Which costs matter most? FunDrive 2014, Part One

It’s our annual community radio fundraiser, and we’re bringing some special guests into the studio! Today, we present an interview with science journalist Torah Kachur. She’s always on the quest for fascinating, fun, geeky and sometimes freaky science news. She shares the journey she’s taken over the past half decade, and why radio is the best. Then, Dr. Alan Lockwood tells us why coal is anything but the best, and why Alberta’s power plants are costing more than we think.

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Stone-Coaled Milk

Coal slurry: more than just a stick in the mud. (photo cred: Foo Conner -

Coal slurry (photo cred: Foo Conner –

On this week’s show, we’ll bring you an update on the Obed Mountain Mine release, music from Iceland’s underground rock star (not what you might think!), and the other horn of the raw milk debate—some call it udder madness, but don’t be cowed until you’ve heard the whole story.

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A telling tailings tale and the disappearing Greater Sage Grouse

The Greater Sage-Grouse, an endangered bird, sits peacefully on the ground.

Sorry to be pushing you to extinction, Mr. Grouse, although you sure do look fabulous. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

The Wild Rose province bears two dubious distinction that we’ll explore this week. Alberta is home to some of Canada’s most endangered animals, and it is also the location of Canada’s worst ever coal tailings spill. Our reporters give you an update on the aftermath of October’s Obed Mine spill. But first, we explore the human stakes in the fight to save Canada’s Greater Sage-Grouse.

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Move On

This week on Terra Informa, it’s time to move on. Students from Rhode Island’s Brown University want their school to stop investing in companies that profit from accelerating climate change. Then, Jennifer Cockrall-King wants cities to embrace urban agriculture, and Nicholas Mickelsen sings the praises of moving out to the farm.

Students from Brown University's Brown Divest Coal Campaign rally on the Main Green.

Students from Brown University’s Brown Divest Coal Campaign rally on the Main Green.

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Brown University students Do the Math
One of the most powerful ways university students in North America can use their school to send a message is by influencing where it invests. That’s university students across the US are rallying to pull their university’s endowment fund out of fossil fuel companies. They’re part of the national Do the Math movement across the US – inspired by environmental activist Bill McKibben – to divest from companies controlling oil and gas reserves. Student groups are hoping to blunt the businesses’ ability to accelerate climate change. Tammy Jiang is a student of public health at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She’s a member of the Brown Divest Coal Campaign, and Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips asked her how they’re hoping to accomplish that.

More information:

Food and the City
Farming? In the city? Urban agriculture seems like a far fetched idea, especially living in Canada, where our growing season only lasts a couple of months. Terra Informa’s Nicole Wiart interviewed Edmonton food journalist Jennifer Cockrall-King on her new book “Food and the City.” Urban agriculture projects are popping up in Canada and all over the world, and its a trend Jennifer thinks might be the answer to many of the problems in our over industrialized food system.

More information:

The Farm and the Country
Many young people in the English-speaking world choose to travel abroad and teach English in a foreign country. The enriching experience of extended cultural travel does not have to be restricted to the realm of teaching English. 
Terra Informa’s Miro Radovic recently sat down with young Edmontonian Nicholas Mickelsen to discuss a program that enabled him to spend almost a year on an organic farm in Europe as a WWOOFer with the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms network.

More information:

What’s Happening

Edmonton: Scales, Tails, Hoots & Howls: A Closer Look at River Valley Biodiversity
Edmontonians, with spring upon us, wouldn’t it be lovely to learn about the biodiversity of animals that Edmonton has to share? Come to the John Janzen Nature Center on Sunday May 26 from 11 AM to 3 PM to see and hear the scales, tails, hoots, and howls of Edmonton’s creatures. These include salamanders and garter snakes to name a few. Also, a number of outdoor nature games will be going throughout the day to celebrate the awakening of springtime and life in Edmonton. The John Janzen nature center is located at Whitemud Drive and Fox Drive,

Victoria: Synergia
Residents of Victoria, BC; be sure to come out and support the Mustard Seed Food bank on May 31, 2013 at Synergia (SINNER-GIA). This special event showcases local musicians and the $15 dollar admission goes directly to the Mustard Seed Food bank to support families and individuals struggling to afford food with the rising cost of living. The event will take place at the Victoria event Centre on Broad Street in Victoria.

Live Below the Line
As Canadians, we are fortunate to have vast lands full of clean water and nutritious food. The same cannot be said for many around the world. Live Below the Line is a campaign that’s challenging the way people in Canada think about poverty. It is a campaign to help us understand the difficulties of living on a miniscule food budget, the way many impoverished families around the world have to. If you want to take the challenge and find a greater compassion and understanding for those families, live below the line asks Canadians to try and live on just $1.75 of food and drink each day for 5 days.

Petrol Spectres Haunt The Badlands, ACFN Takes A Stand, And PowerShift Flies Again

Halloween is upon us, and Terra Informa is celebrating with a visit to Alberta’s spookiest landmark: The Atlas Coal Mines. Delve deep into the dark recesses of Canada’s coal mining past, as we learn about Drumheller’s annual Big Boo! haunted mine tours.

Elsewhere in the show, we’ll take you to Fort McMurray to hear from supporters of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation, as that band challenges Shell’s plans to expand its tar sands production. And we’ll cross the country to Ottawa, where PowerShift Canada is training hundreds of youth to fight for climate justice.

Indescribably spooky workers changeroom, with uniforms hanging from the rafters, and full body paintings on the wall. Black & White photo, with lots of contrast.

The Atlas Coal Mine is spookier than ghost-babies even on a regular day. Photo by Flickr user newelly54.

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Terra Informer Kathryn Lennon spent the weekend at PowerShift 2012, which kicked off on Friday, October 26. A convergence of incredible youth from far and wide, PowerShift is raising critical questions about climate justice right now. Listen here as Kathryn brings us some on-the-ground audio from the events in Ottawa-Gatineau.

More info: PowerShift Canada

Atlas Coal Mine Special

With abandoned mine shafts and shadowy equipment looming all around you, Drumheller’s old coal mine sites can be creepy places at any time of the year. But the Atlas Coal Mine goes even further at Halloween – into the paranormal. Today’s host, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips, called up Atlas Coal Mine Executive Director Linda Digby in Drumheller, Alberta to hear more about their haunt for a good time – and the true stories that inspired their Halloween extravaganza.

More info: The Globe and MailDrumheller MailAtlas Coal Mine

Taking a stand with the ACFN

On Tuesday October 23, supporters of the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation traveled up to Fort McMurray, Alberta. Their goal? To take a stand with the First Nation as its members presented their arguments to the Energy Resources Conservation Board and the Joint Review Panel.

The groundbreaking constitutional challenge is over the Shell Canada’s proposed Jackpine Mine tar sands project. The project would extend the tar sands further into the Athabasca Chipewyan First Nations’ territories and violate the nation’s treaty rights. Terra Informers Trevor Chow-Fraser and Annie Banks spoke with and heard from some of the powerful speakers taking a stand for the ACFN.

More info:

Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation and the Tar SandsYes MagazineNational Wildlife Federation, Edmonton Journal

Recent Updates:

Financial Post

Edmonton Journal

Winnipeg Free Press

Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency

What’s Happening

5th Annual Sustainability Awareness Week

The University of Alberta is holding its 5th Annual Sustainability Awareness Week from October 29 to November 1. Hosted by the U of A’s Office of Sustainability, this week has fifty different activities scheduled across the Augustana, North, Saint-Jean campuses. Space is limited for some events, so visit the Office of Sustainability website to RSVP today.

More info: Office of Sustainability – University of Alberta

Laugh for the Environment

On Saturday, November 3, Toronto’s Second City comedy club will be featuring Laugh for the Environment, and improv comedy show. Proceeds from the event will benefit the Toronto Green Community—a grassroots, non-profit organization dedicated to engaging Torontonians in environmental initiatives at work, home, and everywhere in between. Tickets are $20 and available through Second City either online at or by phoning the box office

More info: Toronto Green Community or by telephone: 416-343-0033

Iona Beach Shore Cleanup

The Lower Mainland Green Team Strikes Again! Help clean up the shore of Iona Beach in Richmond, BC by clearing it of Scotch Broom—a pretty but persistent invasive plant species. The clean up takes place on Sunday November 4 from 9:45am – 1:00pm. Carpooling arrangements can be made on the Green Team’s Meetup page. Instructions, tools, and snacks will be provided. Participants are asked to RSVP for this event.

More information:

Cyclist’s Death, Plant ID Cards, and CoalWatch

This week on the show, we’re hopping on our bikes and asking why plants need ID cards. We take you out on the streets and to a cycling town hall to try to figure out how a death can change the way we see cycling safety in Edmonton. Then we speak to the creators of a set of indigenous plant identification cards in Victoria. Finally, we stick around on the island to catch up with a local campaign fighting a coal project near Comox.

On October 2nd, tune in to CJSR 88.5 FM in Edmonton to hear Terra Informa live! Our cycling story on the podcast this week is a preview of our live show theme: Life and Death. It’s all part of FunDrive week at CJSR, where we ask listeners like you to help us keep the magic going at the radio station. Thanks for your support!


Memorial bike for Isaak Kornelsen on Edmonton’s Whyte Ave. (Photo credit: Chris Chang-Yen Phillips)

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Death’s impact on cycling in Edmonton

Sometimes no matter how hard you push an issue, it barely budges. Then a tragedy happens, and suddenly everything comes into focus. That’s what happened in Edmonton a little while ago. Whyte Avenue is one of the busiest streets in Edmonton, and one of the most dangerous for bikes. But it took the death of a young cyclist in August to get the whole community talking about it. Chris Chang-Yen Phillips has the story.

More on this story: Edmonton Bicycle Transportation Plan, Conrad Nobert’s blog at Green Edmonton

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.

Cards will be available for pick up and purchase at the Saanich Adult Education Centre. c/o Diana Henry, SAEC Admin Assistant, 250-652-2214 (ex. 237) or by email:
You can also purchase the cards on Etsy (currently out of stock).

Local Campaigns: CoalWatch

Sticking around on Vancouver Island, locals are getting hot under the collar about a proposal for a new coal mine in the Comox valley.  The proposal, known as the Raven Coal project, would see construction of an underground mine to extract around one million tonnes of coal for export per year.  The coal would be trucked to the island’s west coast, loaded onto ships and sent to Asian steel mills.  The company, Compliance Coal, says 350 full time jobs would be created along with millions in royalties.  They also say that operations won’t affect water catchments and are hidden from view.  That hasn’t stopped the criticism rolling in though.  To find out what the locals are concerned about, we spoke to John Snyder, president of anti mining group ‘Coalwatch’.  From our archives, correspondent David Kaczan has this week’s “local campaigns” interview.

More on this story: CoalWatch, Newswire, Parksville Qualicum Beach News

Total Upgrader Hearing, Tailings Defined, & Underground Coal Fires

This week’s show includes an Ecobabble segment defining “tailings,” a piece on fires in underground coal mines and how difficult it is to snuff them out, and the first part in our coverage of the ongoing hearing about French oil giant Total’s application to build an upgrader in Alberta and the media circus that accompanies it.

A Current Construction Project in Alberta's Industrial Heartland, Similar to the Proposed Total Upgrader

Environmental News Headlines

Oil spill update

US appeals court opens doors to new drilling

Abandoned oil wells in Gulf of Mexico

BP aims to fix leak by 27 July


Federal politicians cancel oilsands pollution probe


Climategate’ scientists honest

Scientists cleared of manipulating data on global warming

Solar Plane

Solar Impulse completes first solar-powered flight

Solar plane lands after 26-hour flight

Underground Coal Fires

When the very ground beneath your feet catches fire, how can you extinguish the blaze?

This week, Brett Tegart looks at underground coal fires- how they start, how they affect the environment and how they can be snuffed- or if they can.

Total Upgrader Hearing

A couple weeks back, Terra Informa brought you a story about a group of concerned citizens on a tour through Alberta’s former agricultural heartland, an area now known as the industrial heartland. The region is home to numerous petrochemical facilities and residents are upset about the vast swaths of prime agricultural land that have been lost to industry, the pollution that it creates, and its impact on their way of life. To top things off, the Alberta Cancer board has found elevated rates of cancer in the region.

Well, many of the people who went on that tour were shocked at what they saw. They decided to pack an upcoming government hearing into a proposal by French oil giant Total to build another bitumen upgrader in the heartland. Terra Informa correspondent Marcus Peterson was there for the two-week long hearing process, including the dramatics of its first day

Cancer alley: Citizens call attention to tar sands impacts north of the city

Extended Look Into the Total Upgrader


We often cover stories about mining here on Terra Informa and you may have heard us mention tailings. But what exactly are they? Here’s Rebekah with another installment in our recurring series, Eco Babble, where we cut through the jargon and explain just what’s meant by some the terms that pop up in environmental news.