Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Dr Jon Gerrard interview-podcast: Save my Lake

The third podcast in the run-up to the airing of "Save my Lake," a documentary about the environmental state of Lake Winnipeg, on April 3rd at 7PM on CBC.

The Manitoba Liberal Party leader sat down with me for nearly a half-hour to talk about the political process of passing environmental legislation, and the political side of Lake Winnipeg.

Visit the "Save my Lake" tab at the top of my website for an archive of links and posts, as well as the other two interview-podcasts.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Maddow Show must-watch: Deepwater oil drilling regulation?

If anyone is interested in the so-called "safety" measures oil corporations take, and especially in the wake of last year's BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, this is required watching.

Especially if you believe anything has changed since last April.

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Wetland draining, flooding...again! Save My Lake

Water Stewardship Minister Christine Melnick has a view things to say about this year's spring flood season, and what it means for Lake Winnipeg.

You can read her comments here in the WFP where a well-educated Water Steward Minister reflects what I wrote just the other day.

Scroll down for the "Save my Lake" post on wetland draining and flooding.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Wetland draining, flooding, and nutrients: Save My Lake

"Save My Lake" is a documentary about the environmental issues surrounding Lake Winnipeg. It airs on April 3rd at 7PM on CBC.

As long as Manitoba has been colonized, for agricultural purposes our land was drained. Before this, the prairies and especially Southern Manitoba, were covered by prairies, wet meadows and wetlands.

This is a part of the natural history of our land that is largely ignored. The environmental impact of this activity is enormous. How enormous? Oak Hammock Marsh (which had it's first Canada Goose sighting on March 13th!), which you can get to after a short 20 minute drive north of Winnipeg, covers just 36 square kilometres, a paltry 8% of it's original 470 square kilometre area.

Apply this activity to all throughout the Red River Valley, up into the interlake, west to Lake Manitoba and Dauphin, and well...where does all the water go?

As spring is nearly upon us, snow starts to turn into rain, lakes appear on driveways and the city wages war on potholes, the first flood predictions come out and we collectively hold our breath to see how bad we're going to get it this time. For Lake Winnipeg, the spring melt and flood season mean all that agricultural runoff from the watershed region end up in the lake.

Putting my diagram-drawing skills honed by six years of formal education to the test, I'll try and make the science/environmental aspect of what this means a little easier to understand.

Water moves from left to right.

Here, spring melt ends up in a low-lying area or wetland, slowing the flow of water and nutrients. Runoff and silts settle in a wetland, which are themselves nutrient “sinks,” that is, a place where nutrients gravitate to.

If that is a “before” scenario, the “after” scenario is that the wetland is replaced with a drainage ditch, allowing all the water to flow freely and quickly to the nearest river.

Which is what we largely have now.

Wetlands are a key part of reducing the swelling of nearby rivers in springtime, and also catching nutrients before they can flow unabated into Lake Winnipeg. The nutrient that is present in large quantities in agriculture of course is phosphorous, which comes in the form of phosphorous-based fertilizers.

In the film a scientist from Ducks Unlimited states that springtime runoff can have phosphorous levels as high as 1-2 milligrams per litre, which is comparable even to some sewage effluent. If this can flow unobstructed directly into a river, it can travel hundreds of kilometres and eventually end up in Lake Winnipeg.

Programs are in place now to encourage keeping existing wetlands in place, or returning farmland that used to be a wetland, back into one. These programs and recreating wetlands and streams will prove to be essential in improving the environmental health of our lakes and rivers.

I highly urge people to go see Oak Hammock Marsh. Either now, to see returning migratory birds, or in the spring or summer. You don't even have to worry about mosquitoes (I'm not kidding!) There's more than enough to keep you going back, more than 30 kilometres exist for your exploration and the interpretive centre and website provide a ton of information.

So once again, the documentary airs on April 3rd at 7PM on CBC. You can join the Facebook group for the panel discussion and film viewing.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Doesn't the US Army know what is truly "repugnant?"

In a surprising publication, German magazine Der Spiegel has published photos of US soldiers posing beside dead Afghan civilians. Wait...no, that isn't so surprising.

After the Wikileaks data dumps, the Afghan War Diary and the Iraq War Logs, it became crystal clear just how abusive the US Military actually is. It laid clear for everybody, that war crimes were tolerated and dismissed, and that civilian casualties were not properly accounted for or reported. Other reports surfaced that some of the members of the Military are twisted enough to collect body parts of Afghans as trophies, and to go back before Wikileaks existed there was the infamous case of US soldiers posing with tortured Iraqis in various degrading and humiliating positions.

The US Military has a history of this within the last decade. It is something that affects more than one or two twisted individuals.

That the US Army would then release a statement about how 'repugnant' Der Spiegel is for publishing these photos, is repugnant in itself. The actions of the US Army, the Pentagon, and the US Government, is repugnant. That they have knowingly allowed numerous injustices and war crimes to happen, and that they have completely disregarded human rights for the people of the Middle East since they first set foot in Afghanistan in 2001.

That the US Army would rather lash out at the publication of these photos as if they should remain a secret, is repugnant. Indeed it is high time the US release a statement saying that they are ashamed of their actions and of the soldiers who choose to do these sickening acts.

If anyone is going to tell me that the leaking of this information is not of any real consequence or that Wikileaks is irrelevant, then I would like to know what justifies keeping these hideous acts and blatant violations of international law a secret, and why a country's people should not be allowed to know what their military is really up to.

That the US Government treats Bradley Manning as a threat of national security, is folly in the face of the actions it's own soldiers are taking overseas. The people who have committed these atrocious actions were not subjected to solitary confinement or degrading conditions themselves. Figures.

It's all repugnant.


It turns out the men accused of taking Afghani body parts as 'trophies' are the same men in the photos that Der Spiegel has published. 12 soldiers are in court martial right now and have denied the charges against them, and despite the thousands of photographs as well as videos Der Spiegel has obtained, they have all denied the charges against them.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Interview with Dr Gordon Goldsborough: Save my Lake

The second interview-podcast in promotion of "Save my Lake," a documentary about the environmental issues surrounding Lake Winnipeg airing on April 3rd at 7PM on CBC.

Dr Gordon Goldsborough is a wetland ecologist in Manitoba, a leading scientist working on Lake Winnipeg, and an associate professor at the University of Manitoba. We talk about Manitoba Hydro, the affect of water level stabilization on the Lake, and discuss what impact marshes have on Lake ecology.

Gord will also be featured as part of an expert panel and discussion at a [TBA date], following a screening of the film. Join the Facebook event page for that.

And, Dr Goldsborough, the historian! (///teaser)

Here's a bunch of links and more information that is talked about in the podcast:

My (historically archived c.2008) post that is referenced: about incentives to restore wetlands.

The Manitoba Habitat Heritage Corporation.

The Government of Manitoba's Wetland restoration incentive program.

Friday, March 11, 2011

The Watershed: Save my Lake

Friday's subject for the "Save my Lake" series here at Progressive Winnipeg is the Lake Winnipeg watershed.

Before we start, we need to ask "what is a watershed?"

Watershed: Entire region drained by a waterway into a lake or reservoir. (Elements of Ecology, Smith and Smith, 2003)

Going back to the above image, it means that all of the water inside the orange "watershed" area, will eventually end up in Lake Winnipeg. It might, for example, start off as a rainstorm, then water running off a field into a creek, then the creek empties into the Little Saskatchewan River, then the Little Sask empties into the Assiniboine River, then the Assiniboine empties into the Red River and then...the Red River empties into Delta Marsh at Lake Winnipeg.

The Lake Winnipeg Watershed covers a massive, massive region. From just East of the Rockies, all the way to the Canadian Shield landscape, ending just West of Thunder Bay.

When we talk about runoff from farmers fields, or sewage treatment, when we talk about implementing any kind of strategy to help slow the flow of human-created wastes into the lake, we need to realize that it isn't JUST the Red River. It isn't JUST the City of Winnipeg. As producer Paul Kemp says in the podcast, "if you flush your toilet in Banff, it eventually makes it's way to Lake Winnipeg."

Of course this doesn't mean that we can shift blame to other provinces or cities. The priorities for us as Manitobans haven't changed: sewage output into the Red River from Winnipeg remains one of the most important issues we need to address. Agriculture in Manitoba also remains a high priority, because of the proximity of our agriculture to our Lake.

We as Winnipeggers and Manitobans, are familiar with the complexities of dealing with issues that fall outside our own border. Devil's Lake may come to mind. Devil's Lake lies inside the Watershed region. But two forces come together in a delicate situation. Us on one side, protecting the interests of our waterways and lakes, and "them" on the other side, who face a different problem or perhaps something that they do not view as a problem.

City wastes and agricultural runoff from the entire prairie region east of the Rockies, it all ends up here, in our province, in our Lake. Coupled with the widespread loss of wetlands across the prairies, the situation is looking a little grim.

But it isn't all bad news. Many programs are starting to get underway. In partnership with Ducks Unlimited, and Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) as well as others, are promoting the maintenance of wetland on farm property or the restoration of historical wetlands. In attempt to restore some of what has been lost over the couple centuries worth of land drainage.

And locally, you can go to the wonderful and amazing Oak Hammock Marsh (and take your camera!). Inside the city, you can visit Fort Whyte. Both are excellent education centres that focus on the function of wetlands.

Hopefully this discussion about the Lake Winnipeg Watershed will help you realize the scope and scale in which we are talking about when we discuss environmental issues that relate to Lake Winnipeg.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Interview with Paul Kemp; producer of "Save my Lake"

Producer of the documentary "Save my Lake," a film about Lake Winnipeg, graciously gave me a bunch of interview time. Paul Kemp is from Stornoway Productions.

Remember, the film airs on CBC on March 17th at 9PM local time. A screening will also occur at the Winnipeg Art Gallery on March 22nd, followed by a panel discussion hosted by Terry Mcleod.

The chat with Paul was a wide-sweeping one, about most of the topics covered in the film.

"...every year they're scrambling just to get gas to keep that thing going. If it wasn't for [Winnipeg Research Consortium], we'd be in big trouble." Paul Kemp, commenting on the Lake Winnipeg research vessel Namao.

Thought my first podcast went pretty well, though at times because it was a phone interview, was a little tricky. It's my first time not only podcasting but also recording an interview, as well as editing it. Which all went pretty smooth except for a couple minor hiccups.

I will be posting a second podcast on Monday, with Dr Gordon Goldsborough, and continue my week-long "Save my Lake" coverage tomorrow, on the extent of the Lake's watershed.

*Please leave a comment or email me if you are having trouble with the podcast*

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Beginning tomorrow (today): Progressive Winnipeg feature on Lake Winnipeg

Starting (Thursday, March 10th), I will be posting a daily feature on Lake Winnipeg, for a whole week, leading up to (April 3rd).

On the 17th, a Nature of Things documentary called "Save my Lake" will air on CBC. The one-hour documentary will describe the problems Lake Winnipeg faces, laying out the grim, hard truths.

So in the lead-up to (April 3rd), I thought I would take the time to lay out key issues myself on this very website. With my own background in this field, I will try to communicate the sciences behind Phosphorous, pollution, nutrient loading, extent of the watershed, and the role Manitoba Hydro plays, to you, the reader, as best I can.

My goal is to further educate people on this incredibly paramount problem, and to try and get as many people as I can to watch the film on CBC.

In addition to this undertaking, I will also be producing at least two interview-podcasts (a Progressive Winnipeg first!), both with the producer of the film, Paul Kemp, as well as renowned and leading Lake Winnipeg scientist, Dr Gordon Goldsborough.

And in addition to all of that, I will also create a handy "Save my Lake" tab at the top with all the links to my posts and to pertinent information.

Thanks for reading (citizen journalism, booya!) and stay tuned!

Friday, March 4, 2011

Quantico rhymes with Guantanamo

Who is Bradley Manning? This wonderfully compact and short article from The Guardian should fill you in;

"In recent days and weeks the US government has condemned human rights abuses and repression in almost every country across the Middle East – yet at a prison within its own borders it sanctions the persecution, alleged psychological torture and debasement of a young soldier who appears to have made a principled choice in the name of progress."

And my piece which appeared in the December 26th 2010 WFP here.