ACC students stars in international wine festival

My wife and I had the pleasure of taking part in an evening of tasting of international wines of distinction and food pairings created by the students of the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts at the campus of Assiniboine Community College in Brandon, Manitoba.

In one word – WOW!  The students researched the wines and food pairings in teams.  Over 200 people attended.  The event was classy.  It’s a real testament to the teaching staff, the vision of the administration, and the creative talent of these students to stage an event like this. 

From innovative dressings, to a delightful Manitoba story about Banville & Jones Wine Co. (wine distributor and retailer in Winnipeg), to the many different tastes of lamb, oysters, prairie beef, desserts, and other taste sensations, this was an evening of shared passion, discovery and learning.  When food and wine, students and appreciative learners come together like this in the renovated historic setting of the Manitoba Institute of Culinary Arts, we all celebrate “The Canadian Experience in Manitoba”.  Great job!


Meet Leslie Reid at the Elkhorn Resort


Leslie Reid, Front Desk Manager, Elkhorn Resort and Solstice Spa. Manitoba. Canada

Leslie Reid, Front Desk Manager, Elkhorn Resort and Solstice Spa. Manitoba. Canada


One of our most important tourism business partners here at Riding Mountain National Park is the Elkhorn Resort.   In today’s competitive world of travel and tourism, we are finding that some of the most successful destination operators are the ones that have learned to follow the business maxim…”Do what you do best.  Partner to do the rest.”  The relationship that Earth Rhythms has had with Elkhorn Resort goes back 13 years to 1996.  We feel that it is quite a special relationship. 

Carefully and systematically, we have developed a unique collaboration that allows us to serve corporate clients, leisure travelers, conference groups, time share travelers, and specialty groups with customized experiences and adventures, as value-added components to the many other services that makes the Elkhorn Resort & Solstice Spa experience a stand-out resort offering in Manitoba today.  

What makes this special is that Earth Rhythms is able to work seamlessly back and forth with all members of the Elkhorn team (front desk, house-keeping and guest services, food and beverage, sales and marketing, and the GM).  One of these people is Leslie Reid, who has recently assumed responsibilities and leadership of the front-desk team at the Elkhorn.  Leslie is originally from Minnedosa, is very service-oriented, and has a great perspective on the importance of collaboration within a rural business context.

Earth Rhythms and Elkhorn Resort have developed an award-winning style in offering learning adventures, corporate retreats, conference programs, team-building initiatives, and customized itineraries for guests.  It is, in large part, due to the great team at the Elkhorn Resort.  Say hello to Leslie when you next check-in to the Elkhorn Resort.

Greenhouse gas and ice thickness measurements reflect collaboration

We are starting to see a number of new technologies emerging from different countries to monitor greenhouse gas emissions, to measure Arctic ice thickness, and to generate accurate, clear data about where the source of global warming emissions are coming from.  Earlier, we posted the information about the upcoming February Arctic Ice thickness walking survey, the Catlin Arctic Survey, an international collaboration between polar explorers and some of the world’s foremost scientific bodies.  This is a fascinating one – where you will be able to literally watch their progress each day.  Search for Catlin Arctic Survey on this weblog, and you’ll get the details.    Using a new and innovative ice thickness radar measurement device called Sprite, this three-person 100-day trek over 1200km of Arctic sea ice seeks to resolve one of the most important environmental questions of our time:  How long will the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover remain a permanent feature of our planet?

Well, here is another scientific initiative.  Japan has launched the first satellite to monitor greenhouse gases worldwide.  See article on Sustainablog.

This is good news.  It appears that a number of countries are beginning to collaborate in investing in measurement tools to contribute good data to the decision-making that we will all have to make collectively, in response to global warming pollution.

It would be great to see our government bodies in Manitoba – federal, provincial, municipal also investing more significant resources into monitoring base levels of carbon emissions from various sectors and methane associated with agriculture, and start sharing this data with others.  Collaboration in business, in science, and in community development.  That’s the new paradigm.  Efficient, resource-sharing, and transparent.

Coal sludge in Tennessee toxic spill 50x worse than Exxon Valdez spill

Last night, I was watching The Hour with George Strombolopoulos who interviewed the US environmental activist Erin Brokovich (yes, the one the movie with Julia Roberts is based on) who is now tackling along with the well-respected US law firm Weitz & Luxenberg the most horrific Tennessee environmental disaster of the release of a dam storing a coal fly ash from coal plants into the Tennessee River with a toxic spill 50x bigger than the oil spill of the Exxon Valdez in 1989 off the coast of Alaska.  

Owned and operated by the  Tennessee Valley Authority’s Kingston coal-fired power plant, this tragedy happened just before Christmas Day, while the rest of us were celebrating with families.  The concerns:  The toxic sludge spilled into the river; lack of media coverage of such a large environmental disaster by the media;  people’s homes and health, fish, river ecology are all affected.  

“My main objective in these cases is not legal, but to work with the community to build trust and help protect their health and safety,” said famed environmental advocate Erin Brockovich. “Many times, industry deceives us and government is absent. People are left standing in contamination with no help,” Brockovich added. “I know lawsuits can scare people, but these attorneys (W&L) seek justice, and in doing so, they uncover the truth.”

If you are interested in sitting back (and have a few minutes) to see a beautiful video about the before and after the spill produced by mgtillyer, it’s on YouTube.  It presents the before and after, and asks some good questions about the spill, its impacts, and about “clean coal”.  View it at: TVA Coal Ash – Before and After.

Sidenote: During Erin Brokovich’s conversation last night with George Strombolopoulos, she identified that a calculation had been made recently that if everyone turned off our TV’s using the power switch on the TV instead of turning off the TV with the remote (Which does not turn off the TV), that we would eliminate the need for the energy generated by one nuclear power plant.  Our conveniences consume energy at a rate that we are unaware of.  It is important to help manufacturers understand that our planet cannot sustain this level of convenience.  We can get up and turn off the TV!

The brave new world of the Internet is finally allowing us to become aware of problems, solutions, and ways to live more sustainably.  Bloggers, blog sites, videos, photos, and responsible journalistic coverage combined with accurate information, data and science will help all of us as we seek ways to keep “quality” in our lives, our homes, our landscapes, water and our planet.

There are small steps that each of us can take here in the Riding Mountains to nourish our lives, grow organic food in our gardens, support local producers, eat grassfed beef and lamb, reduce water consumption, be cautious about the chemicals we use, re-plant our lawns with perennial prairie plants that are drought tolerant, put solar panels on our roofs to reduce our energy demands on hydro power, and support the championship Clear Lake Golf Course by playing golf on one of the most environmentally friendly courses in North America.  Living sustainably is an act of planetary citizenship, in my view.

Canadians using 3x our share of global resources

World Wildlife Fund-Canada, a very well-respected organization has just released its Living Planet Report for 2008.  It introduces some new measures of our impact on Earth including a new Living Planet Index, and new measures for global, national and individual water footprints.  For example, a cotton T-shirt requires 2,900 litres of water in its production!

I am struck by how fortunate we are here in Manitoba and in the Riding Mountains, and how insulated we are from information about the impacts of living unsustainably that cause effects later on water, wildlife, and humans elsewhere on our planet.   What is our water footprint in the Riding Mountain region – for each community around the Riding Mountain area, for major manufacturers or processors?  How much water do individual tourism businesses use?  How do we reduce our footprint?  (Low flow shower-heads; low volume toilets)?  How do we monitor this publicly in an open manner, transparently so that water footprint becomes part of our language with the same ease that we talk about return on investment or profit margins?

At Supereco, they provide real solutions to some of the questions about home, personal, and business questions about how to lower our carbon and water footprints.  You can bookmark the site, follow them on Twitter and just be amazed at how we can live sustainably by making choices to purchase things that are much more planet friendly.

Earth Rhythms is trying, in small ways, to take some steps as a tourism business to operate sustainably.  Our home office is located in an R-2000 home that we designed and built.  We recycled an old house (flooring, doors, stairs, banisters, railing, doors, trim) into the new house.  We ask our partners who provide food services to use local ingredients, to try to focus on a Manitoba food miles radius; we are using fuel efficient vehicles for our travel, and we purchase carbon offsets for air travel.  We focus on self-propelled activities for our clients – walking, snowshoeing, hiking, bicycling.  And, we constantly look for new ways to reduce our ecological, water, and carbon footprint.  We’ll keep sharing what we are learning and point the way to new resources for all of us to reduce our collective water and carbon footprints.

Ground Truthing Arctic Ice Loss – a February Trek across the Arctic Ice

Preparations for Arctic Ice Loss Expedition

Preparations for Arctic Ice Loss Expedition


[Photo from Catlin Survey Website]

I just received an Arctic Bulletin from the World Wildlife Fund-Canada. There is an amazing project starting February, 2009 – 29 days, 1 hour from now. It is about Ground Truthing the Arctic Ice Loss using a very accurate ice radar called the Sprite. It is the Catlin Arctic Survey. The Catlin Arctic Survey is an international collaboration between polar explorers and some of the world’s foremost scientific bodies. It seeks to resolve one of the most important environmental questions of our time:
How long will the Arctic Ocean’s sea ice cover remain a permanent feature of our planet?

Here is what is most fascinating, from an experiential perspective…..
Sending data direct from the ice

Direct communications from polar expeditions to back home have, up until now, been severely restricted, at least when compared to communicating from other regions of the world. This is due to the extremely narrow bandwidth and resulting low data transmission rate offered by Iridium, the only available satellite network operating over the polar regions.

However using both innovative strategies and state-of-the-art equipment, the expedition’s Ice Team will be able to transmit video and web cam footage and high-resolution still images directly from the Arctic Ocean. A custom-built, onboard sledge computer coupled to a multi-modem, Iridium data-uplink system has been specially designed to withstand the deep cold and rough use in a polar environment. This equipment will receive, reformat, store, compress and most importantly transmit all of the vital science, image, audio, video and bio-telemetry data back to the UK HQ – on a live, delayed live or overnight basis.

By linking reportage-style web-cam footage and live audio commentaries (for example) to the data generated from body-worn bio-monitors (another area of technological innovation) it will be possible for people not just to follow the team’s progress, but to experience it.

This innovative transmission technology will connect Pen and the team directly to newsrooms, websites, mobile phones and PCs allowing a global audience to be directly connected to what is happening on the ice.

Below are the links to follow this fascinating, state of the art journey that will give us accurate information about ice thickness this winter. All over the world, we should be following this scientific investigation over a 100-day period online during February and March.

Students and educators can track their daily progress and what they are learning ( 3 person team)….They are trekking (walking), hauling sledges behind them. See this PHOTO.

The Science behind this amazing Scientific Journey (This is the most important page)

The Main Website for the Catlin Arctic Survey project

The Route Map

You can download a Google Earth Route Map and then see, in Google Earth, what this looks like.  Amazing!

This is Science in Action – in real time, really important, and very relevant!


Climate Time Machine Tool to visualize effects of Climate Change

Check out this amazing interactive tool – The Climate Time Machine –  to visualize the effects of global warming on Climate Change and see the visual results over time based on science.  Effects on melting ice caps, sea level rises, CO2 levels, and average global temperature are shown.  Use  this tool to help convey the science and share this information so that everyone can become informed and educated about what is happening on the planet, and how fast change is taking place.

Riding Mountain listens to its stakeholders

Last night, I attended a public communication stakeholder session hosted by Riding Mountain National Park in Erickson, Manitoba.  Their intentions are to start engaging local stakeholders in conversations to help identify priorities to start implementing the park management plan.  Presentations from various park representatives and feedback from participants were informative – about new directions in visitor experiences, snapshot summaries about park science and environmental monitoring, and other topics.  I am glad that they are reaching out.  This marks a new phase for the park – reaching out to listen, to perhaps work collaboratively towards mutual priorities.  Thank you!

Perhaps the single most important thing that I would urge the park to do is to find every possible way to start sharing their priorities, their studies, relevant maps and other resources in electronic form on the web.  Yesterday, the same day that President Barack Obama was sworn in as the 44th president, the park also reached out in a move towards transparency with its constituents.   I asked the park staff today in a short note, the following questions.

I thought that I would share the following with you.  The following is what the Obama government turned the key on, at 12:05 PM yesterday immediately after he took office.  It is the official White House website, and if you look at the following links, you will see…
  • Measurable results shared with Americans.
  • Clarity in the work to be done.
  • Simplicity in communication.
  • A partnership with the people.


Some questions for you, as a management team:

  1. What could Riding Mountain National Park share in some kind of similar format (see links below) with its stakeholders as simple goals and results that they would like to achieve?
  2. Can you communicate this to everyone?  Where?  How?  How can you do this in a sustainable manner – that is using the Internet rather than mass mailings and lots of paper?
  3. How can we, as local stakeholders become involved, initiate, or contribute to these goals?

The Links
White House Energy and Environment Agenda

White House Education Agenda

White House Economy Agenda

White House Health Care Agenda

Building the Canadian Budget – What Canada Needs

The National Post yesterday revealed feedback from a number of top Canadians about the fiscal blue-print that we need, in the lead-up to next week’s Canadian budget announcements.  I hope that we take a page from the US in terms of finding every possible way to have our government political parties work together on behalf of Canadians, instead of attacking each other in defense of partisan self-interests.    A number of leaders – David Suzuki, David Miller, and others offer some sound advice.  Read their suggestions.

The power of experience

From todays’ Winnipeg Free Press, an article by Nafeesa Syeed with the Associated Press shares the mood on the mall in Washington, D.C. and a story about the many people who have come to be part of the experience of  the inauguration of President Barack Obama, an historical event.  A small quote at the end of the article captures for me, the power of experience and why experiences are the “real stuff” of what we desire in travel today…

“World history teacher Calvin Adams of Arlington, Va., said he got up extra early so he could witness history being made first-hand and teach it to his classes. “Eventually I’ll teach American history,” said Adams, 23. “I’ll say, ‘This is how it works because I’ve been there, I’ve seen it.”‘ 

This is the power of experience, and what makes experiences authentic, memorable, and the real “take back” potential for good quality travel in which connections are made, emotions are felt, and transformation takes place.  There is something incredibly powerful about this, and it carries the weight of responsibility with it – the need for us as tourism operators to develop quality experiences that are the very best that they can be.