It’s Time to Talk About Bugs

White-lined sphinx moth from Wikimedia Commons

Did you know that insects take up the most space on the taxonomic web of life? Did you know that about 75% of flowering plants are pollinated by insects? You might have also heard that insect biodiversity is on the decline. Sadly, what you may have hear is right. In a paper published in the Journal ‘Biological Conservation’lead authors Francisco Sánchez-Bayo and Kris A.G.Wyckhuys state “almost half of insect species are rapidly declining and a third are being threatened with extinction”.

Can you imagine a world without insects? To some it may sound like a dream come true but insects are integral to the functioning of our world! From the food we eat to the waste we excrete, we have insects to thanks (we would literally be swimming in detritus if not for decomposers!). Tune into this episode where we show these important little creatures some well-deserved attention!

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Checking out bugs with Peter Heule: Q&A with the Royal Alberta Museum’s live animal supervisor

Terra Informer Olivia deBourcier interviewed Peter Heule, a live animals supervisor at the Royal Alberta Museum, about bugs. Originally aired on The Gateway Presents, we’ll hear about butterfly migration, what animal science is all about, how kids understand bugs better than grown ups think, and what a wild world there is left to discover!

The Good News: The Big Bee!

In light of the bad news about insect populations, there is hope! Recently, the world’s BIGGEST BEE, thought extinct for 38 years, has been found alive on the Indonesian islands of the North Moluccas. As long as an adult thumb, with jaws like a stag beetle and four times larger than a honeybee this dinosaur of a bee continues to be threatened, particularly by deforestation for agriculture, but the very fact that it persists suggests that extinction is not inevitable! Hannah Cunningham explains in this ecobabble the ways that we can all help pollinators keep on keeping on!

From planning what you plant, building bee hotels (a simple DIY bee hotel) to reducing your use of pesticides, there are many ways you can make your world more pollinator friendly

Related Links

National Geographic

The Guardian

Them’s The Eats

Hawkers' Market in Edmonton (Photo credit: Trevor Chow-Fraser)

Hawkers’ Market in Edmonton. Photo: Trevor Chow-Fraser.

This week we’re all about FOOD. First off, we’re questioning our food. What does it mean to eat the way we do? Next, it’s about seeing what alternatives could appear—or crawl—onto our plates. And last but not least, we’re on the ground to check out an experiment: what happens when street food goes indoors.

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Eating Insects

This week on Terra Informa, we ask whether it’s time to start filling your fridge with grubs and katydids. Plus, why activists in the Maldives believe climate change and democracy are so tightly interwoven, and how one BC First Nation has become self-sufficient on renewable energy.

A man shows off a small black insect on his tongue

A recent UN report suggests adding more insects to our plates. (Photo: Brandon Shigeta)

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Eating Insects

When we in North America think ‘delicious” our minds aren’t generally drawn to a fat and juicy caterpillar or a crispy chili-fried tarantula. However, after a recent UN report called for the world’s population to start consuming more insects as a more sustainable source of protein, fats, and minerals, while being easy and quick to produce, we may soon find insects of varying shapes and colours squirming their way onto our plates. Morgana Folkmann talks to entomophagist and advocate Dave Gracer about eating the things. Ryan Abram also shared his eating adventures in South East Asia.

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Climate and other changes in the Maldives

Maldives is a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean which has been described as “ground zero” for climate change. Former President Mohammed Nasheed, of the Maldivian Democratic Party, is known for his climate change leadership. He came to power in 2008 as the nation’s first democratically elected president, following 30 years of authoritarian rule. In 2009, President Nasheed garnered international attention by holding an underwater cabinet meeting to highlight the threat of climate change to low-lying nations. Dressed in scuba-gear, the president and his cabinet signed a document calling for global cuts to carbon emissions. On February 7, 2012, President Nasheed was ousted from power by the police and military, and replaced by Vice President Mohamed Waheed. Peaceful protestors in the cities of Male and Addu have been confronted by violence from Maldives security forces. In March 2012, Terra Informa correspondent Kathryn Lennon spoke with Zaheena Rasheed, a young Maldivian democracy and climate justice activist.

More on the story:

Solar Powered First Nation in BC

Intro: All across Canada, communities are working to improve their sustainability. Some are expanding their public transit systems, others are retrofitting public buildings to increase energy efficiency. But one town has really set the bar high. The T’Sou-ke Nation ( on the southern tip of Vancouver Island has built such extensive photovoltaic and solar heating systems that they’re now largely self-sufficient. For much of the year, they actually sell power back to the grid.  Their success has been drawing attention, and other communities are hoping to follow suit. For more on the story, Steve Andersen talked to Chief Gordon Planes and project manager Andrew Moore. This story originally aired back in October of 2011.

What’s Happening

Canadian Environment Week
This week is Canadian Environment Week, with World Environment Day falling on June 5th. World Environment Day is part of the UN Environment Programme, and the theme for this year is “Think.Eat.Save… an anti-food waste and food loss campaigns that encourages you to reduce your foodprint.”

Windfall Ecology Festival – Newmarket
The Windfall ecology festival is happening in Newmarket ON from June 4-6. The event is free, family friendly will celebrate sustainable living and renewable energy with eco-exhibits, seminars, music, food, and environmentally conscious products and services.

Doha Climate Talks, Zombees, and Ronald Wright

This week, Terra Informa is at the centre of some big questions. How can Canadian youth help push this year’s UN climate talks in Doha? Has our civilization laid a progress trap for itself? And what’s up with those possessed honeybees?

Doha 2012 Climate Talk sign

The UN climate talks continue in Doha from November 26 – December 7, 2012. (Photo credit:

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Canadian Youth Head to UN Climate Talks in Doha

The Canadian Youth Delegation is the voice of the Canadian youth climate movement at international climate conferences. Since 2005, Canadian youth have been present at every major meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Right now, the Canadian Youth Delegation is in Doha, Qatar for the COP 18. Members of the delegation shared their podcast with Terra Informa. The excerpt featured in this week’s show was produced by Nadia Kanji, in the lead-up to the COP18. She talks to Quebec student leader Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, and reflects on the effectiveness of international climate conferences. Follow the Canadian Youth
Delegation on twitter at @CYD_DJC or go to the Canadian Youth Delegation blog.

More information on this storyCanadian Youth DelegationCOP 18, Al Jazeera

ZomBee Watch: Flight of the Living Dead

We all know that zombies aren’t real, right? Well, that may be true…for the most part. Most of us can sleep well at night knowing that zombie attacks and infection are the stuff of Hollywood horror fiction. But for the poor honeybee, zombification has become a very real, very deadly nightmare, and it’s calling some scientists to take action. Zombie honey bees—or ZomBees—are the latest threat to already troubled hives all across North America. To learn more, we contacted Dr. John Hafernik, a professor of Biology at San Francisco State University who’s also the director of ZomBee Watch, a citizen science project that’s trying to track this strange phenomenon. From San Francisco, California, listen to Hamdi Issawi’s conversation with Dr. Hafernik on “the flight of the living dead.” If you’d like to learn more about ZomBees or become a citizen scientist and contribute your own findings, visit ZomBee Watch.

More information on this storyZomBee WatchIssaquah PressThe Bottom Line

Ronald Wright on the Traps of Progress

On November Twenty Third, The Parkland Institute kicked off its sixteenth fall conference in Edmonton, Alberta. The theme was Petro, Power and Politics, and the opening keynote was delivered by Canadian anthropologist and novelist Ronald Wright. Wright is best known delivering a CBC Massey Lecture which he called A Short History of Progress. For Friday’s lecture, Wright drew on this earlier work to discuss our modern environmental crisis, including climate change and loss of biodiversity. To chart our possible future, Wright looks back to examine the collapse of civilisations all across the world. It’s depressing business, and more than one audience member asked the obvious question: is there any hope at all?

As Wright calls it, a little progress is good, but too much progress can be deadly. Over the past few centuries, the whole world has seen so much progress that it boggles the mind. Have we seen too much? Too fast? Progress of the right or the wrong kind? To start to understand Wright’s answer, we asked Terra Informer Trevor Chow-Fraser to walk through the beginnings of the current progress trap humanity—and the planet—are currently struggling to escape.

More information on this story: Ronald Wright’s website, Parkland Institute Conference 2012

Piecing Together a Murder with Bugs and Ecology of Caribou

This week on the show, we’re figuring out what bugs can help solve murders, and how boreal caribou are doing. Forensic entomologist Dr. Gail Anderson in Vancouver tells us about her work helping police solve crimes with insects. Then University of Alberta professor Fiona Schmiegelow helps us understand the mysteries of caribou population swings.

Gail Anderson holds up the issue of Time magazine she was featured in

Dr. Gail Anderson’s forensic entomology work has been featured in Time (Photo credit: SFU Media & Public Relations)

Piecing Together a Murder with Bugs
Piecing together a crime can be a messy business. Police can run up against unreliable witnesses, or destroyed evidence. But what if the animals around a body could tell you a story about what happened? Chris Chang-Yen Phillips has this story from forensic entomologist and Simon Fraser University professor Gail Anderson in Vancouver.
Ecology of Caribou
Although in recent years it seems like they’ll put anything on the back of a quarter, the caribou remains one of Canada’s most recognized national symbols, right up there with Mounties and beavers. Sadly, they are a national symbol in decline. From our archives, Terra Informa correspondent Rebekah Rooney helps us understand a little bit about their ecology. Featuring an interview with  University of Alberta professor Fiona Schmiegelow.


Alberta First Nation challenges Shell expansion
The Athabasca Chipewyan First Nation is filing a groundbreaking constitutional challenge to the proposed expansion of the tar sands by Shell Oil, a proposal based in the territories of the First Nation. Shell’s proposed Jackpine Mine project would mean 100,000 barrels of oil per day being taken out of Treaty 8 territories.
No European moratorium on Arctic drilling
European union lawmakers have decided not to impose strict regulations or a moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic. Instead, a new motion proposed that companies must have “adequate financial security” in case of any accidents and to submit safety hazard and emergency response reports to national authorities.
More on this story: Nunatsiaq, The Guardian, Alaska Dispatch
West coast communities fight Coast Guard closures
A union representing the Canadian Coast Guard’s marine communications officers is putting forth another plea to the government to reconsider the closing of three communications offices on the west coast. The federal government has decided to close offices in Vancouver, Comox and Tofino on Coast Salish First Nations’ territories, in the next three years.
More on this story: Metro News, The Province, CKNW AM 980
What’s Happening

Grub @ West Kootenay EcoSociety

If you’re looking for food and friends in Nelson, you might be interested in Grub, on October 19. Grub is a little mix and mingle event hosted by the West Kootenay EcoSociety. Celebrate local food and farms with locally-sourced munchies, and sample some beers and wines.  $10 at the door or become an EcoSociety member and get in free. October 19, from 5-7 pm, at the Anglican Church Hall in Nelson.

More information: West Kootenay EcoSociety

Disc Brake workshop in Winnipeg

If you’re like me and you have a bike but you wish you knew more about how to take care of it, there’s a workshop coming up in Winnipeg you might want to check out. The Bike Dump – that’s a community bike shop in Winnipeg – they’re hosting a disc brake workshop on Wednesday, October 24. Learn a little bit about how disc brakes work. Like all their workshops, it’s free, and it runs from 6 to 8 pm. No prior registration needed!

More information: The Bike Dump

Food Secure Canada Conference in Edmonton

Registration is open now for Food Secure Canada’s Annual Assembly in Edmonton. Taking place November 1st to 4th at NAIT in Edmonton. The theme this year is Powering Up! Food for the Future. Learn about Canada’s food movement, and find ways to get involved in a citizen-owned food policy for Canada. Terra Informa’s own Kathryn Lennon will be speaking! So are Eriel Deranger, Michael Lewis, and other farmers, and researchers, and foodies from Yukon, Guinea-Bissau, and Guatemala.

More information: Register for the Food Secure Canada Conference

Edmonton Food and Agriculture Public Hearing

If you haven’t heard about the October 26th public hearing on Edmonton’s draft food and agriculture strategy, consider heading down to City Hall that day. This will be the only public hearing on the draft City-Wide Food and Agriculture Strategy. It’s a Friday, but you don’t have to stay for the whole thing. If you’re passionate about how we grow food in and around Edmonton, what kind of land is going to be available for it, consider going down. October 26, from 9:30 am til 5:30 pm.

More information: Facebook