Book Club: Being Caribou

Male caribou with big antlers strutting across a meadow

Grab an ice cold drink and settle into your lawn chair: it’s the Terra Informa Summer Book Club! You’re invited to read along with us and share comments or reviews via email, twitter or on facebook. This month, Yvette Thompson leads a discussion on Karsten Heuer’s non-fiction book, Being Caribou.

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The Legacy of Farley Mowat + Kicking Off Summer Reading!


Would you be willing to hang out with wolves in the Arctic? How about spending your time following Caribou around? This week on Terra Informa, we pay our respects to the late Farley Mowat, environmentalist extraordinaire (who happens to be a friend to the wolves.) And, we’ve got your environmental lit covered this summer with our new column, Summer Reading, kicking it off with the book Being Caribou by Karsten Heuer.

Download this week’s episode.


Caribou Special

For this week’s Terra Informa, we present a special episode from out of the archives. It’s The Caribou Special, originally aired in March, 2011.

Declining caribou numbers have sparked concerns over the long term viability of herds. There are fears that several herds may even be on the brink of collapse. With many northern people relying on caribou as a major part of their diets, it’s a problem that has governments and communities worried. So just how serious is the decline? Is it natural or human induced? And what does it mean for people who rely on Caribou? To find out we talk to a biologist, native hunters, a sociologist and an economist about the state of Canada’s iconic caribou.

Download this week’s show.

Caribou near Watson Lake in the Yukon. Photo by Bruce McKay.

Piecing Together a Murder with Bugs and Ecology of Caribou

This week on the show, we’re figuring out what bugs can help solve murders, and how boreal caribou are doing. Forensic entomologist Dr. Gail Anderson in Vancouver tells us about her work helping police solve crimes with insects. Then University of Alberta professor Fiona Schmiegelow helps us understand the mysteries of caribou population swings.

Gail Anderson holds up the issue of Time magazine she was featured in

Dr. Gail Anderson’s forensic entomology work has been featured in Time (Photo credit: SFU Media & Public Relations)

Piecing Together a Murder 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.
Ecology of Caribou
Although in recent years it seems like they’ll put anything on the back of a quarter, the caribou remains one of Canada’s most recognized national symbols, right up there with Mounties and beavers. Sadly, they are a national symbol in decline. From our archives, Terra Informa correspondent Rebekah Rooney helps us understand a little bit about their ecology. Featuring an interview with  University of Alberta professor Fiona Schmiegelow.


Alberta First Nation challenges Shell expansion
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is filing a groundbreaking constitutional challenge to the proposed expansion of the tar sands by Shell Oil, a proposal based in the territories of the First Nation. Shell’s proposed Jackpine Mine project would mean 100,000 barrels of oil per day being taken out of Treaty 8 territories.
No European moratorium on Arctic drilling
European union lawmakers have decided not to impose strict regulations or a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. Instead, a new motion proposed that companies must have “adequate financial security” in case of any accidents and to submit safety hazard and emergency response reports to national authorities.
More on this story: Nunatsiaq, The Guardian, Alaska Dispatch
West coast communities fight Coast Guard closures
A union representing the Canadian Coast Guard’s marine communications officers is putting forth another plea to the government to reconsider the closing of three communications offices on the west coast. The federal government has decided to close offices in Vancouver, Comox and Tofino on Coast Salish First Nations’ territories, in the next three years.
More on this story: Metro News, The Province, CKNW AM 980
What’s Happening

Grub @ West Kootenay EcoSociety

If you’re looking for food and friends in Nelson, you might be interested in Grub, on October 19. Grub is a little mix and mingle event hosted by the West Kootenay EcoSociety. Celebrate local food and farms with locally-sourced munchies, and sample some beers and wines.  $10 at the door or become an EcoSociety member and get in free. October 19, from 5-7 pm, at the Anglican Church Hall in Nelson.

More information: West Kootenay EcoSociety

Disc Brake workshop in Winnipeg

If you’re like me and you have a bike but you wish you knew more about how to take care of it, there’s a workshop coming up in Winnipeg you might want to check out. The Bike Dump – that’s a community bike shop in Winnipeg – they’re hosting a disc brake workshop on Wednesday, October 24. Learn a little bit about how disc brakes work. Like all their workshops, it’s free, and it runs from 6 to 8 pm. No prior registration needed!

More information: The Bike Dump

Food Secure Canada Conference in Edmonton

Registration is open now for Food Secure Canada’s Annual Assembly in Edmonton. Taking place November 1st to 4th at NAIT in Edmonton. The theme this year is Powering Up! Food for the Future. Learn about Canada’s food movement, and find ways to get involved in a citizen-owned food policy for Canada. Terra Informa’s own Kathryn Lennon will be speaking! So are Eriel Deranger, Michael Lewis, and other farmers, and researchers, and foodies from Yukon, Guinea-Bissau, and Guatemala.

More information: Register for the Food Secure Canada Conference

Edmonton Food and Agriculture Public Hearing

If you haven’t heard about the October 26th public hearing on Edmonton’s draft food and agriculture strategy, consider heading down to City Hall that day. This will be the only public hearing on the draft City-Wide Food and Agriculture Strategy. It’s a Friday, but you don’t have to stay for the whole thing. If you’re passionate about how we grow food in and around Edmonton, what kind of land is going to be available for it, consider going down. October 26, from 9:30 am til 5:30 pm.

More information: Facebook

Arcitc Issues Montage

We revisit the best of our reporting from the last year on arctic issues, along with updates and recent developments on these stories.

Download this week’s show.

Photo courtesy The Canadian Travel Guide

Caribou Special

Declining caribou numbers have sparked concerns over the long term viability of herds. There are fears that several herds may even be on the brink of collapse. With many northern people relying on caribou as a major part of their diets, it’s a problem that has governments and communities worried. So just how serious is the decline? Is it natural or human induced? And what does it mean for people who rely on Caribou? To find out we talk to a biologist, native hunters, a sociologist and an economist about the state of Canada’s iconic caribou.

Download this week’s show.

Caribou near Watson Lake in the Yukon. Photo by Bruce McKay.

Dumping Mining Waste into Lakes and Carbon Neutal Homes

Across Canada environmentalists are fighting a series of proposals to turn healthy lakes into tailings ponds for mining waste. The rules that allow it fall under the Fisheries Act, and today we look at how they came to be and the battle that’s being waged against them. We also hear from a Edmonton builder who specializes in carbon neutral homes, proving that a cold climate is no match for good design.

Download this week’s show.

Environmental News Headlines

Full Terra Informa News Script & Links

The government of Nova Scotia extended a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Georges Bank until 2022.

The No Rigs 3 coalition of fishermen, processors, aboriginal communities, and environmental groups, has expressed concern that a blow out or large spill, such as the one that occurred in the Gulf of Mexico last summer would devastate the fisheries and would also negatively impact tourism in the region

Canada Protects Georges Bank From Oil (Capecod Today)

NoRigs 3 Happy With N.S. Georges Bank Decision (The Vanguard)

Norigs 3 Coalition Media Release

NoRigs 3 Happy With N.S.Direction On Ban (Southwester)

Study released by The environmental law centre at the University of Victoria  demonstrates that tax payers would be left footing the bill for an oil spill  on any part of  the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline or shipping project

Art Sterritt, executive director of Coastal First Nations, said that total available spill compensation would barely cover a year’s worth of fisheries-industry activity on the B.C. coast, including fishing, shellfish farming and salmon aquaculture, according to figures from the B.C. Seafood Alliance.

UVic Study: Spill Would Hit Taxpayers Hard (Vancouver Sun)

Canadian Taxpayers On The Hook For Catastrophic Oil Spills With Enbridge Northern Gateway Project (Vancouver Observer)

Potential Spill Could Cost Taxpayers (Calgary Herald)

De’Beers proposed new diamond mine could further disrupt Caribou migration patterns, as it is situated along the migration routestraditionally followed by the Bathurst, Ahiak, and Beverly herds

Caribou are highly sensitive to human disturbance, and Kim Poole, an experienced wildlife biologist warns that they already avoid the existing diamond mines in the Northwest Territories.  However, he also cautions that it is difficult to predict what effects the mine would have on Caribou movements or populations, especially when one considers the cumulative nature of all the disturbances going on, climate change, hunting, predation, etc.

De Beers’ mine plans raise caribou concern (CBC)

NWT’s 4th diamond mine on horizon (

About Gahcho Kué (DeBeers Canada)


Using Lakes as Tailings Ponds

In recent years, environmental groups (MiningWatch Canada Council of Canadians Sandy Pond Alliance)  have been raising the alarm over plans to dump mining waste into Canadian lakes. Under legislation introduced in 2002, firms can apply to have natural water bodies re-designated as tailings impoundment areas by the federal government. Critics have raised concerns about ground water pollution, the loss of recreational areas, and the ability of the sites to ever be reclaimed. They question why the Fisheries Act even has such provisions. Industry counters that the projects go through stringent environmental reviews and that they replace any habitat that’s lost. Today we take an in depth look at both sides of the issue.

Map of Schedule 2 Water Bodies

Backgrounder on Metal Mining Effluent Regulations – Environmental Law Centre


Carbon Neutral Homes in Canada

In Canada, the heating of our buildings accounts for about 10% of greenhouse gas emissions. Although we think that our cold climate necessitates the use of all this energy, in fact at least half, and probably much more, could be saved by building efficient, highly insulated buildings that take full advantage of the sun’s radiation in winter. If well designed, these houses are also cooler in summer.

However, cutting energy use by 50% is not enough for some. This week, Terra Informa speaks to a builder and company director whose new houses strive to be completely carbon neutral. Peter Amerongen (pronounced as it looks), works for “Habitat Studio and Workshop,” a company specializing in energy efficient construction. His recent projects in Alberta are showing that it’s possible to build green, even in a very cold climate. David Kaczan chatted to Peter about his work and his thoughts on how Canadians should be building their houses in the future.

False Solutions to Climate Change and Cycling Quebec’s Route Verte

Today Brett brings us a review of “Hoodwinked in the Houthouse: False Solutions to Climate Change”, a newly released publication that aims to shed light on climate changes fixes that aren’t all they’re made out to be. Our bicycle traffic reporter, Karly Coleman, is a little further from home than usual. She talks to us from Ottawa about cycling in central Canada and Quebec’s La Route Verte. And Rebekah interviews researcher Christine Robichaud about her work on the importance of caribou in bear diets.

Hoodwinked in the Hothouse Cover

Cover of Rising Tide North America's Publication 'Hoodwinked in the Hothouse'

Environmental News Headlines (with Tasneem Karbani)

Anti-Oilsands Campaign

Campaign targets Alberta tourism

Editing error on Rethink Alberta

Oilsands critics urge boycott of Alberta tourism

“Eco-fascists” in the Flathead Valley?

BC Minister apologizes for ‘eco-fascist’ email (2)

Receding Himalayan Glaciers

Glaciers melting faster than anywhere else in the world

New photos show the receding glaciers

Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill Update

Spill under control (2)

UK urged to ban North Sea drilling

Engineers concerned about low pressure readings

Review of Rising Tide North America’s Publication ‘Hoodwinked in the Hothouse: False Solutions to Climate Change (Second Edition)’

Only a few years ago, some companies were saying climate change wasn’t a problem. Now, as its impacts become apparent, many of the same corporations are scrambling to present solutions and quick fixes to avoid new environmental regulations. This week, Brett Tegart reviews Rising Tide North America’s newly updated pamphlet Hoodwinked in the Hothouse (download), an environmental inquisition rooting out the climate change solutions that are false, foolhardy and doomed to failure.

Bicycle Traffic Report: Vacation Edition

Terra Informa’s bicycle traffic reporter Karly Coleman is away on vacation at the moment. But even when she’s on holidays she’s never far from a bicycle. Today Steve talks to her about cycling while away from home and some of the facilities that are available in central Canada.

La Route Verte

Best of Terra Informa

Originally aired in February 2009, in this science short  Rebbekah Rooney interviews Christine Robichaud to gain an understanding of the importance of caribou in bear diets.

Terra Informa is always looking for more volunteers. If you feel like joining the team or giving us a suggestion for a news story, drop us a line at or phone us at the Terra Informa listener line at 780-492-2577, extension 236. That’s, 780-492-2577, extension 236.