12 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

    Finding the lake's voice | Laura Lynes on Lake Winnipeg

    Finding the lake's voice | Laura Lynes on Lake Winnipeg

    Today we have another show in the Lake Winnipeg series. I’m speaking with Laura Lynes who works on the front lines of climate change and sustainability. She is the president of the Resilience Institute based in Canmore, Alberta. It helps communities build capacity to adapt to climate change. 

    Three years ago Lynes was studying for a post graduate law degree at the Centre for Environmental Law and Governance at the University of Strathclyde, in Scotland. The title of her dissertation is intriguing. It’s called:  Climate Change Law and Colonialism: Legal Standing of Three Rivers and a Hypothetical Case of Bison Personhood in Canada. In 22 pages Lynes argues that bison, especially those that remain on the Canadian prairies, should be made persons in the eyes of the law. 

    After reading the paper I wanted her insight on the concept of the rights of nature, or earth jurisprudence. Tapping her knowledge might make it easier to figure out if granting Lake Winnipeg legal standing could be a way to break through the inertia of decades of good intention but lousy follow through. If the lake was recognized as a person would it do anything to improve the health of the lake? 

    This is another in a series of full interviews I am posting as part of the Lake Winnipeg series. 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.

    This is your invitation to listen to what Lynes has to say. Help me identify the key insights needed to build this story and let me know what stands out for you in the comments section on the website. And don't miss the other interviews in this series.

    Thanks for listening to the Dispatches.


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    • 22 min
    The personhood of the lake | Lorraine Land on Lake Winnipeg

    The personhood of the lake | Lorraine Land on Lake Winnipeg

    Today is another show in the Lake Winnipeg series. I am speaking with Lorraine Land, an aboriginal lawyer who works with First Nations across Canada. She spends a lot of time on land issues and of course that extends into the practical details of safe guarding nature and what it means to act as an environmental steward. 

    Because of that she has a lot of front line experience digging into the weeds of what it means to live in harmony with nature rather than in opposition. But she’s also thought about this is the wider sense. Does every resource development or treaty or land protection issue always start and end in the specific. Or are there principals and broader concepts that could make things better, cut through the fog and perhaps even speed up negotiations?

    There might be. There’s a new development in the environmental law field about a concept called Earth Jurisprudence or the rights of nature. The idea is about granting aspects of nature legal standing or making them ‘persons’ in the legal sense. Now that might seem strange. It’s hard to imagine a tree turning top in court to argue that a logging company shouldn’t cut it down. 

    But a corporation can go to court to argue that someone broke a contract or used their trademark without permission. Now a corporation can only turn up in court… or have legal standing… because as a society we have granted personhood to corporations. As a result, in many ways a company can act as a person and have real people speak and act on its behalf. 

    Corporations have been persons long enough that most of us don’t even think about the strangeness of it. But it is an act of the imagination and a collective agreement that allows an inanimate thing to become a person. 

    So is it any different that some are pushing for aspects of nature to be granted personhood? It’s happened in New Zealand with Whanganui River. More than a decade ago Ecuador and Bolivia legally recognized the rights of Mother Earth. Columbia gave legal personhood to the Atrato River in 2017 and the next year extended that to the Amazon. In one area of the northern United States wild rice has been granted legal standing. In India the Ganges River was declared a “living entity” three years ago. 

    Here in Canada some are pushing for bison to be declared persons… and we’ll speak with one of those advocates next week. 

    But in this episode we’re talking with Lorraine Land to help us better understand what earth jurisprudence actually means. How would that change things in this country?  And, of course, since this is part of the Lake Winnipeg series on Dispatches, we’ll be looking at this through the lens of what it might means if the lake was recognized as a person. Would it do anything to improve the health of the lake?  Let’s find out. 

    This is another in a series of full interviews I am posting as part of the Lake Winnipeg series. 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.

    This is your invitation to listen to what Land has to say. Help me identify the key insights needed to build this story and let me know what stands out for you. Visit Dispatches to comment on the show.


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    • 22 min
    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

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