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Greenland Inuit Village Fights for Survival

January 26, 2014 Leave a comment
Uummannaq

The people of Uummannaq are trying to adapt in order to survive. Photo: Mark Brooks

My documentary on the impacts of climate change in the Greenlandic village of Uummannaq aired in December on the Deutsche Welle international radio program Living Planet. I recorded and produced this report while working as the on-board journalist during the 2013 Students on Ice Arctic Expedition.

Located on a small island off the Greenland coast, 600 km (372 miles) north of the Arctic Circle, Uummannaq is one of many Inuit communities in the North that are already experiencing the impacts of climate change. Not only is the massive Greenlandic ice sheet melting, sea ice is starting to disappear too. This is causing serious difficulties for those working in the local fishing industry who depend on reliable sea ice conditions for their daily catch.

Uummannaq-fishermen

Fishermen in Uummannaq. Photo: Mark Brooks

Traditionally, fishers here worked on a dog sled on the sea ice in winter and by boat when the ice melted in the summer. But now, as the ice is melting earlier and becoming less stable, there is a period of several months in the spring when the ice is not strong enough to hold dog sleds but can also not be penetrated by small fishing boats. This is leading to a host of social and economic problems for the small community.

Click here to listen to the documentary. The text of the story with accompanying photos is available on the DW web site.

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The Challenges of Sturgeon Stewardship

January 23, 2014 Leave a comment
RearingTrailer

A sturgeon rearing facility in Allegan County Park, in New Richmond on the Kalamazoo River. Photo: Mark Brooks

Thanks to a fellowship from the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources, I was able to join a group of journalists on a learning expedition in Michigan last year. One of the projects we investigated was the effort underway to rehabilitate lake sturgeon populations in the state. I produced a short audio documentary for the Great Lakes Echo about this program.

Back in the late 1800s, lake sturgeon ranged widely throughout the Mississippi River, the Great Lakes and the Hudson River. The Lake Michigan region is in the centre of the sturgeon’s historic range. Populations in and around the state were estimated to number in the hundreds of thousands. However, sturgeon were considered a nuisance by commercial fishermen because they destroyed fishing gear that was set to target other species. This led to their widespread slaughter and, since the mid-nineteenth century, exploitation and habitat degradation have resulted in a substantial decline in sturgeon populations. Only a remnant of the original lake sturgeon population remains in most Great Lakes areas today, including that of Lake Michigan.

The fish is now listed as a threatened species by the  Michigan Department of Natural Resources and numerous management efforts are being undertaken to try to protect the fish and ultimately restore healthy sturgeon populations. One of these initiatives is a streamside rearing program operated by the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. During the IJNR trip, we visited the rearing program at the Allegan County Park in New Richmond on the Kalamazoo River.

EG Radio March 7 2013: Reconnecting with the natural world around us

Ever wondered where your water comes from and where your wastewater goes? How much garbage do we produce in Ottawa and where does it go? What did the city look like a couple hundred years ago? Where does the gas come from that fills up our tanks? How much of our food is produced locally?

On this week’s edition of Earthgauge, we’ll discuss all this and more with Janice Ashworth. She helped put together a handy little booklet called ‘The Ecology of Ottawa‘ and she’ll be joining me for a feature 2-part interview.

Also on the show, hear my interview with Ali Howard and Andrew Eddy about their film ‘Awakening the Skeena‘. The summer of 2009 saw Ali Howard become the first person on the planet to ever swim the entire 610km Skeena River. After 26 days of whitewater, boulder gardens, crazy currents and community celebrations, she did it! Why? Well, it turns out that the Skeena is threatened by various forms of industrial development and she wanted to bring awareness to the the threats to one of Canada’s great salmon rivers.

We also have our weekly update from Graham of Ecology Ottawa on local environmental events and campaigns in the Ottawa area.

Click the audio player above to stream the show or right click here to download.

Part 1 – Awakening the Skeena with Ali Howard and Andrew Eddy

Interview with Ali Howard and Andrew Eddy (right click here to download):

Canadian ethnobotanist Wade Davis has called the headwater region of the Skeena River in northwestern B.C. “the Serengeti of Canada” because of its abundance of wildlife. He says it is “a landscape that is as beautiful as anything I’ve ever seen, in my experience as an explorer in residence for the Geographic, going to as many as 30 countries a year.” This valley in a rugged corner of the province is the birthplace of three of Canada’s most important salmon rivers: the Stikine, the Skeena and the Nass. Known as the sacred headwaters to First Nations living in the region, it has tremendous economic, cultural and spiritual importance. The rivers support a $100-million wild salmon economy that sustains communities along the Skeena and includes First Nations fisheries, commercial fishing, and recreational angling.

Three proposals for mining in the region have drawn fierce opposition from local residents, particularly Shell Oil’s plans to mine for coal bed methane near the headwaters. Ali Howard was one of those concerned residents when in 2009 she decided to do something to to raise awareness about the importance of the Skeena and the threats to it. What did she do? Protest and organize? No sir. She decided to swim the entire length of the 610km river in 26 days.

I know we often have our fair share of grim environmental news on Earthgauge but I am pleased to tell you that this story has a happy ending! Thanks to Ali’s efforts and those of many others such as the Skeena Watershed Conservation Coalition, in December 2012 coalbed methane development was permanently banned from the headwaters and Shell withdrew its plans to develop. Further evidence that with hard work and determination positive change can and does take place. A film was made about Ali’s heroic swim called Awakening the Skeena and she came to Ottawa last week for a screening. So I caught up with her and the film’s director Andrew Eddy.

Part 2 – The Ecology of Ottawa

Part 1 of Janice Ashworth interview (right click here to download):

Part 2 of Janice Ashworth interview (right click here to download):

Now as you well know, we have an impact on and we are impacted by our local, natural environment and that’s why on today’s show we’re talking about regaining the connection between ourselves and the places in which we live whether it be in the remote, far-flung reaches of northern BC or right here in the Ottawa valley. It’s easy for us to lose sight of the natural world around us and how we impact it, and we sometimes lose the connection between ourselves and the Earth and water that keep us alive. Many of us don’t know where our wastewater goes once it’s flushed down the drain or where our electricity and heat come from. What about the gas that fills up our tanks? How much garbage do we produce and where does it go? How much of our food is locally produced?

I myself didn’t know the answer to many of these important questions and I thought it was about time I found out. It turns out our friends at Ecology Ottawa have produced a handy little booklet called The Ecology of Ottawa that answers all of these  questions and many more. I caught up with Janice Ashworth, one of the people who helped produce the book, to discuss some issues that all of us living in Ottawa should really know. I am pleased to present a feature 2-part interview with Janice on today’s program.

Our show today is all about regaining the connection between ourselves and the places in which we live. Of course, the best way to connect with the local bioregion that we call home is to get out there and explore it for ourselves. We are truly blessed here in Ottawa to have such spectacular recreational opportunities at our door step year round. As the intro to ‘The Ecology of Ottawa’ booklet says,

it’s easy for us to lose sight of the natural world. We lose the connection between ourselves and the Earth and water that keep us alive. We flick on a light switch without thinking about where the energy comes from or what it does to the earth. We flush the toilet without knowing where the wastewater goes and our garbage is whisked off to some distant place called “away.” But we are deeply connected to the water, land, and air. It affects us and we affect it, every single day through the water, energy and other resources that flow through our homes.

Earthgauge Radio airs every Thursday morning at 7:00 AM on CKCU 93.1 FM in Ottawa and online around the world at www.ckcufm.com. Ottawa’s only radio program dedicated exclusively to environmental news and commentary from Ottawa, across the country and around the world. Podcasts on iTunes and right here on earthgauge.ca.

Earthgauge Radio February 14 2013: Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown and Climate Science 101

February 15, 2013 Leave a comment

This week on Earthgauge, I present a feature interview with the Ottawa Riverkeeper, Meredithfeature_holder Brown and we talk climate science with Eric Galbraith of McGill University. Click the audio player above or right click here to download the show.

First up….it’s Climate Change 101! Ever want to know about some of the fundamentals of climate science so you can easily refute that climate change denying buddy of yours? Well, we have a Climate Change 101 session with Eric Galbraith of McGill University. He is a Professor of Earth and Planetary Science and he’ll explain just why it is there is virtually no disagreement among climate scientists that the planet is warming and humans are to blame. Additional resources that provide excellent information on the fundamentals of climate science include www.skepticalscience.com, www.livescience.com, and www.thinkprogress.org.

Later on the show, I speak with the Ottawa Riverkeeper Meredith Brown. Founded in 2001, Ottawa Riverkeeper is an independent voice for the Ottawa River, providing leadership and inspiration to protect, promote and improve its ecological health and future. The organization works collaboratively to inspire others to take action, to encourage responsible decision making, to hold polluters accountable and to recommend alternative practices and policies to safeguard our local waterways. Ottawa Riverkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, an international grassroots organization founded by Robert F. Kennedy Jr.

Meredith Brown is a strong science-based voice for the Ottawa River, acting as its full-time “watchdog”. Since 2004, Meredith has significantly raised the profile of the Ottawa River and brought important issues such as sewage dumping and radioactive waste to the attention of the public and decision-makers.

In our interview, we discuss the health of the Ottawa River, changes to federal environmental regulations, the Wild and Scenic Film Festival and the Ottawa River Action Plan.

Of course we also have our usual update from Kathy of Ecology Ottawa on local environmental events and campaigns.

Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and earthgauge.ca. Stream live on www.ckcufm.com. Check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EarthgaugeRadio where we post environmental news stories from around the world.

EG Radio February 7 2012: Liveable Ottawa | Shell oil rig Alaskan disaster

February 7, 2013 Leave a comment

This week on Earthgauge Radio, we’re talking about the Shell drilling rig that ran aground near Alaska’s Kodiak Island at the end of December and we discuss the City of Ottawa’s “Liveable Ottawa” plan. We also have a special guest editorial from Grist.org columnist David Roberts who will explain why climate science is Nate Silver and U.S. politics is Karl Rove.

It was bad enough that Shell demonstrated total ineptitude when their Kullik oil rig started leaking crude oil into the Alaskan wilderness but as Rachel Maddow of MSNBC tells us, this story just keeps getting weirder and weirder. Now it appears the accident may have been a result of Shell trying to pull a fast one on the state government to avoid paying taxes. The damaged Kulluk drillship is a key part of Royal Dutch Shell’s ambitious plan to drill for oil in two parts of the Arctic Ocean.

Later in the show we talk to Trevor Haché of Ecology Ottawa about the Liveable Ottawa initiative that this city has launched recently. Starting in 2013, the City of Ottawa will begin its review of the strategic documents that guide the development of our city. They include the Official Plan, Transportation Master Plan, Infrastructure Master Plan, Cycling Plan and Pedestrian Plan. When completed, the Building a Liveable Ottawa 2031 project will set the directions, policies and affordability priorities that will influence the future of the city for years to come. To help with this process, the City is looking for input from citizens like you and me. So if you care about pedestrian infrastructure, cycling and public transportation now is the time to pay attention to what is happening at Ottawa City Hall. Email planning@ottawa.ca if you want to get involved or contribute your input to the Liveable Ottawa Master Plan.

Trevor Haché interview (right click here to download):

We also have a special guest editorial from the excellent climate, energy and political columnist David Roberts of Grist.org. Remember Nate Silver? The guy who perfectly predicted the outcome of the recent U.S. election state by state? Republicans dismissed the science of his projections and yet he was exactly right. Well, David Roberts sees a parallel with climate science and those who refuse to believe it.

Of course we also have our usual update from Kathy of Ecology Ottawa on local environmental events and campaigns.

Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and earthgauge.ca. Stream live on www.ckcufm.com. Check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EarthgaugeRadio where we post environmental news stories from around the world.

Right click here to download today’s show.

EG Radio January 31 2013: Obama and climate change | Lisa Friedman | Idle No More

January 31, 2013 Leave a comment

This week on Earthgauge Radio, we’re talking about President Obama’s new commitment to climate change, the growing problem of environmental “refugees”, and the environmental dimensions of the Idle No More aboriginal movement. We  have 3 interviews on today’s show:

  • Lisa Friedman, Deputy Editor of ClimateWire
  • Stephen Hazell, environmental lawyer and the founder of Ecovision Law 
  • John Smol, biology professor at Queen’s University and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change

U.S. President Barack Obama’s inaugural address last week gave special prominence to taking action on climate change. Will this translate into concrete action and what does this mean for Canada? Today we take a look at what Obama can actually accomplish and what he won’t be able to do given the fierce resistance of some members of Congress and of course the fossil fuel lobby in Washington. We speak to journalist Lisa Friedman of ClimateWire about the international climate change situation, what Obama is up against in the coming four years, and the growing problem of climate and environmental “refugees”.

Lisa Friedman interview (right click here to download):

Also on the program today Earthgauge contributor Juanita Bawagan gives us a primer on the changes to the Navigable Waters Protection Act and the overhaul of the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act. It’s been said that these and other fundamental changes to environmental legislation and regulations in Canada have been at least partially responsible for fuelling the Idle No More movement that has galvanized Aboriginal Canadians right across the country. Juanita will explain why many First Nations are so upset with what the Harper government has done to environmental protections in Canada.

Also on the program we have our usual update from Kathy of Ecology Ottawa on local environmental events and campaigns.

Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and earthgauge.ca. Stream live on www.ckcufm.com. Check out our Facebook page at www.facebook.com/EarthgaugeRadio where we post environmental news stories from around the world.

Right click here to download today’s show.

December 20, 2012: Buy Nothing Christmas and the shark fin import ban in Canada

December 21, 2012 Leave a comment

This week on Earthgauge Radio, I have a feature interview with Aiden Enns of BuyNothingChristmas.org. We discuss some ideas about how you can have a “greener” and less stressful holiday season. I also have an update from NDP MP Fin Donnelly on his private member’s Bill C-380 to ban the import of shark fins to Canada.

Click the audio player above to stream the show or right click here to download.

Part 1 – Fin Donnelly on his efforts to ban the import of shark fins to Canada

One year ago Fin Donnelly, the NDP MP for New Westminster – Coquitlam in BC, introduced legislation to prohibit the import of shark fins to Canada. Bill C-380 is a private member’s bill that is now slated to go forward to parliamentary committees in February, after which it will go to a vote in the House of Commons. It is estimated that up to 73 million sharks are killed annually for their fins, often by a practice called shark finning, where the fins are cut off the shark and the body is dumped back into the ocean to die. In 2009, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature revealed that over one-third of all shark species are threatened with extinction as a result of the inhumane practice of shark finning.

A Canadian ban on the import of shark fins would follow similar legislation in various jurisdictions around the world. Most recently, the European Parliament voted to close loopholes in the European Union ban on shark finning. I attended a screening of the film Sharkwater recently on Parliament Hill. Fin Donnelly spoke prior to the screening and I was able to catch up with him to talk about his Bill, why he feels its so important, and the likelihood of it passing in a Conservative-dominated government.

Right click here to download the interview.

Part 2 – Buy Nothing Christmas

Huge amounts of waste are produced during the holiday season – more than any other time of year. In addition, the pressure to buy gifts, social commitments, entertaining and family expectations can make many people dread the holidays. Is there a better way to celebrate the holidays? Many people seem to think so. We’re increasingly seeing people buying fewer gifts, making their own presents, making donations to charity in lieu of gifts, or giving non-material gifts such as art lessons, theatre tickets, food and so on.

On today’s show we talk with Aiden Enns who is the co-founder of BuyNothingChristmas.org and the publisher and co-editor of Geez magazine. Buy Nothing Christmas is a national initiative dedicated to reviving the original meaning of the holiday season. They are inviting all of us to join a movement to de-commercialize Christmas and re-design a lifestyle that is richer in meaning, smaller in impact upon the earth, and greater in giving to people who are less privileged.

Earthgauge Radio airs Thursday mornings from 7-8 AM on CKCU 93.1 in Ottawa. Podcasts on iTunes and www.earthgauge.ca. Stream live on www.ckcufm.com. Check us out on Facebook at www.facebook.com/EarthgaugeRadio.

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