When U of T doctoral student Jordan Poppenk searched for an environmental radio show after arriving in Toronto, he found the dial empty. Having worked on an environmental program while an undergrad at the University of Western Ontario, Poppenk decided to launch his own. U of T campus radio station CIUT was impressed with his ambitious pitch, and his newsmagazine, The Green Majority, debuted on September 29, 2006.
The program – which airs Fridays at 10 a.m. – has since attracted such high-profile guests as Green Party leader Elizabeth May, NDP leader Jack Layton and industrial-landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky. Along with features, interviews and a roundup of environmental news, the show follows stories largely ignored by mainstream media. One example is the proposed landfill near Tiny Township, Ontario, which would sit on top of one of the world’s cleanest aquifers (comparable in purity to 4,000-year-old Arctic ice samples).
Poppenk not only wants to inform his audience, but connect listeners with one another. “One of the program’s goals is to provide some kind of unity between different environmental groups,” he says. “There is a lack of cohesion among them.They’re doing great work but if they put their efforts together, they’d do much better.”
Poppenk, a second-year PhD student in psychology, doesn’t aspire to a full-time environmental position; he’d prefer to emulate linguist and political activist Noam Chomsky, who works as a full-time researcher and part-time pundit. “I think the healthiest way to make environmental change happen is participating in it with other things on the go,” Poppenk says, which fits with the show’s mission to be informative without being preachy.
Although The Green Majority has featured a wide variety of guests, University of Toronto researchers show up in the visitor’s chair with remarkable frequency. Poppenk says it’s a result of the university’s leadership in environmental research. “It’s not that we’re specifically looking for U of T professors,” he says. “It’s just that when we’re working on a particular issue, we look at the prominent names that come up and they happen to be from U of T – which certainly makes it easier for us.”