver – Bike to Work Week
Edmonton – Bikeology
Calgary – Calgary Bike Festival
Regina – Bike to Work Week
Toronto – Bike Month
Halifax – Bike Week