On Music and Remediation

Oyster mushrooms can be used in the remediations of pollutants such as petrolium and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

Oyster mushrooms can be used in the remediation of pollutants such as petroleum and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons

This week we talk to two remarkable people whose environmental concerns figure prominently in their work. First, we reconnect with Leila Darwish, the author of Earth Repair, for an explanation and illustration of bioremediation. Then, singer-songwriter Morgan MacDonald shares how environmental issues strike a chord in his music.

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Deforestation from Girl Scout Cookies & Drugs in our Drinking Water

A merit badge for deforestation? Today we hear about two Girl Scouts who investigated the environmental impact of their famous cookies and decided it was time for a change. We’ll also fill you in on a promising new approach to environmental remediation that uses mushrooms to clean up contaminated soil. Plus, we interview Dr. Greg Goss, an aquatic toxicologist who has been looking into the levels of pharmaceuticals present in Canada’s drinking water.

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An oil palm plantation cuts a swath through the tropical forest of Indonesia. Photo by the Center for International Forestry Research.


News Headlines

Environment Canada plans to cut ozone monitoring
CBC News
Vancouver Sun

Hoax by the Canadian Youth Climate Change Coalition
Global News
Marketing Magazine
Vancouver Observer

Record loss of Arctic sea ice confirmed
CBC News

BC Government to change its carbon offsetting program
Oak Bay News
Vancouver Sun

Alberta to shoot wolves to protect caribou, scientists say habitat loss is the true threat
CTV News
Huffington Post


Environmental Impact of Girl Scout Cookies
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 information on this story:
Huffington Post Article
Madison and Rhiannon vs the Girl Scouts
Website created by Madison and Rhiannon
Girls Scout Cookies FAQ – Palm Oil


When most people think of natural garbage disposal, they think of composting. Composting works exceedingly well in the natural world; organic material can be quickly broken down and recycled back into the soil. But when waste is too toxic to be composted, the cleanup can be long and difficult. Today Brett Tegart takes a look at the development of a new solution to repairing environmental damage: using mushrooms to eliminate pollution.


Pharmaceuticals in Our Drinking Water
Most people take safe drinking water for granted, but just how clean is our municipal water? Modern water purification does a great job of removing viruses and bacteria, but now concerns are starting to surface about a different type of contamination. Increasingly, trace amounts of pharmaceuticals are being found in water. Our correspondent Steve Andersen talks to water expert Dr. Greg Goss to learn more about the risks and what we can do to reduce them.

Hydroelectric Controversy in Labrador and the Arctic Carbon Bomb

This week on Terra Informa correspondent David Kaczan investigates the proposal for a hydroelectric project on the Lower Churchill River in Labrador. Rebekah Rooney talks with Dr. Craig Tweedie from the University of Texas at el Paso about what he calls the arctic’s Carbon Bomb. And Brett Tegard looks into composting human waste using fungi. But as always to start off the show we have this week’s news headlines with Tasneem Karbani and Steve Andersen.

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Mycena leaiana in Tasmania, Australia. Photo by JJ Harrison.

News Headlines

2,4-D Ban in Quebec

In Quebec, a legal case between the province and Dow AgroSciences has been settled. Dow sought 2 million dollars in damages stemming from the province’s 2006 ban on the cosmetic use of the company’s week killer 2,4-D. In the settlement, Quebec acknowledged that the chemical is safe, provided it is used as directed and Dow agreed to drop its claim for monetary damages. Quebec does not plan to change its legislation, saying that the chemical is unnecessary. (Globe & Mail, Manitoba Co-operator)

New TTC Trains

The Toronto Transit Commission launched its new line of subway trains last week, dubbing them the Toronto Rocket. They’re designed to be faster and more reliable while carrying 10% more passengers than the current system. The new trains are part of an expansion to the subway system that will extend it 8 km to the York Region. The vehicles were built in Thunder Bay by Bombardier and begin regular service in June. (CBC, CTV Toronto)

NDP Shadow Cabinet

Edmonton-Strathcona MP Linda Duncan is no longer critic for the environment in the new cabinet announced by Jack Layton. Duncan’s new post will be as the official opposition critic for Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development. Halifax MP Megan Leslie, the former health critic, is the new environment critic taking over from Duncan. She will be facing off against Environment Minister Peter Kent on environmental issues. (CBC, Globe & Mail, First perspective, INews 880)

Enbridge Pipeline

Senior bureaucrats have told the federal government that the export capacity is one that Canadian industry does not need. The critique was part of a federal environmental evaluation from Natural Resources Canda. The document also noted the rising public opposition to Enbridge’s proposed project and concerns about potential oil spills. The documents were released last week after an Access to Information request from the Toronto-based research group Environmental Defense. ( Vancouver Sun, The Province, Financial Post)

Langley Decision

A small conservation group and one of its members that sought to protect a fish habitat witnessed a victory last week as the BC Supreme Court dismissed a mulit-million dollar damage claim against them. The Glen Valley Watersheds Society and two individuals had been sued after speaking out about concerns over a landfill application in Aldergrove. The concern was that the landfill would have a negative impact on the fish-bearing streams nearby. The total claim from the landowner against the parties was $13 million. Justice Catherine Bruce of the BC Supreme Court concluded that the claimant had greatly exaggerated the statements made by the respondents and fabricated other allegations. ( Vancouver Sun, BC local News )

Proposed Hydroelectric Project on the Lower Churchill River in Labrador

One of the few environmental issues on the table in the recent federal election was a proposal for a hydroelectricity project on the Lower Churchill River, in Labrador. And although it does promise huge amounts of carbon free electricity, much of it for export, some people in Labrador are pretty concerned about the environmental impacts of such a megaproject. Correspondents David Kaczan and Dana Harper investigate.

The Arctic’s Carbon Bomb

Evidence of climate change is mounting from across the globe, but nowhere is it more evident than around the poles.  Permafrost in the Tundra is an important carbon store, but unfortunately, once it melts it may release that carbon into the atmosphere triggering a positive feedback loop.  Dr. Craig Tweedie from the University of Texas at el Paso, calls this the arctic’s Carbon Bomb!  He studies changes to Tundra vegetation and the interactions between plants and animals in the Arctic.  Last week he gave a talk on his research at the University of Alberta, where Terra Informa correspondent Rebecca Rooney caught up with him.

Composting Human Waste Using Fungi

When most people think of natural garbage disposal, they think of composting. Composting works exceedingly well in the natural world; organic material can be quickly broken down and recycled back into the soil. But when human waste is too toxic to be composted, the cleanup can be long and difficult. Today, Brett Tegart takes a look at the development of a new solution to repairing environmental damage: using mushrooms to eliminate pollution.