Urban Agriculture

Move On

This week on Terra Informa, it’s time to move on. Students from Rhode Island’s Brown University want their school to stop investing in companies that profit from accelerating climate change. Then, Jennifer Cockrall-King wants cities to embrace urban agriculture, and Nicholas Mickelsen sings the praises of moving out to the farm.

Students from Brown University's Brown Divest Coal Campaign rally on the Main Green.

Students from Brown University’s Brown Divest Coal Campaign rally on the Main Green.

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Brown University students Do the Math
One of the most powerful ways university students in North America can use their school to send a message is by influencing where it invests. That’s university students across the US are rallying to pull their university’s endowment fund out of fossil fuel companies. They’re part of the national Do the Math movement across the US – inspired by environmental activist Bill McKibben – to divest from companies controlling oil and gas reserves. Student groups are hoping to blunt the businesses’ ability to accelerate climate change. Tammy Jiang is a student of public health at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island. She’s a member of the Brown Divest Coal Campaign, and Terra Informa’s Chris Chang-Yen Phillips asked her how they’re hoping to accomplish that.

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Food and the City
Farming? In the city? Urban agriculture seems like a far fetched idea, especially living in Canada, where our growing season only lasts a couple of months. Terra Informa’s Nicole Wiart interviewed Edmonton food journalist Jennifer Cockrall-King on her new book “Food and the City.” Urban agriculture projects are popping up in Canada and all over the world, and its a trend Jennifer thinks might be the answer to many of the problems in our over industrialized food system.

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The Farm and the Country
Many young people in the English-speaking world choose to travel abroad and teach English in a foreign country. The enriching experience of extended cultural travel does not have to be restricted to the realm of teaching English. 
Terra Informa’s Miro Radovic recently sat down with young Edmontonian Nicholas Mickelsen to discuss a program that enabled him to spend almost a year on an organic farm in Europe as a WWOOFer with the World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms network.

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What’s Happening

Edmonton: Scales, Tails, Hoots & Howls: A Closer Look at River Valley Biodiversity
Edmontonians, with spring upon us, wouldn’t it be lovely to learn about the biodiversity of animals that Edmonton has to share? Come to the John Janzen Nature Center on Sunday May 26 from 11 AM to 3 PM to see and hear the scales, tails, hoots, and howls of Edmonton’s creatures. These include salamanders and garter snakes to name a few. Also, a number of outdoor nature games will be going throughout the day to celebrate the awakening of springtime and life in Edmonton. The John Janzen nature center is located at Whitemud Drive and Fox Drive,

Victoria: Synergia
Residents of Victoria, BC; be sure to come out and support the Mustard Seed Food bank on May 31, 2013 at Synergia (SINNER-GIA). This special event showcases local musicians and the $15 dollar admission goes directly to the Mustard Seed Food bank to support families and individuals struggling to afford food with the rising cost of living. The event will take place at the Victoria event Centre on Broad Street in Victoria.

Live Below the Line
As Canadians, we are fortunate to have vast lands full of clean water and nutritious food. The same cannot be said for many around the world. Live Below the Line is a campaign that’s challenging the way people in Canada think about poverty. It is a campaign to help us understand the difficulties of living on a miniscule food budget, the way many impoverished families around the world have to. If you want to take the challenge and find a greater compassion and understanding for those families, live below the line asks Canadians to try and live on just $1.75 of food and drink each day for 5 days.

Edmonton’s Agricultural Lands, Weeds, and Talking to Canadians

On this week’s show, Terra Informa takes you outside. First, we’ll take you along for a tour of Edmonton’s urban farmlands. Then we’ll find out the answer to the age old question: what is a weed? Finally we take to the streets to test the environmental knowledge of the common Canadian.

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Farming in the City Tours

We all know that potatoes have eyes and corn have ears, but did you know that some of Alberta’s most fertile farmland falls within Edmonton city limits? On a Sunday in late August, we boarded a school-bus for the Farming in the City Tour. The tour of local farms was organized by Live Local and the Greater Edmonton Alliance. Terra Informa’s Kathryn Lennon meets producers, samples produce, and finds out what will be lost if this land is not preserved. Sit back as we take you along for the ride!

More on this story: Edmonton Journal, Mastermaq, Greater Edmonton Alliance, Live Local, Friends of Famers, City of Edmonton

Ecobabble – Weeds
Since we’re talking about farming today, on this week’s Ecobabble, Chris Chang-Yen Phillips asks: what is a weed? He spoke to former University of Alberta Plant Sciences professor Dr. William Vanden Born to find out.
Featured music: Another Girl (instrumental) by duckett

Creative Commons License Another Girl (instrumental) by duckett is licensed under a Attribution Noncommercial (3.0).

Man on the Street

Hey hey, common Canadian! How Terra Informed are you? How keen is your green vocabulary? Are you up-to-date on your green buzz words and eco facts? We wanted to find out. So, two of our intrepid Terra Informers hit the streets to see what you know. From the Strathcona Farmers Market in Edmonton, Alberta, here’s Hamdi Iaaswi and Mel Skrypnyk.


Experts Call for Mackenzie River Management Plan

Climate change is threatening the Mackenzie River Basin, an area that’s been dubbed the “Amazon of the North.”The basin, which stretches across BC, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, as well as the Northwest and Yukon Territories, plays a vital role in maintaining climate stability by storing greenhouse gas in the ice and plant life. On September 5th-7th, the Rosenberg International Forum on Water Policy was held in Vancouver to advise the federal, as well as the provincial and territorial governments in the region, to create a transjurisdictional agreement that will manage resources, wildlife, and pollution for the basin as a whole.

More on this story: Reuters, Metro, Gordon Foundation

Government Releases New Coal Emission Rules

On September 5th the Canadian Federal Government finalized regulations for greenhouse gas emissions from the coal-fired electricity sector. Effective July 1st, 2015, the new regulations will cap CO2 emissions of coal plants at 420 tonnes per gigawatt hour instead of the the 375 tonne limit proposed in August 2011. Also affected is the lifespan of coal plants, which has been bumped up from 45 to 50 years. Units commissioned before 1975 must be shutdown by that time or 2019, which ever comes first. Those commissioned between 1975-1986 are allowed until 2029.

More on this story: Reuters, CBC

Investigation Concludes Small Earthquakes Caused by Fracking

An energy regulator from the B.C. Oil and Gas Commission has reported that numerous small earthquakes in Northeastern British Columbia have been caused by hydraulic fracking, a process used to extract natural gas from shale rock. The report stated that “The investigation has concluded that the events observed within remote and isolated areas of the Horn River Basin between 2009 and 2011 were caused by fluid injection during hydraulic fracturing in proximity to pre-existing faults.”

More on this story: Winnipeg Free Press, Globe and Mail, CBC News

Tar Sands Blockade Protests Texas Keystone Pipeline

In the Northeast Texas town Saltillo, a group of concerned landowners and climate justice organizers blocked equipment being used to construct TransCanada’s Gulf Coast Extension, formerly the Keystone XL pipelines. The action is part of ongoing actions by members of the Tar Sands Blockade, a group using peaceful and sustained civil disobedience to protest the construction of the Keystone XL pipelines.

More on this story: CBS19 TV, Beaumont Enterprise, The People’s Record

Japanese River Otter Declared Extinct

The Japanese river otter has been declared extinct in a report by the Japanese Environment Ministry, the first mammal to be declared extinct since the ministry started collecting data in 1991. Over-hunting and habitat pollution and destruction are named as causes of the river otter’s extinction.

More on this story: Japan Times, Mongabay News, News on Japan

What’s Happening

Terra Nova Sharing Farm Vegetable Harvest

On Saturday, September 15, The Lower Mainland Green Team invites volunteers to help harvest the Terra Nova sharing farm located in Northwest corner of Richmond, BC. Volunteers are asked to bring gardening gloves, as well as waterproof jackets and footwear; tools and instructions will be provided. The vegetables harvested from this event will be donated to the Richmond Food Bank.

More information: Meetup, The Sharing Farm Society

McIntyre Creek Clean-Up and the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-Up

The McIntyre Creek Clean-Up is a part of the Great Canadian Shoreline Clean-Up and will take place on Sept 16th, from 10 am to 2 pm, at McIntyre Creek on Kwanlin Dun First Nation’s traditional territories, near Whitehorse in the Yukon Territories. A BBQ lunch will be provided by Yukon Electrical and anyone interested in participating is encouraged to bring their own gloves, garbage bags will be provided.

For more information, contact Friends of McIntyre Creek: 668-5678 or ycswild@ycs.yk.ca or visit Yukon Conservation

Elk with Personalities, Erupting Volcanoes, and Urban Chickens

Today Robert Found, a researcher from the University of Alberta, tells us about the different personalities he’s noticed in elk, and the implications this could have for management strategies. With Indonesia’s Mount Merapi belching ash and fumes thousands of meters into the atmosphere we look into the human and environmental impacts of volcanic eruptions. And we talk to the River City Chickens Collective about efforts to get urban chicken farming off the ground in Edmonton.


A little early in the year for the Rut, this Bull elk was busy feeding in the Norris Basin Area of Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming. (photo by Alan Vernon)

Environmental News Headlines

Elk Personalities

Usually when you talk about personality types, you’re talking about people, but wildlife biologists on the cutting edge are increasingly recognizing that the animals they study also have individual personalities that can be classified into groups like “bold” versus “shy.”  These personality classifications can have huge implications for wildlife  management.
Robert Found is a Master’s student in the department of biological sciences at the university of Alberta who studies Elk populations that overwinter in the Bow Valley and Banff National Park.  Terra Informa correspondent Rebecca Rooney interviewed him about his research into Elk personalities and filed this science short.
Erupting Volcanoes
On November 5th the number of cumulative dead is almost 120 from the volcanic eruptions in Mount Merapi on Indonesia’s Java Island. On April 14th, flights to and from Europe were stopped because of a volcanic eruption in  Iceland which sent volcanic ash over the sky in Europe. Recently, expectations of volcanic eruption in Baekdoo mountain in North Korea have been coming up. Today, Terra’s correspondent Seon-Ah, reports on the issue in Indonesia, and the relationship between volcanic eruption and environment.
Urban Chickens

Many cities across North America are turning back restrictive bylaws and allowing urban chicken keeping as a way of addressing food security issues and building community resilience. However these efforts are usually confronted by a small and very vocal opposition, wielding urban myths dressed up as arguments. Terra Informa corespondent Myles Curry interviews Laura Klassen Russel of Edmonton’s River City Chicken collective about this practice of urban agriculture and debunks some common arguments against urban chicken keeping.

Environmental Impacts of Volcanos, Urban Chicken Keeping, Fisheries Managment

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Oil Well Leaking 1,000 Barrels a Day After Explosion – The New York Times
Impacts of proposed B.C. mega dam already felt – CBC News
Prominent Climate Researcher Sues the National Post – CBC News
Syncrude faces multimillion-dollar tailings pond costs – Reuters
Ottawa stalls on emissions rules – The Globe and Mail

The recent eruption of Eyjafjallajokull (pronounced Eh-ya-fyah-la-yo-kut), the Icelandic volcano grounded thousands of planes across Europe last week.  The flight ban lasted for five days, and there continue to be some “no fly zones.”  Rebekah Rooney asks the question, what are the environmental impacts of the eruption and how do those impacts compare to the effects of grounding of so many planes?

Here are some links to differnt facts and studies quoted by Rebekah.

Volcanologist forecasts ‘limited’ environmental impact for Europe after Iceland eruption (linked from www.dw-world.de)

U.S. Geological Survey data on annual CO2 emmission of volcanic eruptions world wide  & environmental effects

Daily rate of CO2 emmissions from Eyjafjallajokull

Many cities across north america are turning back restrictive bylaws and allowing urban chicken keeping as a way of addressing food security issues and building community resilience. However these efforts are usually confronted by a small and very vocal opposition, wielding urban myths dressed up as arguments. Terra Informa corespondent Myles Curry interviews Laura Klassen Russel of Edmonton’s River City Chicken collective about this practice of urban agriculture and debunks some common arguments against urban chicken keeping.

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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. Good fisheries management is possible, and to understand how and where this has been achieved Terra Informa corespondant David Kaczan speaks to economist and fisheries expert, Professor James Murphy.

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Alberta Gov´t Bets Big on Carbon Capture and Storage


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In the past month the Alberta Government has announced the final two projects to be funded from the Province’s $2 billion Carbon Capture and Storage Fund. David Kaczan investigated the details of one of these new projects, and  asks just what can carbon capture and storage do to minimize our carbon footprint.

On November 20th a symposium on sustainable agriculture was held at the University of Guelph. Speakers talked about permiculture, SPIN farming, community gardening, and urban farming as activism. Steve Andersen brings us this report.

This past summer Garry Spotowski, Terra Informa’s garbage and recycling expert, took us to his friend Tanis’ house for a first hand look at backyard composting. Today he visits Tanis again as she’s getting her composer ready for winter. Here’s Garry the Garbage Guy.


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