10 episodes

Explore environmental issues, innovations and the fascinating. Join host Canadian journalist Bramwell Ryan for a better understanding of the world and the ideas shaping it.

Learn more at www.dispatches.ca

Dispatches Bramwell Ryan

    • News

Explore environmental issues, innovations and the fascinating. Join host Canadian journalist Bramwell Ryan for a better understanding of the world and the ideas shaping it.

Learn more at www.dispatches.ca

    Back to the future | Hank Venema on Lake Winnipeg

    Back to the future | Hank Venema on Lake Winnipeg

    Like a lot of engineers Hank Venema is forceful, loud and outgoing. And on the day we spoke in his office in downtown Winnipeg he was restless too. As a water resources engineer with a doctorate in systems design engineering it’s busy at the environmental consulting firm where he works.

    His knowledge isn’t limited to small scale projects across the Prairies. He also knows a lot about large bodies of water after his years working at the experimental lakes research project… where so many water specialists cut their teeth.

    Venema doesn’t mince words about how Lake Winnipeg got in to mess it is in the first place. He says that if we hadn’t done everything we could to get water off the prairie as fast as possible, we might not have the same levels of eutrophication in the lake. But there’s no point in blaming the past. Nothing can be done about what was done. Instead, says Venema, we have to look forward and innovate.

    And in words you don’t often hear from engineers, he says hugely expensive engineering projects might not be the answer. Instead, what if we put a price on phosphorous and reduced the amount that ends up in the lake. Couple that with ongoing efforts to return the prairie to something like its original condition, and we might have the workings of a solution.

    Whatever happens, he says there’s no time to waste. Climate change, an overdue multi-year drought and continued bad practices mean that the future looks dark for the lake.

    This is another in a series of full interviews I am posting as part of the Lake Winnipeg project. That’s a collaborative journalism project hosted by Dispatches. The idea is that together we can create a compelling story about how we’ve hurt the lake… and find ways to undo the damage and restore the lake to health.

    This is your invitation to listen to what Venema has to say. Help me identify the key insights needed to build this story. Let me know what stands out for you in the comments section on the website and by email at ryan@dispatches.ca . And don't miss other interviews in this series.

    Thanks for listening to the Dispatches podcast.


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    • 31 min
    Politics has failed | Michael McKernan on Lake Winnipeg

    Politics has failed | Michael McKernan on Lake Winnipeg

    Impassioned, restless, tall, angular and full of energy. Michael McKernan has spent his life mixing scientific rigour, robust field work and an enduring belief that we can do better. He’s retired now but for decades he ran consulting firms that specialized in environmental management projects. He was in the rooms where decisions were made in Manitoba, decisions that we all live with today, for better and worse. McKernan can often be scathing about how slowly things change and especially how easily politicians bow to powerful forces.

    This episode of Dispatches is another in a series of full interviews, posted as part of the Lake Winnipeg project. That’s a collaborative effort to figure out how we hurt the lake through neglect, ignorance and greed. The idea is to look at ways we can make amends and maybe even restore the health of the lake.

    McKernan’s interview is long but worth the time. He’s forthright and brings fascinating history and insight to this project. He’s not afraid of the answers to tough questions. Once you’ve heard what he has to say let me know what stands out for you.

    Email me at ryan@dispatches.ca.

    Don't miss the other episodes that are a part of this journalistic co-creation. Find engaging conversations with Vicki Burns, Bill Barlow, Hank Venema and others. All are available on Dispatches.  Subscribe wherever you listen to podcasts.


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    • 50 min
    Stop pointing fingers | Les McEwan on Lake Winnipeg

    Stop pointing fingers | Les McEwan on Lake Winnipeg

    Les McEwan lives about an hour south of Winnipeg where he farms. For years he raised hogs but now he’s growing grain. He is chairman of the Deerwood Soil and Water Management Association, which works with farmers and researchers in his area to find innovations and better ways to grow food. He’s also a director of the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, a lobby group that advocates for lake health. McEwan has as deep roots in research as he does in practice.

    He also has some interesting ideas on ways that agriculture can thrive but also reduce its impact on the land and water. One of the key points he makes is that we have so radically changed the prairie landscape that it’s hardly surprising that Lake Winnipeg is under pressure.

    This is another full interview I am posting as part of the Lake Winnipeg series. Let me know what stands out for you in what Les has to say so that together we can co-create the larger story about how the lake got in to trouble and how we’re going to fix it.


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    • 17 min
    N or P? | Gordon Goldsborough on Lake Winnipeg

    N or P? | Gordon Goldsborough on Lake Winnipeg

    Dr. Gordon Goldsborough studies coastal wetlands, which includes the swampy areas along the southern shores of lakes Manitoba and Winnipeg. In this comprehensive interview he brings us closest to the actual lake, especially in to the troubled waters of Netley-Libau Marsh, the damaged ‘kidneys’ where the Red River finishes its journey.

    Goldsborough, an associate professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Manitoba, helps us understand what’s happening in those shallow waters and what it means farther north in the lake itself. He offers insight into his research and ideas as to what can be done to reduce the pressures on the lake.

    And in a departure from the view among most Lake Winnipeg scientists, he doesn’t agree with the orthodoxy that phosphorus is the primary cause of high algae growth. Goldsborough says that nitrogen is equally important. He cites his research in shallow water rather than in much deeper lakes, typical of the Experimental Lakes Area (the ground zero of many scientists active in issues of lake health) and shows that both N and P are culprits in what’s going on.

    This is another full interview I am posting as this co-creation continues. Why am I publishing this? I figure that if you listen to what Goldsborough has to say it will help identify key insights needed to build this story about Lake Winnipeg. Let me know what stands out for you.

    Don’t miss the earlier interviews with Vicki Burns, Bill Barlow, Les McEwan, Hank Venema and David Lobb.


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    • 43 min
    Fixing the kidneys | Steve Strang on Lake Winnipeg

    Fixing the kidneys | Steve Strang on Lake Winnipeg

    Steve Strang is the former mayor of St. Clements (a rural municipality around the south basin of Lake Winnipeg) and is now the executive director of the Red River Basin Commission. In this informative interview he talks about some of the issues troubling the lake and offers some solutions. He also explains the - at times - complicated geography of the Netley-Libau Marsh, the largest coastal wetlands in North America and the damaged 'kidneys' of Lake Winnipeg.


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    • 41 min
    Not just farming | David Lobb on Lake Winnipeg

    Not just farming | David Lobb on Lake Winnipeg

    Dr. David Lobb has a just-the-facts-jack way of speaking. Forthright, convincing and understandable despite the complexity of the topic. So what does a soil scientist from the University of Manitoba have to say about the state of a lake? Quite a lot, it seems.

    Many researchers focus on phosphorus in the waters of Lake Winnipeg as a growth accelerant for the algae, including the toxic blue-green variety. The quest for them — and others — is to discover where that P is coming from and then design strategies for how to reduce it.

    Lobb sources it to agricultural watersheds, but not necessarily just from fertilized and manured cropland. He points a finger at the vegetation and challenges a conventional understanding that the phosphorus in waterways is in a particulate form and associated with sediment from eroded soil. He says that’s not the case on the prairies.

    After this office interview with Lobb last year he took me out on the land to see the issues he studies first-hand. Sadly the audio recorded in the field did not turn out well so this is what we have.

    This is the sixth full interview I am posting as this co-creation continues. Why am I publishing this? I figure that if others listen to what Lobb has to say it will help identify key insights needed to build this story about Lake Winnipeg. Let me know what stands out for you.

    Don’t miss the earlier interviews with Vicki Burns, Bill Barlow, Les McEwan, Hank Venema and Gordon Goldsborough.


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    • 12 min

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