Uncategorised

  • BLYTHE, DAIGLE AND BAIRD: The meaning of environmental words matters in the age of ‘fake news’

    Jessica Blythe, Assistant Professor in Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Christine Daigle, Professor of Philosophy, and Julia Baird, Assistant Professor and Canada Research Chair in Human Dimensions of Water Resources and Water Resilience, co-wrote a piece recently published in the National Post about the misuse and misinterpretation of environmental words.

    Blythe, Daigle and Baird write:

    This week, U.S. President Donald Trump gave a live address on prime-time television where he repeatedly used the words “violent,” “illegal aliens” and “crisis” to arouse public fear. While Trump’s speech was based largely on fallacies, his fear-mongering shapes the national tone and can generate real-world impacts.

    Words matter because they wield power. Words shape our thinking about the world and, in turn, the actions we take. The meaning of words has never been more relevant than now — in the era of “fake news” — when so-called alternative facts abound.

    Environmental words can also be misinterpreted or misused. In the most sinister cases, language can be put to work to promote particular agendas and silence others.

    Remember “beautiful clean coal?” The Trump administration used the term as the backbone for the continued development of the fossil fuel industry. At the same time, it systematically removed the words “climate change” from federal websites, a measure aimed at undermining climate action.

    Power can be expressed through environmental buzzwords. They are used to influence policy direction, funding and produce norms that become entrenched in their meaning around the world. Motivated by this idea, our recent research explores the meaning of three environmental buzzwords — resilience, sustainability and transformation. Meaning influences the way we understand environmental problems and shapes the solutions we prioritize — or don’t.

    Continue reading the full article here.

    Article originally published in The Brock News

  • We Can All Be Washroom Warriors

    Blog Contributor: Shelby McFadden

    Dual Flush Toilet Handle

    We all visit the washrooms while on campus, but how often do we pay attention to the environmental impact we’re having during these short visits? In 2016’s waste audit, washrooms were the fifth largest generator of solid waste on campus. Paper towel made up most of the waste, and while Brock has reduced this impact by removing paper towels from many of the washrooms, there are a few washrooms where they still remain. Instead of using paper towel or toilet paper to dry your hands, take a few extra seconds to take advantage of the hand dryers.

    A lot of organics are also thrown out in the washrooms, which is an issue we still need to work on. Rather than putting all your waste in a single garbage bin, make your way out of the washrooms to an area on campus that provides bins for recyclables and organics.

    Another common wasted resource in the washrooms is water. While water use is inevitable, we should all do our part to minimize the amount of water we use. This can be as simple as making sure to turn taps off all the way after washing your hands. Many of the toilets and urinals on campus now have low flow flushers, where you can either push the switch up or pull it down depending on how much water you need. This technology can help save water, but only if we take the time to use it properly. Take an extra second to read the instructions before flushing in order to reduce your footprint.

    These actions may seem small, but small actions can create big change. Let’s be creative and proactive, and do what we can in all areas of campus to be more sustainable.

    Categories: Blog, Innovative Partnership, SSAS Student Contributor, Sustainability at Brock, Uncategorised

  • Brock researchers to introduce coastal research project to Lincoln residents and stakeholders

    A research project examining how coastal communities can deal with the impacts of climate change will formally launch in the Town of Lincoln this week.

    The town suffered around $1 million in damage as a result of back-to-back spring storms in 2017 that caused massive flooding from Lake Ontario. Announced in May, Brock University Professor and UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability Liette Vasseur is leading a three-year research study that will focus on Lincoln as the Ontario component of a wider project by Université du Québec à Rimouski.

    The Town of Lincoln sustained nearly $1 million in damage from spring storms in 2017.

    The local research is being funded through a $280,000 grant from the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR) with additional support from the Town of Lincoln and Brock.

    The Lincoln research will officially be launched on Thursday, Nov. 29 from 6:30 to 8 p.m. in the Fleming Centre in Beamsville. Interested residents and landowners will be able to meet Vasseur and her research team and learn more about how they can participate in the project. There will also be a short discussion to learn more about the experiences of those in attendance around climate change and extreme weather events in the town.

    “Our strong partnership with Brock enables these types of on-the-ground research opportunities, informing and providing evidence-based decisions for our community,” said Town of Lincoln CAO Michael Kirkopoulos.

    Vasseur said she hopes the end result of the research will be sustainable options for the future such as how to help slow down and prevent shoreline erosion or any other impacts on the town.

    “With this project, we want to help the community and the town contribute to solutions and strategies to adapt to climate change,” she said.

    What: MEOPAR Town of Lincoln Research Project Launch

    When: Thursday, Nov. 29, 6:30 to 8 p.m.

    Where: Fleming Centre, Room A, 5020 Serena Dr., Beamsville

    Who: Open to all

     

    Story originally published in The Brock News.

  • Researcher offers words of encouragement on Fall Convocation day

  • Fair Trade Campus!

    Blog Contributor: Kaitlin James

    Did you know that Brock University is a Fair-Trade Campus? Brock became Canada’s sixth Fair Trade Campus in 2013 and is the second university in Ontario to be designated by Fairtrade Canada after Guelph.

    In fact, in 2015 Brock was named Fair Trade Campus of the Year.

    So, what is fair trade? Fair trade aims to create a relationship between producers and consumers that is mutually beneficial. It uses support from consumers to influence and drive business towards increased social and environmental sustainability.

    Dining Services at Brock is dedicated to building these relationships by providing fair trade products such as coffee, tea, dairy milk chocolate and Camino products in campus stores and vending machines. They also integrate sustainability into their daily operations by supporting local businesses; providing cage free eggs, buying locally, using recyclable and biodegradable packaging and provide biodegradable take-out containers.

    Every year starting at the end of May until the end of summer, Brock holds a weekly farmers’ market in Jubilee Court every Thursday. This provides students and staff with access to produce, farmers and bakeries, while supporting local vendors and economy.

    As you can see Brock provides various fair-trade products across campus!

    To find out more, check out the Brock website in the link below!

    https://brocku.ca/sustainability/initiatives/fair-trade

  • Brock biologist named President of Canadian Commission for UNESCO

    Liette Vasseur

    Liette Vasseur’s passion for the environment knows no borders, whether she’s examining crops in Ecuador, helping an Ontario town deal with shoreline flooding or co-writing the first international guidelines on ecosystems governance.

    The Brock University biologist has headed up dozens of conservation and research projects throughout the years, working with farmers, government ministers, students, presidents of global organizations and many others while doing so.

    Now her leadership in the field has been taken to a new level, with Vasseur being named President of theCanadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO).

    “Dr. Vasseur’s broad knowledge and experience in such areas as the environment, culture, women and communities here and around the world will be a priceless asset to the Commission, an organization dedicated to building a society of peace, equity and shared knowledge,” Simon Brault, Director and CEO of the Canada Council for the Arts, said June 6 while announcing the two-year appointment.

    CCUNESCO, operating under the Canada Council for the Arts, seeks to connect Canadians to the broader work of the Paris-based UNESCO, whose work “contributes to a peaceful, equitable and sustainable future that leaves no one behind.”

    UNESCO’s more notable initiatives include designating World Heritage Sites, Geoparks and Biosphere Reserves, engaging with youth, encouraging women in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), and promoting reconciliation with Indigenous peoples.

    “I’m quite humbled,” Vasseur said of her appointment. “It is a genuine honour to have been chosen as the new President of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. The Commission does remarkable work in ensuring that UNESCO’s activities have a real impact in Canada and abroad.”

    Vasseur is no stranger to this international stage. In 2014, she was awarded a UNESCO chair for Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, which was renewed this year. 

    Last year, CCUNESCO appointed Vasseur to head up its Sectoral Commission on Natural, Social and Human Sciences, an 11-member group of Canadian scientists, academics and others providing knowledge and expertise on a range of issues. 

    The group is producing reflection papers on topics important to creating a long-range vision of how Canadians and the federal government can implement various actions related to sustainability. These include social and environmental impacts of climate change; conservation of natural heritage and water resources; inclusion of newcomers and vulnerable groups; reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people; youth engagement; and measures to fight discrimination, racism, violence, bullying and radicalization.

    In her new role as President, a major focus will be the enhancement of Indigenous culture and knowledge in many of CCUNESCO’s activities. Other priorities include advocating for women’s involvement in STEM and engaging youth in UNESCO’s various projects and networks, she said. 

    “This appointment demonstrates the high regard in which Professor Vasseur’s research and strong leadership are held, nationally and internationally,” said Brock’s Vice-President, Research Tim Kenyon.

    “It is also emblematic of the commitment of Brock University’s researchers to have their expertise make a powerful difference in the world. Scholars, evidence-based policy makers, and citizens from around the globe are fortunate to have Professor Vasseur serving in this influential role under the auspices of the United Nations.”

    Vasseur, a member of Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre and the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies, covers a range of conservation issues in her work.

    Present and past research projects include: assessing the impacts of climate and environmental changes and examining potential avenues of solutions for future development along the Town of Lincoln’s Lake Ontario shoreline; investigating the roles of biodiversity in agricultural systems in communities in China, Ecuador and Canada; and combining ecological and genomics studies of insect pests such as the diamondback moth and tea green leafhopper in China.

    Vasseur holds a number of high-profile leadership positions, including: Past-President of the Canadian Coalition of Women in Engineering, Science, Trades and Technology; Vice-Chair (North America and Caribbean) of the Commission for Ecosystem Management of the International Union for Conservation of Nature; and lead of the thematic group on Ecosystem Governance.

    Story from The Brock News

  • Congratulations to the Master of Sustainability Class of 2018

    2018 Spring Convocation

    Pictured from left to right: Dr. Gary Pickering, Ashton Govan, Nicholas Fischer, Meghan Birbeck, Gala Muñoz-Carrier, Caitlin Garner, Tyler Prince, and Dr. Marilyne Jollineau.  

    On Tuesday, June 5, 2018, the Sustainability Science and Society (SSAS) graduate program celebrated the graduation of six students.

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre (ESRC) would like to extend congratulations to our newest Master of Sustainability graduates. The 2018 graduating class included: Meghan Birbeck, Caitlin Garner, Ashton Govan, Nicholas Fischer, Gala Muñoz-Carrier, and Tyler Prince.

    The ESRC would also like to congratulate Nicholas Fischer, who was named the 2018 recipient of the Distinguished Graduate Student Award – Sustainability Science and Society for achieving the highest overall average in the program.

    “This diverse group of graduate students is particularly special to me since they were admitted into our program while I was Graduate Program Director of SSAS. I have had a unique opportunity to work with them in a variety of contexts along their journey towards graduation. It was an honour to witness the conferring of their degree of Master of Sustainability earlier this week. Their hard work has had impact on scholarship, the environment, and on different communities in Canada, including the Niagara Region. This is an important milestone in their lives and I am extremely proud of them,” says Dr. Marilyne Jollineau Graduate Program Director of SSAS.

    “I am confident that these individuals will continue to make a positive impact on society and the environment as they pursue their future goals. We wish them all great success in their future endeavours!”

  • Green thumbs needed to grow Brock Community Garden

    In addition to plants, the University is hopeful interest will grow in the Brock Community Garden.

    Brock’s grounds crew is busy tilling the soil, creating new grass aisles and enlarging the 12 garden plots located beside the entrance of the Zone 2 parking lot near Theal House.

    University staff, faculty and students looking to cultivate their green thumb are invited to use one of several free garden plots, assigned on a first-come, first-served basis.

    Six plots are available, with six already claimed. The Rosalind Blauer Centre for Child Care will use two plots for experiential learning; Biological Sciences Professor Liette Vasseur’s research team will use three plots to test different cover crops — plants grown for the protection and enrichment of the soil; and Brock employee Alison Innes (MA ’13) plans to tend one plot for her personal vegetable garden.

    Before learning about the community plots last year, Innes, the social media co-ordinator for the Faculty of Humanities, considered herself a ‘gardener without a garden’ and often resorted to container gardening in her apartment complex.

    “It’s just wonderful to have space to grow things,” she said of the University’s communal greenspace. “It’s easy to stop by the plot at the end of the day and pick some fresh veggies to take home for supper.”

    Last year, Innes grew radishes, lettuce, carrots, chard, cucumber, zucchini, onions, beans and garlic. This year, she looks forward to adding potatoes and trying some heirloom varieties of vegetables such as purple beans. She also has an assortment of herbs and pollinator plants.

    Unfortunately, butterflies and bees aren’t the only animals the plants attract.

    “I joke that the deer and bunnies on campus are really well fed,” she said. “They got all my sunflowers and most of my beans last year. It takes a little creativity to discourage them from munching, but that’s the case wherever you garden.”

    Garden plots are expected to be ready for use after Tuesday, May 22. Water will be available near the garden as well as some tools for sharing. Pesticides are not permitted and annual and non-invasive plants are preferred.

    “I can’t wait to get started,” said Innes. “I find working in the garden really calming and meditative. I like to garden in the evening when it’s a bit cooler and will sometimes see wildlife and birds.”

    Innes encourages first-time gardeners to consider getting a plot.

    “Try it. It’s not as difficult as it might seem, although your garden will need regular care like weeding and watering,” she said. “There are lots of easy-to-grow vegetable like potatoes, beans or summer squash, and lots of great online resources on how to layout your garden. Growing plants from seeds keeps costs down, too.”

    Staff, faculty and students interested in claiming a garden plot are asked to contact Grounds Manager John Dick at jdick@brocku.ca

    Story originally published in The Brock News.

  • Brock-Lincoln Living Lab research project to examine Lake Ontario shoreline flooding

    The flooding of coastal communities along Lake Ontario last year caused major damage and made people realize that century floods aren’t nearly as rare as the name implies.

    A new research collaboration between Brock University and the Town of Lincoln is aimed at helping the community understand how to deal with the impacts of climate and environmental changes and examining potential avenues of solutions for future development along the shore. It’s the first externally funded project as part of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab partnership announced in October 2017.

    Brock UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability Liette Vasseur is leading the three-year research study for the Ontario component of a larger project by Université du Québec à Rimouski, which is examining how various coastal communities can deal with and share ideas on the impacts of climate and environmental changes.

    Brock UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability Liette Vasseur

    “Communities are becoming more and more exposed to different hazards,” said Vasseur, who has been involved in similar research initiatives in other communities in Atlantic Canada and Ecuador. “With climate change, these types of events are coming faster and more often.”

    The project has received $280,000 in funding from the Marine Environmental Observation Prediction and Response Network (MEOPAR), with additional support from the Town of Lincoln and Brock. MEOPAR is an independent, not-for-profit organization funded by the federal government as a National Centre of Excellence that supports research and trains students in the area of marine risk and resilience.

    Lincoln suffered around $1 million in damage as a result of back-to-back spring storms in 2017 that caused massive flooding from Lake Ontario. The storms led to the Town’s first-ever voluntary evacuation notice for residents living near the Lake Ontario shoreline, and caused significant damage to Charles Daley Park and sewer systems in Jordan Station and Campden.

    Vasseur said climate change scenarios over the next decade are projecting continuous sea level rise and increases in extreme weather events. This will amplify the severity and frequency of flooding in coastal communities like Lincoln, which is continually growing with more people living near the Lake Ontario waterfront.

    “People were always talking about 100-year events. Now it’s more like one every five years,” she said. “It shows that we need to be more prepared. When we’re planning things like residential developments, we need to plan in a way that we’re going to survive with these types of events.”

    For the Town of Lincoln, the research will provide crucial information about current and future risks.

    “In 2017, Lincoln experienced the real and harsh effects of severe weather on critical infrastructure in our community,” said Lincoln CAO Mike Kirkopoulos. “As another benefit of the Brock-Lincoln Living Lab, this research is grassroots to our community, helping us better understand the conditions for collective ownership of adapting to climate change as an organization and community.”

    Vasseur said the research team will include a postdoctoral fellow and a master’s student, who will collect data in Lincoln, and share information and ideas with other researchers and communities along the St. Lawrence Seaway.

    “It will be a very good learning experience for the students, while helping the communities at the same time,” she said. “We’re hoping that by the end, the data we’re going to get can be used by communities all along the coastline.”

    Lincoln Mayor Sandra Easton said municipalities like hers are learning that more frequent smaller floods — not just rare major flooding events — can have a big impact on resources.

    “Climate change and the impact on municipal infrastructure is top of mind for our council,” Easton said. “With the growing municipal infrastructure funding gap, municipalities have a responsibility for long-term planning and mitigation of the effects of climate change. This research is critical for council to understand how we can better identify actions toward climate change adaptation.”

    Story originally published in The Brock News

  • Environmental sustainability is the theme as Brock teams up with Niagara Parks

    The longstanding relationship between Brock University and the Niagara Parks Commission (NPC) has entered a new era after the two institutions inked an agreement to work more closely in developing knowledge and practices in protecting the environment.

    In a ceremony Friday (April 20) at the NPC’s School of Horticulture, Brock Provost and Vice-President Academic Tom Dunk joined Niagara Parks Chair Janice Thomson in signing a Memorandum of Understanding designed to enhance the conservation practices of both organizations, while creating educational and research opportunities for Brock students and faculty through their work with Niagara Parks staff.

    Addressing members of the Parks Commission, Dunk praised the agreement as a reassuring sign of two organizations sharing a commitment to benefit people in the surrounding region, and far beyond.

    “We are both significant Niagara institutions that share a responsibility to use our resources and abilities for the greater good of our own community, and indeed of the whole planet,” said Dunk.

    A central player in this rekindled relationship is Brock’s Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, whose Director, Ryan Plummer, was a key architect in developing the MOU and encouraging the collaboration behind it.

    The MOU calls for creating an Environmental Stewardship Initiative (EESI) that uses the expertise and resources of both organizations to increase environmental stewardship through public events and, in the case of students, through co-op education opportunities, course work and research.

    Plummer said an example of the potential for this MOU can be seen at the Niagara Glen Nature Area, where some 130,000 visitors a year hike down trails through the forested Niagara Gorge to the edge of the rushing Niagara River. Staff and researchers from both organizations can study public perceptions of the environment in a setting like that, to better understand which stewardship activities work best and which can be improved upon.

    “The MOU will advance the understanding and practice of environmental stewardship,” said Plummer. “Our partnership with the NPC addresses this two-fold challenge and does so in an iconic landscape. Engaging Brock faculty and students directly with staff from the NPC is sustainability science in action.”

    NPC Chair Thomson said the timing of the new agreement with is ideal.

    “This partnership reflects Niagara Parks’ steadfast commitment to the environment,” said Thomson, “and we look forward to continuing to work closely with Brock University and its team at the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre in further advancing and promoting our shared goals.”

    Brock’s ESRC, a part of the Faculty of Social Sciences, is one of Canada’s leading environmental research units, encouraging research excellence in environmental sustainability and engaging in knowledge mobilization that impacts the environment.

    Niagara Parks in an agency of the Ontario government, entrusted to preserve and protect the lands surrounding the Niagara River. Besides managing millions of visitors each year to its Niagara Falls attractions, the Commission operates a wide range of facilities along the Niagara River between Fort Erie and Niagara-on-the-Lake, including historic sites, golf courses, nature trails, restaurants and its renowned School of Horticulture.

    Story originally published in The Brock News