Water Quality

Fresh Perspective

This week, stories about people breathing new life into rivers, cities, and the way we see the universe. We’ve got a story from the streets of Seoul, about the centuries of history that flowed by before one of its dirtiest waterways became a tourist destination. Then, we’ll see how the revitalization of Montreal’s Lachine Canal has changed the lives of the nearby residents. Finally, we’ll hear a model of what planets, stars, and life itself might sound like. Before we go, we’ll brief you on the week’s environmental events.

A view of the icy stream and tree branches below the office buildings on nearby streets.

Cheonggyecheon today is one of Seoul’s most mesmerizing tourist attractions – a far cry from its past as a de facto sewer.

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New Life for Seoul Stream

A lot of us have had this experience of getting to know a place when we’re young, and seeing it get choked with litter or polluted over the years. Every once in awhile, we get to watch things turn around. A big cleanup project, or a revitalization. About a decade ago, the city of Seoul spent hundreds of millions of dollars to give one ancient stream a makeover. Chris Chang-Yen Phillips was in South Korea, curious about why it was singled out. What makes some places so special that cleaning them up can catapult a mayor into the presidency? And how do we decide when it’s time? This is the story of how a stream called Cheonggyecheon was given new life.

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Lachine Canal Carnivale

Chris showed us how one stream became the focal point for upscale urban renewal in Korea, but Canada has its own share of once poor neighbourhoods that are now trendy urban playgrounds. One such place is the neighbourhood of St. Henri in Montreal. It’s a working class part of town, but since the early 2000s, the area has seen an explosion of condo redevelopment. It all began with the clean up and re-opening of the Lachine Canal.

The Sound of Science: What the Universe Sounds Like

Alyssa Hindle and Matt Hirji interviewed Dr. Abram Hindle, a local computing science professor and Noise musician. Alyssa’s brother Abram uses his programming background with inspirations from nature and physics to create unique, and very technically based, sounds. Alyssa Hindle and Matt Hirji spoke with Abram Hindle about his Noise performances and music production.

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What’s Happening

Tzeporah Berman talk at University of Victoria
Tzeporah Berman has been fighting Canadian politicians for 20 years to protect millions of acres of endangered Canadian forests. That being only one of the many fights she has taken on as an activist and author. Berman has been featured on CBC’s The Hour with George Stroumboulopoulos and in the global warming documentary film, The 11th Hour that was narrated by actor, Leonardo DiCaprio. Tzeporah Berman will be speaking on Thursday, March 14th at 7pm at the David Lam Auditorium located on campus at the University of Victoria. The event is free and for more information you can visit their website.

George Stroumbouloupoulos at MacEwan University
George Stroumboulopoulos, host of 
CBC’s The Hour has been an advocate of sustainable living himself. He will be speaking at the Students Association of McEwan University’s Speaker Series, for their sustainability week called COMMON GROUND on March 15th at 5pm. Tickets are on sale online. For more information on the series visit the Students Association website.

Thunder Bay Environmental Film Festival
Thunder Bay, Ontario’s Environmental Film Festival opens on March 20th at 7pm and runs until March 24th. It is a free festival that is run by the Thunder Bay Environmental Film Network or EFN. EFN is a volunteer organisation and will be screening films based on environmental and social issues along with an Opening Night Gala, post-film screening discussions and guest speakers. Donations are encouraged and volunteers are welcomed. Read more.

Water World

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 talked to water expert Dr. Greg Goss to learn more about the risks and what we can do to reduce them.

One of the most prominent environmental issues in Canada is development of the oil sands. Oil sands extraction requires large quantities of water which has generated much controversy, and plenty of films and documentaries also. A new addition on this topic is “White Water, Black Gold.” Terra Informa correspondent Dana Harper reviewed this latest effort to shed some light on the debate of water versus oil.

The Federal Government released its budget last week, but the document was soon put to one side after opposition parties forced a vote of no confidence in the parliament. So Canada heads to the polls but in the meantime, an Ottawa think tank has released what they call Canada’s Alternative Federal Budget. It contains their ideas of how society and the environment can be improved, and is divided into some key themes. This week’s show is dedicated to water issues, so we had a close look at the Water Chapter which was authored by the Council of Canadians. To help us understand the ideas the alternative budget contains, Terra Informa correspondent David Kaczan spoke to the Council of Canadian’s National Water Campaigner, Emma Lui.

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Still from the documentary “White Water, Black Gold”

Dumpster Diving and New Findings on Tar Sands Pollution

This week Dr. David Schindler speaks about his latest findings which were published just last week. His research team looked at air and water pollution surrounding tar sands mines and found that contrary to the claims of industry and government, mining is having serious impacts on the Athabasca water shed. We also hear from an Edmonton dumpster diver who tours Terra Informa through the offerings of local garbage bins. And as always, we start things off with a wrap up of the news headlines from the past week

Photo by Mike Sheehan

Environmental News Headlines

First up, Alberta Premier Ed Stelmach is calling for government scientists to sit down with dissident academic David Schindler to review his controversial claims about Albertaís environment.

Environment Canada has completed regulations that will require an average renewable-fuel content of five per cent in gasoline as part of an effort to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
A campaign to boycott tarsands-sourced gasoline among several large chain stores has fallen flat after clothiers The Gap, Timberland and Levi Strauss withdrew their commitment from the agreement.

And finally, Edmonton, a city that boasted one of the first municipal composting plants in North America will soon be getting a trash-to-biofuel plant.

Dr. David Schindler on Water Quality in The Athabasca

The controversy over the impact that the oil sands has on the watershed of the Athabasca seems to get muddier and muddier (pun definitely intended). There seems to always be two entirely different sets of data. Whether its cancer rates in the population downstream from the production sites, the amount of birds landing on tailings ponds or the level and source of contamination of the Athabasca water shed; there always seems to be two different and contradicting sources of data. One of these being p ublished in academic journals by University experts and the other held confidentially and jointly by industry and the government. When government scientists disputed David Schindler’s claim that the oil sand mines were increasing water pollution in the Athabasca watershed to potentially lethal levels, Doctor Schindler had to test their claim. The government officials had stated that these increased levels of pollution were due to naturally occurring deposits of tar sand at the surface, not the disruption of the natural land by the mine sites. On Monday August 30th, David Schindler published a new report that tested the claim of the government scientists and held a press conference at the University of Alberta. Terra Informa was there to catch Dr. Schindler’s explanation of his results.

Dr. David Schindler is a University of Alberta professor in Ecosystem ecology, biogeochemistry and experimental ecology and holds a number of honorary degrees and awards from across Canada. From 1968 to 1989, he founded and directed the Experimental Lakes Project of the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans and his work has been widely used in formulating ecologically sound management policy in Canada, the USA and in Europe. David Schindler’s newest report on the Athabasca watershed was released on August 30th, 2010.

Dumpster Diving

Bin-diving, containering, D-mart, dumpstering, tatting, or finding “recycled” food – call it what you will, it’s a trend that’s catching on. Falling under the umbrella of “Freeganism”, dumpster diving is for some not only a necessity, but a political act. It is an anti-consumerist lifestyle whereby people employ alternative living strategies based on limited participation in the conventional economy and minimal consumption of resources. And what better way to minimize your consumption of resources than to eat someone else’s garbage? Terra Informa Correspondent Marcus Peterson ventured out into the field on an expedition to find out what diving is all about.

Louis Helbig’s Birds Eye View of the Tar Sands

Photo By Louis Helbig, Part of his Beautiful Destruction Exhibition & Titled ‘Tailings Ponds & Upgrader’

Environmental News Headlines

House of Commons Passes Motion to Review All Laws and Regulations Pertaining to Unconventional Energy Development

Linda Duncan Calls For Immediate Review of Oil and Gas Rules

Stelmach Welcomes Review of All Laws on Energy Development  (By Archie McLean, Edmonton Journal)

Nunuvat Government Changes Position on Polar Bears Protection Status

Downgrade Polar Bear Protection Status, Says Nunavut Government

Approval Gained for Seismic Testing in Proposed Arctic Conservation Area

Inuit, Nunavut Government, and the federal government agree to launch a feasibility study towards establishing a Parks Canada National Marine Conservation Area in Lancaster Sound(CPAWS News Release)

Arctic Seismic Testing Useful: Nunavut Minister (CBC News)

Arctic Bay Opposes Seismic Testing in Lancaster Sound (Nunatsiaq Online)

Government report Admits Climate  Change Policies will be 1/10 as Effective

Greenhouse-gas targets way off mark: Ottawa (By Mike De Souza, Canwest News Service)

New federal climate plan admits minimal action on emissions (By Matthew Bramley, Pembina Institute)

A Climate Change Plan for the Purposes of the Kyoto Protocol Implementation Act


Bicycle Traffic Report with Carly Coleman

Cycling is often considered a solo sport: Lance Armstrong leading the pack up the Alps… but one of the best things about cycling is the community that develops around it.  This week Terra Informa’s bicycle traffic reporter Karly Coleman talks to Steve Andersen about summertime cycling events and how they draw together a community of wonder and delight.

Aerial Photography of the Alberta Tar Sands

Louis Helbig is an Ottawa-based artist/photographer specializing in aerials. He is a commercial pilot and a self-taught photographer whose work has been exhibited and published in Canada and internationally. For his latest exhibition, he has taken on the monumental task of documenting the Tar Sands from the air in northern Alberta. Drawing nation-wide and international praise and admonishment for his latest and biggest project titled Beautiful Destruction – Alberta Tar Sands Aerial Photographs, Louis intends to stimulate largely absent Canadian public debate on the world’s largest industrial development located in our own backyard. Louis Helbig recently took some time off to talk about his project with Terra Informa correspondent Marcus Peterson.

Louis’ exhibition Beautiful Destruction is currently being shown at the Rivoli (334 Queen St. West, Toronto) until July 8, 2010. It is also being showcased this weekend at the New Art Festival, Central Park (Glebe), Ottawa on Saturday & Sunday June 5th & 6th from 10AM-5P. In addition, it will be shown at the Ottawa City Hall Art Gallery, Ottawa, for the 2010 Exhibition Season, from July 23 to Sept 26, 2010. Some of his Tar Sands photos will also be part of a feature in the July issue of Readers’ Digest, which reaches about 1 million people.

Alberta Tar Sands Aerial Photographs (YOU NEED TO CHECK THESE OUT!!!)

EcoBabble: Eutrophication

Maybe you’ve seen the phosphate free symbol on dish detergent or laundry soap and wondered why phosphates are bad?  Maybe you’ve heard about lakes turning green and filling up with slimey algae and wondered what’s responsible?  Terra Informa correspondent Rebecca Rooney enlightens us this week with an ecobabble on a major environmental issue around the world: eutrophication.

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