The Green Blues Show – Edition 23

traffic jam

Sao Paulo, Brazil, May 07, 2013 Traffic Jam in 23 de Maio Avenue, downtown Sao Paulo

The Green Blues Show

In today’s edition of the Green Blues Show: a landmark scientific report warns of degraded land and vanishing biodiversity; cars, everywhere to be seen; commemorating Rwanda’s hundred-day genocide; and mapping climate change: where it’s at, where we’re heading, and what Canadians are doing about it.


Out of sight, out of mind. Nothing better exemplifies this old saying – in as vile a way – than the masses of congealed fat, grease, feces, hygienic paper and non-decomposable plastic that clog the sewers of major cities around the world. ‘Fatbergs’, they’re called.

Microbiologists at Aberystwyth University, in Wales, have recently identified a pack of human pathogens in a fatberg sample courageously extracted from sewers beneath the streets of London. They found a few unusual parasitic worms and a host of intestinal bacteria.

Not surprisingly, several of these bugs were resistant to antibiotics – the inevitable consequence of being exposed to drugs peed and pooped by the millions of people living just above, and the forces of natural selection.

Chinese researchers recently identified almost 400 different types of drug resistance genes in sewage flowing beneath seventeen of China’s cities, conferring resistance to almost all human antibiotics.

What to do about this awful, potentially hazardous mess lurking just meters beneath our homes and streets? Tackling the overuse and misuse of antibiotics that breed resistance is a hugely vexing challenge. By comparison, reducing the flow of wastes that should never be flushed down a toilet or poured down a drain should be straightforward.

In London, Ontario, householders are now tipping their bacon grease and old cooking oil into compostable paper cups, rather than down the sink. Friendly bacteria digest the fat and produce methane, a great source of renewable energy! Other cities are diverting waste in similar ways.

It all comes down to being conscious, paying attention, putting the inevitable detritus of our daily lives where it belongs – rather than out of mind and out of sight.


Human beings are an industrious and highly invasive species. As Earth’s human population approaches 7.5 billion, our blue green planet’s oceans and terrestrial surface are being degraded at an alarming pace. This is the conclusion of a recent report by a group called the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services. IPBES, for short. Among the scary stats: Human beings have degraded all but a quarter of Earth’s land surface, to a greater or lesser extent. Over a third of Earth’s land surface is covered in human crops or grazed by livestock.

Jake Rice co-chaired IPBEs’ Americas assessment.  Rice is Professor Emeritus at the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, here in Canada, and Senior Advisor to the Assistant Deputy Minister for Science.


Cars driving all around were nowhere near as much of a nuisance when Memphis Minnie performed and recorded (as in today’s edition of the Green Blues Show!). Listen to a few voices from the Earth Chronicles vault. Folks talking about cars. In order of appearance: Mark Roseland, John Dunbar, Jake Thomas, Ann Lancely, Tooker Gomberg, Robert (‘Bicycle Bob’) Silverman, Rob MacMahon and Don Malcolm.


Spring is well underway. Summer will soon be here. Time for Canadians to enjoy the warmth. In the tiny east African nation of Rwanda, this is the season to commemorate mass murder.

Anastase Gahunga, National University of Rwanda (David Kattenburg)

Between April 7 and early July 1994, some 800,000 ethnic Tutsis and their Hutu friends perished at the hands of Hutu extremists. Here’s a story I produced about the hundred-day Rwandan genocide and the challenges of speaking truth – on a university campus, no less – back in 2011.


Cartography – the art and science of map-making – is a marvelous pursuit. Maps tell you where you are and guide you to your destination. The quick way; maybe down the scenic route. Some maps are designed to help change direction altogether. Such is the aim of a brand-new atlas developed by climate change scientists and geographers at the University of Winnipeg.

Their recently released Climate Atlas of Canada illustrates what Canada will look like — in great detail — as planet Earth warms. Ian Mauro led a team that created the Climate Atlas of Canada. Mauro is Associate Professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Winnipeg. Listen to my conversation with Ian in this edition of the Green Blues Show.

In this edition of the Green Blues Show, songs by Sonny Boy Williamson (Rice Miller), Memphis Minnie, Dan Weisenberger, Shawn O’Halloran and Robert Johnson.

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