Tuesday, 24 February 2009
The final two installments of the four-part "Field Notes of an Accidental Eco-Tourist" are both now online over at Worldchanging.

Part 3 talks a lot about the finest meal to be had on Costa Rica's Pacific coast, which also happens to be a sterling example of sustainable eating.

Part 4 is about some books I read on vacation. Books about how not to win hearts and minds.
02/24/2009 23:10:34 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
 Monday, 19 January 2009
The first chapter of a three-and-a-half part series on recent travels in Costa Rica - which I'm calling "Field Notes of an Accidental Eco-Tourist" - is now posted at Worldchanging.com.

This first one is kind of a broad overview of the eco-tourist scene; future chapters will look at the Central American aftershocks of America's housing bubble and the emergence of a truly sustainable tourist economy on one quiet stretch of the Costa Rican coast.

Update: Part Two of " Field Notes of an Accidental Eco-Tourist" is up at Worldchanging.

01/19/2009 20:27:07 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
 Wednesday, 14 January 2009
So it's not quite a Daily Show-esque "senior energy analyst" credit - not yet - but keen-eyed readers of the Edmonton Journal (is there any other kind of reader of the Edmonton Journal? I'd say Oiler fans, but we know they don't read too good) . . . ahem . . . keen-eyed readers of the Edmonton Journal will notice I'm quoted at the bottom of an article about a new Pembina Institute report recommending my home province switch from coal to renewables inside 20 years.

Snoopy is the world famous beagle.
(See bottom of post for further context.)

It always amazes me what sticks from one of these things where the reporter calls you at 7pm while you're wiping noodles off your kid's forehead and you babble semi-coherently for 45 minutes in about 20 directions at once, and then the next morning it sounds like you calmly noted the German experience in switching to renewables and warned readers to be wary of vested interests in the energy industry. Before retiring to the den with your pipe and slippers to read a little Proust before bedtime, surely.

Anyway, the real gem in that story is this line from the spokesman for Alberta energy giant Epcor, which holds the No. 7 spot on the list of Canada's biggest corporate emitters of greenhouse gases:

And given our push for environmental, cleaner power, we're looking at developing opportunities to utilize that resource in a way that reduces the environmental footprint.

Read it twice. Read it three dozen times. It won't get any clearer. Here's a sort of schematic to help you parse it. When he says " that resource"? He means coal. When he says "utilize" ? Burn. "Environmental" and "cleaner" ? A formidable buzzword bingo entry, but it could've used a random, utterly hollow "green" or "sustainable" for greater impact. (Or rather it would impact readers more proactively if he'd utilized key terminology from the vision statement.) "A way that reduces the environmental footprint" ? Magic clean coal pixie dust (still in development). "Our push" ? Our reluctant acceptance of scientific reality and consumer demand, which has thus far manifested itself mainly in empty, newspeaky platitudes like this one.

Still, full credit to Journal reporter Hanneke Brooymans - she did a far more thorough job than my local rag does at presenting the full case for renewables.

And while we're on the topic, I should note that the Edmonton Journal is responsible for my first professional publication. When I was 12 years old and living in Cold Lake (300 km northeast of Edmonton and aptly named), the Journal used to publish a reader-drawn cartoon on the front page of their Sunday Comics section. I drew one of Snoopy dressed as the Red Baron, holding aloft a bullet-ridden copy of the Journal and bellowing, "Curses, Red Baron! Now I can't read my Edmonton Journal Comics!" Or words to that effect. Below the cartoon, they ran my Grade 7 school photo, in which I looked like quite the cleancut, bright-eyed youth. I believe the sort of bio that ran alongside noted my enthusiasm for the heavy metal music of Iron Maiden and Twisted Sister. Damn, wish I had a scan of that clipping, it was a beaut.)

(Props to John Hodgman for inspiring this post's title, and props to my old pal Jason Lapeyre for showing me a picture of an ultra-hip Tokyo teen he once took in which said teen was wearing a t-shirt which read, in giant letters, " Snoopy is the world famous beagle." No need to parse that - it is unassailably true.)
01/14/2009 10:52:51 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
 Monday, 12 January 2009
The Mystery of the Sudden Re-Appearance on Amazon's Bestseller List (which, incidentally, would make a really very dull Hardy Boys book) has been solved!

My sleuthing began with a voicemail from my sister-in-law around New Year's (which I didn't get around to listening to until last week), notifying me she just heard me on CBC Radio. Funny, I thought, I don't remember . . . oh -- ohhhhhhhhhhh . . . riiiiiiiiiiight . . . that interview . . .

See, back in November, I was in Toronto for a sort of publicity/public service event set up by my publisher called "Talking About the Planet." It was sort of a serial lecture series, beginning with Ecoholic author Adria Vasil, then the dynamic duo of J.B. Mackinnon and Alisa Smith (of 100 Mile Diet fame), then me, then Thomas Homer-Dixon batting clean-up. Really a crazily informative afternoon - I've been borrowing talking points from my fellow panelists in my lectures and private conversations since - and it was hosted and moderated by Carol Off. She mentioned almost in passing that some portion of it would be spliced together for a later episode or three of As It Happens, CBC's justly beloved nightly current affairs institution.

The edited segment featuring my spiel aired on the night of December 30, directly precipitating my weeklong return to the top heights of Amazon's Current Affairs list. Never ceases to amaze me just how influential CBC Radio is on Canada's reading public.

With the incomparable thrill of hearing Barbara Budd intone my name, I've now completed the full CBC cycle: Sounds Like Canada and The Arts Tonight during my Planet Simpson tour, The Current and As It Happens for The Geography of Hope. If I can just get Stuart McLean to mention me in passing while he's introducing his backing band and/or Rex Murphy to feign blustering offense at something I've written, I believe I get a free CBC Radio hoodie.

You can listen to the whole broadcast here (click on Part 3 for my spiel, just after an interesting discussion of free eyewear for the developing world).

And for the record, it would appear the As It Happens Bump is roughly one week in length; my book's back to kicking around various four-digit numbers on the Amazon.ca rankings these days.

01/12/2009 10:43:30 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
 Friday, 02 January 2009
There are few blessings more mixed in the contemporary writer's life than Amazon rankings. On the one hand, you can check on the sales of your book hour to hour. On the other hand, you can check on the sales of your book hour to hour . . . and then wonder what it means that it fell 14,263 places in just one afternoon. Where'd everybody go? Was it something you said?

Like any recovering junkie, I do my best to stay away from the Amazon-ranking smack except right around book-release time. (My first book, Planet Simpson, briefly resided simultaneously in the Top 50 in the US, UK and Canada and even had a blinking stay in the Canadian Top 10, and it's tough not to get hooked on that kinda drug . . .) Still, I do check in every now and then out of morbid curiosity. (Is #8,229 a lot less sales than #4,910, or is that just like one less over the past week or something?)

So imagine my surprise, this bright New Year's Day, to find this little greeting at Amazon.ca:

We're No. 1 (in Current Events)! We're No. 44 (overall)!

As far as I know, nothing significant happened between, say, mid-December's ranking in the mid-four digits and January first. I conducted no interviews, appeared on no Oprahs, didn't even click on that byzantine "Improve Your Sales" link right there at Amazon. And yet there it is: Back in the Top 50 on New Year's Day!

I'm liking this whole 2009 thing quite a lot so far.
01/02/2009 14:15:59 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
 Monday, 08 December 2008
I've always thought magazines make great stocking stuffers, and I can't recommend the December issue of Fast Company more highly, as it contains a feature story of mine on the state of the global solar industry, eight months in the making, called " Solar Goes Supernova."

Obviously I'm biased, but the editorial crew at Fast Company is among the best I've had the pleasure to work with since my early days at Shift. They really like writers (some in the biz don't, much, in my experience) and they're at ease with the hazy hunches and high-risk notions that produce really good feature writing. And they don't blink or flinch when you turn in a 9,000-word draft for a 4,000-word assignment. The final story ran somewhere in between, and I'm about as pleased with the final result as I've ever been with a magazine feature.

Meanwhile, over at The Walrus, there's a shorter piece on the genius of Germany's green energy regime that emerged from some of the same research. Also worth a read.

And here's the latest riff over at Worldchanging.

12/08/2008 11:24:48 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
 Tuesday, 18 November 2008
. . . not me.

The 2008 Governor General's Award for Nonfiction has been awarded to Christie Blatchford for Fifteen Days.

I'll be honest: I didn't think I was going to win. I'll be even more honest: I really didn't think that was the book I'd lose to. As a much greater writer than any of us on that shortlist liked to say: So it goes.

11/18/2008 22:37:02 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
 Monday, 10 November 2008
After a bit of delay - for the best, since it'd surely have been lost in the Obamania - my new weekly column is now up and running at Worldchanging.com.

Here's the first installment, which is mainly about my recent research trip to Silicon Valley & San Francisco.

Worldchanging, for those who've not yet stumbled on it, is one of the web's half-dozen or so most well-executed and well-trafficked green/sustainability blogs. It's an honour to join their contributor roster, and I'm looking forward to a long and fruitful relationship with Alex and his team of passionate Worldchangers!

11/10/2008 18:05:29 (Mountain Standard Time, UTC-07:00)
 Tuesday, 21 October 2008
So the nominees for the Governor General's Literary Awards were announced today, and to my considerable surprise The Geography of Hope is on the nonfiction shortlist!

Here's the full citation:

Chris Turner brings his perspective as a young parent to this vision of how the future might unfold if we pay attention to ingenuity, invention and audacity in design and urban planning. Turner’s exuberance and superb journalistic instincts make this book on climate change unique.

The winners will be announced on Tuesday, November 18. There's no ceremony - too many nominees to fly us all to Ottawa, I guess - but apparently if you win they tell you ahead of time and maybe then you get to lounge about Rideau Hall for a little while.

Rideau Hall, official residence of the Governor General of Canada, ca. 1900

I've actually been to Rideau Hall as a guest once before - back around Christmas 2001, I think it was, when I was working for Time Magazine. The Governor General (Adrienne Clarkson at the time) has an annual press banquet, which in addition to a ridiculously Canadiana-rich multicourse dinner included skating and dogsledding and other wintery activities on the estate's generous grounds.

I used to play hockey on natural-ice rinks in small-town Alberta and Saskatchewan, which is the only reason why dogsledding around Rideau Hall stands as just the second most Canadian thing I've ever done.

Bonne chance, la, to all the nominees, in any case.

Globe & Mail readers might've noticed this in their morning paper today . . .

" The two non-Doubleday non-fiction finalists are Globe and Mail freelance columnist Chris Turner Nelson of Calgary for The Geography of Hope: A Tour of the World We Need (Random House) and another Albertan, Sid Marty of Lundbreck, for The Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek."

They might've wondered who this Nelson fellow was, might've reckoned it was a copy-editing oversight, and might've wondered further whether properly citing the name of one of their own damn contributors was really beyond the copy-editing abilities of the paper's arts section. It apparently was.
10/21/2008 10:41:37 (Mountain Daylight Time, UTC-06:00)
 Thursday, 18 September 2008
Savvy readers will notice that TGOH's online HQ has been eerily silent since May. Blame it on the incessant traveling (Europe, Australia, the interior of BC, now southern Ontario and New York), the pile of new periodical work, the August working holiday deep in the interior of BC, or sheer laziness, but in any case way too much has happened to ever properly update in this space. Plus also the longstanding plan to revamp this space significantly (including a removal of the "Forthcoming" header above) looks like it'll finally be underway this fall. Maybe.

Anyway and in the meantime, here's the latest:

1) Inquiries about speaking engagements (which seem to be in abundant supply around here lately) should be directed to my speaking agent, the National Speakers Bureau

2) I'll be launching a weekly column over at Worldchanging in October, which will probably exhaust much of my blogging energy

3) Look for feature writing by yours truly on the future of the solar industry (Fast Company, November issue, forthcoming), the impact of Norway's carbon tax (Canadian Geographic, October issue, out now), the folly of Alberta's proposed nuclear power plant (Alberta Views, Oct/Nov I think) and Germany's groundbreaking feed-in tariff (The Walrus, forthcoming, probably January 09).

09/18/2008 11:53:55 (Mountain Daylight Time, UTC-06:00)
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