Big Picture Science: Exploring Our Roles on This Planet

This week Terra Informers explore the roles humans can play on this planet.  Big picture Science, the role of researchers in understanding our affect on the planet, is explored during this year’s CONFORWest conference.  Also, the impact one person can have through a new and unique recycling movement or even the support of free range foods in highlighted.

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Big Picture Science: Exploring our roles on this planet

View from the shores of Patricia Lake, Jasper National Park, Alberta. Abandoned row boats sit just off the water’s edge of this crystal clear lake showing how the human touch on the planet creeps into every corner of nature in ways we often forget. Photo Credit: Jessica Kozlowski

CONFORWest 2013

It seems like the farther you go in school, the more specialized you have to be.  You can start off wondering what dirt is made of, and end up spending five years studying how one species of soil mite affects carbon emissions to the atmosphere.  But some scientists want to see the bigger picture: Where does their work fit in? What does it mean?  That’s why a few dozen of them headed to the Rockies this April for a conference that got them outside, and got them talking to each other.

Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips has more.

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Greys Recycling

Rajan Ahluwalia was raised as an environmentally conscious child. He started recycling as a young schoolboy in Mumbai, India and decades later he is spearheading a recycling project, in Edmonton that will change the way the world thinks of recycling paper. Natalee Rawat spoke to Rajan about his recycling initiatives taking place within the next year in Edmonton.

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Ecobabble:  What does it mean to be a free range egg?

Scrambled, poached, sunny side up. Whether they came before the chicken, or the chicken before them, eggs are a breakfast staple. Terra Informa’s Nicole Wiart brings us an EcoBabble – where she enlists some local farmers to try to break down the term “free range.” It’s just one of the many terms that you can find on a carton of eggs – but as you’ll soon find out, defining free range is not as simple as it sounds.

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What’s Happening in Canada!

There is a composting and vermaculture workshop May 1st in Toronto at the Toronto Tool Library. Composting is a great way to improve your soil and ensure that anything that you grow can be bountiful and organic. Learn to improve your gardens, lawns, and trees while minimizing your home’s waste. The cost is 20 dollars if you bring your own composting bin, and 30 if you wish for them to provide you with one that you may take home after.

Do you enjoy using the Mill Creek Ravine? Would you like to help out with the spring clean up and meet some of your ravine neighbors? The Keepers of Mill Creek and other surrounding communities will be at the creek in Edmonton on May 6th from 10am to 1pm. Come help keep Mill Creek Ravine beautiful!

There is a permaculture design program being held in Nelson BC from May 6th to the 31st. Learn the basic permaculture design principles and techniques, as well as develop the practical skills necessary to implement sustainable designs for your farm. The cost is $1700 for a 6-hour-per-day course.

See up to 40 different species of birds up close and personal at the McIntyre Marsh Bird Banding Station in Whitehorse from April 27th through to May 26th 7 a.m to noon on weekends and holidays.

Trees for Goals

This week on Terra Informa, good news for fans of the Boston Bruins and reforestation. Stanley Cup of Chowder’s Sarah Connor is on the line talking about the audacious challenge she made to Boston Bruins player Andrew Ference, and the treesforgoals campaign it launched. Then, we ask Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman about the importance of independent media, and talk to Jennifer Wickham – a poet with a message to share about the sacred waters in Wet’suwet’en territories.

Andrew Ference skates with his stick on the ice

Boston Bruins player Andrew Ference helped inspire the Trees for Goals campaign [Photo credit: slidingsideways]

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Sarah Connors on the treesforgoals Campaign
No matter where you are in Canada, chances are you’re happy to have the NHL back on the ice. At the beginning of a 2012 shortened season, the NHL was looking for a way to help give back, in hopes of enticing lost and frustrated fans to come back. Close to the beginning of the 2013 shortened NHL season, Sarah Connors, the managing editor of the blog Stanley Cup of Chowder, contacted Andrew Ference, a defenseman for the NHL club the Boston Bruins, via Twitter and told him she would buy 50 trees to plant, via the Plant a Billion Trees campaign, for every goal that he scored. From there, it took off, and as Kyle Muzyka finds out, the treesforgoals campaign started off as a very casual idea, but turned into something very special. 

More on this story: Donate to the treesforgoals campaign at  Stanley Cup of Chowder@cupofchowdah on Twitter, Plant a Billion Trees

Amy Goodman on Independent Media
In November 2011, Terra Informa correspondent Myles Curry caught up with American broadcast journalist, syndicated columnist and investigative reporter, Amy Goodman. She is the host of the popular independent news show Democracy Now. Myles asked her what media independence means for environmental reporting.

More on this story: Democracy Now!

Environmental Poetry with Jennifer Wickham and “Engussi Wedzin Kwah”
For our Terra Informa segment on environmental poetry, Annie Banks spoke with Jennifer Wickham last November. Jennifer shared her poem “Engussi Wedzin Kwah”, about sacred waters on her traditional Wet’suwet’en territories, and also some of her thoughts on poetry, the role of a poet and what’s currently inspiring her writing and resistance. Jennifer’s book of poetry will be coming out in summer 2013.

More on this story: Unis’tot’en Action CampWe Support the Unist’ot’en and the Wet’suwet’en Grassroots Movement – Facebook Group

What’s Happening

Edmonton Supporting a Green Economy (E-SAGE)
The Common on 109 st and 99 ave are hosting an event for Edmonton Supporting A Green Economy or E-SAGE on Wednesday, the 6th. ‘Good Business’ is the month’s theme and they willl be exploring initiatives taken and being made to make Edmonton a more sustainable city to live and work within. You’ll get to connect with some of Edmonton’s leading figures & thinkers in ‘good business’ and learn what kinds of opportunities exist out there for you!

More information: The Local Good

ExpoPlaza Latina
They say it’s “the only event like this in western Canada.” Vancouver is hosting a conference titled ExpoPlaza Latina on February 7. I bet you’re wondering, what does that even mean? Well, listeners, this event focuses on three industries that are flourishing in Latin America, one of which being Green Technologies. People are invited to attend this conference to understand their trading partners better, create connections, and learn more about what it means to be a sustainable city. The event takes place at the Simon Fraser University in downtown Vancouver, registration is $150 for the full day,

More information: ExpoPlaza Latina website.

APIRG Board Nominations
Are you an Edmonton student looking to get involved in social problems and public interest? The Alberta Public Interest Research Group, or APIRG, is taking nominations for their board of directors until February 15 at 5 pm. This student-run, student-driven, and non-profit group helps to turn ideas into reality. Based out of the University of Alberta in Edmonton, elections for board positions will coincide with student union elections on March 6 and 7. For more information or to download a nomination form, check out APIRG’s website, call 7804920614 or drop by the APIRG office in Hub Mall at the U of A. If you are from Edmonton, head to the APIRG office on February 6 at 12:00 pm for the Elections Information Session.

More information: APIRG

Resetting the Table

This week on Terra Informa, we’re talking strategy. Listen in to hear why guests like Ecoholic Body author Adria Vasil are asking us to reset the way we think about the cosmetics we buy, where our food comes from, and how forests rebuild after a fire. Then we’ve got you covered with this week’s environmental events.

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Jill Johnstone (far right) joins in an intrepretive dance demonstration of boreal forest succession after forest fires.

Susan Roberts on People’s Food Policy

“When Canadians sit down to their evening meal tonight, two key ingredients will be missing: a coherent national food policy in the public interest, and active participation in the food system.” That’s a quote from “Resetting the Table: A People’ Food Policy for Canada”

The People’s Food Policy is the first Canadian policy to be advanced based on food sovereignty principles — an approach where food is viewed as a foundation for healthy lives, communities, economies and ecosystems.
Correspondent Kathryn Lennon spoke with Susan Roberts in November 2011 about food sovereignty, food systems change, and the need for a national food policy. Susan is a coordinator for Growing Food Security in Alberta, and a steering committee member of Food Secure Canada.

Effects of climate change on forest fires

Like us, you’ve probably been watching the recent forest fires in Australia with a mixture of awe and caution. Have you ever wondered how fires change the forests they burn, though? Or how that might change now that climate change is driving fires to come more often, and get more intense? Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips reached University of Saskatchewan ecologist Jill Johnstone in Yukon last summer to ask her about her research studying fire in forests there. She explained how climate change is making fire a disruptor of boreal forests, rather than a regenerator.

More on this story: Slideshow – A Sensitive Slope: Forest recovery after fire in a changing climateyourYukon article on Jill Johnstone’s researchSlideshow – Once burned, Twice shyJill Johnstone’s Northern Plant Ecology Lab cookbook

Adria Vasil on Ecoholic series

Adria Vasil, an environmental journalist and author of the best-selling Eco-holic series, has been a vocal advocate for a healthier environment for more than two decades. After witnessing the Exxon Valdez oil spill as a child, Vasil has dedicated much of her life to investigating the enormous environmental costs of corporate malpractice. But in 2004 her career took a distinctly different path when she began writing a column in ‘Now! Magazine’, one of Toronto’s Alternative Weekly’s. The column, offering tips on how people can become mobilized to help the environment through the products that they purchase and the daily decisions that they make, has spawned into three books in the now best selling Eco-holic series that covers everything from the most environmentally friendly cosmetics on the market to how to detoxify your house.  To find out more, Terra Informa’s Matt Hirji spoke with Vasil about  her career in environmental advocacy and how  her latest book, ‘Eco-holic Body’, plays into her fight for a more sustainable Earth. In this interview she explains that being conscious of the products that we consume fits within a larger paradigm of advocating for a cleaner, healthier environment.

More on this story: Ecoholic book series, Adria Vasil’s column in NOW Magazine

What’s Happening

Building Resilient Communities through Forestry Management
From January 16 to 18, the who’s who of environmentalists, first nations, and government representatives will be speaking at a conference on building resilient communities through community based forest management. This conference is happening at Algoma’s Water Tower Inn in Sault St. Marie, Ontario If you are interested in developing a research plan to counter forest management issues, sharing your own experiences, and networking with other Canadians, then make sure to register for this event. Tickets are $120 and include meals and banquet.

More information: How to register.

The Economics of Happiness
On January 19, documentary film The Economics of Happiness will be screened at beach business hub in Toronto. This documentary explores the two opposing forces of localization and globalization, as well as provides practical solutions for creating a sustainable economy. Author and director of the film, Helena Norberg-Hodge has received recognition for her groundbreaking contributions to the new economy movement, making this a must see.

More information: Reservations for the screening.

Creating (and Using) Your Fundraising Plan
This all-day workshop is happening on January 25th, at the Centre for Social Innovation in Toronto. The workshop is designed for grass-roots and non-profit organizations to understand how to raise and manage money. Like anything else in life, fundraising works better if you have a plan — and even better if you follow it. The registration cost is $100 per person and includes a full day of instruction, lunch, refreshments and handouts.

More information: How to register.

Invasive Species Art Competition
Artists are invited to create two-dimensional artworks of any archival media in the themes of biodiversity and/or invasive species for the Invasive Species Centre’s juried art competition.
There are cash prizes and the final date for submissions is February 8th. To register, and for more information, complete the registration form online and email the form and digital image of your artwork to

Christmas Trees and Ogden Point

This week, we’ll help keep your face from turning red over your greenery. It’s a seasonal story we know you’ve all been pining for—articifial vs. live Christmas Tree showdown! But before the sparks can fly, we’ll head out to the West Coast to visit a breakwater that is as much a natural sanctuary as it is a tool of human commerce. And to top it off, we’ll regift a story from the archives, as EcoBabble explain why you should stick to poinsetias and take the algea blooms off the table. It’s a special Winter Solstice edition of Terra Informa!

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Christmas Trees and Ogden Point

Ogden Point through the lens of Flickr user wolfnowl.

If You Build It, They Will Come

Now, when you hear about side effects, you probably think of headaches, nausea, or something else terrible you’d need to consult your doctor about. Sometimes, though, the things we build have more hopeful side effects. Chris Chang-Yen Phillips has a story about the Ogden Point breakwater in Victoria, BC, on Coast Salish territories. It’s a place that became something more than its builders bargained for. He spoke to Val and Anny Schaefer, the authors of Ogden Point Odyssey. He reached them in Victoria.

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Christmas Tree Showdown

It’s the time of year when many of us are on the lookout for a new Christmas tree to plant in our living rooms, and the choice always comes down to one of two options: springing for the real deal or going artificial. But what effect will your decision have on the environment? Each branch has its pros and cons, but when it when it comes to deciding which is naughty and which is nice, the answer isn’t so cut-and-dried. Before sprucing up your den this holiday season, you might want to hear the facts. Hamdi Issawi has this story.

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Logging on Cortes Island & Winona LaDuke

Today we investigate plans for logging on BC’s Cortes Island and talk to locals who are pushing for more sustainable harvest practices. We also hear from renowned activist, economist, and writer Winona LaDuke, who explains why locally based sustainable development strategies are critical to our future. All the that, plus your wrap up of the week’s news headlines!

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The old growth forest of Cortes Island. Photo by TJ Watt of the Ancient Forest Alliance.

Winona LaDuke
Winona LaDuke is an aboriginal environmental activist, economist and writer. She has spent her entire career as an outspoken, engaging and unflagging advocate dedicated to issues of food and energy sustainability. After running for U.S vice president as the nominee of the United States Green Party in 1996 and 2000, Winona has continued to espouse her critical perspectives on food and energy consumption and has become a leading proponent on issues of locally based sustainability development strategies. But what will happen if non-sustainable consumption practices continue? Terra Informa correspondent Matt Hirji speaks with Winona LaDuke from her home on the White Earth Reservation in Minnesota.

Logging on Cortes Island
Logging is a major industry in BC, and one that employs a lot of people. But that doesn’t mean it’s without controversy. On Cortes Island, just off the BC coast, residents are raising the alarm over plans by Island Timberlands to log the area. They say that the company’s plans aren’t sustainable and they’ve gathered thousands of signatures calling for a change.

More on this story: Wildstands Alliance, Ancient Forest Alliance, Petition

News Headlines
A fire in the Fraser Valley, B.C. region knocked out power to residents in both Chilliwack and Abbotsford this past week. A BC Hydro substation caught fire on Friday morning and the cause is still under investigation- as is the possibility of any lasting environmental impact. The damaged transformer contained one-hundred and fifteen-thousand litres of insulating oil which, according to Environment Minister for BC, Terry Lake, could be a real cause for concern. Emergency environmental response officers are on site assessing any potential contamination of nearby ground water or streams. However, the NDP Critic for Environment, Rob Flemming, voiced further concerns about the release of carcinogens from the oil burning. As of yet, no environmental review has been released.

More on this story: Times Colonist, CKNW News, CTV News

The Museum of Science and Technology in Ottawa is suffering controversy over Imperial Oil’s role in their exhibit entitled “Energy: Power to Choose.” The Imperial Oil foundation contributed $600,000 to the exhibit, which opened last year. Imperial’s involvement in the exhibit stirred controversy from its outset, with groups like the Sierra Club of Canada complaining that the foundation’s involvement would call into question the integrity of the exhibit. Emails recently obtained by the CBC reveal that Imperial was indeed making requests to change the “overall tone” of the exhibit.

More on this story: Vancouver Sun, CBC News, Macleans

Federal Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the beginning of discussions to re-introduce bison to Banff National Park. It has been over a century since plains bison roamed the area freely, and Kent hopes to reconnect the species with the habitat where it had previously ranged for thousands of years. Concerns have already been raised about the bison roaming into the town proper or onto the highway, but Kent seemed assured that the dangers would be successfully mitigated by the Parks Service. Resource Conservation Manager, Bill Hunt, said that the bison herds would be managed much the same way as elk are already managed in the National Park, and that precautions will be taken as the size of the herd expands. Don’t expect to see the plains bison roaming the park any time soon, though. Parks Canada is planning an extensive consultation process which could take several years to complete.

More on this story: Edmonton Journal, CBC News, Parks Canada Press Release

Documents obtained by Greenpeace Canada and the Climate Action Network reveal the federal government’s ‘allies’ and ‘adversaries’ in its bid to promote Alberta’s oilsands. The documents list the biodiesel industry, as well as Aboriginal and environmental groups to be adversaries, while energy companies, the National Energy Board, Environment Canada, and business and industry associations are considered allies. The document is a part of a strategy by the federal government to improve Canada’s image in Europe, in response to campaigns by European NGO’s, that the federal government feels “[frame] the issue in a strongly negative light.”

More on this story: CBC News, Vancouver Sun, CTV News

On Friday, January 27 First Nations from Alberta and the Northwest Territories signed the Save the Fraser Declaration opposing the proposed Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline as well as the supertanker traffic it would bring to BC’s coast. The formal legal declaration bans tar sands pipelines in the Fraser watershed, and on the north and south coasts of British Columbia. The declaration protects the world’s most critical salmon rivers, and the Pacific North Coast, from the threat of oil spills posed by the proposed Enbridge oil pipeline and supertankers.

More on this story: West Coast Environmental Law, Yinka Dene Alliance

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