Visitors put their questions to Climate scientists in the Met Office TV Studio, Manchester British Energy Challenge Exhibition, September 2013. Photos by Jason Broadhurst at JPB Studios Ltd.
Just one month ago, another alarming report emerged from the climate change scientists at the United Nations. It’s the fifth such report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and they only come out once every six years. In fact, the report is so large that we have only received the first of three sections. Working Group 1 released its report first, verifying the scientific basis of climate change.
This topic alone is so deep that it took the group more than three years of work, involving more than 800 authors, and incorporating over 9200 scientific publications. It’s work well worth the effort, as the IPCC is tasked with providing the proof that governments need to justify taking action on climate change.
Despite—or perhaps because of the report’s importance—its emergence has caused a furour in the media. All of which leaves those of us who simply want to understand what the IPCC is saying feeling lost. So this week, Terra Informa decided to devote the whole show to understanding the IPCC’s Fifth Assessment Report (WG1 AR5).
Jessica Kozlowski and Dimitri Kits are microbial physiologists at the University of Alberta. For their doctoral research, they are studying how microbial metabolisms affect the flux of greenhouse gas emissions—specifically organisms that consume methane and produce nitrous oxide. They’ll be guiding us through the report and answering questions you might have about climate science.
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!
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.
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.
This week on the show, a look at the fight against shark finning in Edmonton and on the high seas. We talk to a member of Fin Free Edmonton to ask why the group is trying to get a ban on shark fin sales in the city. Then we take you out to Florida, to talk to a special agent who helps catch shark fin poachers in the act. Lastly, we shift gears to ask naturalist John Acorn why field guidebooks are so popular, and what they’re really all about.
Agents like this at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration help enforce the US ban on finning sharks. Photo credit: NOAA [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Edmonton group pushing ban on shark fin sales
Shark Fin Soup has become a culinary faux pas in recent decades. Animal welfare advocates have argued fiercely that it is inhumane to remove a shark’s fin and then allow the animal to die by discarding the rest of the body back into the ocean. University of Alberta Law professor Cameron Jefferies is a member of Fin Free Edmonton, an organization fighting for a municipal ban on shark fin products, which are still used in soups in some Chinese restaurants. CJSR’s Natalia Knowlton spoke with Jefferies in Edmonton for the CJSR Edition.
Have you ever wondered how shark finners get caught? The US strengthened its laws against shark finning in 2011, banning the practice for almost every shark species in American waters. Paul Raymond is a special agent with NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. He’s helped enforce the US laws protecting sharks. Chris Chang-Yen Phillips reached him in Florida to ask how they do it.
From our archives, we’re catching up with one of Canada’s most avid naturalists. John Acorn is an entomologist, television personality and author of 17 books. His best known role is probably as the host of “Acorn: Nature Nut” the popular tv show on all things creeping and crawling. But when he’s not writing television shows, teaching students or working on his research, John Acorn is often at his desk writing field naturalist guide books. If you think there’s not much controversy in how to draw or write about a few butterflies or beetles, think again. Terra Informa correspondent David Kaczan spoke with John Acorn.
This week’s show takes us from the coasts of British Columbia to Japan, then inland to Alberta and back again. The shorelines of British Columbia are the destination point for debris from Japan’s 2011 tsunami, and they are also the destination point for Enbridge’s Northern Gateway Pipeline project. We hear about a project the Maritime Museum of British Columbia in Victoria has undertaken to collect tsunami debris. We also hear about how LUSH, a cosmetic company, has partnered with the Dogwood Initiative, an advocacy group, to draw attention to how the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline will impact Canadians.
The No Tankers Campaign “Polling Station” at the LUSH store, on Whyte Avenue, Edmonton, Alberta
Tsunami Debris Tells a Story
When the 2011 tsunami struck the coast of Japan, many people lost their homes, their belongings, and their lives. Some of those objects, though, are beginning to surface an ocean away. Debris from the tsunami is showing up on North American beaches from Haida Gwaii to Oregon. Victoria’s Maritime Museum of British Columbia has stared a website to let users post photographs of the debris. Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips spoke to the project’s coordinator, Linda Funk.
A few weeks ago, Terra Informa launched our radio documentary on the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline project. This week, we ask, what does a conversation about the pipeline how to do with a cosmetics company and a campaign? LUSH is a Vancouver-based company that produces natural bath and body products. From May 29 to June 10 it engaged customers in stores across Canada in conversations about the Enbridge Northern Gateway Pipeline. The campaign is in partnership with the Dogwood Initiative, a Victoria-based public interest group. Terra Informa correspondent Kathryn Lennon sets out to find out how a business and an advocacy group are working together. She speaks to Emma Gilchrist of the Dogwood Initiative, Brandi Hall of LUSH, and Shannon, a LUSH employee in Edmonton, Alberta.
Sadly, there have been so many oil spills in the recent weeks that we at Terra Informa are considering starting a regular oil spill watch. Many people and communities all across these lands are already on high-alert for oil spills and regularly inform the media of the spills they discover.
Oil Spill Near Red Deer, Alberta
In this week’s oil spill watch, the most recent oil spill that we know of has occurred in the Jackson Creek tributary of the Red Deer River in west-central Alberta in the Treaty 7 territories of the Cree, Stoney, Blackfoot, Blood and Sarcee nations. Approximately 475,000 litres of crude oil have been spilled into Jackson Creek. The oil has also reached the nearby Glennifer Lake and Reservoir that provides drinking water to nearby communities. The company responsible for the ruptured pipeline, Plains Midstream Canada, has responded to news of the leak by shutting down its Rangeland operations. Plains Midstream Canada, a subsidiary of Plains All American Pipeline, was also responsible for a devastating spill in April, 2011.
This spill released 4.5 million litres northeast of the Peace River region in Alberta. A school in the nearby community of Little Buffalo had to close due to reports of people getting headaches, feeling nauseous and smelling a strong petroleum odor. Oil spills into waterways are considered very serious due to the possibility of the oil spill spreading very quickly in the water.
In addition, heavy rainfall and flooding have increased the water levels in the areas where the spill occurred. Since the leak was reported on Thursday by local residents in the area, reports have continued to come in about the smell of the oil and sightings of dead wildlife.
Vancouver Centre for Emergency Oil Spill Response Closed
The federal government is closing a British Columbia-based command centre for emergency oil spills. Located in Vancouver, on Coast Salish Territories, the office is the west coast’s only federal spill response office. As a result of the cost-cutting in the federal budget, Ottawa has said it will shut down the office and centralize operations in Quebec. Environment Minister Peter Kent’s office stated “This will not impact Canadians or the environment” and described the office’s work as not cleaning up spills but rather providing information about environmentally sensitive land and species at risk.
The closing comes at a time when pipeline operator Kinder Morgan is attempting to double its Edmonton-to-Burnaby Trans Mountain pipeline and triple its oil exports to Alberta. This would increase the number of oil tankers to at least 300 a year. Additionally, Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline proposal would mean more tanker traffic out of Kitimat, if it goes ahead.
NDP environment critic Rob Fleming stated: “Any reasonable person understands that it makes no sense to even consider major pipelines and oil tankers while closing the Pacific coast’s regional oil-spill response centre,” Fleming said. Read more: http://www.vancouversun.com/news/spill+centre+moving/6486163/story.html http://www.thenorthernview.com/news/148722275.html
Tarsands Counter-Terrorism Unit Created in Alberta
The federal government has set up a counter-terrorism unit in Alberta, to protect the tar sands. This team will be led by the RCMP and will include members of CSIS, the Edmonton and Calgary police forces and federal border patrol. This will double the number of police working on so-called counter-terrorism measures in Alberta.The federal government has recently labeled certain environmental and First Nations groups as “radicals and extremists”.
A representative of the unit, Assistant Commissioner Gilles Michaud, described the unit’s goal as being to look at any groups that threaten Alberta’s oil sands economy.In addition, Michaud stated that any targeted groups must have violence attached to their activities for the unit to pay attention.However, Michaud also stated, “That being said, in our role of preventing these threats from occurring, it is important that intelligence is collected against the activities of groups before they become violent.”
UN Report Cites Climate Change as Complicating Factor in Human Migration
A UN report has recently been published that predicts an increase in the number of people displaced world-wide.“The State of the World’s Refugees” cites 26 million internally displaced people and an additional 1 million asylum seekers. UN Secretary General described the traditional drivers of displacement such as human rights abuses and conflict, are increasingly complicated now by factors such as food insecurity, water scarcity, climate change, population pressure and a growing number of people uprooted by “natural disasters”. UN High Commissioner for Refugees Antonio Guterres says that an international debate has started over how to address the growing numbers of people forced to move due to issues such as climate change. Many people have no legal protection. Guterres stated, “Global displacement is an inherently international problem and as such needs international solutions – and by this I mean mainly political solutions.”
Our last news story looks at recent actions in the communities of Grassy Narrows and White Dog First Nations. June 5 – 8 marked a week of actions, put on by the Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek (Grassy Narrows First Nation), for the River Run 2012. Over 50 people from the Asubpeeschoseewagong Anishinabek have walked the 2,000 kilometres to Toronto, to raise awareness and demand justice for a series of wrongs still being ignored by the government. In the 1960s, a pulp and paper mill in Dryden, Ontario, dumped over 9,000 kilos of mercury into the Wabigoon River. Residents have received mixed messages about whether or not to eat the fish from the river. Health Canada stopped testing for mercury years ago but Dr. Masazumi Harada, a mercury expert, has reported many continuing mercury-related health concerns for the residents of Grassy Narrows and White River First Nations. Dr. Harada reports that 44% of people born after the mill dumped its waste have been affected by mercury contamination.
Grassy Narrows Chief Simon Forbister also cites clearcutting as contributing to the damages to the local ecosystem. The “Makade Mukwa Walk for Water” is being completed this week by a group of Indigenous Anishnabe youth.
Edmond Jack participated in the walk and said, “We are walking with a group of young people to raise awareness about chemical dumping and mercury poisoning that the government and corporations have caused over the past decades, and to keep that message strong for the next generation, to carry on that message so that people don’t forget that the water is still being poisoned.” According to the River Run 2012 organizers, participants are coming to Toronto to create a “wild river that will flow to Queen’s Park to demand long overdue justice for their people and protection for the waters and forests on which they depend.” 15,000 square feet of blue fabric will represent the river and mimic the way the river should flow in their community. The rally demanded that the Ontario government acknowledge the extent of the mercury poisoning, apologize and clean the river. Additionally, Premier Dalton McGuinty was invited to try some local fish from the Wabigoon river. This rally is just part of the many actions and events that the Grassy Narrows First Nation has done, in order to protect the land and the water and all that depend on them.
Maldives took on a leadership role in the fight against climate change following the country’s first democratic elections in 2008, and has been outspoken at international negotiations. But a military coup in February has thrown the island nation’s records on climate change and democracy into question. Today we speak to a Maldivian activist about what’s happening in the country. We also talk to a scientist who’s on the leading edge of photovoltaics research. Dr. Jillian Buriak is working to make plastic solar panels a reality and bring a thin, flexible, and very cheap source of power to millions of people who live without electricity.
In 2009 the Maldivian government held an underwater cabinet meeting to draw attention to the threat climate change posed to the island nation. Photo by Mohamed Seeneen.
Maldives is a tiny island nation in the Indian Ocean which has been described as “ground zero” for climate change (map). 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. Terra Informa correspondent Kathryn Lennon speaks with Zaheena Rasheed, a young Maldivian democracy and climate justice activist.
Solar panels made from plastic
The world faces an enormous demand for energy, and climate change concerns mean that it will have to come from sources not yet invented. One technology that’s looking promising is a new generation of photovoltaic solar cells, made from plastic. Unlike the expensive, heavy and fragile existing silicon solar cells, plastic solar cells are light, cheap and flexible. Unfortunately, they only exist in laboratories right now. But there have been some breakthroughs. One of the people making those breakthroughs is Dr. Jillian Buriak, a chemist at the National Institute for Nanotechnology. She spoke with our correspondent, David Kaczan, about how her research is going, and why she believes plastic solar cells are so promising.
Anniversary of Japan’s tsunami
This week marks one year since a massive earthquake and subsequent Tsunami rocked Japan killing nearly 19,000 people and leaving hundreds of thousands displaced. Reports coming from Japan state that very little has been done to clean up the destruction of the cities and towns which were destroyed. The 2011 Tsunami sent a massive amount of debris into the Pacific Ocean. New concerns regarding the debris, especially the plastic, are being voiced this week. Scientists believe that as the plastics break down, they will retain chemical contaminants such as (PCBs) and other toxins. Fish and other marine life feeding on these so called toxic little pills will cause the chemicals to up the food chain. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration continues to track the rubble and predicts the mass will begin to wash up on the coast of Hawaii late this year.
Nation of Kiribati plans relocation of entire population over rising sea level
The South Pacific’s Island nation of Kiribati joins the growing number of people having to permanently leave their homelands due to climate change. The nation of 103,000 people have been bracing for this reality by moving their communities inland, negotiating for permanent land in Fiji and educating it’s young people. The president of Kiribati, President Anote Tong, says the country is determined to come into their new land as immigrants who can gain a foothold in society and wish not to be considered second-class citizens or environmental refugees.
In British Columbia, the Vancouver Sun and the Wilderness Committee have both obtained documentation through freedom of information requests that shows the effects that BC’s hydro power plants are having on the surrounding rivers and fish populations. The report finds that fish are being killed by water-flow fluctuations caused by run-of-river hydro projects. Over 70 per cent of independent power projects in BC are found in water bodies with known or suspected fish populations. Impacts from such projects include severely decreased water flows which rapidly change water levels; negatively impacting river health and fish populations.
A new documentary chronicling the life of Sea Shepherd’s founder has just been released, titled Eco-Pirate: The Story of Paul Watson. So for anyone who’s thinking about seeing the film, we thought we’d give you a little background.
The federal government has just released its proposed environmental monitoring plan for the tar sands. The plan may have been developed in less than a year, but for critics of the industry it has been a long time coming. For years, scientists and environmental groups had heaped criticism on the monitoring systems tasked with overseeing the tar sands industry. Last fall the release of two reports by renowned ecologist Dr. David Schindler marked a tipping point. They clearly linked pollution of the Athabasca watershed to tar sands extraction — a claim both industry and the Alberta government had long denied.
Every year the world hauls over 90 million tonnes of fish from the oceans. It’s a crucial source of food, but there is some concern that unless we start to manage fisheries more sustainably, that food source could be lost.
Often government agencies rely on monitoring and assessment of ecosystems in order to fulfill their mandates of habitat or wildlife management, and bio-monitoring is one of the most popular approaches. For example, it is the approach advocated by both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Environment Canada. But what does bio-monitoring entail?
Here in icy Canada, trying to reduce your home’s energy use in wintertime can leave you and your family in the cold. Keeping your house warm without fossil fuels or extra electricity is possible.