Metamorphosis – Cinema on Climate and Change

This week on Terra Informa, we’re bringing you a piece centred around “Metamorphosis”, a new documentary playing in theatres across Canada this June. “Metamorphosis” explores the state of our current environmental crisis, and the psychological, emotional, artistic, and resilient responses of different people to this crisis, all using unusually spectacular imagery to communicate. We got a chance to talk with filmmaking couple Velcrow Ripper and Nova Ami; a group of Terra Informers also discuss our viewing of the film.

In news this week,

  • A new study shows fish are changing their migration habits due to Climate Change [Link – The Washington Post]
  • A Thunder Bay committee is taking another look at cleaning up a toxic pulp mill spill [Link – CBC]

If you’re interested in seeing “Metamorphosis” yourself, its screening dates are:

Globe Cinema, Calgary – Opening June 20

Metro Cinema, Edmonton – June 22 at 4 p.m. and June 23 at 9:30 p.m.

Cinecenta, Victoria – June 24 and 25

Vancity Theatre, Vancouver – June 26–28


Download episode now.

Download program log here.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Act Three

Over the winter holidays, Terra Informa will be re-broadcasting our three part series Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. Thanks for listening!

A man hangs suspended over a cliff by ropes

Documentary film-maker Mark McGuire shared the story of the extreme physical practices of the Lotus Ascent shown in the movie Shugendo Now.

In a show recorded before a live audience, Terra Informa brings you stories of spirituality and the way it shapes our attitudes to the natural world. Act Three takes us through hallucinogens and hanging off cliffs – the physical extremes we’ll endure to have a spiritual experience with nature. This special episode was recorded live at Edmonton’s St. John’s Institute.

Download this week’s episode.


Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea: Act Three

In a show recorded before a live audience, Terra Informa brings you stories of spirituality and the way it shapes our attitudes to the natural world. Act Three takes us through hallucinogens and hanging off cliffs – the physical extremes we’ll endure to have a spiritual experience with nature. This special episode was recorded live at Edmonton’s St. John’s Institute.

A man hangs suspended over a cliff by ropes

Documentary film-maker Mark McGuire shared the story of the extreme physical practices of the Lotus Ascent shown in the movie Shugendo Now.

Download this week’s episode.

Born Again Through Ayahuasca

In Act One, Nicole Wiart told us about her travels through Peru, While there, she somehow got persuaded to try Ayahuasca… enthusiastically. Ayahuasca is translated as “death’s rope” in ancient Quechua. It’s an indigenous medicine, used 5 thousand years ago by the people of the amazon and adopted more recently by the Incans and highland indigenous groups. The tea is brewed mainly from a jungle vine, with other plants from the Amazon brewed into it. While it “is” a medicine, it contains DMT, a chemical compound that instigates hallucinations – DMT is the same chemical released from your pineal gland right before you die — why many people “see God” before they pass. She’d heard great things about it, from friends, people who had really “found” themselves after the experience. And, being 20 years old, she wondered if it might help her feel a little less lost.

Terra Informa's Trevor Chow-Fraser sharing the story of Shugendo Now.

Terra Informa’s Trevor Chow-Fraser sharing the story of Shugendo Now.

Born Again on the Mountain

Can a spiritual experience really be true if you have to do drugs or starve yourself or do something crazy to achieve it? It’s part of so many traditions. Terra Informer Trevor Chow-Fraser wanted to know why physical hardship is seemingly so important for spiritual enlightenment. It got him thinking about a Japanese ascetic practice called Shugendo. His friend Mark McGuire introduced him to it a number of years ago, because he produced a documentary on the subject called Shugendo Now.

The film shows you creative new ascetic traditions that are taking place in the mountains. And if you see the film, you’ll understand immediately how the film addresses our question about bodily punishment. Because one of the most famous Shugendo practices is called the Lotus Ascent. It’s a punishing physical ordeal, because of the climb itself and what practitioners do on the mountain. Mark McGuire explains more.

More on this story:

Great Bear, Green Screen, and Great Lakes

This week, we talk about two “great” things in the Canadian ecosystem, the Great Lakes and the Great Bear.
And, we have the inside look at a documentary called The Carbon Rush, that tries to connect viewers emotionally with the impact of carbon credit programs in the global south.

Great Bear, Green Screen, and Great Lakes

The Spirit Bear has become symbolic of the Great Bear Reserve of Northern BC. Photo Credit: Valard LP

Download this week’s episode

Canadians for the Great Bear 

The use of charismatic megafauna is an important tactic used to raise attention to important issues. The proposed Northern Gateway Pipeline threatens many species in the Northern Western BC area, but the WWF had seemed to choose the Great Bear as an ambassador to the ecosystem they are trying to protect. Kyle Muzyka talks with the WWF vice president of conservation and pacific, Darcy Dobell, about the use of the Great Bear as an ambassador, and how the pipeline is merely an obstacle in the scheme of things.

More information on Canadians for the Great Bear:

Green Screen: The Carbon Rush

Next up, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips brings us a Green Screen review of The Carbon Rush. It’s a documentary that tries to do something brave – making viewers connect emotionally with the hidden underbelly of carbon markets. But does it live up to its own hype?

More information:

State of the Great Lakes

The Canadian and US governments recently 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. Last fall, Hamdi Issawi spoke to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper’s Vice President, Krystyn Tully, on the state of the Great Lakes.

More information:

Earth Liberation Front & Renewable Energy for Remote Communities

Many remote communities in Canada depend on diesel generators for their power. It’s a system that’s not only environmental problematic, it’s often not the most reliable. Today we speak with a BC organization that’s helping communities migrate to renewable energy so that they’re no longer dependent on fuel shipments from the south. We also bring you a review of the new film If a tree falls, which chronicles the experiences of members of the Earth Liberation Front. Plus, we take a look at dioxins: what they are, where they come from, and their effect on human health.

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A fire set by members of the Earth Liberation Front rips through the offices of Superior Lumber in Oregon. Photo by Roy Milburn.

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Green Screen Movie Review: If a Tree Falls
Every once in a while the Terra Informa crew heads out to the movies to review an eco-themed film. This week Terra Informa corespondent Myles Curry brings you a Green Screen Review of the documentary If a tree falls: a story of the Earth Liberation Front. The film focuses on the contentious issue of radical environmental groups and their treatment as terrorists by authorities. Democracy Now! Clip (1) (2)

Renewable Energy for Remote Communities
If you live in the city, try to think back to the last time you flipped a light switch and nothing turned on. Now picture depending on a plane full of diesel to come into town before you get power again. If you live in a remote community in Canada today, this is likely the energy system you rely on, so moving towards a more local renewable energy system is about more than just climate issues. Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips speaks to Alia Lamaadar about Cleantech Community Gateway, her non-profit that’s working to help the communities of Haida Gwaii build a new energy system.

News Headlines

Asthma Study
Remember all that dirt you ate when you were a kid? Scientists at Harvard Medical School have found evidence it may have kept you healthier. In a study just published in the journal Science, researchers gave groups of mice different levels of exposure to microbes and examined how their immune systems reacted. Mice that were shielded from microbes in infancy seem to have had more cases of inflammatory bowel disease and asthma.

More on this story: Nature, NPR, Daily Express

Jumbo Glacier Ski Resort
In BC, the province has given a controversial new ski resort the green light. The Jumbo Glacier Resort will offer year-round skiing in a remote mountain area near Invermere, in the southeast of BC. Many people welcome the jobs that the 6000 room resort would create, as well as the recreational opportunities. But there are also fears over the environmental impact of such an enormous development, and the affects it will have on the area’s grizzly bear population.

More on this story: CBC News, Winnipeg Free Press, Globe and Mail, Cranbrook Daily Townsman

High Temperature Records Crumble
Over 7,000 high temperature records were broken in an “unprecedented” March heat wave in much of the United States signaling a warming climate, health and weather experts said in a press conference last Friday. While natural climate variability plays a major role, it is the addition of human-spurred climate change that makes this particular hot spell extraordinary, the scientists said in a briefing.

More on this story: NASA, Mother Jones, Huffington Post

Great Backyard Bird Count
The year’s Great Backyard Bird Count has released some interesting results.  Based on the observations of people from across the country, four times more snowy owls migrated south from the Arctic than did last year. This is said to be due to lemmings, which snowy owls hunt, becoming more scarce, forcing the birds to fly south in search of food.

More on this story: Great Backyard Bird Count, Science

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“Reel Waste” Film Fest, Transition Towns, and Anti-quarry Campaign

Download this week’s show.

This week on Terra Informa

1) Reel Waste Film Festival

Steve Andersen spoke with Garry Spotowski, better known to Terra Informa Listeners as Garry the Garbage Guy, about an upcoming film festival that focuses and camera lens on films about waste from around the world.  From the serious to the absurd, they’ve got it all.  For more info on the Festival and to see trailers for the films, click here.  If you’ll be in Edmonton between May 8th and May 11th, you can get tix to the festival here. For more information about the associated conference “Waste – the Social Context” check here.

Doris, the Transition Town Teacher

2) Transition Town Initiative

In the age of peak oil and global climate change one thing has become abundantly clear. We will invariably undergo some form of agrarian reform. Whether this change is self directed or imposed upon us by the limits of the natural world, local food production is going to play an increasingly important role. One strategy in preparing for the coming changes is the Transition Town Initiatives springing up across the country. Terra Informa correspondent Jason Evans caught up with local teacher and transition town participant Kelsey Armstrong to learn about the Transition Town Initiative in the Edmonton Community of Grovenor.  Find a Transition Town Initiative near you!

3)  Stop the Quarry!

The Highland Companies have proposed to build a limestone quarry in Dufferin County, Ontario. But this isn’t just any mine, it would be the largest quarry in Canada, and local farmers are crying foul. They say they were misled and that the company claimed it was establishing a potato farm when it began buying up land. Area residents have responded by forming the North Dufferin Agricultural and Community Taskforce to oppose the project, which they say will not only destroy huge swaths of prime agricultural farm land, but also threaten much of southern Ontario’s water supply.

Rapid fire news attack

1) In light of recent events at Fukushima in Japan, The Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission asked Ontario Power Generation (OPG) to review its nuclear reactors. Even though Ontarian’s don’t expect a magnitude-nine earthquake followed by a 15 m tsunami, there are still safety lessons to be learned. OPG issued a report which said that no significant issues have been found so far. However, Greenpeace Canada is accusing OPG of withholding information on the potential health and environmental impacts of a radiation release to the scale of Fukushima. Greenpeace says it is unacceptable to claim that these reactors are safe, and then not provide access to key information regarding the potential impacts of a radiation release. OPG has agreed to provide another update on its safety review by May 28.

Additional info on OPG and nuclear safety can be found here and here.

2) The mountain pine beetle, which devastated forests in British Columbia, is moving eastward. Manitoba, Ontario and Saskatchewan are joining forces in an effort to combat the spread after a recent study confirmed that the beetle has jumped species from lodgepole pine to jack pine trees – the most common type of pine in the Boreal Forest.  Evidence confirms that the mountain pine beetle could arrive in Ontario in 20-30 years, and much sooner in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. Currently, funding is going toward the development of a national forestry pest strategy.  Alberta alone has spent up to $300-million fighting this pest.   In B.C., the insect is expected to kill 1/3 of the  trees and lead to the loss of as many as 20,000 jobs. This is the scenario that other provinces are desperate to avoid. It had until recently been hoped that the spread of the beetle would be stopped by northern Alberta’s cold winters. However, researchers now say that the spread is continuing.

More info on the pine beetles’ spread can be found here and here.

3) In B.C. it’s Drinking Water Week: put on by the B.C. Water & Waste Association and the Province of British Columbia, this week aims to create awareness of water resources including where it comes from, where it goes, and how to protect and preserve it. British Columbians use, on average, 490 litres of water each day. The national average is 329 litres per day, which is approximately double the European average. Daisy Foster, CEO of the 4,400-member BC Water & Waste Association notes that, “increases in our population, the growth of industry and agriculture, and the effects of climate change all place enormous pressure on our water supply.” The Vancouver Sun newspaper, meanwhile, reported that there is a considerable lack of community awareness on water issues. For instance, 25% of Canadians are alleged to have no idea where the water that flows out of their taps comes from. They report that 44% of Canadians admit to knowingly engaging in water wasting activities such as leaving the tap running while washing dishes, and 19% admit to hosing down their driveways.  And whilst only 10 percent of Canadians don’t know what they pay on their electricity bill, almost 30 percent don’t know what they pay on their water bill.

More info on water use and Water Week in B.C. is available here and here.

4)  Environmental groups in Alberta are raising concerns over a recent oil spill in the northwest of the province. The leak was too small to be immediately detected by pressure changes by the pipeline’s operator, Kinder Morgan, a Texas based company. The leak was instead found by landowners in the area. An unknown amount of oil was leaked to the surface and into a nearby creek. Environmentalists claim that this latest spill demonstrates inherent dangers in large-scale oil projects such as the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. However, the damage from this spill is expected to be minimal.

You can find more info about the Alberta oil spill here and here.

5) Finally to New Brunswick now, the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA) is calling for more support from the provincial government to increase investment in wind power. Robert Hornung, CanWEA president, last week publicly petitioned the New Brunswick Energy Commission to consider greatly expanding the role of wind in providing for future energy needs. The commission’s mandate, as of last fall, is to create a long term energy plan for the province. Whilst the government’s electricity utility, NB Power, has a goal of 400 megawatts of wind power capacity by 2010, the Canadian Wind Energy Association claims that this number can at least be doubled. Furthermore, they claim that there is considerable export potential to the north eastern United States.

However, commission co-chairman Jeannot Volpé argued that wind power is just one option that the commission is looking at. He argued that a dramatic rise in wind power production doesn’t make economic sense given its that it is more expensive than current sources of electricity.

More info on wind power in N.B. can be found here and here.

The Oil Spill’s Unseen Culprits & Victims, Royalties Defined, and Sea Shepherd

On this week’s show…

Alongside our usual review of the week’s environmental news headlines, today we bring you a Green Screen review of the TED Talk given by marine ecologist and author Carl Safina about the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. We also have a new Eco Babble defining what is meant by the term royalties – those fees paid by resource extraction companies to the provincial government owning the resources. Finally, we reach back into the archives for an editorial piece on the controversial ecowarrior organization Sea Shepherd.

Photograph by James Nachtwey for The New Yorker.

Environmental News Headlines

Northern Uranium Mine – Public Hearings

Federal Government – Oil Sands Assessment Report

St. Lawrence Lowlands – Hearings on Shale Gas Drilling

Central B.C. – Copper-Gold Mine Receives Federal Endorsement

Utah – Approved Oil Sands Mine

Ontario – Four More Coal-Fired Plants Shut Down


Green Screen Review: Carl Safina, “The Oil Spill’s Unseen Victim’s and Culprits”

This week Rebecca Rooney brings us a slightly unconventional Green Screen Review.  Usually these segments review films or documentaries on environmental subjects, but online videos are becoming an increasingly common excuse to eat popcorn.  Instead of reviewing a full length film, this week Terra Informa has a review of a 20 min online video recorded at the 2010 TEDxOilSpill conference last June.  The video is titled The Oil Spill’s unseen culprits, victims, and was delivered by author and scientist Carl Safina.  In it, he lays out some of the context in which the Gulf oil spill occurred and argues that the spill was no accident, but was the result of negligence which he describes as only a symptom of a larger problem with American democracy.

This TED talk is available to be streamed or downloaded for free here.


Ecobabble: Royalties

Royalties – what are they? Why do oil corporations hate them? Why do governments keep decreasing them? After you listen to this week’s Ecobabble, you’ll be able to draw your own conclusions. Andy Read and Marcus Peterson bring us an easy-to-listen guide on the convoluted world of taxes, mineral rights, and ownership.

Sea Shepherd

A dangerous and high stakes game of cat and mouse is played out every Antarctic summer season. The Japanese whaling fleet partakes in an annual hunt of approximately 1000 whales, however it is pursued by an environmental group called the Sea Shephard. Terra Informa takes a look at the past and present of the whaling issue. What does international law say on the issue? Who are the protesters? are they acting irresponsibly or courageously and will they succeed in their goal?

Katimavik’s Eco-Citizenship Program, Petro States, and a Review of the Cove

This week, on Terra Informa…

We take a look at Katimavik’s youth leadership program that focuses on environmental citizenship and active living. Dr Gordon Laxer talks to us about the political and economic dangers of western Canada’s reliance on oil revenues. And we review the Oscar award winning film “the Cove” which delves into the hidden world of the Japanese dolphin slaughter.

Photo by Jade Gregg

Environmental News Headlines

P.E.I. – Genetically modified salmon approval

Report – Ontario’s North threatened by developers

Oil Sands – Special report on impacts commissioned by Env. Minister Renner

Arctic Ice – Third lowest levels on record

Nova Scotia – Biomass project proposal

Green Screen Review: “The Cove”

Terra Informa correspondent Alex Hindle gives us his review of “The Cove“, a controversial documentary which follows a dolphin trainer searching to uncover a dark secret. The movie documents activists, filmmakers and freedivers as they work to discover the hidden world of a dolphin killing operation in Japan.

Interview with Jade Gregg on Katimavik

Jade Gregg works as a project leader with Katimavik, Canada’s volunteer-service program for youth.  As such, she lived with the youth volunteers, was responsible for daily operations of the program, and for implementing the program’s learning model.  The program consists of three streams, and today Terra Informa correspondent Rebecca Rooney asks Ms. Gregg about the Eco-citizenship and Active Living stream, which fosters a connection with nature through outdoor activities and a focus on understanding ecological challenges faced by the host community.

Gordon Laxer on Petro States

Energy and resources, especially oil, drive the Western Canadian Economy. We hear a lot about the environmental damage that results from this, but today we investigate the possible political and economic implications of such dependency. What does Canada have to show for its fossil fuel wealth compared to other oil rich countries? And is there a danger that oil wealth is distorting sectors of our economy, not to mention our democracy? To answer these questions, Terra Informa’s David Kaczan spoke to Dr. Gordon Laxer, director of the progressive think tank the Parkland Institute, based in Edmonton.  Gordon Laxer is a Political Economist and has written extensivley on such topics for both an academic and broader audience. This piece originally aired in March.