Archives for posts with tag: environment

CLICK HERE to listen to Gros Morne: The Bones of the Earth – my feature documentary about how the theory of plate tectonics found firm footing in Gros Morne National Park, in Western Newfoundland.

UPDATE: Bones of the Earth wins Gold Medal at New York Festivals!

2011 marks the 100th anniversary of Parks Canada.

In Western Newfoundland, there’s a national park that holds the key to one of the most important scientific ideas of our times.

Gros Morne National Park is kind of like the Galápagos of geology – you might go to the Galápagos to experience first-hand the wonder of biology and the theory of evolution. In Gros Morne, you can experience first-hand the wonder of geology and the theory of plate tectonics.

Instead of looking out for Darwin’s finches and giant tortoises you’ll come face-to-face with vistas and rock formations that will take your breath away.

About a year ago, I was lucky enough to go to Gros Morne with my microphones to capture the echo of a continental dance that happened 500 million years ago.

My colleague (and great friend) Chris Brookes and I sought out that echo in the words of geologists, artists, musicians and poets, and in the sounds of the park itself.

We composed music based on the field recordings, too. (Listen to excerpts from the original soundtrack.)

Then we wove it all together, along with poetry by Don McKay and traditional Newfoundland music performed by Daniel Payne, Jean Hewson and Christina Smith.

The result is a documentary called Gros Morne: The Bones of the Earth, and you can listen on-demand, whenever you like, HERE.

This documentary was produced with the support of Parks Canada, and sometime this summer, a longer version, presented by Shelagh Rogers, will be available in Gros Morne National Park and online.

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I love recording things. Capturing moments in time. Working in radio is like being a photographer of sound.

Microphones are like best friends. They’re reliable. They don’t lie. They tell you exactly what happened. Who said what. How it all went down. Recently on CBC Radio’s DNTO, I joined Sook-Yin Lee to tell the story of the day my mic let me down.

It happened a few years ago when I was producing a CBC summer show called Subcultures.  Host Hal Niedzviecki and I were in backcountry BC, “embedded”, I guess you could say, in the subculture of cryptozoologists – people who spend the better part of their waking hours in the pursuit of mythical creatures, like the Ogopogo or the Sasquatch (aka Bigfoot).

That morning might have been the breakthrough cryptozoologists were waiting for, because we might have nearly recorded the sound of a Sasquatch snuffling.

The Land Rover you see dangling off the side of the road in the photo above is part of the story. (It was much worse than it looks in the photo. Sasquatch hunter Thomas and I were almost fish food.)

Here’s the rest of the story:

The Chinese New Year is next week, and the Year of the Tiger is coming to a close.

I’ve been thinking a lot about tigers this week, because I spent the earlier part of it completely wrapped up in and riveted by John Vaillant’s superb book, The Tiger: A True Story of Vengeance and Survival. In addition to being incredibly well-researched, and a gripping adventure story, it’s also an eloquent tribute to this iconic predator with whom we have a surprising amount of qualities in common – and that we are in danger of driving into extinction.

Much to my surprise, as I was finishing up the last chapters, I was called in to guest-host CBC Radio’s NXNW this weekend (because the program’s amazing regular host, Sheryl MacKay, is sick) – and discovered I’d have the opportunity to speak with John about his book. You can hear the interview on the NXNW podcast for January 30th.

photo by Daragh Owens

As this Year of the Tiger comes to its end, I’m finding myself hoping that when the next one rolls around in 2022, we won’t be talking about how there are only a few tigers left in the wild, but rather how the tiger population has increased. There are a number of conservation organizations trying to help save the tiger.

Also on the show this weekend: the irrepressibly creative singer/songwriter and painter Mae Moore talks about her beautiful new book and new album, both called Folklore; actor and comedian Gary Jones reflects on the resurgence of live storytelling; the story of a gorgeous new children’s book out of Haida Gwai’i about Aboriginal basketball, and much more including of course lots of great music from here in BC and beyond. Hope you can join me 6 am – 9 am Saturday and Sunday.

This is what the autumn cattle auction looks like in Okanagan Falls, BC.

I went there in October to speak to some of the ranchers who live in the South Okanagan-Similkameen area of southern British Columbia, near Oliver and Keremeos.

The ranchers are very concerned about a proposal for a National Park which has been underway for about 7 years. If you drive through the area, you can’t miss the NO NATIONAL PARK signs by the side of the highway.

They’re worried a park will threaten their livelihood, because it will mean they’d lose access to crown lands for grazing purposes.

On the flip side, the area is very ecologically sensitive and unique in Canada. It’s a desert-like, arid environment full of endangered species, and park proponents are also concerned – they’re worried that, without a park, development will mean big changes to this beautiful and relatively untouched area.

One of the reasons it’s untouched is because the ranchers and local First Nations have been such good stewards of the land.

But with so much development in the Okanagan Valley, it’s uncertain whether this ecologically sensitive landscape will survive in the long term, and environmentalists say a National Park is urgently needed.

It’s a very complicated situation and the people involved are all very passionate about their particular point of view, whether it’s for or against the park.  I put together this report for All Points West on CBC Radio 1 in BC, giving a general overview of this story about a very beautiful and important part of the province in which I live.


I’m thrilled to announce that my documentary The Sound and the Sea has won a Silver Medal for Best Sound at the 2010 New York Festivals Radio Program and Promotion Awards.

I produced it last year for CBC Radio’s The Current. It was based on my original audio artwork Ode to the Salish Sea. Producing it in documentary format allowed me to explore more deeply the story of the Salish Sea and its various proponents and opponents as a new name for the inland waters stretching from Olympia, WA to Campbell River, BC.

The Salish Sea became an official geographic name in July, 2010, overlaying but not replacing existing place names like the Strait of Georgia and Puget Sound, which also remain official.

The sound design of The Sound and the Sea was inspired by the diversity and beauty of the Pacific Northwest.

When I was a kid, like many kids, the stories I loved best were the ones with talking animals, from Louis the swan in The Trumpet of the Swan, to the rabbits in Watership Down, to a certain frog named Kermit. There’s something undeniably magical about looking at the human world through the eyes of animals.

Now that I’m all grown up, I’ve noticed that apart from being fantastic and enchanting, and, well, anthropomorphic, all those stories have something else in common. They all somehow manage to strike at something deeper about nature and humanity and the cycle of life. (Yes, even Kermit.)

I loved all those stories, but I had one clear favourite: Fantastic Mr Fox, by Roald Dahl. But long before Fantastic Mr Fox was a glint in Roald Dahl’s eye (much less Wes Anderson’s), another talking fox was at the heart of another story, a story for grown-ups: The Cunning Little Vixen, the opera by the Czech composer Leoš Janáček.

It’s just as enchanting and just as powerful, and I’m lucky to get the chance to present it this Saturday Afternoon at the Opera, August 21, on CBC Radio 2, in a production from Florence with the glorious Isabel Bayrakdarian in the starring role. I’ll also be celebrating the life of the late Australian conductor and Janáček champion, Sir Charles Mackerras, who died this past July.

I first started suffering from tinnitus about seven years ago. I’ve learned how to live with it, mostly. It usually affects me the most when I’m in a very silent environment, like somewhere in the wilderness.

Gordon Hempton is someone who knows all about very quiet places and so I thought he might have some insight into how I might learn to listen to them again despite my tinnitus. He’s a Grammy-award winning sound recordist and acoustic ecologist based in Port Angeles, WA, and he’s also the founder and caretaker of One Square Inch of silence in Washington’s Olympic National Park – the quietest place in the USA.

When we spoke, he said some very interesting things about how society is sort of suffering from a collective temporary hearing loss – and how he believes that learning how to listen again could help us take better care of the planet we live on. I mixed his words from that conversation together with some of my recordings of human and environmental sounds to create this short radio piece.

This piece originally ran on CBC Radio’s excellent 2010 summer series The Bottom Line with David Suzuki.

Just over a year ago, I composed an audio artwork commissioned by the Deep Wireless Festival of Radio Art. I’m excited to share it as the first audio I’m posting here on my new website (now that I’ve figured out how to post audio).

It’s called Ode to the Salish Sea and it premiered in Toronto on May 30, 2009 in octophonic surround sound at the Wychwood Art Barns, during the Radio Without Boundaries conference. It was broadcast that month across Canada on the venerable and undeservedly discontinued CBC program Outfront, and has since been broadcast on KUOW in Seattle.

At the time of the production of the piece, the Salish Sea was a proposed name for the inland waters that run from Olympia, WA, north to Campbell River, BC.  Last November, it became an official name in the USA, to be used on all new maps. I later produced a documentary for CBC’s The Current called The Sound and the Sea, based on Ode to the Salish Sea. (I’ll be posting that here too in a little bit, but if you like, you can hear it here now.)

A very long-winded description of the Ode, written during production, follows below.

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