Bike-Powered Compost Pickup and the State of the Great Lakes

On this week’s show we find out how Pedal to Petal combines composting and business in a unique way. Then we talk to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper about the state of the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes.

Great Lakes

Satellite image of the Great Lakes, from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

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Pedal to Petal: A Bike-Powered Compost Pick-Up Company

Fall is coming for most of us, but one business in Victoria pedals hard all year long.  Earlier this year, Terra Informa caught up with Pedal to Petal, Victoria’s Bicycle Powered Compost Pickup Company. 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. Here’s Trevor Van Hemert of Pedal to Petal speaking to Kathryn Lennon about their “ground-breaking” compost set-up and how to run a business that thinks outside the box.
More on this story: Pedal to Petal

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper

On September 7th, the Canadian and US governments renewed their commitments to cleaning up Canada’s fresh water bodies by amending the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. This new plan expands the scope of concern to include issues like impact of climate change, and the protection of lake species and habitats. To get a better sense of the problems currently facing the Great Lakes, we contacted Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a charity that’s working to help make the lakes safer, cleaner, and healthier for the public. Hamdi Issawi speaks to Vice President of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Krystyn Tully, on the state of the Great Lakes.

More on this story: Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Environment Canada, CBC News

Quebec Says Goodbye to Asbestos
It’s been a burning issue for years, but Quebec’s asbestos industry is finally ending. Newly-elected Parti Quebecois Premier Pauline Marois called asbestos mining an “industry from another era” during the recent election. Her party has promised to cancel a $58 million loan that would have helped re-open the Jeffrey mine, and use the money to help diversify the area’s economy. Epidemiologists have been extremely critical of Canada’s export of chrysotile asbestos to countries in the global south like India and Thailand. The World Health Organization estimates that around 100 000 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer. The federal government has announced it will now stop blocking international efforts to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material. The Parti Quebecois also supported the asbestos industry before it lost power to Quebec’s Liberal party in 2003.
Canada Draws International Criticism for Cuts to Ozone Monitoring
On September 16th, the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of a landmark ozone layer treaty, but atmospheric scientists from around the world had harsh words for Canada’s cuts to ozone monitoring. Canada has been critical in implementing the Montreal Protocol. It was signed in 1987 to stop ozone layer depletion from chemicals like CFCs in fridges and aerosol sprays. Over the past year though, the federal government has cut funding to monitoring sites like Nunavut’s PEARL research station. Dalhousie atmospheric researcher Tom Duck told the Toronto Star that because Canada has been collecting such important data across the Arctic, the cuts have been “devastating for the whole field”.
Environment Canada also confirmed this week that it is replacing scientists in charge of the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Data Centre with IT experts. Mark Weber, an atmospheric scientist from Germany’s University of Bremen, told Postmedia that the new leader is  “not sufficiently qualified for doing such a job”.
More on this story: Postmedia, CBC News, Toronto Star
Tropical Storm Leslie Hits Atlantic Canada
They say when the rain falls, it doesn’t fall on one man’s house. But Tropical Storm Leslie’s winds and thunderstorms didn’t rock the Atlantic provinces equally last week. Newfoundland Power crews were clearing away fallen trees and power lines the morning after the storm, after about 5000 homes lost power. But communities there were reportedly spared much of the flooding that hit towns in Nova Scotia. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale chalked that up to better investment from all levels of government in infrastructure like roads and culverts in her province. A Federation of Candian Municipalities report this September said about one third of Canada’s infrastructure urgently needs repair.
More on this story: CBC News , NTV
Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion to Exceed Emissions Cap
You may recall Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen recently came on Terra Informa to talk about the pollution limits in the new land use plan for the Lower Athabasca oil sands region. Well, less than two weeks after those limits were announced, Shell has predicted it will exceed them. Shell has filed documents with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency that predicts its Jackpine mine expansion will push sulphur dioxide levels over the new regional cap. A spokesperson for Alberta Environment said the models Shell used deliberately overestimate emissions to help the government set appropriate pollution controls on the plants.
More on this story: CTV, CBC, Fort McMurray Today
What’s Happening
PARK(ing) Day in Winnipeg
PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. Participants transform parking spaces into places for people to congregate. This year, Winnipeg-based planners, landscape architects, designers, and organizations will transform parking spots in the downtown area. Wander around the temporary parks for free all day long!
Check out a map on the Green Action Centre website.
Frogs & Oilsands Talk in Calgary
In the US, 50% to 60% of frogs are malformed probably because of chemical contamination. How can we avoid the same fate in Alberta? Brian Eaton is a herpetologist working with Alberta Innovates. In this talk, he discusses the benefits of his work as to industrial development, forestry regulations, wetland assessments and tar sands development.
$5 Adults, $1 Children
Tuesday October 2, 2012 at 7:00 PM
Hillhurst Room, 455 – 12 St NW, Calgary, Alberta

Permaculture, Composting, and Carbon Offsets

With spring upon us, we thought that today we’d spend some time in the garden. We begin the show with a look at permiculture and how it works. Then we meet up with Anna Vesala who tells us about the ins and outs of composting. In the second half of the show we switch gears a bit and take a look at carbon offsets. Two of our correspondents, with very different opinions, share their thoughts on why offsets do and don’t work.

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A network of paths running between raised garden beds. Many different plans growing in the foreground, a croud of people gathered in the background, and trees in the distance.

Students in an Into to Permaculture course touring a garden. Photo by Nick Ritar and Kirsten Bradley.

Permaculture is an agricultural philosophy that focuses on optimizing the interactions between the different organisms in a garden in order to create a system that’s self sustaining and doesn’t rely on constant human interventions. Today Ron Berezan, affectionately known as the Urban Farmer, explains the basics of how permiculture works.

North American households are notorious for the amount of garbage they produce, but did you know that there’s a simple, painless way to put a huge dent in the amount of material you send to the landfill? For the average home, somewhere around 40% of solid waste is organic material. That means that an earthworm composter under the kitchen sink or a compost heap in the backyard can cut by almost half the number of garbage bags you put out on the curb each week. To find out a little more about composting and how it works, we caught up with Anna Vesala. She completed the City of Edmonton’s three week Master Composter & Recycler Program a few years back, and now provides information about waste reduction at community events around the city.

Carbon Offsets
Most of us think little of hopping on a plane and heading off for a quick break, especially when airfares are on sale. But air travel is one of the world’s fastest growing sources of carbon emissions. For those who are concerned about their personal impact on the planet, avoiding plane travel is a good start. And for flights you insist on taking, offsetting the carbon emissions might help alleviate the damage. But the world of offsets is tricky – lots of companies, not much regulation. To help make sense of it all, David Kaczan sorted through the details so you don’t have to.

More on this story: Pembina/Suzuki Report on Carbon Offsets, Background Info
David’s opinions of carbon offsets certainly aren’t the only ones on the topic. Some people are pretty skeptical about the value of offsets, and one of them is our very own Scott McAnsh. Scott tells us about a website called that pokes a bit of fun at the idea of offsetting carbon emissions.

Mining in the Old Growth Forests of Ontario’s Temagami

Years ago, the Ontario government promised to turn the old growth red pine forests of Ontario’s Temagami region into a provincial park. The catch was that they first had to wait for old mining claims in the area to lapse. But last year a small Calgary-based company renewed one of its mining claims in the Temagami, putting hopes of a park in jeopardy. Today we talk to long time resident Bruce Hodgins about what the move will mean for the area. We also take a look at the environmental problems that arise from palm oil plantations, and we’ll hear about the benefits of back yard composting and how you can get started. All that, plus a visit by the Raging Grannies, in this week’s edition of Terra Informa.

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Anima Nipissing Lake in the Temagami region of Ontario. Photo by Robert Body.

The Toronto Star recently revealed that Ontario’s Ministry of Natural Resources wants to open up 340 acres of red pine forest in northern Ontario’s Temagami region for mining. The Wolf Lake Forest Reserve is part of what’s believed to be North America’s largest old-growth red pine forest. It’s one of many relatively undisturbed areas the provincial government promised years ago to turn into provincial parks once old mining claims there lapsed. That’s how the Chiniguchi Waterway Park beside the Wolf Lake reserve was created. But the small Calgary-based company Flag Resources renewed one of its mining claims in Wolf Lake last year, and it appears the Ministry of Natural Resources would like to support its activity there. They’ve said that if the reserve is reclassified for “general use,” they’ll be adding other land to Chiniguchi Waterway Park to replace it. We spoke to Bruce Hodgins, the President of Temagami’s Camp Wanapitei, to find out more. Hodgins was arrested when he was part of a peaceful protest in 1989 against expansion of logging near Camp Wanapitei, and is very concerned about the plans to allow more mining in the Wolf Lake area.

More on this story: CBC News , Sudbury Star, CBC Archives (1990), OtterTooth

Tropical deforestation poses threats to global biodiversity and the livelihoods of forest peoples. It is also a driver of climate change, as the tropical forests store much more carbon than the land covers that typically replace them. In the tropical forests of Southeast Asia, logging is frequently followed by conversion to palm oil plantations. An industry moratorium on buying soybeans from deforested areas in Brazil that began in 2006 greatly diminished soy’s role as an agent of deforestation, and proved that reducing the demand for commodities that drive deforestation is effective at limiting further deforestation. The Union of Concerned Scientists hopes that a similar strategy will work with palm oil in Indonesia and Malaysia. Rebecca Rooney brings us the full story.

More on this story: Huffington Post, Madison and Rhiannon vs the Girl Scouts, Project ORANGS, Girls Scout Cookies FAQ – Palm Oil

North Americans households are notorious for the amount of garbage they produce, but did you know that there’s a simple, painless way to put a huge dent in the amount of material you send to the landfill? For the average home, somewhere around 40% of solid waste is organic material. That means that an earthworm composter under the kitchen sink or a compost heap in the backyard can cut by almost half the number of garbage bags you put out on the curb each week. To find out a little more about composting and how it works, we caught up with Anna Vesala. She completed the City of Edmonton’s three week Master Composter & Recycler program several years ago, and now provides information about waste reduction at community events around the city

Carbon Pricing & Solar Power Advances

We have a terrific lineup of reports for on this week’s show, from composting tips and the latest advances in solar power to a hot topic discussion on carbon pricing in Australia and Canada.

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Alberta Gov´t Bets Big on Carbon Capture and Storage


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In the past month the Alberta Government has announced the final two projects to be funded from the Province’s $2 billion Carbon Capture and Storage Fund. David Kaczan investigated the details of one of these new projects, and  asks just what can carbon capture and storage do to minimize our carbon footprint.

On November 20th a symposium on sustainable agriculture was held at the University of Guelph. Speakers talked about permiculture, SPIN farming, community gardening, and urban farming as activism. Steve Andersen brings us this report.

This past summer Garry Spotowski, Terra Informa’s garbage and recycling expert, took us to his friend Tanis’ house for a first hand look at backyard composting. Today he visits Tanis again as she’s getting her composer ready for winter. Here’s Garry the Garbage Guy.


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