What is urban? Who is responsible for the urban environment? What’s the role of bees? What the heck is an IKEA Growroom? Terra Informers Shelley Jodoin and Carter Gorzitza ask these questions and more of Hayley Wasylycia, an organizer of Urban Week, which is coming to the University of Alberta March 20th to 24th.
This week on Terra Informa we hear from Dylan Hall who spoke with University of Alberta grad Victor Benitez about his innovative new design that may change the way we garden in an urban setting. Then we visit the archives where we receive an edifying conversation with economist, activist, and academic Raj Patel on food justice.
Most of us want to feel good about where our food comes from; we’d like to think that our food is healthy, that the farmland is worked responsibly, and that the land workers are treated justly. These feelings often translate into decisions we make at the grocery store, but how much choice do we really have when we’re pushing our shopping cart through those aisles? To find out, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips spoke with economist Raj Patel—a visiting scholar in the Center for African Studies at the University of California at Berkeley and an honorary research fellow at the University of KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa. We reached him in California.
Victor Benitez: Automated Urban Gardening & New College Work
Want to skip the choice that you need to make at the grocery store? Want to know exactly where your food comes from? Love the thought of gardening but don’t have the time? Victor Benitez, a recent physics graduate from the University of Alberta, is trying to find a solution to these questions. He has recently started a company, New College Work, based on technology he invented: a self-watering garden system. Terra Informer Dylan Hall spoke with Victor to find out the details and motives behind this ambitious project.
This week on Terrainforma, we speak with David Schindler and Kamal Bawa about the chasm between science and policy. Danielle gives us the rundown on edible container gardening, and Kieran O’Donovan questions what makes for acceptable meat-eating.
Ahhh. Summer has arrived, and Terra Informa’s got your gardening Q’s covered with our new segment, Dispatches from the Dirt. Of course, it’s hard to enjoy the weather if the skies are black with fumes—and making you sick. This begs the question, how does one find out if the environment is the cause of certain illnesses in the first place? Finally, we get an economist’s guide to the complex climate change negotiations from a Killam Prize winner.
On this week’s episode, Terra Informa speaks to Toghestiy, hereditary chief of the Likhts’amisyu Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, about Wet’suwet’en resistance to pipelines in their territories. In the second part of the program we investigate the challenges and downfalls of using peat moss in backyard gardens. Finally, from the archives, Terra Informa speaks with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! about the importance of independent media.
An unusual phenomenon is taking place in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Biologist Bill Montevecchi says that gannets who normally nest at Cape St. Mary’s have left their nests and chicks for food further north. Montevecchi says he has never seen anything similar in his life. Cape St. Mary’s is empty of gannets, but there have been plenty of sightings up in Labrador. Water temperatures are apparently 3 or 4 degrees warmer than usual. It is not clear whether the gannets have permanently abandoned the nests or not, but their absence makes the nests and chicks vulnerable to the elements and starvation. More on this story:Canadaka.net, The Tyee
Southern Leg of Keystone XL Pipeline Encounters Opposition
TransCanada had hoped to quietly begin construction of the southern Keystone XL pipeline. According to their spokeswoman who talked to the LA times, construction began on August 9th. The Tar Sands Blockade, a self-described coalition of Texas and Oklahoma landowners and organizers unfurled banners at two equipment staging grounds in Texas and Oklahoma. The group plans to use nonviolent direct action to physically stop the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. TransCanada has agreed to reroute the northern section of the pipeline as the current plan has it would go through sensitive aquifers and requires international permits due to its proximity to the Canadian border. If US officials approve the northern stretch, construction could begin as early as 2013. The pipeline project faces enormous controversy in the United States and Canada. More on this story:LA Times, Ecowatch, Yale Environment 360
3000 Federal Environmental Assessments Cancelled
Businesses hoping to build or expand marinas, coal plants, and gravel pits without environmental reviews will find their job a little easier this fall.Those are some of the 3000 projects that will no longer get reviewed by the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency. Across every province and territory, the agency has been forced to cancel hundreds of environmental assessments because of the federal government’s budget legislation this summer. More on this story:Montreal Gazette, Vancouver Sun, Victoria Times Colonist
Leak of the Week
This week saw another pipeline leak in Alberta, this time 10 kilometres east of Red Deer on a line belonging to Penn West Exploration. The company estimates that over three hundred thousand litres of, what industry terms, ‘produced water’ leaked onto a canola field Tuesday. Produced water is water that travels up well heads along with oil. It can contain high levels of salt. According to licensing documents obtained by CBC, the line was carrying produced water containing three per cent oil. More on this story:CTV, CBC, Regina Leader-Post
Pacific Trails Pipeline and Wet’suwet’en Territories
The Pacific Trails Pipeline is proposed to run through Wet’suwet’en territories. This includes salmon spawning grounds. In this interview, Toghestiy, hereditary chief of the Likhts’amisyu Clan of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation, speaks with Terra Informa correspondent Annie Banks. Toghesti describes Free Prior Informed Consent, the Pacific Trails Pipeline, the recent Unis’tot’en Action Camp and the resistance by the Wet’suwet’en people to the invasion of their lands by industry. More on this story: Unis’tot’en Action Camp, We Support the Unist’ot’en and the Wet’suwet’en Grassroots Movement – Facebook Group
Reconsidering Peat Moss
When most of us plant our gardens in the spring, we have an idea of what we want to do to the dirt. Turn over the soil, add a little compost, maybe some mulch…and of course, peat moss. But does peat moss do everything we think it does?
And is it as sustainable as we think? With the help of Laura Edwards, University of Alberta ecology student, and recent Shoreline Advisor for Nature Alberta’s Living by Water program, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips went out into his garden to investigate.
More on this story: Ecoscience Journal (PDF), Hydrological Processes Journal
From the Archives – 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!
Mushrooms on the Moraine: the Late Summer edition, will be happening on Saturday September 08, from 09 : 30 AM – 05 : 00 PM at Koffler Scientific Reserve at Jokers Hill courtesy of the University of Toronto. This workshop will help you identify many of the wild mushroom species growing early in fall. Hosted by mushroom expert Richard Aaron, the focus will be on fungal diversity, with some mention of edible and medicinal properties.
Take Back the Wild Advocacy School:Want to protect British Columbia’s wilderness? Think you have what it takes to be a leader?You may be interested in the Take Back the Wild Advocacy Training Weekend, October 12 to 14.The Advocacy School is being offered by the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s BC Chapter for 18 to 30-year olds. You’ll learn about government and media relations, endangered ecosystems, and some of the campaigns already underway in BC. Apply before September 13: http://cpawsbc.org/campaigns/campaign-school
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.
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.
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.
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 CheatNeutral.com that pokes a bit of fun at the idea of offsetting carbon emissions.
Today we hear from Dr. Nettie Wiebe on the importance of small scale family farming and eating locally. She worked with the National Farmers’ Union throughout the 90s and helped found an international peasants’ movement that spans 69 countries. Her work focuses on sustainability, food sovereignty, and gender equity.
We also investigate a small town in Quebec where residents are worried that a proposed highway expansion will be the end of the spring water they rely on. We take a look at permiculture, and we’ve even got a piece on how to make your very own seed bombs. All that and more in just 30 minutes!
Fresh, clean drinking water might be the most valuable resource we have, but in many communities it goes unappreciated. Not in Wakefield, Quebec, where the community has rallied in support of the Save our Spring initiative. Rebecca Rooney spoke with Peter Andree and Ilse Turnsen, both members of the SOS Wakefield campaign, and filed this report for our Local Campaigns series.