Dumpster Diving

Dumpster Diving and New Findings on Tar Sands Pollution

This week Dr. David Schindler speaks about his latest findings which were published just last week. His research team looked at air and water pollution surrounding tar sands mines and found that contrary to the claims of industry and government, mining is having serious impacts on the Athabasca water shed. We also hear from an Edmonton dumpster diver who tours Terra Informa through the offerings of local garbage bins. And as always, we start things off with a wrap up of the news headlines from the past week

Photo by Mike Sheehan

Environmental News Headlines

First up, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is calling for government scientists to sit down with dissident academic David Schindler to review his controversial claims about Albertaís environment.

Environment Canada has completed regulations that will require an average renewable-fuel content of five per cent in gasoline as part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A campaign to boycott tarsands-sourced gasoline among several large chain stores has fallen flat after clothiers The Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss withdrew their commitment from the agreement.

And finally, Edmonton, a city that boasted one of the first municipal composting plants in North America will soon be getting a trash-to-biofuel plant.

Dr. David Schindler on Water Quality in The Athabasca

The controversy over the impact that the oil sands has on the watershed of the Athabasca seems to get muddier and muddier (pun definitely intended). There seems to always be two entirely different sets of data. Whether its cancer rates in the population downstream from the production sites, the amount of birds landing on tailings ponds or the level and source of contamination of the Athabasca water shed; there always seems to be two different and contradicting sources of data. One of these being p ublished in academic journals by University experts and the other held confidentially and jointly by industry and the government. When government scientists disputed David Schindler’s claim that the oil sand mines were increasing water pollution in the Athabasca watershed to potentially lethal levels, Doctor Schindler had to test their claim. The government officials had stated that these increased levels of pollution were due to naturally occurring deposits of tar sand at the surface, not the disruption of the natural land by the mine sites. On Monday August 30th, David Schindler published a new report that tested the claim of the government scientists and held a press conference at the University of Alberta. Terra Informa was there to catch Dr. Schindler’s explanation of his results.

Dr. David Schindler is a University of Alberta professor in Ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry and experimental ecology and holds a number of honorary degrees and awards from across Canada. From 1968 to 1989, he founded and directed the Experimental Lakes Project of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and his work has been widely used in formulating ecologically sound management policy in Canada, the USA and in Europe. David Schindler’s newest report on the Athabasca watershed was released on August 30th, 2010.

Dumpster Diving

Bin-diving, containering, D-mart, dumpstering, tatting, or finding “recycled” food – call it what you will, it’s a trend that’s catching on. Falling under the umbrella of “Freeganism”, dumpster diving is for some not only a necessity, but a political act. It is an anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. And what better way to minimize your consumption of resources than to eat someone else’s garbage? Terra Informa Correspondent Marcus Peterson ventured out into the field on an expedition to find out what diving is all about.

Linda Duncan interview and a look at Edmonton recycling

Terra Informa February 21, 2010 (Download/Listen)

This week David Kaczan speaks with Linda Duncan about Canada’s environmental movement and the role of students and Steve Anderson goes recycle-splunking with Garry the Garbage Guy.  Jade Gregg hosts the show and Myles Curry brings us the News.

The Vancouver Olympics which is claimed by the organizers to be the Greenest Games Ever has been met with substantial resistance by various environmental groups on the grounds that the organizers failed to look comprehensively at the games environmental impacts. Forest & tree loss, impact on wetlands and the carbon footprint of all the construction projects in preparation for the Games are excluded from VANOC’s ‘green’ calculations while it continues to market itself as environmentally conscious because of efforts like offsetting officials air travel.

The environmental critique of the Olympics is largely focused on how the green image masks the direct impacts of the games, corporate involvement and its spin-off developments- upon the communities and livelihood of indigenous peoples. RBC, a top Olympic sponsor but also a major oil sands financier, continues to profit from the erosion of First Nations and human right in Athabasca while marketing themselves through the Olympics as environmentally friendly. The Indigenous Environmental network was quoted in saying that

“The reality is that you cannot offset or mitigate the horrific impacts on human and ecological health that are attached to the massive development that the 2010 Olympic Games represent and, even more insidious, you cannot offset or mitigate the massive destruction to human health and ecological harm that is represented by the dozens of corporate sponsors of the Olympics.”

Greenest Games Ever? Frontline Voices Confront Olympic Greenwash by Sakura Saunders (Vancouver Media Co-op)

“Greenest Games Ever” What environmental legacy will the Olympics leave for British Columbians? by Pina Belperio

The Greenest Olympics Ever Are Still Pretty Dirty By Ian Yarett (Newsweek)

Rethinking the Olympics: Discussion of the impact of the 2010 Olympics on the environment, on the indigenous, on civil liberties, and on social justice issues. (AW@L Radio)

Hope is fading for the Green president that many hoped Baraka Obama would become after he pledged $8.3 billion this week in loan guarantees needed to build the first nuclear reactors in the US in nearly three decades. The move represents a new federal commitment to the nuclear power sector. While nuclear development in itself is cause for environmental resistance this move has initiated a sea change in relations between environmentalist and Barak Obama.

The Nuclear announcement represents a full reversal on environmental strategy by the president and betrayal of the American environmental movement. President Obama campaigned heavily on Green Jobs and renewable energy. Things began to fall apart with the forcing out of Obama’s Green Jobs advisor, Van Jones, by right wing media. The failure to produce domestic climate change legislation for Copenhagen greatly influencing the failure of conference left the President distanced and out of touch with the movement. This week’s announcement in support of an obsolete, dangerous and ecologically destructive technology abandons the premise that he would lead a green power revolution.

With calls for resistance coming out from many environmental groups Obama is now facing opposition from many groups that helped him become elected.

“A Bad Day for America”: Anti-Nuclear Activist Harvey Wasserman (Democracy Now!)

Yvo de Boer, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, has quit after four years, and his departure is raising concerns about the worldwide effort to rein in global warming. Yvo De Boer is making the move because he believes that

“The time is ripe for me to take on a new challenge, working on climate and sustainability with the private sector and academia.”

However, De Boer’s departure with no apparent replacement increases the uncertainty about the state of the framework convention on climate change going into to the next major round of talks in Mexico. With the failure in Copenhagen, the stalled domestic legislation in the US and the East Anglia controversy creating a period of grave uncertainty, it is a profound political and institutional shock for someone with so much experience to leave the system at a time when it needs to be stabilized.

Climate Chief Calls it Quits (Living On Earth 02/19/2010)

After Yvo de Boer, what are we looking for in our new climate change chief? (Guardian UK)

A Paper published this week in Environmental Research Letters, reports that the biological and cultural diversity of the Peruvian Amazon is under increasing threats form hydrocarbon developments. Rapid proliferation of oil and gas exploration zones now threatens the region’s biodiversity, indigenous peoples, and wilderness areas.

Researchers found that more of the Peruvian Amazon has recently been leased to oil and gas companies than at any other time on record. There are now hydrocarbon concessions covering over 41% of the Peruvian Amazon, up from just 7% in 2003 with the total amount of area leased to oil and gas companies on track to reach around 70% of the region. Nearly one-fifth of the protected areas and over half of all titled indigenous lands in the Peruvian Amazon are now covered by hydrocarbon concessions. And over 60% of the area proposed as reserves for indigenous peoples in voluntary isolation are covered by oil concessions.

As a solution to this disturbing trend the authors highlight Ecuador’s Yasuni-ITT Initiative, which seeks international contributions in exchange for leaving the massive oil fields untapped beneath a mega diverse Amazonian national park as means of ensuring reduction in Co2 emissions.

Second Hydrocarbon Boom Threatens the Peruvian Amazon (Science Daily)

“Keep the Oil in the Soil”: Ecuador Seeks Money to Keep Untapped Oil Resources Underground (Democracy Now!)

This week Terra Informa brings you a discussion with NDP Environment Critic, Linda Duncan. Linda Duncan is a lawyer by trade, and a fierce advocate of Canadian environmental issues. She has worked as Environment Canada’s Chief of Enforcement, founded her own environmental law center in Edmonton, and was a senior adviser to the Indonesian, Bangladeshi and Jamaican governments on environmental protection. Today she is a member of the Canadian Parliament. David Kaczan spoke to Linda Duncan late last month, about her time in politics, and the role of students in today’s environmental movement.

This week our waste and recycling expert, Garry the Garage Guy, is back! Today he and Steve have ventured out into the cold of Edmonton’s winter for a recycling reconnaissance mission. That’s a fancy way of saying… that they’re digging through people’s garbage. Well, more accurately, they’ll be rummaging through a recycling dumpster from a downtown apartment building. Their goal: to see just what ends up in the city’s recycling stream.

Terra Informa February 21, 2010 (Download/Listen)