Blog Posts

  • It wasn’t all blue skies at COP26: A look at the conference from the eyes of activists

    Blog Contributors: Alexandra Cotrufo and Madison Lepp

    Introduction

    COP26 – the conference aimed at tackling current environmental, social, and economic challenges which took place earlier this month – was an event that started with hope and ambition but ended with anger and disappointment for many. For a more thorough review of what happened over the two-week period, you can read our What Happened at COP26? The Summit in Review blog post. The annual conference aimed to bring world leaders together to agree on promises to reduce environmental degradation and provide relief and support for our most vulnerable communities. Concerned citizens and climate activists were hoping COP26 would be an opportunity for leaders to finally commit to ending the burning of fossil fuels by 2030, a critical decision needed to prevent global temperatures from rising above 1.5°C according to the IPCC special report. Instead, powerful governments settled on compromises which put the interests of the fossil fuel industry ahead of the survival of humanity.  

    From the very first day of the conference, activists were on standby inside and outside the front doors of the Scottish Event Campus to hold government leaders accountable for their actions and past promises. Over the following eleven days, many protests broke out on the streets of Glasgow in response to the lack of action being taken toward climate justice, the failure to provide accessibility to the conference, and the prominence of greenwashing. 

    Problems

    Many delegates and activists travelled long distances to get to COP26. To their surprise, many barriers came in the way of them entering the venue. Organizers, who issued accreditation for 39,000+ people to access a 10,000-person capacity venue, were criticized for not accommodating the capacities. Participants who traveled far distances were told to return to their hotels and watch the event from the online broadcast. Although the organizing groups blamed the pandemic, those who planned to attend the conference virtually were also let down by the limited opportunities to interact in the various events. Participating virtually only allowed for viewing and did not allow for the raising of hands or asking of questions. This limited the number of members who were able to participate from the Global Southparticularly Indigenous communities. Furthermore, despite the conferences promotion of ensuring inclusivity, little work was done to uphold this. With no wheelchair access and no sign language interpreters on stagemany accused the conference of being exclusionary and ableist. 

    Marginalized groups and minority communities are those most hit by the harsh effects of climate change while also being the least responsible for it. For this reason, their voices should be at the center of climate action. CNN interviews with dozens of underrepresented groups revealed the harsh truths of COP26Throughout the conference, underrepresented groups were placed at the back of auditoriums and were asked to leave the rooms when capacity levels were reached. A representative from the Indigenous Peoples’ Caucus was asked to leave negotiations on carbon markets – the very issue that impacts their lands the most. Many felt they were being tokenized, given the observer status to perform dances and prayers, but unable to voice their opinions when negotiations started. 

    Not only was the presence of country delegates outnumbered by the presence of fossil fuel industry membersit was also clear that members of this industry had an agenda – and this agenda involved a lot of greenwashing. Within the exhibitions, many noticed that the European Union’s events were being run by lobbyists. Examples include events such as Global Guarantees of Origin for Clean Hydrogen” which was run by Hydrogen Europea lobbyist group with members including the likes of Shell, Total, and Equinor. And the European Union (EU) was not the only one, further events were being run by gas giants in the attempt to employ a key strategy of the fossil fuel industry. 

    Protests

    Large protests broke out over the course of the conference in response to the lack of accountability and action being taken toward the climate crisis, as well as the presence of fossil fuel lobbyistsWell-known youth activists such as Vanessa NakateDominika LasotaMitzi Tan, and Greta Thunberg released an open letter, which has received more than 1.8 million signatures, urging political leaders to step up and use their position of power to make the decisions needed to save the planet from further devastation. Just a couple days later, hundreds of protestors gathered outside a nearby shopping center to demand that companies take ownership for their contribution to rising greenhouse gas emissions and end greenwashing tactics. This protest came after the news that since 2010, a large portion of the $1.1 trillion invested in the energy sector went towards funding the fossil fuel industry. 

    A mass rally of over 10,000 people was also held by the Fridays for Future Scotland activist group on November 5th, where protestors marched throughout the city’s west end to call for immediate action from world leadersThis was one of the largest protests that took place in response to COP26, and activists from all over the world gave speeches about how climate change is affecting the places they call home, including Greta Thunberg who called the conference a failureMany students skipped school to join the protest in an effort to bring discussions about climate change out from enclosed spaces and onto the streets. 

    An even bigger protest took place the following day, which included more than 100,000 participants according to event organizersDespite the rainspirits were strong among the crowd as banners were held high and bagpipes were playedPeoples from Indigenous communities from North and South America joined the march, many of whom did not have adequate representation inside the conference, to fight against the environmental destruction caused by mining and deforestation.  

    These are a few examples of the many protests that took place in response to the events at COP26. Activists fought to make leaders aware that they are not backing down in the fight toward climate justice and they will continue to push back until promises are turned into progress. 

    How You Can Take Action

    Every one of the climate promises to come out of COP26 must be kept if we are going to have a chance at restoring the Earth. You may be thinking “how can I help Canada and the world stay on track to meeting these promises?” Here are some ways you can take action in the fight for climate justice: 

    Follow “on the ground” activists

    Ensuring the right voices are being heard is paramount to winning the race against climate change. Supporting activists that are doing the work through following and spotlighting their actions is something we can all do. Our Instagram post has highlighted various pages and activists who deserve attention and support. 

    Get active where you can

    Throughout history, social groups have created transformational change. Protests have played a vital role in laying the groundwork for systematic change. If you haven’t already, reach out to organizations in your area that host these rallies and find out how you can get involved 

    Sign petitions

    Signing petitions can be an effective way to raise awareness on climate issues and communicate public opinion to leaders and decisionmakers. Join millions of others in signing the emergency appeal for climate action! 

    Remind your leaders

    One of the most impactful ways of reminding the Canadian government about their climate and social promises is through your local MP – so take a minute out of your day and let them know about the issues you believe deserve greater attention. If emailing your MP seems a bit dauntingWWF has created an easy template to help you craft and send an email to newly elected officials. 

      

  • What Happened at COP26? The Summit in Review

    Blog Contributors: Alexandra Cotrufo and Madison Lepp

    A general view of the Action Hub is pictured during the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow on November 11, 2021.(Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

    The Earth is warming at an unprecedented rate due to anthropogenic activity, causing more extreme weather events than ever before in human history. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s (IPCC) Fifth Assessment Report, human emissions and activities have caused almost 100% of the warming observed since 1950. Climate change affects us all, but developing countries are being affected at a disproportionate rate and many of the most vulnerable communities are also the least responsible for the impacts of climate change.  

    Many scientists and citizens from around the world argued that COP26 was our last chance to get the climate crisis under control. COP (Conference of the Parties) is a series of United Nations climate change conferences, which have been running since 1995. The 26th COP summit took place in Glasgow, Scotland and was attended by countries that signed the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This year’s summit aimed to reach a national agreement on how to tackle the current environmental, social, and economic issues brought on by climate change.  

    The summit took place from October 31st – November 12th, 2021 and involved discussions and presentations from world leaders. COP26 goals included improved mitigation, adaptation, finances, and collaboration. In addition, the COP26 Green Zone was open to the public which hosted in-person and virtual events including art installations, film screenings, interactive discussions, and more. 

    Let’s look at some of the main changes and commitments that came out of the two-week-long conference. 

    Week One Round Up

    The first week of the COP26 summit brought signs of hope, but now the big promises made must be followed up with action. Indigenous activist Txai Suruí gave a powerful speech as part of the opening ceremony. Speaking on her experiences with climate change and calling for Indigenous communities to be at the center of decisions being made at the conference. Not only are Indigenous communities disproportionately affected by climate change, but their deep-rooted traditions hold the keys to invaluable knowledge that can safeguard our earth. 

    A World Leader’s Summit was held on Monday, November 1st and Tuesday, November 2nd. The following days focused on themes including Finance, Energy, Youth & Public empowerment, and Nature, with new initiatives being announced for each of these themes.  

    During the two-day World Leaders Summit, leaders gathered to kick start a decade of accelerated climate action. Notably, over 40 major coal-using countries, including Poland, South Korea, Ukraine, Indonesia, Vietnam, and – yes – Canada, joined the Breakthrough Agenda, agreeing to phase out their use of coal for electricity generation. Another big promise was made with over 100 leaders including Brazil, China, and Indonesia – representing over 85% of the world’s forests  endorsing the Glasgow Leaders’ Declaration on Forests & Land Use to reverse deforestation and land degradation by 2030. This deal has been criticized for mirroring the 2014 New York “declaration on forests to end deforestation by 2030” which has failed thus far to even halve tree clearance.  

    Genuine hope came from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi who announced India’s pledge to target net-zero emissions by 2070. India is the world’s fourth biggest emitter of carbon dioxide after China, the US, and the EU, but its large population means its emissions per capita are much lower. The pledge was backed with nearer-term targets to generate 50% of its energy from renewable sources and reduce the economy’s carbon intensity by 45%. Although the target misses a key goal of the COP26 summit – for countries to commit to reach that target by 2051 – the target sent signals of strong hope and is in line with what many climate experts have modelled as the most feasible scenario for India to achieve net zero. 

    Another climate promise breakthrough was made on Finance DayRishi Sunak, one of UK’s MP’s, announced new rules to make it mandatory for big UK firms to show plans on how they will achieve their climate targets. Announcements on energy day held more hope as 25+ countries and finance institutions – including the US, Canada, and the European Investment Bank – signed a commitment to end fossil fuel investments and redirect them to clean technologies.  

    Week Two Round Up

    The second week at COP26 focused on themes including Adaptation, Loss and Damage, Gender, Science and Innovation, and Transportation. There were more financial promises made for developing countries as government leaders pushed for compensation for damage caused by climate change. According to the World Economic Forum, the African Group of Negotiators on Climate Change called for $1.3 trillion of financial assistance per year from wealthy nations starting in 2025. In addition, the European Investment Bank and Allianz Global Investors made a promise on November 7th to raise 500 million euro for climate mitigation and adaptation in developing countries.  

    An impactful presentation from the second week involved the Tuvalu foreign Minister Simon Kofe standing knee-deep in sea water while giving a speech about how his island nation is at the forefront of climate change as sea levels continue to rise. Images of Minister Kofe were circulated widely on social media as they presented a visual representation of the harsh realities many small communities are faced with. This powerful moment demonstrated how immediate action is needed to protect our most vulnerable populations. 

    On November 10th, China and the United States – the world’s two biggest emitters of greenhouse gases – reached a joint commitment to make more of an effort to reduce emissions. This “Glasgow Declaration” was praised by many leaders at the conference, however, others felt it was simply not enough due to the lack of measurable targets set by both countries. That same day, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a promise to eliminate greenhouse gas emissions from some international shipping routes. In addition, Canada’s Transport Minister signed a pledge to make heavy trucks and buses emission-free over the next two decades. 

    In the final days of the summit, one theme was clear: fear of failure. Will delegates and leaders be able to keep the promises and the pledges they made over the last two weeks necessary to cut CO2 emissions? These questions remain unanswered, as a final agreement has not been reached by all countries on what next steps will be taken to avert further global warming.  

    Many activists have also been questioning the events, or lack thereof, that took place over the last two weeks. According to the Guardian, campaigners and civil society groups staged a walkout on the 12th day of the conference condemning legitimacy and lack of ambition. They created a People’s Declaration which outlines 10 demands of global northern countries to pay their climate debts for loss and damage. 

    Things to Keep in Mind

    Despite the conference’s efforts, space at the event was very limited. This required most delegates and journalists to watch COP26 from livestreams. Young activists from vulnerable countries have also noted that they were ignored by leaders and media coverage made a poor effort to voice their stories. Organized protests broke out through the weeks of the conference in the streets of Glasgow, calling on leaders to listen.  

    It’s also worth mentioning that there were more delegates at COP26 associated with the fossil fuel industry than from any single country. An analysis found that 503 delegates (of the 40,000) with links to fossil fuel interests had been accredited for the climate summit. If nations across the globe are serious about making change, fossil fuel lobbyists should not be welcome at COP summits. While COP26 was an important moment in our path toward tackling the climate crisis, the summit itself was likely to have emitted the equivalent of 102,500 tonnes of carbon dioxide, which is double the amount emitted from the last climate summit. For reference, Canada has an annual average per capita footprint of 15.6 tons of carbon dioxide. This is a startling statistic that showcases how efforts to solve sustainability issues may actually be contributing to them. We hope more consideration is taken during the next summit to substantially reduce this number. 

    Concluding Thoughts

    COP26 has brought forward many ambitious agreements that will pave the way for much-needed climate action. Nonetheless, these agreements are only promises and past events have shown us that agreements are not always met. While the long-term promises made at COP26 are consistent with limiting warming below 2°C by 2100, the lack of near-term commitments is concerning. Unfortunately, long-term net-zero promises by countries are less likely to be met without tangible near-term commitments. And even if net-zero promises are met, we are still falling short of the Paris Agreement goal to limit temperature increase to 1.5°C. So far, the outcome of COP26 has proven to be disappointing with lots of talk and limited action. World leaders need to follow through with these agendas during this pivotal time in history. It’s time to put words into action.  

     

  • A Closer Look at Brock’s Soon-to-be Certified Green Building

    Blog Contributor: Elenore Breslow

    Did you know that the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts Building (MWS) will soon be targeting LEED® certification for existing buildings?  

    Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, commonly known as “LEED ®” is the most widely used green building rating system in the world. Not only is LEED® available for new construction projects, but it is also used for existing buildings – like MWS. This type of certification is known as LEED® for Operations & Maintenance (O+M) – Existing Buildings.  Located in the heart of St. Catharines, there are many features that make MWS so unique and the ideal building to be certified under LEED® O+M. 

    According to LEED®, it can take up to 80 years to make up for the impacts of demolishing an existing building and constructing a new one, even if the resulting building is extremely energy efficient. This is one of the many reasons why the collaboration between Brock University and the City of St. Catharines to revitalize this space, was such an important factor in making MWS eligible for certification.   

    The building was initially constructed in 1888, as the Canadian Hair Cloth Factory that served as a textile factory for over 150 years. In 2008, famed textile artist Marilyn I. Walker donated an unprecedent $15 million to Brock University to help transform and revitalize the space. The heritage building was then preserved and rehabilitated, in addition to constructing the new Studio Theatre and Gallery. 

     

    Marilyn I. Walker building.

    Demonstrates the revitalized Marilyn I. Walker building.

    Heritage entrance at Marilyn I. Walker Building. Person walking in front of building.

    Heritage entrance at Marilyn I. Walker building.

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

     

    The former Director of the Marilyn I. Walker School of Fine and Performing Arts, Derek J.J. Knight noted that the building is “a blend of heritage features and new, state-of-the-art learning facilities provide inspiring spaces for students of music, dramatic and visual arts.”  

    This adaptive-reuse project fits the standard for LEED® O+M in many ways including: Energy use, water consumption, waste reduction, occupant satisfaction, and more. One of the main goals through certification is to maximize operational efficiency while minimizing environmental impacts; and LEED® provides the tools to help navigate this process.  

    Not only will this certification showcase the existing sustainability features at MWS, but it will also highlight areas for continuous improvement to become more resource-efficient, healthy and resilient. This helps provide optimal conditions for students, staff, and faculty, for health, comfort and productivity. 

    LEED® O+M is not a one-time certification, as Brock must resubmit data annually and recertify every three years. Brock is targeting LEED® O+M certification by early 2022! The Marilyn I. Walker LEED® certification will be the 3rd building at Brock to become certified, along with the Plaza Building and International Centre.  

    Keep a look out on Sustainability at Brock for all updates. 

  • The Best Green Study Spaces at Brock

    Blog Contributor: Alexandra Cotrufo

    Photo of Pond Inlet at Brock University.

    Photo of Pond Inlet at Brock University.

    Whether your classes are online or in-person this semester, you’re bound to end up on campus at one point or another to get some studying done. Brock University has many study spaces available to students including bookable rooms, quiet and silent areas, group spaces, and more.  

    But what are the best campus study spaces for when you’re looking to get some fresh air and surround yourself with nature? Keep reading to find out!

    Canadians spend over 90% of their time indoors, an alarming statistic that shows how unconnected with nature we are. Studying outside is a perfect way to strengthen your information retention and connection with the environment. 

    There are many benefits to studying outside or in a scenic and naturally lit area. According to an article from Harvard Health Publishingif you’re having trouble concentrating, spending time in a greenspace may help you refocus.  

    Lighting can also affect the productivity of your studying. Lighting plays an important role in your brain’s ability to focus, and poor lighting can reduce your ability to retain information. Studies show that working in natural light increases productivity and reduces stress. 

    Here are our top picks for the best green study spaces at Brock:

    1. Pond Inlet

    Photo of Pond Inlet at Brock University.

    Photo of Pond Inlet at Brock University.

    Wherever you choose to setup your study space at this location, you’ll have a beautiful view of the waterfall and fish-filled pond. The rushing sound of the water is also very relaxing and calming which is sure to make your study experience an enjoyable one. The pond is also a great space to visit when you need a break from studying to clear your mind and spend a little time outdoors! 

     

    2. Mac Chown C Block Hallway

    Photo of study space located in Mac Chown C Block hallway at Brock University.

    Photo of study space located in Mac Chown C Block hallway at Brock University.

    If you’d prefer using a chair and desk to admire the pond, check out the study space located in the Mac Chown C Block hallway. The big windows looking out onto Pond Inlet provide lots of natural light and is a great option for the cooler months when studying outdoors may not be possible. 

     

    3. Mac Chown A Block Hallway

    Photo of study space located in Mac Chown A Block hallway at Brock University.

    Photo of study space located in Mac Chown A Block hallway at Brock University.

    Another indoor space on campus with lots of natural light can be found in the Mac Chown A Block hallway. The huge floor to ceiling windows makes the hallway the perfect sunny spot to sit and stare out at the greenspace below. If it gets too bright for you, use the blinds to adjust the lighting to your preference! 

     

    4. Jubilee Court

    Photo of Jubilee Court at Brock University.

    Photo of Jubilee Court at Brock University.

    Jubilee court is one of our favourite outdoor study spaces on campus! There are lots of picnic tables and benches in the court which are surrounded by lush trees. The leaves are even more beautiful around this time of year and the crisp air refreshes your mind to help increase concentration. 

     

    5. Walker/Scotiabank Courtyard

    Photo of the Walker/Scotiabank courtyard at Brock University. Photo credits belong to Brock GSA.

    Photo of the Walker/Scotiabank courtyard at Brock University. Photo credits belong to Brock GSA.

    The final outdoor study space is the Walker/Scotiabank Courtyard. Pick a table under a big yellow umbrella to protect you from the sun and enjoy the peaceful sounds of nature while you study. 

    What are your favourite study spaces at Brock? Let us know over on our Instagram @busustainable! 

     

  • What to Watch & Read This Fall: A guide to sustainability-focused books & documentaries

    Blog Contributor: Madison Lepp

    Taking some time away from your studies can be a great opportunity to learn about new things. These books and documentaries are the perfect additions to your fall reading and must-watch list.   

    Must Read:

    1. All We Can Save (2020)

    All we can save book on grass.

    All We Can Save Book. Source: All We Can Save Project

    All We Can Save is an anthology of writings by 60 women at the forefront of the climate movement. The book honours the complexity of the climate crisis while intermixing essays with poetry and art. Highlighting that women and girls are vital to the climate movement, the book itself serves as space for these voices. Using hard facts, personal essays, calls to action, and thoughtful perspectives the message is clear: to change everything, we need everyone. Past the book itself, “All We Can Save Circles” are self-organized small groups committed to reading the book together over the course of 10 sessions, with open-source facilitation materials designed to build connection and seed action. 

    Available locally: Someday Books

    2. Consumed (2021)

    Consumed book.

    Consumed Book. Source: Hahette Book Group

    Consumed: On colonialism, climate change, consumerism & the need for collective change asks you to change your consumer identity through a two-part reading of ‘learning’ and ‘unlearning.’ The book sheds light on the uncomfortable history of the textile industry; one riddled with injustices, racism, and inequalities. Aja Barber helps you understand why you consume the way you do, whose pockets your money actually goes into, and why we fill voids with consumption rather than compassion. CONSUMED will teach you how to be a citizen rather than a consumer.  

    Available locally: Someday Books (special order)

    Must Watch:

    1. There’s Something in the Water (2019)

    A poster for the film - There's Something in the Water.

    There’s Something in the Water film cover photo. Source: IMDb.

    There’s Something in the Wateran expository documentary, confronts the inaccurate view of what Canada is like. Beneath the perfect image lies the truth of unjust inequalities, dominating corporations, and disregard for human health. It is common knowledge that the climate crisis is inextricably linked to environmental racism, social injustice, and health; this documentary helps connect the facts to real-life situations. It takes place in the province of Nova Scotia, exposing the disproportionate effects of water pollution on low-income, Indigenous, and Black communities. Exploring some of the most pressing environmental issues and their impact on everyday lives.  

    Available on: Netflix, Apple TV

    2. Ice on Fire (2019)

    A poster for the film Ice on Fire.

    Ice on Fire film cover photo. Source: Fantastic TV.

    Ice On Fire examines the potential for global catastrophe as a consequence of Arctic thawing. The film follows scientists and visionaries who are working together to mitigate climate change. The film brings you concrete facts on the rising temperature of the Earth but also a list of the world’s most promising solutions. The film provides hope through the exploration of carbon capture solutions that may just give us a chance at reversing climate change.   

    Available on: Netflix, Apple TV, Amazon Prime

     

     

     

  • Achieving WWF-Canada’s Living Planet Leader Certification

    Blog Contributor: Erica Harper

    Brock and WWF-Canada launched their exciting partnership in September of 2020 to provide students with the opportunity to work towards WWF-Canada’s nationally recognized Living Planet Leader self-guided certification through local and global sustainability and conservation initiatives. As of April 2021, I’m excited to have completed all requirements to achieve the Certification, making me a certified WWF-Canada Living Planet Leader. The various categories that all leaders must complete include:

    • Campus, community, or global volunteerism
    • Personal application of sustainability
    • Academics
    • Leadership and teamwork

    To complete the campus, community, or global volunteerism category, I completed 40 hours of volunteer work for Sustainability at Brock and for my local community. Some of my actions included planning the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) Training Day, creating helpful shareable content related to the SDGs and local solutions to their global goals, and creating a virtual clean-up toolkit webpage and resource for the Brock community to use during Earth Week and beyond. Completing these hours was extremely fulfilling and truly made me feel like I was making a real impact on local communities and the environment.

    In term of the personal application of sustainability category, WWF-Canada has a checklist with many items for individuals to complete in their everyday lives such as:

    • Bringing my own mug (pre-COVID!)
    • Use reusable containers for packed lunches
    • Use eco-friendly or natural cleaning products
    • Unplug appliances when not in use
    • Reduce food waste

    I was also able to add personal actions that I took such as taking more cold showers (highly recommend!), investing in sustainable companies, and even buying my favourite restaurant’s cookbook to reduce takeout waste while supporting their local business. In total, I completed 40 actions within the category and quickly realized how simple it can be to make small changes.

    Next, being a student in the Master of Sustainability program gave me many options for the application of sustainability in academics category which requires you to either take a course in sustainability or apply sustainability concepts to projects in other courses. For my submission, I shared my Climate Change Adaptation Plan that I developed for Niagara-on-the-Lake during a course taught by Dr. Jessica Blythe called Climate Adaptation and Transformation. The experience I had developing this Plan was shared with the climate coordinator of the municipality and I was able to talk about how the SSAS program provides its students with real-world projects that have a lasting impact on communities.

    Lastly, in terms of leadership and teamwork, I have been fortunate to work alongside Amanda Smits in the Environmental Sustainability Research Centre who is an inspiring leader. Together, we have been able to grow the registration rate of the Living Planet @ Campus Program by over 40% since the partnership launched in September of 2020. I’ve had the opportunity to lead exciting virtual events about the certification and speak with many students about how they can register too. It’s been very rewarding to be part of this partnership and watch it grow as students are eager to participate in campus sustainability events – event from a distance!

    Completing this certificate has made me even more passionate about how local action can truly make a difference in our communities and for our planet. To register for the Living Planet @ Campus Program and become a Living Planet Leader, click here.

  • Climate Change in the Niagara Region

    Blog Contributor: Mikellena Nettos

    From increased weather events to melting polar regions, climate change impacts everyone (IPCC, 2019). According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2019) increases in global mean temperatures of less than 1 to 3 degrees Celsius above 1990 levels will cause drastic environmental changes, including benefits in certain areas and detriments in others. 

    When it comes to Canada, we can see a significant shift in the northern regions, with melting permafrost, changing biodiversity, completely altering ways of life for Indigenous Canadians (IPCC, 2019). In the southern regions, there will be more extreme heat events, especially in cities (CCCS, 2021). This will create a longer growing season and will cause a shift in what farmers decide to grow as winters will be short and wet, which will also leave less room for trees to rest between growing seasons (IPCC, 2019). This resting period is important for a tree’s metabolism to slow down, allowing for energy conservation to keep the tree alive in the cold winter months (Let’s Talk Science, 2020). 

    The region of Niagara will be impacted significantly as our economic growth is based on agriculture and tourism (The Corporation of the City of St. Catharines, 2014). The icewine industry will likely face unprecedented challenges with winter temperatures on the rise, decreasing economic value in certain areas (CCCS, 2021). In addition to this, there will be increased heat events that can cause heat stroke and heat exhaustion, which can potentially overwhelm hospitals, especially after what we have seen with COVID-19 (CCCS, 2021). 

    The Environmental Sustainability Research Centre is currently wrapping up a project with seven regional municipalities in Niagara who came together to collaborate on climate change adaptation through a partnership called Niagara Adapts. By working together, these municipal partners are discovering new ways to develop and  implement innovative solutions to combat flood events, windstorms, and heat waves in our region. According to a research survey produced through this partnership, approximately 55% of respondents have experienced community flooding and extreme heat – displaying the increased risk that residents here in the region already face. 

    As an individual, learning more about climate change in your region and advocating to municipal councils is a great way to promote climate adaptation within your community. Together we can become more resilient and adapt to this crisis we all face! 

    References 

    Canadian Centre for Climate Services of Environment and Climate Change Canada. (2018– 2021). Climate Data Canada [Climate Data by Geographic Location in Canada]. https://climatedata.ca/ 

    City of Barrie. (2017). Climate Change Adaptation Strategy. https://www.barrie.ca/Living/Environment/Conservation/Documents/Barrie-Climate- Change-Adaptation-Strategy.pdf 

    ICLEI. (2019, July). CHANGING CLIMATE, CHANGING COMMUNITIES: 

    Guide and Workbook for Municipal Climate Adaptation. https://icleicanada.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/Guide.pdf 

    IPCC (2019). Climate Change and Land: an IPCC special report on climate change, desertification, land degradation, sustainable land management, food security, and greenhouse gas fluxes in terrestrial ecosystems [P.R. Shukla, J. Skea, E. Calvo Buendia, V. Masson-Delmotte, H.-O. Pörtner, D. C. Roberts, P. Zhai, R. Slade, S. Connors, R. van Diemen, M. Ferrat, E. Haughey, S. Luz, S. Neogi, M. Pathak, J. Petzold, J. Portugal Pereira, P. Vyas, E. Huntley, K. Kissick, M. Belkacemi, J. Malley, (eds.)]. In press. 

    Let’s Talk Science. (2020, March 16). How Do Trees Survive in Winter? https://letstalkscience.ca/educational-resources/stem-in-context/how-do-trees-survive-in-winter 

    The Corporation of the City of St. Catharines. (2014). About Our City. St. Catharines. https://www.stcatharines.ca/en/experiencein/AboutOurCity.asp?_mid_=26335 

  • What’s in Season: Supporting Niagara Farmers 

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Ruzgys

    Niagara has a very unique combination of deep, nutrient rich, sandy soils as well as an extremely favorable microclimate, which makes it perfect for growing grapes and other tender fruits such as peaches (Niagara’s Agriculture Profile). Did you know that Niagara is known as the fruit basket of Canada, with 2/3rd of Ontario’s tender fruit orchards being in Niagara, therefore producing most of the province’s peaches, cherries, pears, plums, prunes, and grapes (Niagara’s Agriculture Profile)? In Niagara, we are immensely lucky to be surrounded by such a wide variety of locally grown food and it is the time of year where everything is coming into season! Supporting your local farmers is not only great for reducing the environmental impact of your diet, it also helps support your local economy and foster a sense of community.   

    Source: Niagara-on-the-Lake Fruit Festivals, Vintage Hotels 

    Below is a comprehensive list of food that is in season in Ontario this spring/summer (What’s in Season, Ontario Farm Fresh). Lastly, a reminder that freezing and preserving local fruits and vegetable when they are in season is a great way to eat healthy, local food year-round! 

    May 

    Rhubarb (May-July) 

    Asparagus (May-June) 

    June 

    Strawberries (June-July) 

    Peas (June-September) 

    Lettuce (June-September, grown locally in greenhouses year-round) 

    Cherries (June-July) 

    Beets (June-September) 

    Beans (June-September) 

    July 

    Peaches (July-August) 

    Nectarines (July-August) 

    Garlic (Harvested in July, available through November-December) 

    Sweet Corn (July-August) 

    Tomatoes (July-September) 

    Raspberries (July-September)  

    Potatoes (Harvested in July/August, available through November-December) 

    Plums (July-September) 

    Blueberries (July-September) 

    Cucumber (July-September) 

    Peppers (July-September) 

    Onions (July-September) 

    Cabbage (July-September) 

    Cauliflower (July-September) 

    Carrots (July-September)  

    August 

    Pears (August-September) 

    Grapes (August-October, however ice wine grapes are harvested in January) 

    Eggplant (August-October) 

    Apples (August-November)  

    September 

    Squash (September-November) 

    Pumpkin (September-November)  

    Source:
    What’s in Season, Ontario Farm Fresh https://ontariofarmfresh.com/consumers/whats-in-season/ 
  • Reducing Food Waste 101 

    Blog Contributor: Shannon Ruzgys

    Agriculture is one the most environmentally impactful industries in the world, from growing and production  to distribution and eventually waste. Over 1/3 of all of the food produced in the world is wasted (Food Loss and Food Waste, 2011), which is annually valued at $1 trillion dollars. All of the world’s hungry people could be fed on less than a quarter of the food that is wasted in the US, the UK, and Europe.  

    Over 25% of the worlds fresh water supply is used to grow food that is never eaten (Hall et al., 2009). If food waste were a country, it would be the 3rd largest emitter of greenhouse gases, after China and the US. And most shockingly, in most developed countries over half of food waste happens at home, on the individual level. Therefore, reducing the amount of food that is wasted at home is one of the most impactful individual actions that we can take to reduce our carbon footprint and lead a more eco-conscious life. The following tips can help you reduce food waste in your own life:

    Store Food Correctly 

    The way you store food can impact the shelf life of the food and improper storage can lead to premature ripening and increased rotting. Here are some tips for proper food storage: 

    • Items that should not be refrigerated:  
    • Potatoes  
    • Tomatoes 
    • Garlic 
    • Cucumber 
    • Onions  
    • Ethylene gas promotes ripening in foods and can lead to early spoilage. The following foods release ethylene while ripening: 
    • Bananas 
    • Avocados 
    • Tomatoes  
    • Cantaloupes 
    • Peaches 
    • Pears 
    • Green Onions  
    • Some foods are more sensitive to ethylene than others. The following foods should never be stored with foods that release ethylene: 
    • Potatoes 
    • Apples 
    • Leafy green 
    • Berries 
    • Peppers  
    Understanding Expiration Dates  

    Food expiration dates are confusing and can lead to consumers throwing away food long before it is actually expired. So, what do they mean? 

    • “Sell by” is used to tell the retailers when the product should be sold by or removed from the shelves.  
    • “Best by” is the suggested date that consumers should use the product by (note that this date does not mean that the food is unsafe to eat or expired.  
    • “Use by” mean that the food may not be at its best quality past the date and is usually the best date to follow. 

    There is currently work being done to make expiration dates clearer to consumers, however, until then it is best to use your judgement and understand what different labelling terms mean! 

    De-clutter Your Fridge  

    An overly full or unorganized fridge can lead to food getting lost or forgotten and therefore wasted. Keeping your fridge organized helps you keep track of the food you have and can help you reduce your food waste. A great way to keep your fridge organized is by following the first in first out method. When you buy new food store it behind the food already in your fridge, which helps ensure that you eat the older food first.  

    Eat Leftovers 

    Leftovers can easily get lost and be forgotten in the back of the fridge, here are some tips for avoiding leftover waste: 

    • Store leftovers in clear rather than opaque containers so you can see what is in them. 
    • Plan out your meals and factor in leftovers to meal planning.  
    Don’t Overbuy 

    Buying more than you need can be a large contributor to food waste, with research showing that buying in bulk leads to more food waste. You can avoid overbuying food by making more frequent trips to the grocery store, especially for buying fresh produce. In addition, you can ask yourself, “have I used the food I bought from my last trip?” before you buy more. You can also try making lists before grocery shopping and sticking to it as this will help reduce impulse buys.  

    Buy Imperfect Produce 

    Many fruits and vegetables are thrown away simply because of their shape, size, or colour despite the fact that they are perfectly fine to eat. Choosing to buy these “imperfect” items at the grocery store can help stop these items from being wasted and thrown in the landfill.   

    Compost 

    As much as 50% of the garbage placed on the curb in Niagara is actually organic waste (i.e., food waste) and should be composted instead (Niagara Region – Public Works Committee, 2020). When organic material is thrown in the garbage instead of a compost bin, it ends up in a landfill. Organic material needs oxygen to break down and when it sits in a landfill, it cannot breakdown into the soil. Instead, organics sit in the landfill releasing methane gas which is a greenhouse gas that has roughly 28x the global warming potential of carbon (Methane, explained, 2019). Composting is so important because when you put your organics in a green bin, it is sent to a composting facility and is turned into valuable compost in only eight weeks! 

    References

    http://www.fao.org/3/mb060e/mb060e00.htm 

    https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0007940 

    https://pub-niagararegion.escribemeetings.com/filestream.ashx?DocumentId=8580 

    https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/methane 

  • Mental Health Week – Lawn Care 101 Recap

    Blog Contributor: Elenore Breslow

    Mental Health Week is a Canadian tradition with communities, schools and workplaces rallying to celebrate, protect and promote mental health. Brock University organized several virtual events from May 3 – 7, 2021 to promote activities and techniques to add to their well-being toolkit.  

    Spending time outdoors is a great way to take care of our bodies and our minds. One of the best and simple ways to connect with nature is to care for it. On May 6, John Dick (Manager, Grounds Services) provided a wonderful webinar on lawn care techniques to keep your lawn healthy and green(ish). He shared insights on how to change our attitude to be more sustainable and environmentally friendly when caring for our lawns.  

    “Your lawn is the largest part of your ecosystem. Looking at it with diversity in mind is best for the environment by utilizing sustainable practices,” said John Dick.  

    Things to Remember for Eco-Friendly Lawn Care 

    • Plant for diversity to help maintain a healthier environment. A biodiverse lawn offers built-in pest control and promotes beneficial insects and birds that take care of pests.  
    • Promote bee and insect friendly environment. Leave some of the weeds alone, like the dandelions. This bee-friendly weed will bring in pollinators and help your flowers grow beautifully.  
    • Less is sometimes more. Your lawn may do better than you think by reducing fertilizer, pesticides, water, and labor. It will also be more cost-effective to maintain!  
    Walker Complex with several dandelions.
    Welch Hall with many yellow flowers blooming. It is important to remember that weeds help flowers grow – the dandelions at the Walker Complex supported the growth of the yellow flowers at Welch Hall.

    Lawn Care Techniques   

    1) Seeding 

    Seeding is an extremely important part of the lawn care process and knowing what type of seed to plant will help reduce the need for more resources to maintain your space. Canada No. 1 Lawn Mixture is a great grass seed for growing a new lawn or repairing an existing one. This is a general mix that has Kentucky Bluegrass, Red Fescue, and Perennial Ryegrass. With the various growing conditions on your lawn this mix will help your grass grow well in sunny and shaded, and drought-tolerant areas.  

    Cool Fact: Brock uses 2-3 different cultivars of Perennial Ryegrass across campus!  

    2) Fertilizing 

    Fertilizing is another essential part to help care for your lawn to encourage it to grow green and healthy. You should put fertilizer down at times that most benefit the turf and not the weeds – so timing is key. If you are going to fertilize only once a year the best time to do so is late fall. This is when the air temperature has dropped but the soil temperature is still warm. When you add fertilizer later in the year, the plant absorbs it in its roots, and it helps grow healthy grass the following spring.  

    Fertilizer is made-up of three key nutrients – nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Grass requires a higher concentration of nitrogen compared to a vegetable garden, so make sure to check the concentration before you buy fertilizer! 

    Did you know: Grounds Services limits the use of phosphorous when fertilizing to decrease run-off into our water system.  

    3) Mowing 

    The longer the better. Grass needs enough leaf area to photosynthesize and grow well, and longer grass helps reduce unwanted weeds. If your grass is kept 3 inches or more, it will help keep it in a healthier state in the long-run and will require less water and fertilizer to maintain. Remember to keep the clippings on your lawn – they have lots of nutrients in them to help your grass continue to grow. 

    Mowing every other week instead of every week can help increase bee populations in and around your lawn. 

    4) Watering 

    Watering is another important aspect of taking care of a healthy lawn. Most lawns only need 1 inch of water per week, so be sure not to overwater. You can purchase a rain gauge or even use a tuna can, to track how much water your lawn receives. As a rule of thumb, once the tuna can is filled your lawn had enough water for the week.  

    To conserve water during the hot summer months in July and August, opt for not watering your lawn and allow your grass to go dormant as it would naturally. Your grass will grow back after the dry season, and you will have saved lots of water!  

    5) Aerating  

    Aerating is a great practice for compacted areas of your lawn. If you notice people tend to walk in certain parts of your lawn compared to others, you should consider aerating that area. One of the simplest ways is to use a garden fork and breakup the soil, which allows the soil to loosen up. This will help the roots grow deeply and produce strong, healthy grass.  

    6) Weeds 

    Many weeds like dandelions, white clovers, and violets are beneficial for the bees, insects, and butterflies – so please leave some of your weeds alone. And remember when caring for your lawn that a weed is just a plant in the wrong place. However, there are some weeds like the Creeping Charlie that may choke out lawns and other plants. If you choose to remove perennial weeds, it is important to get the entire root out – if not it could triple when it grows back. 

    There are lots of edible weeds that have many health benefits, like narrow and broadleaf plantains. If you remove some of your weeds, check online to see if what parts of it are edible.  

    A big thank you to John Dick who shared all this valuable information about sustainable lawn care. We should all try to look at lawns in a different way than we have in the past and appreciate the weeds and the imperfect aspects of our outdoor environment. 

    Check out our Sustainability at Brock webpage, if you want to learn more about how John Dick and his team work hard to keep our campus grounds beautiful while being sustainable as possible.