solar power

Breakthroughs and Setbacks

This week on Terra Informa, a breakthrough in saving wildlife, and a setback for boosting green energy. Matt Hirji explains how 80’s rock has helped one researcher trying to bring back disappearing seabirds called petrels. Then, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips and Alyssa Hindle explain how Ontario’s Green Energy Act helped an engineer in Windsor start manufacturing solar panels after he lost his job with Ford, and why the province is being forced to scrap that part of the law.

Two men install solar panels on a sunny roof.

Windsors Unconquered Sun is one the solar panel manufacturing companies that have benefited from the Green Energy Act. (Photo: Unconquered Sun)

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Who has the power in Ontario’s green energy industry?

If you were to ask most Canadians if they wanted more renewable power being built in their province, they’d say yes. And if you asked them whether they’d like to get some local jobs out of the deal, they’d probably say why not. Sometimes, though, people in Canada aren’t the only ones who get a say in what happens here. The World Trade Organization recently forced Ontario to change legislation that required some domestic production for new renewable power projects. Chris Chang-Yen Phillips and Alyssa Hindle have this story about one of the ways we’ve given up our decision-making power, and what we’re getting out of the bargain.

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Aleutian Seabirds

This next story is little ditty about a seabird in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. The petrel is a bird that spends its entire life at sea, only landing on remote islands to copulate. But, things have gone from bad to worse for this seabird in recent years and many biologists are hatching up ideas to help the petrel population survive in an era of marked by climate change and overfishing. Some of these ideas even have 80s rockers tapping their toes and thinking about our responsibility to protect the world’s most vulnerable ecosystems. Matt Hirji talked to Rachel Buxton about her research into the area.

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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.

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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 (http://www.tsoukenation.com/) 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.

Farm Workers’ Rights, Hurricane Sandy and Community Solar Power

This week, Terra Informa is all about power: Hear from Canadian and Latin American migrant agricultural workers trying to raise their power on Canada’s farms, Terra Informa veteran David Kaczan on Hurricane Sandy’s power, and a community solar power co-op starting up in Ontario.

Waves break on the shore behind a house.

Hurricane Sandy washes up on the shore at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina [Photo credit: County of Dare]

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Food Secure Canada panel on migrant workers’ rights

For the last two weeks, community organizers from Latin America and Canada have been on a speaking tour to raise awareness of the struggles for migrant workers’ rights. Terra Informa correspondent Annie Banks recorded the tour’s concluding panel at the Food Secure Canada conference in Edmonton, Alberta, on Treaty 6 Territories. It was called “Breaking the Silent Harvest: Experiences of Agricultural Migrant Workers in Canada.” Annie spoke with Jose Sicajau and Juan Luis Carbajal.

Listen to the full-length story:

More information: Students Against Migrant ExploitationJust work? A special Inter Pares campaign in solidarity for migrant workers’ rights, Project Counselling ServiceEntrenching Exploitation: Second Rept of AFL Temporary Foreign Worker Advocate (Alberta Federation of Labour)

Hurricane Sandy Report from North Carolina

Long-time listeners may have missed the gentle rumble of David Kaczan’s voice. He was a correspondent on our show for a long time, but he’s since moved on to pursue a PhD in environmental economics in Durham, North Carolina. When Hurricane Sandy just pummelled the East Coast, we couldn’t resist calling him up to get his take on the response in the US.

More information: Businessweek, Charlotte Observer, ChapelBoro

Northumberland Power Co-op

Using the power of community to power communities. A group of residents in Northumberland County, Ontario has come together to found a community power co-operative that will own and manage solar panels on area rooftops. They hope their initiative will increase the supply of renewable energy in the power grid and bring investment to the local economy. We reached the cooperative’s secretary, Rich Tyssen, in Cobourg, ON.

More information: APPrO Magazine, Financial PostGuelph MercuryGrist Magazine, Northumberland Today

What’s Happening

Film Screening: The Carbon Rush
On November 6, the Bloor Hot Docs Cinema in Toronto is featuring The Carbon Rush—a gripping documentary that takes a hard look at the business of carbon trading through the eyes of those directly affected by it. This event is brought to you by Cinema Politica at The Bloor and the Canadian Youth Climate Coalition. The film’s director, Amy Miller will be attending. The show starts at 6:45 PM.
More information: Cinema Politica

Seed and Food Events
The Unitarian Service Committee of Canada is teaming up with event organizers across the across the country to bring you for hands-on seed and food events:

2012 ECOSGN Seed Symposium
On November 9-11, the Eastern Canadian Organic Seed Growers Network will host a symposium at Montreal’s Centennial Center. Enjoy courses and workshops on seed growing and cleaning, a talk on seed security, and a field trip to an organic farm.
More information: Seeds of Diversity

BC Seeds Gathering
Also on November 9-11, BC Seeds is hosting a conference at Kwantlen University in Richmond. Join seed growers, savers, and activists in deciding how to improve the quality and quantity of locally grown seed. You can even bring you seeds to clean and test different cleaning equipment.
More information: BC Seeds

Harvest and Hunger: Who Controls Our Food?
The Saskatchewan Council for International Cooperation is hosting the Harvest and Hunger conference on November 9th and 10th. Learn about Saskatchewan’s connection to the global food system, and what’s being done to create fairer, more sustainable food systems. This event will take place at the Mayfair United Church.
More information: Eventbrite, SCIC

Climate Change and Democracy in Maldives

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.

Download this week’s episode.

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
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.

News Headlines

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.

More on this story: Huffington Post, Washington Post, PBS NewsHour, The Telegraph

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.

Run-of-river hydro killing BC fish

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.

Canada Abandons the Kyoto Protocol

Environment Minister Peter Kent officially withdrew Canada from the Kyoto Protocol last week, only hours after returning from the UN’s climate changes negotiations.  The NDP’s Laurin Liu weighs in on the issue and explains what it was like to be in Durban for the COP17 climate talks. We also take a look at passive solar heating solutions you can add to an existing home and talk to community gardeners about why they just can’t stay out of the dirt.

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The Cumberland Power Plant in Tennessee. Photo by Roger Smith.

Environment Minister Peter Kent dropped a diplomatic bombshell last week with the announcement that Canada was pulling out of the Kyoto Protocol, the international treaty designed to cut greenhouse gas emissions globally. In making the announcement Minister Kent argued that Kyoto was ineffective, given that large developing countries including China and India faced no firm limits on emissions. Furthermore, Canada was so far off its target that failure was all but inevitable. Canada is now the only country to have pulled out, sparking criticism from China, India, Germany, small island states and others. Critics in Canada worry that such a move weakens out ability to influence further climate negotiations. The minister, however, claims that Canada will play a constructive role in further international negotiations, but only on a new treaty. Deputy Environment critic Laurin Liu from the federal NDP shares her thoughts on the issue.

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. Today, Brett Tegart takes a look at passive solar heating solutions you can add to an existing home, and at a new technology that could generate electricity using the windows in your house.

All across the country people are getting their hands dirty. Vacant lots, old rail right-of-ways, and unused corners of city land are getting a make over as community gardens reclaim the lost space. These days just about every major city in the country has a garden, and they’re so popular that many are struggling just to find room for all their new members. What’s all the fuss about? Steve Andersen fills us in.

News:

Canada pulls out of Kyoto: Hours after returning from the UN climate talks in South Africa last week, Canadian Environment Minister Peter Kent announced the federal government will withdraw from the Kyoto Protocol. Chinese and UN officials immediately urged Canada to reconsider – as did Japan, which also refused to take on a second round of Kyoto commitments.

More on this story: The Star, Calgary CTV, Guardian, CBC, Winnipeg CTV, Telegraph

Quebec announces cap-and-trade system: The provincial government has decided to introduce a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, making them the first Canadian province to do so. This system, which creates a market for pollution control by providing incentives for emissions reductions, is designed to improve flexibility, fairness and efficiency in regulating the production of carbon.

More on this story: CBC, Montreal CTV, Montreal Gazette, The Globe and Mail

Ontario’s polar bears are in dire straits: The impacts of climate change are far reaching, and one impact is hitting closer to home. The warmer weather is changing the ice patterns which in turn is making it harder for the polar bears to find adequate food to survive. Ian Stirling, the well known scientist who has studied polar bears for the last several decades, warns that 40 years from now their likely won’t be many bears left in the Hudson Bay area.

More on this story: The Star, CTV

Bruce Power withdraws plans for nuclear power plant in northern Alberta: The Ontario-based company had proposed sites near the town of Peace River for a 4000 megawatt plant. CEO Duncan Hawthorne said the company instead wanted to focus on its Ontario operations for now. Peace River’s mayor Lorne Mann said he was disappointed at the news.

More on this story: CBC, Daily Herald Tribune, Edmonton Journal

Hydroelectric in Labrador, Solar in BC & the Overseas Conduct of Canadian Mining Firms

On today’s show, we talk to a BC First Nation that’s leading the way in energy self-sufficiency. They tell us why they built one of the largest solar arrays in the country, and how they did it. We also investigate the proposed Lower Churchill hydroelectric project in Labrador. Proponents tout it as a source of carbon-free power for generations to come, but is it really green? Plus, we look into the conduct of Canadian mining companies operating overseas. Some companies’ environmental and human rights records are drawing the ire of NGOs. We investigate efforts to hold them responsible.

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Churchill Falls, fourty years after having its water diverted by the Upper Churchill hydroelectric project. Photo by Infernocow.

Overseas Conduct of Canadian Mining Companies

Globally, Canada is a giant in the mining industry. But our miners don’t just dig up minerals here, they head overseas in the search of bigger finds and bigger profits. However, the environmental, human rights and labour laws in many countries are lacking by Canadian standards. And at the moment, Canadian companies can get away with behaviour that wouldn’t be acceptable back home. Environmental and human rights groups aren’t impressed, and they’re pushing for change. Today we investigate efforts to improve the accountability of mining companies operating overseas.

Solar Powered First Nation in BC

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, we talk to Chief Gordon Planes and project manager Andrew Moore.

Lower Churchill Hydro Project in Labrador

One of the few environmental issues that made it onto the table in this spring’s 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.

Carbon Pricing & Solar Power Advances

We have a terrific lineup of reports for on this week’s show, from composting tips and the latest advances in solar power to a hot topic discussion on carbon pricing in Australia and Canada.

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Fisheries Management, Bio-Monitoring, Solar Energy

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.

Download this week’s show.