Friday, September 23, 2011

Atlas of Rural and Small-Town America

The United States Department of Agriculture's Economic Research Service (ERS)

"promotes the well-being of rural America through research and analysis to better understand the economic, demographic, environmental, and social forces affecting rural regions and communities."

Part of this work includes the creation of this remarkable atlas, which provides a
"spatial interpretation of county-level, economic and social conditions along four dimensions: people, jobs, agriculture, and county classifications."

The atlas allows users to view county-level maps for over 60 socioeconomic indicators via the interactive map here.

It is quite easy to use, and there's also a pop-up box for each county that provides easy access to additional demographic information.

Visitors can also download the data sets for each indicator from the "Download the Data" tab. [KMG]

>From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994-2011.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The business case for investing in Canada's remote communities

photo credit: Tovver via Flickr
ST. JOHN'S, September 19, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - Perrin Beatty, President and Chief Executive Officer, The Canadian Chamber of Commerce, and Elyse Allan, President and Chief Executive Officer, GE Canada, and Chair of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, released this morning a report entitled :The Business Case for Investing in Canada's Remote Communities at the Canadian Chamber of Commerce's Annual General Meeting in St-john's, Newfoundland and Labrador.

As Canada seeks to strengthen its position as a competitive nation in an increasingly global economy, GE Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Chamber of Commerce, undertook the initiative to place a business lens on the economic opportunities, challenges, best practices and business investment intentions in remote communities. During the first half of 2011, GE Canada sought the perspectives of businesspeople through roundtables in communities across Canada and an on online survey. At the same time, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce consulted with several of its members and other stakeholders.

"Canadians have to start looking at our remote communities differently", stated Perrin Beatty, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce. "Our collective economic wellbeing and our international competitiveness could well depend upon the public policies adopted today that leverage the economic possibilities of many of these communities and their potential to contribute to our nation's wealth".

"Canada's remote communities can pack a powerful economic punch. There is great optimism. Business investment combined with progressive public policy will unleash significant opportunities for remote communities and for Canada as a nation." said Elyse Allan.


If all Canadians are to fully benefit from the potential of our remote communities, the federal government must take the lead in developing a long-term strategy that paves the way for remote communities to reap the rewards of economic development. While this long-term work is underway, the Canadian Chamber proposes more immediate measures the federal government—working alone, with the provinces/territories and/or with business—can take to create the policy environment needed to encourage private sector investment in remote communities.

This policy environment needs to include the following:

...skills and training programs flexible enough to accommodate the economic realities of individual communities and the alternate training models that may be required to deliver effective results in partnership with business whenever possible;

...effective transition support for those leaving remote communities to pursue studies in urban centres; to allow Canadian businesses and stakeholders in remote communities to familiarize themselves with each others' business practices, governments, agencies, laws and regulations;

...a reduction in business' regulatory burden by adopting a standardized "one project-one assessment approach" that harmonizes federal and provincial/territorial statutes and regulations;

...looking to the possibilities associated with extending broadband telecommunications to remote regions—and business models for delivering the services associated with them—as a model for engaging the private sector in other types of infrastructure construction and services delivery. This includes the government acting as a lead user and creator of demand;

...assisting stakeholders to pool their resources to address infrastructure gaps through using online tools, pilot projects and considering commercial applications for public infrastructure projects; and

...addressing the "investment vs. subsidy dilemma" for investing in remote communities. There is the perception that public dollars used to improve infrastructure in remote communities are subsidies.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is the vital connection between business and the federal government. It helps shape public policy and decision-making to the benefit of businesses, communities and families across Canada with a network of over 420 chambers of commerce and boards of trade, representing 192,000 businesses of all sizes in all sectors of the economy and in all regions. News and information are available at

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

A new smart phone application developed by U of G researchers makes its debut at Canada’s Outdoor Farm Show in Woodstock

photo credit: redrhinolondon via Flickr

GUELPH, Ontario September 13, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release - Farmers can use the app – Aphid Advisor – to decide whether or not to use insecticide to control aphids on soybeans, based on numbers of aphids and their natural enemies.

The app was developed by Prof. Rebecca Hallett, School of Environmental Sciences (SES); Tracey Baute, a field crop entomologist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA); and Christie Bahlai, a U of G grad student in environmental biology. It’s based on research conducted in SES and the Department of Plant Agriculture.

As night-time temperatures cooled in late August, the number of soybean aphids (Aphis glycines) in eastern Ontario rapidly increased and was also expected to rise in central and southern Ontario. Without enough lady beetle predators, soybean aphids can overwhelm plants, causing premature flower drop, stunted stems and fewer seeds. Prolonged exposure to high pest densities can seriously lower crop yields.

Said Hallett,

“The soybean aphid is an alien invasive insect that can take an economic toll on soybean farming, but most soybean agro-ecosystems in Ontario have a rich abundance of natural enemies that can reduce aphid population growth.

“Aphid Advisor helps raise awareness of the powerful role that beneficial insects, such as predatory beetles and parasitic wasps, can have in controlling soybean aphid populations. The app may help to reduce or even eliminate insecticide applications for soybean aphid control.”

In the field, farmers can use the app’s high-quality photographs to help identify natural aphid enemies.

Information and demonstrations of the Aphid Advisor will be available at COFS. Canada’s largest agricultural trade show will open Tuesday.

Now undergoing final testing, Aphid Advisor is currently available only for the BlackBerry.

Hallett plans to adapt the app for other devices.

“It's very exciting to see a piece of research through from the lab and field into the hands of end users in this way,” she said. “In the next phase of development, we hope to include site-specific temperature forecasts, which will give a more accurate picture of how aphid populations might change and would also allow the app to be used in areas outside of southern Ontario.”

The research was funded by the Agri-Food and Rural Link. The app was programmed by Agnition, a local company in mobile farming applications. The pilot version of the app is now available for BlackBerry devices (OS 5 or higher) and can be downloaded free at

COFS brings together industry partners that are enthusiastic about opportunities to work with the Ontario Agricultural College (OAC) faculty and students. At COFS, the OAC will offer an introduction to recent initiatives. Teachers and prospective students interested in agriculture and food issues are invited to visit the OAC exhibit.

Known as the nation’s premier outdoor agricultural trade show, COFs, which runs through Sept. 15 at Canada’s Outdoor Park, features 715 exhibitors showcasing the latest agricultural products and services. More information about COFS is available online.

Watch the COFS 2011 video...

LEED Gold Certification Awarded: Walkerton Clean Water Centre

Walkerton Clean Water Centre (WCWC) excels in LEED building assessment.

WALKERTON, Ontario, September 13, 2011 /Canada NewsWire/ - WCWC staff and board of directors are celebrating a recent Certified LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Gold designation, a goal they have been striving for since the facility opened in June 2010. LEED is an international third-party building assessment system administered in Canada by the Canada Green Building Council.

"The new Walkerton Clean Water Centre is one of the most environmentally conscious buildings in Bruce County. We have lower energy and water costs, and better lighting and air quality than a regular building. Our purpose is to serve the Ontario water sector from our exceptional new headquarters in Walkerton." - Dr. Laurence F. (Larry) Moore, Chief Executive Officer, WCWC.

The new facility has surpassed the amount of points required for the Certified LEED Gold designation by meeting or exceeding each credit's technical requirements. During construction recyclable and reusable materials were separated from waste at the site, diverting 73 per cent of waste from the landfill. An approximate 9,950 square metres as designated open green space protects the land from future development. Bike racks, prime carpooling and hybrid vehicle parking spots have been included in the project.

The interior of the building meets all water-related LEED credits and is predicted to use 78 per cent less indoor water than a conventional building. The water conservation credits were met by making use of in-ground cisterns to collect water for re-use in the irrigation system. Energy-saving devices include a ground source heat pump and a solar hot water heater. Occupancy sensors activate lighting only in occupied areas or in insufficient daylight. WCWC uses exclusively EcoLogo certified products as part of the new housekeeping program. Indoor air quality is a top priority of WCWC, achieving all air quality credits available under LEED for such initiatives as using only low-VOC (volatile organic compound) sealants, adhesives and paint.

"The new building has great air quality, which has improved my productivity, general health and well-being." - Linda Cranston, Technology Demonstration & Research Administrative Assistant.


The Walkerton Clean Water Centre (WCWC) is an agency of the Government of Ontario, in existence for the sole purpose of safeguarding and protecting Ontario's drinking water by providing operator training, practical research, technology demonstration and support for the development of new technologies and services. Hands-on training on operation and maintenance of water treatment, monitoring and distribution equipment is available to owners, operators, researchers and students of Ontario's drinking water systems, including those serving small, remote and First Nations systems. Since its inception in 2004, the WCWC has trained more than 30,000 participants.

The modern new facility increases WCWC's training capacity with two more training rooms and a larger area for hands-on training and technology demonstration. The facility opened in June 2010, achieving Certified LEED Gold designation by the Canada Green Building Council in August 2011.

For more information visit

Saturday, September 10, 2011

8 Ways to Save Energy While Working from Home

Photo credit: dierken via Flickr CC

by Jaymi Heimbuch, San Francisco, California

Think lists of how to save energy is so 2007? Well, with more and more people working from home, we think it's time to dust off a few trusty tricks for curbing electricity consumption without curbing productivity. Working from home has been shown to have its environmental benefits, from reducing road congestion to cutting down on office building energy consumption -- but there's a lot you can do to make it even more green and reduce your energy bill. Here are eight easy places to start.

1. Open The Curtains

There's no need for wasting energy on desk lamps or overhead lights if you're getting enough natural light. Choose the brightest room in the apartment or house in which to work, and keep the curtains open to let the light pour in. It can brighten both the room and possibly your productivity since natural light is known to boost one's mood.

2. Unplug

Productivity is highest when you're not distracted, and that goes for blinking lights, ringing phones, and blaring television sets. When working from home, unplug everything you're not using right then for work, including printers, gadget chargers, extra computers or monitors and so on. You'll cut down on vampire energy wasted on wall warts, energy sapped by electronics on standby, or electricity sucked up by electronics you aren't really focused on.

3. Work From Cafes

Another way to save money on electricity and avoid getting cabin fever is to go work from a cafe or other location. Spending $5 on coffee and a bagel can get you a good two, maybe even three hours of plugging in from a pleasant location where you can take a mental break by people watching for five minutes every so often. You might not save a lot of money in the long run, but you'll get food, drinks and atmosphere instead of just an electricity bill.

4. Work Smarter Hours, Not Longer Hours

Perhaps the most direct way to save electricity while working from home is to cut down on the number of hours you're on the computer. By honing your work day and cutting down on time spent wasted on social media sites or surfing the web because you're procrastinating, you can potentially free yourself from the computer earlier in the day. If you're able to get your work completed in six hours instead of eight, you can hop off the computer and head outside, saving the amount of energy you would have gobbled up in that last hour or two.

5. Plug Into Smart Devices

Okay, say you don't want to unplug everything you're not using, and you're not likely to cut back your working hours. The next best solution is to use a device to manage the flow of electricity to electronics, and cut the supply when not needed. TrickleStar, for example, has products that regulate energy going to particular devices so that you can use your computer but cut standby power going to your printer. You can use this for your work equipment as well as devices elsewhere in your home. You can also try out a power monitor to find out which devices are costing you the most and figure out usage patterns that can help you save.

6. Use Energy Efficient Equipment

Are you using monitors that suck up electricity like nobody's business? Or maybe you're using a browser on your laptop that's known to suck up the electricity? You might want to make a trade-in on your gear or software. If you're looking for new equipment with lower energy consumption, check out buy-back companies that sell used and refurbished equipment. It's both cheaper and greener.

7. Set Up Your Computer for Energy Savings

Your computer has a ton of built-in settings for saving energy. By checking your settings and making a few tweaks you can save just a bit more on your electricity bill. If you set things up right, you might even be able to unplug your laptop forever!

8. Minimize Your Gadgets

Without sacrificing ergonomics, you can minimize how many electronics you're using, from extra monitors to wireless keyboards. Think about what you absolutely need for your set-up, and give away or store those electronic devices you don't really need to have plugged in. Gadget minimalists can save a ton of electricity without trying hard.

Bonus Tip: Sign Up for Renewable Energy

Okay so this won't necessarily save you any electricity, but it will help cut your carbon footprint. Sign up for renewable energy from your utility to ensure that energy entering your home is from renewable sources as much as possible. This way what electricity you do use has the lowest environmental impact.

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Friday, September 2, 2011

Canada Foundation for Innovation Invests in U of G Research, Innovation

GUELPH, Ontario September 01, 2011 - University of Guelph News Release

Researchers at the University of Guelph who are striving to find solutions for some of today’s pressing global issues — biodiversity conservation, clean water, physical and mental health ailments — have received nearly $700,000 from the Canada Foundation for Innovation.

The investment, announced today by Gary Goodyear, minister of state (science and technology), and CFI president and CEO Gilles Patry, will support scientists using DNA barcoding technology to better understand and mitigate the effects of climate change and human impacts on the arctic, tropical and temperate environments.

It will also assist psychology professors examining how the Internet influences teens who engage in self-injury, engineers developing new wastewater treatments, and food scientists creating products to improve human health.

“University of Guelph researchers are setting the bar when it comes to innovations and discoveries that will help fill knowledge gaps, which are adversely affecting human and environmental health,” said Kevin Hall, vice-president (research).

“Not only will these projects result in significant advancements in the fields of ecology, food science, engineering and psychology, but they will also link research outcomes to practical applications, improving everyday life for Canadians.”

The funding comes from CFI’s Leaders Opportunity Fund (LOF), intended to allow Canadian universities to attract and retain leading faculty and researchers. LOF recipients apply for matching funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation.

Integrative biology professors Sarah Adamowicz, Mehrdad Hajibabaei and Alex Smith received $375,000 to purchase state-of-the art equipment to support their collaborative research program in biodiversity science.

Using genetic tools, the trio is surveying biodiversity and conducting ecological and evolutionary research in the Canadian Arctic, in Algonquin Provincial Park, Wood Buffalo National Park and other Canadian parks, and in the Area de Conservacion in Guanacaste, Costa Rica.

The goal is to quantify the extent, structure, interactions and future of biodiversity in all of the regions, and compare patterns across groups and locations. The new knowledge gained will enhance technology development and help protect the arctic, forest and tropical ecosystems.

“Our research is a combination of classical and next-generation biodiversity science,” Smith said. “We are all honoured to receive this support from CFI and the Canadian and Ontario governments.”

Hajibabaei added:
“The infrastructure provided for in this grant is a critical part of maintaining research readiness for the influx of students, collaborators and projects that we are growing and sponsoring at U of G. It will be key to maintaining our position at the forefront of the field of biodiversity science.”

All three professors are connected to the Guelph-based Biodiversity Institute of Ontario (BIO), which is the scientific hub for the International Barcode of Life (iBOL) project. It involves 200 researchers from 26 countries creating a barcode reference library for all life and developing new technologies to access and applying DNA barcoding.

Psychology professor Stephen Lewis will use his nearly $65,000 grant to support his research into non-suicidal self-injury (NSSI) among teenagers. He’s looking at the nature and impact of NSSI material online and is creating a research program to help youth who engage in this activity and those with other mental health issues.

Prof. Sheng Chang received more than $124,000 to build a process lab in the School of Engineering. He’s working to develop advanced membrane bioreactor technologies for biological wastewater treatment, water reclamation and energy recovery.

Food science professor Lisa Duizer will use her $124,000 grant for equipment in her sensory evaluation laboratory. Here she studies flavours and tastes of food products to better understanding the effects of ingredient manipulation and substitution on sensory quality. This includes creating and testing new health products.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Lab Grown Meat Just 6 Months Away, Scientists Say

Fresh--from the lab? Photo: Fabrice de Nola via Flickr/CC BY-SA

by Brian Merchant, Brooklyn, New York

It's long been an electrifying possibility: Red meat without the environmental drawbacks. Meat without animal cruelty. Meat without industrial scale cattle ranches, without the vast drain on resources required to raise millions of cows. Meat without the forestland razed for grazing room, without the methane emissions.

In an attempt to bring about such a world, researchers have been diligently pursuing laboratory-grown meat for years. Supermarkets are in line to sell it. And evidently, a breakthrough is near: some scientists speculate that we might see the first lab-grown sausage arrive in just six months. Six months after that -- a hamburger.

So sayeth some of the field's leading researchers, including Mark Post, of Maastricht University in the Netherlands. The New Scientist reports that

"Post has experimented mainly with pig cells and has recently developed a way to grow muscle under lab conditions - by feeding pig stem cells with horse fetal serum. He has produced muscle-like strips, each 2.5 centimetres long and 0.7 centimetres wide."

Mmmmmm. Horse fetal serum probably tastes just like barbeque sauce.

The lab-grown meat feels and behaves a lot like regular meat -- in part because Post actually manually exercises the synthetic tissue. With Velcro. Seriously. Here's the New Scientist again:
"Post makes sure his tissue strips receive daily exercise to give them the same constitution as real muscle. He anchors them onto Velcro before stretching the cells away from the surface."

If there's any way to make a scene involving pig stem cells and horse fetal serum sound less appetizing, it's probably tossing in the image of somebody yanking and pulling at the stuff with Velcro. Regardless, Post is growing closer to being satisfied with the results. The lab meat's appearance is still an issue (it looks anemic and whitish) but if he's on to aesthetic concerns, then this stuff is probably more than ready for McDonald's.

And there are real-world reasons to be rooting for the rise of lab meat -- it requires much less water to make lab meat than real meat (cows and pigs consume prodigious amounts of feed, which must be grown as crops), and 99% less land. It's much more efficient to just grow the meat you'll eat, and not raise entire animals for the slaughter. By some counts, it could reduce harmful emissions by a stunning 96%. Sure, there will be an endless well of health questions to be answered, and anyone distrustful of GMOs will surely be skeptical of lab burgers. But if we could feasibly replace industrial scale cattle farming with industrial scale laboratory meat manufacturing, it would almost certainly be a net gain to both society and the global environment.

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