Back to the future | Hank Venema on Lake Winnipeg

season 1 | show 10 | November 23, 2020

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.

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Politics has failed | Michael McKernan on Lake Winnipeg

season 1 | show 9 | November 17, 2020

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.

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Stop pointing fingers | Les McEwan on Lake Winnipeg

season 1 | show 8 | November 12, 2020

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.

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N or P? | Gordon Goldsborough on Lake Winnipeg

season 1 | show 7 | November 9, 2020

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.

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Fixing the kidneys | Steve Strang on Lake Winnipeg

season 1 | show 6 | November 2, 2020

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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Not just farming | David Lobb on Lake Winnipeg

season 1 | show 5 | October 29, 2020

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.

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Lack of political courage | Bill Barlow on Lake Winnipeg

season 1 | show 4 | October 28, 2020

William (Bill) Barlow was involved in small town politics for decades. He also served on bigger stages and for years was the chair of the Lake Winnipeg Stewardship Board. That group was tasked by Manitoba’s Minister of Water Stewardship to produce a report about the state of the lake, which was presented in December 2006. It was a hard hitting document with 135 recommendations, all of which were quickly accepted by the provincial government.

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Wilful Ignorance | Vicki Burns on Lake Winnipeg

season 1 | show 3 | October 26, 2020

Vicki Burns is well-known in environmental and animal health circles. For more than 14 years she was the executive director of the Winnipeg Humane Society. Now she is director of the Save Lake Winnipeg Project where she increases public awareness of the crisis facing the Lake Winnipeg Watershed. She is also associated with Hogwatch Manitoba, campaigners for major changes to the hog industry in the province, commonly thought to be a contributor to lake pollution.

Burns was my first interview for this project. She offers an overview of some of the problems affecting the lake and proposes ways to make changes that might improve lake health.

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Lake Winnipeg Series

season 1 | show 2 | October 21, 2020

The story of Lake Winnipeg needs a better telling. It deserves better than the lackadaisical stewardship it has received. It craves more than the news release-driven reporting which typifies this — and most — environmental stories. Many people want to know how to adjust their lives so that the lake can flourish. We want to know how the lake can once again become more than a managed aquaculture project.

Eighteen months ago I started working on this piece about the lake. I wanted to answer three questions:
What ’s the state of the lake now? How did it get this way? What’s being done to change things?

Those questions still need answers and to find them, I need your help. Over the weeks ahead Dispatches will be posting the interviews I have conducted with the “usual suspects”. I am hoping that by putting this all out there as ‘raw’ material then together we can hone a compelling narrative. Call it a co-creation, or collaborative journalism.

The lake needs people who can swim together towards a broader understanding of what constitutes health. This body of water cries out for respect for who and what it is, regardless of its ‘services’ to humanity. We benefit because the lake is whole. A step towards that renewal is to write a new story. To finish that script I need co-creators. Will you be one of them?

Welcome to Dispatches

season 1 | show 1 | October 14, 2020

These are strange days. There are more questions than answers. The volume south of the Canadian border is so loud it’s often hard to hear ourselves here in this country. Yet we have stories to tell and interesting people to meet. We have intriguing innovations and… dare I say it… even some good news periodically. My hope is that you will join me on Dispatches for reporting from our country with an emphasis on environmental issues, innovations and the fascinating. Hosted by Canadian journalist Bramwell Ryan, Dispatches chases a better understanding of the world and the ideas shaping our culture. Welcome to the exploration.