Articles by author: Connor Wilkes

  • Jennifer Good examines how a “turning it off” approach to climate change could help the climate, Canada and you.

    This article written by Jennifer Good, Associate Professor of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, originally appeared in The Conversation.

    The challenge for climate change communicators a couple of decades ago was conveying what the research was showing: that the burning of fossil fuels was altering the planet’s climate. That communication played a vital role in facilitating the current widespread understanding that the climate is changing and it is a crisis

    There remains, however, a fundamental communication challenge in moving the focus from consuming different kinds of energy to facilitating a revolution of consuming less. Recent electrical grid events in Alberta offer a compelling case study.

    On Jan. 13, 2024, extreme cold hit Alberta — the coldest in half a century. As people turned up their thermostats to stay warm, Alberta’s power grid was put under immense strain. To avoid taking pressure off the electrical grid with rolling blackouts (rotating half an hour power outages throughout Alberta), the Alberta Emergency Management Agency sent an alert to all Albertans.

    This unprecedented use of the emergency system, the first of what would be four alerts, asked Albertans to turn off unnecessary electricity — lights, electrical appliances and devices — and use “essentials only.”

    Albertans responded. Within minutes of the initial emergency alert being issued, demand on Alberta’s power grid decreased by 150 megawatts and continued to fallAlberta has an estimated generative capacity of around 16,330 megawatts..

    Because many people and some businesses voluntarily switched off appliances and other electrical devices that were not needed, there was no need for the rolling blackouts.

    Switching off

    The brief experience of turning off highlighted a couple of things. First, that people are willing to change behaviours when asked. Second, the behaviour change, for some, was positive. As one Albertan posted on Reddit

    “Our kids made a game out of it. Showered with a candle in the bathroom, we had one small light to read books, ALL the lights off in and outside the house, no TV obviously.”

    Another poster on the same Reddit thread offered that their 10-year-old excitedly asked that all the lights and TV be turned off and added: “It looks like the alert does work.”

    In the aftermath, the news has focused on critiques of Alberta’s current energy generation and how to facilitate growing energy output in the future as fossil-fuels continue to be phased out. Politicians and experts wondered how the grid could be more robust and fail-safe so that there is no need to ask people to turn things off.

    Critiques of solar and wind were also quickly offered as were the benefits of new power generation such as Alberta’s Cascade Power Project — a 900 megawatt natural gas-fired plant — and increased energy generation flexibility.

    But what if the opportunity in Alberta’s power grid struggles is not about producing different kinds of energy but consuming less?

    Looking beyond supply

    The January cold wave is a critical moment to reflect upon the status quo and reimagine a system that values consuming less, not producing more.

    Alberta’s electrical grid alerts gave us a glimpse, for a few hours, of a topic largely absent from climate communication: we are consuming too much of everything. We must use and consume less. Less energy, less stuff. We cannot consume our way out of this crisis.

    We must consume less, and Albertans proved that this is not only possible but can even be a positive experience.

    It is also important, in the depths of an unprecedented cold-weather event, to not lose sight of the fact that globally 2023 was the warmest year on record “by far” — beating 2016 (the previous record-setting year) by .15 degrees Celsius (also a record).

    The 10 warmest years on record — since 1850 — have been in the past 10 years and this changing climate is causing extreme wildfires, tornadoes, cyclones, drought, flooding, heat and cold. Here and around the world lives and habitats are indiscriminately being destroyed. This is our emergency alert.

    A new normal

    Shifting to turning off and reducing consumption patterns for individuals, businesses and industry will be incredibly hard. The global economy, and related jobs, are built on consuming more. But the climate crisis, as well as growing inequality and ecosystem destruction, will make status quo levels of consumption increasingly untenable.

    The Alberta Emergency Management Agency sent emergency alerts asking people to turn off because the alternative would have been mandatory rolling blackouts. Asking people to turn off voluntarily allowed Albertans to respond with thoughtfulness, dignity and agency.

    We, collectively across Canada and around the world, are in an emergency. The climate crisis is upon us and we have a choice. We can delay structural change and await the extreme climate crisis consequences. Or we can demand that government and industry implement the systemic changes required to avert (or at least mitigate) this catastrophe.

    Regardless, the lessons from Alberta are clear. We could all try “turning off” from time to time — saving money, helping the planet and perhaps reconnecting with friends and family. That, if nothing else, could be a benefit worth championing.

    Categories: News

  • Dragons’ Den pitch proves successful for CPCF student

    Brock student Cecily Zeppetella, together with her father Pete Zeppetella, entered the Dragons’ Den earlier this month and walked away with not one but two investors.

    The fourth-year Media and Communications student took part in her father’s pitch for Zeppsgear, which produces patented outerwear for labourers working at heights. The company’s jackets allow for safety harnesses to be worn underneath without a risk of choking in the event of a fall.

    The pitch, which lasted about 40 minutes in real time, demonstrated the effectiveness of the gear with a surprise dummy drop from the studio ceiling, catching the Dragons off-guard.

    Zeppetella says the pressure of the pitch combined with that of being on camera and following production’s cues, while wearing warm jackets under studio lights, made for an interesting and exciting experience.

    And the outcome is just what she and her dad hoped for.

    “We’ve had opportunities from investors before, so it was more about the Dragons’ expertise rather than the money for us,” says Zeppetella. “We knew that it would be a good kick-start on the marketing side and that some of the individuals on the panel would be able to help us wanting to regulate or mandate the product.”

    She notes that website traffic spiked after the episode aired on Thursday, Oct. 5, and that the women’s line sold out quickly.

    “We got orders, which was great, but we also had wholesalers and distributors reaching out to us, especially for the women’s side because it’s hard to find good quality women’s workwear,” she says. “We’ve been really focused on the southern part of Ontario, but now we have a lot of people from out west reaching out, and we have a fashion show coming up in B.C. for safety wear for women.”

    Zeppetella, who started at Brock in Business Communication, says she changed majors when she realized how keen she was on media policy and research. These interests and her training have served her well as she has grown more involved in the family business over the past few years, looking at how Zeppsgear might be mandated and thinking creatively about how to get her father’s innovations into broad use.

    Cecily’s experiences in applying policy and research ideas from her CPCF degree really resonates with me,” says Associate Professor Karen L. Smith in the Department of Communication, Popular Culture and Film. “I have seen first-hand that Cecily leverages both classroom and co-curricular opportunities to develop innovative ideas, like enhancing worker safety through Zeppsgear.”

    Zeppetella believes that community involvement should be a big part of any entrepreneurial journey. She says she has worked hard to involve Zeppsgear with different organizations, charities and safety training programs, and has jumped at opportunities to engage, including at Brock.

    “In the Goodman School of Business, Zeppsgear was studied by one of the marketing classes in 2021 as a case study,” she says. “For a startup, I think it’s really important to be connected, especially to growing minds and youth for perspective — and you never know who you’re going to meet.”

    Watch the full Zeppsgear pitch on the Dragons’ Den website.

    Written by Amanda Bishop

    Categories: News

  • Brock TV Render This is BACK!

    Are you a future film maker looking for an opportunity to create…and possibly win prizes?  Not a film maker, but wish to support your fellow Badgers?  Either way, this event is for you!

    Important dates:

    September 29th Students can start signing up in groups of 3-5 people

    October 12th Deadline to have your group

    October 13th Video brief is sent out to participants

    October 27th Deadline to submit the video

    November 8th Film screenings and awards!!

    First Prize $500 gift card of your choice

    Second Prize $250 gift card of your choice

    Audience Choice Award $200 gift card of your choice

    Please use this link for more information about the event!

    Categories: Events

  • Chair’s Welcome Message


    Greetings Incoming and Returning CPCF Students –

    I would like to start the 2023-2024 academic year with a very warm welcome. You are joining – or perhaps returning to – a unique department. Communication, Popular Culture and Film brings together a wide range of topics and approaches to the study, research and general critical exploration of these three intertwined disciplines. And what could be timelier in the era of unprecedented realities such as artificial intelligence, fake news and climate change?

    I often think and talk about the fact that it is communication, in all its forms, that underlies everything. At a broad level, this means that how we understand ourselves, others, the world – it is all communication. At a narrower level, there is no job, no career, and no graduate discipline that does not involve communication. In other words, the time you spend in CPCF will serve you very well no matter where life takes you. Yes, CPCF is the place to be!
    So, whether you are graduating this fall or spring – or you are just starting your CPCF voyage and will graduate years from now – we are glad that you are here. You are part of an ever-growing community of engaged scholarship and people who care deeply about the vital importance of communication, popular culture and film.

    Jennifer Good, Chair and Associate Professor

  • Jennifer Good discusses how humanity’s relationship with heat impacts climate action

    This article written by Jennifer Good, Associate Professor of Communication, Popular Culture and Film, originally appeared in The Conversation.

    Humans are a species borne of the heat, as hot and dry temperatures played a key role in our evolution, and many of us (at least in the United States) prefer to be in the heat.

    We as a species have known for decades that the carbon-fuelled actions of some nations meant that devastating heat and related extreme weather events were coming.

    And yet, most of us did nothing.

    The summer of 2023’s unprecedented forest fires, floods and rising ocean temperatures are the consequences of collective inaction and while there are many reasons for these failures to act, humanity’s complex relationship with heat is arguably a critical one.

    The comfort, and dangers, of heat

    At a fundamental level, heat is what allows for humans and the Earth’s biological diversity to exist. A stable core body temperature facilitates human survival and the greenhouse effect facilitates all life on Earth. However, while heat may be essential to life, and desirable to many, too much heat is devastating.

    One way to articulate this complex balance has been to use the metaphor of a fever. If a human’s body temperature increases even a couple of degrees, then an illness is likely occurring. If a person’s core body temperature increases only three to four degrees celsius it can be fatal. Likewise, a rise in planetary temperatures above just 1.5 C could be equally fatal.

    A seemingly easy to understand threshold. However, in practice, communicating a 1.5 C tipping point has been extremely challenging. Humans generally struggle with disentangling short-term daily temperatures from a long-term climatic shift and as a result fluctuations in temperature have been easily misunderstood. And confusion over these questions are readily misused to question the veracity of an anthropogenically induced changing climate.

    All under one greenhouse?

    An early attempt at circumventing our innate fondness for heat in climate change communications was through leveraging the term greenhouse effect — a phrase which notably removes heat from the equation altogether.

    Knowledge of the greenhouse effect goes back to the mid-19th century. In the latter half of the 20th century, the term became an evocative label for what the burning of fossil fuels was doing to the planet.

    But the term is inaccurate.

    The greenhouse effect is the well-established phenomenon of the Earth’s atmosphere trapping the sun’s radiation and allowing the planet to be a warm and hospitable place. Using the greenhouse effect as a term referring to the warming of the planet due to the burning of fossil fuels conflated a naturally occurring and well-established phenomenon with an unfolding anthropogenic disaster to confusing results.

    In response to this limitation, global warming increasingly became the terminology of choice for the changing climate — phasing out the banal inadvertent climate modification which had also been in use since the 1970s. So much so that by the 1990s, it became the single most used term. But this also had challenges.

    Warming has a certain coziness and as climate change researchers Julia Corbett and Jessica Durfee highlighted, ‘global warming needs a more salient metaphor that emphasizes its seriousness, immediacy and scientific credibility.’

    Global warming was also a narrow term, as global average temperature increases would cause a range of extreme weather effects

    In response to these limitations, the term climate change gradually came to replace global warming as the most widely accepted and used descriptor. Though more recently, this somewhat benign term has been altered again by some to more accurately address the urgency of the situation.

    For example, in 2019 The Guardian moved from using climate change to the terms climate emergency, crisis or breakdown in response to climatic effects of ever-increasing severity.

    This confused discourse has led to even further confusion and arguably hampered climate change mitigation efforts for decades.

    Too much of a good thing

    Research indicates that in the summer of 2022, over 60,000 people in Europe alone died from extreme heat. July 2023 was the hottest month ever recorded and it is increasingly looking like 2023 will be the hottest year on record. Heat-related deaths are mounting and the heat is being exacerbated by raging fires and extreme ocean temperatures.

    Human beings, alongside all life, exist on Earth because of a delicate celestial balance of gasses that trap the sun’s warmth. For millions of years, this greenhouse effect has made Earth a miraculously habitable orb in the coldness of space.

    While all human beings have a complex — and often positive — relationship with heat, in the Northern Hemisphere it is something which many of us particularly crave. However, the reckless pursuit of it (among other comforts) through the burning of fossil fuels has turned heat from a source of life to a harbinger of doom for all.

    It is only through confronting this complex relationship — by accepting the inherent dangers of more heat — that we can hope to seriously pursue real action on fossil fuel emissions.

    Categories: News