Paleobotany And Permaculture from our Archives


Fern by Steve Bridger

We venture back to the archives to hear a piece by Dylan Hall and Whitney Caine as they talk permaculture with Kaz Haykowsky and Marcheen Makarewicz, two University of Alberta students who started a permaculture landscaping company. Then we hear a piece by Tasmia Nishat talking with Dr. Eva Koppelhus about plant spore fossils!

Download episode now.


What is this permaculture? Gardening design principles, an international social movement, eco-philosophy, or all of the above? Permaculture can be hard to pin down and the term has grown almost as many interpretations as there are practitioners.

Coined in the 1970’s by two Australians – David Holmgren and Bill Mollison – Permaculture was initially a contraction of permanent agriculture and has also come to mean permanent culture. The dual meaning of the word is fitting, as any hope of a permanent culture depends on a permanent food supply!

Kaz Haykowsky and Marcin Makarewicz are two students from the University of Alberta who have started a ‘Food Not Lawns’ business: Spruce Permaculture. Dylan Hall and Whitney Caine spoke with them about their personal interpretations of Permaculture.

If you are interested in Spruce Permaculture – Check out their website!


If you were to casually mention Paleobotany in a casual conversation, you’d probably get a “paleo-what-now??”

Basically, it’s the study of plant fossils. You can also get a little more crazy and talk about palynology, the study of plant spore fossils.

Dr. Eva Koppelhus, a professor of paleobotany at the University of Alberta, thinks the subject is underrated and at least deserves some of the glory that dinosaurs receive.

Here Tasmia Nishat talks with Dr. Koppelhus about the finer points of plant fossils, and why they’re super cool.

What’s Happening

Ornithologists and bird enthusiasts alike across the country cried foul earlier this month after the federal government announced that the grey jay will not be crowned as Canada’s national bird.

For 18 months the Royal Canadian Geographical Society ran its “National Bird Project”. The undertaking included an online contest as well as public debates and consultations with bird experts. After receiving nearly 50 000 votes, the grey jay was voted number one, claiming victory over the common loon, snowy owl, and black-capped chickadee.

Despite the strong response from the public, the federal government did not sanction the project and are, “not actively considering proposals to adopt a bird as a national symbol”. The Society believes; however, that the government has not cooked their goose on the proposed idea and hopes that the project has encouraged the public to learn more about Canadian birds found across the country. 

Read more here.

Download program log here.

Urban Week at the University of Alberta

The Growroom, released by Space10

This week on Terra Informa, we hear from organizer Hayley Wasylycia about Urban week, and the environmental and planning fun that they will be whipping up around campus!

Download episode now.

Urban Week 2017 & The Growroom

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.

Facebook Event:
YEG Growroom website:
Open Source Website Here:

Download program log here.

Photo credit to The Growroom released by Space10

Tackling Climate Change, Balancing Development

People's Climate March

Today we’re live at the People’s Climate March in Edmonton. Reflecting on the challenge of tackling climate change, we’ve selected some pieces dealing with sustainability and social justice. Learn about Ecuador’s constitutionally enshrined ‘rights of nature,’ hear from Julian Agyeman on just sustainability, and meet a teacher bringing permaculture into the classroom.

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Rain Gardens & the Peoples’ Social Forum

Kelly Pike

This week, completely unintentionally, we’re all in Ontario! We’ve got a story from Hamilton for anyone with a roof over their heads—did you know it might be making life harder for your local wetland? Rain gardens can help, and we’re going to find out how to make them. We’re also stopping in on the Peoples’ Social Forum in Ottawa, where thousands of community activists and organizations are cooking up a social change soup. We’ll find out how they intend to work together to build Canada’s future.

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Bike-Powered Compost Pickup and the State of the Great Lakes

On this week’s show we find out how Pedal to Petal combines composting and business in a unique way. Then we talk to Lake Ontario Waterkeeper about the state of the world’s largest system of freshwater lakes.

Great Lakes

Satellite image of the Great Lakes, from the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources.

Download this week’s show

Pedal to Petal: A Bike-Powered Compost Pick-Up Company

Fall is coming for most of us, but one business in Victoria pedals hard all year long.  Earlier this year, Terra Informa caught up with Pedal to Petal, Victoria’s Bicycle Powered Compost Pickup Company. They describe themselves as “a permaculture-based collective of bicycle loving food security activists who are taking direct action to reduce carbon emissions and landfill waste and to feed the soil and the city’s hungry”. They do this through a bike-powered kitchen scrap pick-up service, building edible landscapes, and composting. Here’s Trevor Van Hemert of Pedal to Petal speaking to Kathryn Lennon about their “ground-breaking” compost set-up and how to run a business that thinks outside the box.
More on this story: Pedal to Petal

Lake Ontario Waterkeeper

On September 7th, the Canadian and US governments renewed their commitments to cleaning up Canada’s fresh water bodies by amending the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement. This new plan expands the scope of concern to include issues like impact of climate change, and the protection of lake species and habitats. To get a better sense of the problems currently facing the Great Lakes, we contacted Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, a charity that’s working to help make the lakes safer, cleaner, and healthier for the public. Hamdi Issawi speaks to Vice President of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Krystyn Tully, on the state of the Great Lakes.

More on this story: Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, Environment Canada, CBC News

Quebec Says Goodbye to Asbestos
It’s been a burning issue for years, but Quebec’s asbestos industry is finally ending. Newly-elected Parti Quebecois Premier Pauline Marois called asbestos mining an “industry from another era” during the recent election. Her party has promised to cancel a $58 million loan that would have helped re-open the Jeffrey mine, and use the money to help diversify the area’s economy. Epidemiologists have been extremely critical of Canada’s export of chrysotile asbestos to countries in the global south like India and Thailand. The World Health Organization estimates that around 100 000 people die every year from asbestos-related diseases like mesothelioma and lung cancer. The federal government has announced it will now stop blocking international efforts to list chrysotile asbestos as a hazardous material. The Parti Quebecois also supported the asbestos industry before it lost power to Quebec’s Liberal party in 2003.
Canada Draws International Criticism for Cuts to Ozone Monitoring
On September 16th, the world celebrated the 25th anniversary of a landmark ozone layer treaty, but atmospheric scientists from around the world had harsh words for Canada’s cuts to ozone monitoring. Canada has been critical in implementing the Montreal Protocol. It was signed in 1987 to stop ozone layer depletion from chemicals like CFCs in fridges and aerosol sprays. Over the past year though, the federal government has cut funding to monitoring sites like Nunavut’s PEARL research station. Dalhousie atmospheric researcher Tom Duck told the Toronto Star that because Canada has been collecting such important data across the Arctic, the cuts have been “devastating for the whole field”.
Environment Canada also confirmed this week that it is replacing scientists in charge of the World Ozone and Ultraviolet Data Centre with IT experts. Mark Weber, an atmospheric scientist from Germany’s University of Bremen, told Postmedia that the new leader is  “not sufficiently qualified for doing such a job”.
More on this story: Postmedia, CBC News, Toronto Star
Tropical Storm Leslie Hits Atlantic Canada
They say when the rain falls, it doesn’t fall on one man’s house. But Tropical Storm Leslie’s winds and thunderstorms didn’t rock the Atlantic provinces equally last week. Newfoundland Power crews were clearing away fallen trees and power lines the morning after the storm, after about 5000 homes lost power. But communities there were reportedly spared much of the flooding that hit towns in Nova Scotia. Newfoundland and Labrador Premier Kathy Dunderdale chalked that up to better investment from all levels of government in infrastructure like roads and culverts in her province. A Federation of Candian Municipalities report this September said about one third of Canada’s infrastructure urgently needs repair.
More on this story: CBC News , NTV
Shell’s Jackpine Mine Expansion to Exceed Emissions Cap
You may recall Alberta Environment Minister Diana McQueen recently came on Terra Informa to talk about the pollution limits in the new land use plan for the Lower Athabasca oil sands region. Well, less than two weeks after those limits were announced, Shell has predicted it will exceed them. Shell has filed documents with the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency that predicts its Jackpine mine expansion will push sulphur dioxide levels over the new regional cap. A spokesperson for Alberta Environment said the models Shell used deliberately overestimate emissions to help the government set appropriate pollution controls on the plants.
More on this story: CTV, CBC, Fort McMurray Today
What’s Happening
PARK(ing) Day in Winnipeg
PARK(ing) Day is an annual worldwide event where artists, designers and citizens transform metered parking spots into temporary public parks. Participants transform parking spaces into places for people to congregate. This year, Winnipeg-based planners, landscape architects, designers, and organizations will transform parking spots in the downtown area. Wander around the temporary parks for free all day long!
Check out a map on the Green Action Centre website.
Frogs & Oilsands Talk in Calgary
In the US, 50% to 60% of frogs are malformed probably because of chemical contamination. How can we avoid the same fate in Alberta? Brian Eaton is a herpetologist working with Alberta Innovates. In this talk, he discusses the benefits of his work as to industrial development, forestry regulations, wetland assessments and tar sands development.
$5 Adults, $1 Children
Tuesday October 2, 2012 at 7:00 PM
Hillhurst Room, 455 – 12 St NW, Calgary, Alberta

Permaculture, Composting, and Carbon Offsets

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.

Download this week’s show.

A network of paths running between raised garden beds. Many different plans growing in the foreground, a croud of people gathered in the background, and trees in the distance.

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.

Carbon Offsets
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.

More on this story: Pembina/Suzuki Report on Carbon Offsets, Background Info
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 that pokes a bit of fun at the idea of offsetting carbon emissions.

Green Jobs, Backyard Composting, and Permiculture

This week on Terra Informa we hear from an Ontario coalition that’s working to create green jobs by placing solar panels on publicly owned buildings in Toronto. Garry the Garbage Guy visits his friend Tannis to provide some advice on backyard composting. And Ron Berezan tells us how to get started with permiculture.

The Toronto Skyline. Soon To Be The Home Of More Solar Panels.

Local Campaigns: Green Jobs for All at Toronto Hydro

All across Canada there are countless groups and individuals fighting for environmental justice. In an attempt to highlight these unreported actions we here at Terra Informa have a recurring segment called local campaigns where we focus attention upon a group doing great environmental work in their community. This week Myles Curry interviews Nigle Barriffe of the ‘Green jobs for all at Toronto Hydro‘ campaign which is building on the development of a social justice coalition, Good Jobs For All, to demand that Toronto hydro begin installing solar panels on public buildings. Here is Myles with the interview.

Good Green Jobs For All Framework for Action

Communities tell Toronto Hydro: green jobs for all now

Good news for Green Jobs at City Hall

Garry The Garbage Guy: Backyard Composting

We haven’t heard from Garry the Garbage Guy in a while, and we miss him. Garry Spotowski works for the City of Edmonton’s Waste Management Division and used to do a regular series on the show, dropping in to tell us about waste disposal and recycling. Well, for everyone who misses hearing his reports, here’s some vintage Garry the Garbage Guy. In this episode Garry stops by his friend Tanis’ house to give some advice on backyard composting.

Best of Terra Informa: Ron Berezan, The Urban Farmer

Giving you a sample of some of the jems in the Terra Informa archives this week we pull out a interview between Terra Informa corespondent  Zoe Luski and Ron Berezan on permaculture. Ron Berezan lives in Edmonton where he’s affectionately known as the Urban Farmer and in this segment Ron explaining his take on permaculture. This piece originally aired last June.

A Taste of Permaculture

Download Terra Informa May 16, 2010 Here

A Picture Depicting the Relationships and Principals Permaculture Advocates

This episode of Terra Informa will get you in the spring mood for sure with Marcus bringing us a feature segment on Permaculture and the “Taste of Permaculture” event in Edmonton. Rebekah Rooney brings us an science short on salamander habitat and Myles Curry defines Environment Canada in another EcoBable segment. Also this week on Terra Informa we welcome new volunteers Ellis Agbenyega, who did the hosting and Tasneem Karbani who brought us this selection of the past weeks environmental headlines.

Deepwater Horizon oil spill:

Oil firms to play blame game in Deepwater Senate hearings, The Guardian (May 11, 2010)

Gulf oil spill: firms ignored warning signs before blast, inquiry hears, The Guardian (May 13, 2010)

Obama proposes oil spill legislation, CBC (May 12, 2010)

Long pipe new weapon against oil leak, CBC (May 15, 2010)

Arctic Offshore Drilling Review

Gulf spill spurs Arctic review, National Post (May 11, 2010)

Canada’s Arctic oil drilling under full review by NEB, Calgary Herald (May 12, 2010)

Oilsands/Syncrude Trial

Verdict in June for Syncrude duck deaths trial, CBC (May 12, 2010)

Syncrude asked to do impossible: lawyer, Edmonton Journal(May 13, 2010)

Permaculture is a relatively new trend in sustainable agriculture with some very deep roots. First developed in the 1970s by David Holmgren and Bill Mollison, it has since spread around the world as a grassroots movement composed of activists, designers, teachers, land managers, and especially both gardeners and farmers. It came out of the growing awareness about the limits of natural resources and coming energy shortages, specifically peak oil, and looks at redesigning agriculture using ecological principles. Since its “invention,” however, it has since extended out into the redesign of society using the natural environment as a perfect model. Marcus Peterson reports back from Edmonton’s day-long “Taste of Permaculture” event, hosted by the Edmonton Permaculture Community Association, as an exciting introduction to the basics and endless possibilities of permaculture.

The federal department, Environment Canada, is always in the news and involved in many issues and projects in our communities. Understanding exactly what this department is responsible for and how it operates can be confusing, so in another installment of our EcoBable segment Terra Informa Corespondent Myles Curry seeks to define and add some clarity to the term, Environment Canada.

Katie Pagnucco is a masters student at the University of Alberta. She works in Wateron Lakes National Park, studying the population of long-toed salamanders living in Linnet Lake. These amphibians breed and summer in the lake, but winter in adjoining forest habitat, where they snuggle up in the leaf litter. Unfortunately, at Waterton a road was constructed, separating their summer and winter homes. The recent decline in long-toed salamander numbers has been attributed to road mortality. To address this, the park built special “amphibian tunnels” and Katie is trying to determine what is happening to these salamanders, and whether the special tunnels can save them. Terra Informa correspondent Rebekah Rooney sat down with Katie to discuss her research.

Download Terra Informa May 16, 2010 Here

Deepwater Horizon oil spill:

“Oil firms to play blame game in Deepwater Senate hearings” – May 11, 2010

“Gulf oil spill: firms ignored warning signs before blast, inquiry hears  – May 13, 2010”

“Obama proposes oil spill legislation” – May 12, 2010

“Long pipe new weapon against oil leak” – May 15, 2010

Arctic Offshore Drilling Review

“Gulf spill spurs Arctic review” – May 11, 2010

“Canada’s Artic oil drilling under full review by NEB” – May 12, 2010

Oilsands/Syncrude Trial

“Verdict in June for Syncrude duck deaths trial” – May 12, 2010

“Syncrude asked to do impossible: lawyer” – May 13, 2010