Articles by author: Brock University

  • What Sustainable Development and the Green Economy Still Get Wrong About Curbing Climate Change


    Contributors: Bernal Herrera-Fernández, Liette Vasseur

    International treaties, such as the Paris Agreement and the Convention on Biological Diversity, have taken on the daunting task of mobilizing the world against the civilization-threatening challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.

    Two core concepts underpin these efforts: sustainable development and the green economy. In 1987, the United Nations formally recognized sustainable development as essential in seeking equilibrium between environmental, social, and economic development. Alternatively, the green economy attempts to integrate environment and economy. What these two efforts share, however, is an assumption that the economy can grow without limit and that the Earth’s resources are infinite and inexhaustible. We can always develop suitable technologies and new materials so humanity can continue its current trajectory driven by uninhibited growth— but what is wrong with that picture?

    In the 1972 book Limits to Growth, author Donella Meadows and her collaborators used a computer model of the world, known as World3, to show that the unlimited growth paradigm is not possible under certain conditions of population growth and natural resource use. The Club of Rome, a think tank comprised of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, modelled different scenarios for the future of planet Earth in the book, taking into account varying scenarios of human population growth, agricultural productivity, natural resource extraction, industrial production, and pollution. The authors applied various assumptions and policy options across 12 different scenarios, most of which pointed to eventual global economic collapse. Beyond the Limits, the 1992 sequel to that book, subsequently presented evidence that civilization had already surpassed Earth’s limits and that humanity was heading down an unsustainable development path. 

    Although both books were initially criticized post-publication, research has increasingly pointed to the alignment of the author’s forecasts to the Earth’s current trajectory. 

    So, what is the solution? Can these international treaties help change the forecasted path of this planet—or is it too late?

    These treaties, although they seek social, financial, and economic transformations to achieve sustainability, use a reductionist approach for solutions. Although this approach can make a large and complex problem seem less intimidating (by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable pieces) this approach often loses sight of the interconnectedness of the overall situation. For example, the green economy argues predominantly in favour of green energies as the great solution to addressing climate change, especially focusing on the decarbonization of national economies. That solution centres on technological change without considering the multitude of factors associated with this necessary global transformation: such as the governance of natural resource management, or the impact of the materials required to build that technology (e.g., scarce chemical and nonrenewable mineral resources).

    Based on assumptions of unlimited growth and reductionism, are we not then headed toward a new form of extractivism? This acceptance of wide-scale removal and subsequent processing of natural resources stands in complete contradiction with sustainable development. 

    The answers are not simple, but the current international political architecture requires approaches to climate change and biodiversity loss that are systemic and holistic to achieve successful outcomes. They must consider all the components and interrelationships involved in true transformation. Then, and only then, can we work to avoid the collapse scenarios of which science warns.

    Categories: Beyond Sustainability Blog

  • A Better Kind of Urban Development

    Two contrasting views of Front Street in downtown Thorold: before the revitalization project (on left) and afterwards (right). Photo of Front Street before the revitalization project taken by Paul Forsyth, provided courtesy of NiagaraThisWeek.com; after photo by Christine Daigle.

    New urban development sites have proliferated in recent years.

    The housing market in Canada is feverish, with many claiming that more housing needs to be built in order to satisfy the increasing demand. This will mean increased urban expansion and the conversion of land into brand-new neighbourhoods filled with cookie-cutter houses. Young trees will be planted here-and-there to grow through sidewalks. Conversely, sidewalks may sometimes be nonexistent in certain neighbourhoods that are poorly serviced by public transit. These areas will be designed with the assumption that residents will use cars to commute, with little thought given to the walkability of the neighbourhood.

    Urban developers who design these neighbourhoods may also plan for a green space or playground, especially when the area is meant to be family-oriented. Yards will be covered with roll-out grass to create instant lawns, with empty spaces left for the first dwellers to garden as they wish—or not. Plants that were naturally growing in these areas (in harmonious relation with the animals and bugs of the surrounding ecosystem), will become seen as “weeds” that need to be controlled and eliminated.

    What was once a natural habitat, with a variety of animal and plant species that all shared an ecosystem, will be destroyed. In its place will be a space designed by humans, and for humans, with the goal of eliminating as many “natural annoyances” as possible.

    Land clearing makes space for humans — while simultaneously eliminating entire ecosystems in the process. Furthermore, it brings humans and wildlife closer together, often with negative implications. Increased urban sprawl in Thorold has generated a surge of coyote encounters and even attacks. Closer proximity between animals and humans can also increase incidences of zoonotic diseases, such as bird flu or rabies.

    While there has been lot of work done in relation to sustainable urban development, it often focuses on mitigating the impact of climate change by planning for human movement that is not car-dependent, through the development of more efficient public transit, cycling and walking paths. But more should also be done to work with established ecosystems — instead of clearing and destroying them. The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) report, “Integrating the Environment in Urban Planning and Management. Key Principles and Approaches for Cities in the 21st Century,” for example, proposes a series of planning principles for integrated and sustainable urban development. This includes committing to an environmental ethic and the regeneration of natural systems in order to make cities green.

    Those principles, along with care for existing ecosystems, are unfortunately not always applied in real-world scenarios. A recent example of this can be seen in the Niagara region with the revitalization of Thorold’s downtown core. In recent years, a great deal of effort has gone into giving Thorold’s Front Street a facelift to attract new visitors, diners, and shoppers. Façades of buildings on the downtown street were redone and, as part of its recent push for revitalization in 2020, the city re-did the sidewalks, added parking spaces, and integrated benches, new light standards, and other streetscaping elements. Instead of implementing a design that kept the mature, established trees that adorned the street intact, the City opted to cut those trees down in order to facilitate new sidewalks. New, very young, trees were planted in their stead. While the change in landscape is indeed shocking, there is more than mere aesthetic enjoyment at stake here.

    Comparing the old to the new, the pre-revitalization to the revitalized downtown core, one might notice that nature has been almost completely evacuated. The little, new trees that were recently planted have been given only a small space in the ground to expand their trunks. This will lead to the “necessity” of eventually cutting them down in the future—a necessity created entirely by humans’ lack of planning for the tree’s needs. Beyond the drastic change in canopy, one needs to also think of how the changes impact the many creatures that were living in, or relied on, the mature trees for survival. Cutting mature trees down to satisfy the human desire for revitalization destroyed the habitat of creatures that were forced to relocate. Revitalizing the downtown core was not done with a view of the ecosystem that it was and in fact amounted to a devitalization: where mature tree dwellers, such as birds, squirrels and bugs had to leave the downtown core, making it less lively. If planners had considered the impact on nature and ecosystems, they would—and could—have done things differently.

    Making cities “green” and environmentally friendly by planning urban development with sustainability and respect for the integrity of ecosystems in mind is possible. It can — and it should— be at the forefront of our thinking as we continue building more space for human use.

    Categories: Beyond Sustainability Blog

  • Is reconnecting to nature the key to sustainability?

    Contributor: Christine Daigle

    According to the United Nations, more than 50% of the world’s population currently lives in urban areas, with a projected increase to almost 70% by 2050. While urban living may differ significantly between a megalopolis like Tokyo or Mumbai and a small size city like St. Catharines, it remains that for urban dwellers, keeping in touch with nature can be challenging.

    In the Niagara region, we are fortunate to always be somewhat close to the countryside with easy access to trails in Short Hills Provincial Park, as well as other fields, orchards and vineyards, and lakes Ontario and Erie. It is, perhaps, debatable how “natural” these sites are given that there is a lot of human management of land that goes into their upkeep, however. Even Short Hills, which appears to be the most natural of all the sites listed, has seen some human intervention in creating and maintaining the trails, through use or management.

    In smaller cities, those who own or rent a house sometimes have access to a yard that they can use to engage in vegetable gardening. Other small city dwellers, however, may not have this kind of access and their contact with nature may be limited to the plants and flowers they keep in balcony planters, or to the city parks they visit in order to enjoy some grass, trees, and birds. Inhabitants of large cities and megalopolises may not have access to any natural spaces at all other than city parks. Some individuals never go out of their cities—whether for lack of interest, lack of financial means, or both—and their only experience with nature is through manicured city-managed areas such as parks. To remedy this, “regreening” has become an urban strategy of restoring degraded or barren landscapes to a more naturalized state using trees, shrubs, and wildflowers. However, and despite many cities’ efforts to “regreen” themselves, not everyone considers green spaces to be important for their citizens, thereby limiting access to nature for a great number of city dwellers. For those, the only access might be through the scruffy trees growing through sidewalk cement. They may also have a mediated access to nature in the form of nature shows they watch on television (in which nature is presented as pristine and distant) or newscasts that speak of nature mainly when some catastrophic event is unfolding—such as a hurricane, a volcanic eruption, or floods—thereby portraying nature as dangerous and threatening.

    If the connection to nature is very tenuous or inexistent for many urban dwellers, how are the calls for the need to care for nature and adopt more sustainable ways expected to be heard? An expression coined by Latin poet Sextus Propertius captures this well: “Loin des yeux, loin du coeur” (literally: far from sight, far from heart). It is difficult to care for beings one has no contact with. Calls for saving the oceans and their inhabitants will not be heard by the person whose only contact with them are via the can of tuna they consume or the goldfish they once had as a child. Likewise, environmentalists’ pleas to save remote or even unknown species from extinction due to hunting, overharvesting, urban expansion, pollution, or the introduction of invasive species in some areas are unlikely to be heard by those with little or no contact with nature.

    If our goal is to co-exist on the planet with other species while not driving them to extinction, leaving behind a world that future generations can enjoy—the standard definition of sustainability—then we need to better understand why this is such a pressing issue. Reconnecting with nature, experiencing it directly and exposing ourselves to its beauty, its generosity, as well as its annoyances—such as the bugs that may want to feed from us as we enjoy a stroll in a provincial park—is key to understanding the need to change our exploitative approach to nature. To do so, we need to individually and collectively make efforts to reconnect to nature so that we may develop a better understanding of it, its innerworkings, our place in it, and how to care for it.

    Categories: Beyond Sustainability Blog

  • Sustainability Versus Sustainable Development: What’s the difference?

    Contributors: Liette Vasseur & Jocelyn Baker

    Sustainability is the process of living within the limits of available physical, natural, social, and cultural resources in ways that allow all living things —not just humans — to thrive long into the future.

    Sustainable development, on the other hand, aims to create growth and progress through the addition of physical, economic, environmental, and social components that can improve quality of life without depleting resources for the future.

    In the previous blog, we saw that sustainability comes from the practice of “nachhaltigkeit”, a German term coined in 1713. Except in technical articles, the word sustainability was rarely used until 1972, when a then-leading magazine published a series of articles entitled Blueprint for Survival. This series, which involved more than 30 scientists, recommended that we should live in small, de-industrialized communities to help prevent a breakdown of society. In this series, the meaning of sustainability was much broader than its original, 18th century usage: suggesting a change in lifestyle, the implementation of population controls. better management of natural resources, and the establishment of “no-growth” economies.

    Sustainable development first appeared in 1987, when the United Nations’ Brundtland Commission included a definition for the term in its Our Common Future publication. The author defined the concept of sustainable development as an approach designed to “meet the needs of the present [generation] without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

    In 2002, the report from the Earth Summit on Sustainable Development prescribes the need to “promote the integration of the three components of sustainable development—economic development, social development and environmental protection—as interdependent and mutually reinforcing pillars” (1 p.8)

    So where are we today?

    As part of the United Nations (UN) 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, all UN Member States adopted a 15-year plan to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, for short. The 17 goals and 169 targets form the basis of a critical call to action to “end poverty, protect the planet and improve the lives and prospects of everyone, everywhere.”

    The SDGs have become a set of guiding principles used to ensure that development is environmentally low impact, socially just, and economically efficient and fair, as well as to justify interventions. These principles apply to development of all scales and in all locations, whether it is the construction of a hydroelectric dam in the Amazon or a plantation of trees in Africa. Even in these examples (and in many more), the economy still rests at the heart of all development.
    Even with environmental and societal considerations becoming part of the equation, is this model of development really sustainable in the long run? We only have one planet — and if we are to protect it, we must go even further to ensure sustainability for generations to come.


    1. Hens, L., & Nath, B. (2006). The world summit on sustainable development: The Johannesburg conference. Springer Science & Business Media.
    Categories: Beyond Sustainability Blog

  • A complicated relationship with Ladybugs

    The Multi-Coloured Asian Lady Beetle is considered an invasive species in Ontario, and they can outcompete some of our native species of lady beetles. (Photo: Kasia Zgurzynski)


    Submitted by the OSCIII team

    In an agricultural setting, insects can sometimes help farmers, while at other times be a nuisance. At first glance, many insects seem to fall into one of two categories: pests that damage crops or beneficials that help support crop production. Ladybugs, on the other hand, have a more nuanced role to play, particularly in vineyards.

    Ladybugs, more accurately known as lady beetles or ladybird beetles, can be voracious predators of pest species, eating as many as 5,000 aphids in their lifetime. With insatiable appetites, they can be beneficial to farmers as they act as a natural control for certain insect pest problems. They can even help to reduce the use of pesticides. The adults lay eggs near colonies of soft bodied insects, such as scale, mealybugs, and aphids, which are common vineyard pests. Once the larvae emerge, they immediately feast on the insect prey before searching for even more in the general vicinity. After they pupate and become adults, they travel even further to find food and continue their life cycle. In the right conditions, the adults can live for two to three years.

    In vineyards, lady beetles are most beneficial early in the season, when the grapes have not yet developed. Once the grapes develop, though, that changes and this is when they can become a nuisance. The lady beetles begin looking for overwintering areas, and can be found among grape clusters, particularly if those clusters are close to their insect prey. They can feed on fruits that have already been damaged, but they don’t damage the fruit or the vines themselves. The problem, however, is that lady beetles release a yellow fluid with a foul odour, known as methoxypyrazines, when they are disturbed. When grapes are harvested with lady beetles among them, this fluid then has the potential to taint the grapes and create an unpleasant taste in the wine.

    They are most likely to release this fluid if they are alive or have only been dead for a single day; they do not have the potential to taint the wine if they have been dead for more than three days. Lady beetles can appear quite suddenly, and some species can be plentiful, so careful monitoring of their populations is increasingly important as harvest approaches.

    It is true that some insects can be friend and foe, depending on the time of the growing season. Lady beetles are one of nature’s greatest assistants in the battle against agricultural pests, with some species actually being introduced purposely to offset the use of pesticides. There are vineyards around the world that do this, sometimes placing the lady beetles on the vines by hand. It can be labour intensive, but their appetites can make them a valued addition to vineyards. That is, if it is at the right time.


    This blog section will be ongoing throughout the duration of the project with bi-weekly updates provided by Liette Vasseur, Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato (see research team). We will be providing research activity updates as well as informative pieces that delve into agricultural concepts and important global issues as they relate to agricultural sustainability and climate change. Stay tuned for regular updates!

    Categories: Organic Science Cluster 3 Blog

  • MEOPAR Shoreline Options Value Survey Results

    In this blog post, we present an update on the results of our recent virtual focus group and online survey that explored shoreline options for the Town of Lincoln.

    What options did community participants feel were important for resilient shoreline protection? How could we effectively reduce the impacts of highly variable lake water levels, increased storm events and erosion? These were the questions we asked participants back in April 2021. The results were then clustered in three groupings, which represent the overall preferences that participants chose ranked from highest to lowest (1 to 9).  We named the clusters “green”, “silver”, and “grey”.

    Download the Survey Results Infographic

    In the survey, we asked participants to reflect on the values that each shoreline option represented. Are government control and existing land use planning tools able to address shoreline impacts? Is individual autonomy and enjoyment of private landowners more preferred to reduce risk? What about increasing biodiversity and the role of green space in lessening negative impacts? Does environmental protection help to reduce social risk?

    The results might surprise you. While the “green” options favoured urban parkland and green infrastructure, the results in this cluster also included the need for collaboration between landowners as being an important consideration for finding long-lasting solutions. “Silver” options included tax relief, subsidies, and managed retreat, which were viewed as necessary to respond to changing risk. “Grey” options included maintaining existing shoreline land use, insurance coverage for replacing weather-related losses, and the use of traditional grey infrastructure methods.

    From a values perspective, “green” options reflected the broadest range of considerations: development, biodiversity, control, reducing social risk, fairness, and aesthetics. In the case of “silver”, those options reflected flooding and erosion protection, development, fairness, and biodiversity. “Grey” options included aesthetics, enjoyment, biodiversity, and security.

    It is important to note that these survey results reflect the opinions of the participants and do not represent official positions of either the municipality nor any other government agency. They are intended to promote further discussion.

    You can read more about our MEOPAR study here.  The survey was also highlighted in the recent Newsletter of the Coastal Zone Association of Canada, which can be found here.

    Watch for upcoming sessions where we will invite you to explore these ideas further and how this process may have changed the views of people regarding climate change adaptation. Dates and times will be posted on the Beyond Sustainability events page.

    For more information or to provide comments, e-mail us at: meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca.

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • What is sustainability?

    Contributors: Liette Vasseur & Jocelyn Baker

    Sustainability is a well-known and frequently used 21st century term.  With how often you likely see or hear the word, have you ever stopped to think about what sustainability really means?

    Sustainability is widely defined as “the ability to have something or an activity maintained at a certain stable rate or level”. This term has been used in various contexts. Corporations, such as the  oil industry for example, are using it to show that they will be profitable and operational for a long period of time.

    Sustainability comes from the practice of “nachhaltigkeit”, a term coined in 1713 by German foresters that is translated to mean “sustained yield” in English1.  Sustained yield refers to the practice of taking only enough trees as will allow forests to naturally regenerate well into the future. The concept of sustained yield eventually moved beyond the forestry discourse to include the conservation of plants, animals, and other food necessities now also. It is still mainly confined to research and science, however.

    Most definitions of sustainability today also include concerns for the environment, social equity, and economic prosperity2. For instance, environmental sustainability aims at reducing the depletion of natural resources to maintain an ecological balance. Sustainability, in the context of the environment, looks at the activities required to protect the environment while balancing social, cultural, and economic needs. It is generally accepted that the goals of environmental sustainability are related to the need to conserve our natural world, with a shift away from the current resource-intensive way of living2.

    Sustainability in the business world, however, does not always relate to the protection of nature or social justice. It is often associated with efficiency, profitability and even growth. But things are changing. Recent research shows that businesses which embrace environmental and social governance approaches tend to not only reduce their environmental impact and increase diversity, but also reduce costs, as well.

    When we think about sustainability, it is important to remember that the Indigenous Peoples of the Americas on Turtle Island have been practicing this concept from time immemorial. Indigenous Peoples have been long-time practitioners of sustainability, as for them, it relates to being stewards of the land — you only take what you really need and can use. Sustainability for the Indigenous underlines the importance of looking at the past 7 generations to make informed, respectful, and balanced decisions for the next 7 generations to come. Sustainability is a long-term vision and process of continual environmental commitment to improvement.


    References

    1. Grober, U. (2007). Deep roots-a conceptual history of sustainable development (Nachhaltigkeit). Retrieved from: https://www.ssoar.info/ssoar/bitstream/handle/document/11077/ssoar-2007-grober-deep_roots_-_a_conceptual.pdf?sequence=
    2. Baker, J., Dupont, D., & Vasseur, L. (2021). Exploring Canadian Ramsar Sites Ecosystem Governance and Sustainability. Wetlands, 41(1), 1-11.
    Categories: Beyond Sustainability Blog

  • Is it time to move beyond sustainability and begin thinking about radical transformation?

    Contributors: Liette Vasseur and Jocelyn Baker

    Access to clean, healthy water is essential for all life on Earth. As the world population continues to rise, natural ecosystems are becoming increasingly vulnerable to the threats of land conversion, invasive species, and the consequences of accelerated climate change. This has resulted in the loss of biological diversity. When an ecosystem functions correctly, it can provide enough food, shelter, water, and other goods and services required for all of the species within it. As soon as an ecosystem is degraded, however, it can lose its integrity, reducing or stopping the provision of services — including clean water.

    The major and enduring impacts of ecosystem destruction can be seen most prominently in the planet’s wetland systems. The livelihoods and overall survival of most cultures on Earth depend on the functions and benefits of wetlands for the purposes of food provision. Rice, for example, is grown in wetland complexes and is the staple diet of nearly half of the people on Earth. Most commercial fish and invertebrates, including crabs, lobster, and shrimp, also depend on wetlands for all or part of their lifecycle. The long-term global loss of all wetland types is estimated to be between 54 to 57 per cent, with the rate of losses four times higher in the last century than in previous centuries 1,2.  Inland wetlands have seen a 35 per cent decline since 1970, with 87 per cent total loss since 1700 3. Despite comprising only 3 per cent of the Earth’s total surface area, wetlands are estimated to contribute more than 40 per cent of all global ecosystem services, providing an estimated US $55 trillion (in 2020) annually to global economies 1,2.

    The sustainability of these ecosystems is therefore of great concern, but what is it that we are trying to sustain? Are we simply aiming to stop further wetland losses, being satisfied with the status quo? Or is it time to move beyond sustainability and begin thinking about radical transformation? The continuous growth of human populations and economies should not come at the expense of nature. At some point, nature will not be able to sustain people and maintain its contributions to all of us. It is critical that we rethink and transform our relationships with one another and the natural world. We need to change the current worldview because our current capitalist-neoliberal way of life is unsustainable. Pursuing infinite economic growth and resource exploitation — when we have a finite planet — is simply not working.

    Societies must also think differently about themselves and their relations with the natural world that supports them. As an example, the Western Humanist (or western human way of thinking) views humans as the most important species on the planet. With this worldview (a set of beliefs and values about one’s reality) comes the idea that humans have dominion over the natural world with the right to exploit all of its resources (including plants and animals) as they wish. Does this make sense? What does adherence to this worldview mean for the generations to come? Any decision we make leads to consequences, and the children of the future will pay for the degradation and overexploitation of today. What will happen when the water stops flowing and all the fish in the oceans are gone?

    Radical transformation is needed in order to rethink the way that humans live within the natural world; we are part of it, not superior to it. Maybe when we embrace this way of thinking, a more sustainable future will be waiting for us.


    References:

    1. Baker, J., Dupont, D., & Vasseur, L. (2021). Exploring Canadian Ramsar Sites Ecosystem Governance and
    Sustainability. Wetlands, 41(1), 1-11.
    2. Davidson, N. C., Van Dam, A. A., Finlayson, C. M., & McInnes, R. J. (2019). Worth of wetlands: Revised global monetary values of coastal and inland wetland ecosystem services. Marine and Freshwater Research, 70(8), 1189.
    3. United Nations Environment Programme (2021). Becoming #GenerationRestoration: Ecosystem restoration for people, nature, and climate. Nairobi.

    Categories: Beyond Sustainability Blog

  • Saving paper does not “save trees” — but it still helps the environment  

    A 92-acre plot of land on Lake Couchiching, in Orillia, Ontario, was recently cleared of trees to make way for the Lake Couchiching Residence project. The image above shows the same plot of land before and after the process began.


    If you are concerned about conservation, you have probably made a conscious effort to minimize the amount of paper you use in an effort to “save the trees.” Although using less paper is certainly a good thing for the environment overall, most Canadians would be surprised to learn that using less paper will not actually result in less tree harvesting.

    In Canada, the relationship between paper and forests is similar to the relationship between gravy and roast beef. Just as gravy is a by-product of cooking roast beef, paper is a by-product of producing lumber at a sawmill. Over 90 per cent of paper produced in Canada is made from the sawdust and woodchips left behind after the production of lumber, which is mainly used for building houses. Woodchip and sawdust residues are first used in the production of boxboard or paperboard (otherwise known as cardboard). Then, when that cardboard is recycled, the majority of it is made into paper products. In fact, most Canadians would be surprised to learn that almost all domestic paper comes from recycled cardboard, with the exception of remote communities with limited or no recycling capacity.

    In the Niagara Region, recycling processes are able to fully reuse and repurpose cardboard into other post-consumer paper products (including toilet paper). Even so, using less paper is still a worthwhile conservation goal for a number of reasons. Reducing your paper consumption will mitigate (reduce) the impacts of climate change by lowering the greenhouse gas emissions generated by processing pulp into paper. Paper is also a heavy and bulky product that uses considerable fossil fuel resources in the supply chain, from production through to shipping and receiving (transportation networks). Using less paper individually will reduce the amount of paper being transported overall, thereby reducing carbon emissions. An October 2019 waste management services report also found that most compost and recycle programs were being underutilized by Niagara residents, prompting a switch to a bi-weekly landfill collection cycle in order to encourage more recycling. Diverting that paper waste from landfills lessens the use of fossil fuels (by having fewer garbage trucks on the road for collection), reduces methane gas (a greenhouse gas produced by the decomposition of organic waste in landfills), and ensures a continuous cardboard supply for paper production.

    Aerial view of Lake Couchiching, where a 92-acre plot of land was recently cleared of trees to make way for a housing project.

    The paper industry in Canada has transformed considerably over the last 200 years, with a move away from environmentally unsustainable deforestation practices towards modern innovations, technologies, and the rise of sustainable forestry practices in the 1980’s. In fact, Canada was one of the first countries to support sustainable forestry management (SFM) at the United Nations Conference on the Environment in 1992. But what does all this really mean for Canadian forests?  Canada has 347 million hectares of forest that covers 38 per cent of its landscape and comprises 9 per cent of the world’s forest.  Canada is the world leader in sustainable forest management practices, as the majority of the country’s timber is certified as sustainably managed. Canada’s early adoption of SFM has also meant that Canadian forests have remained stable over the last two decades, with less than 0.5 per cent deforested since 1990.

    The United Nations defines deforestation as the permanent or long-term removal of forests from the landscape. It is the change of land-use from forest into something else, such as an urban area. Forest loss from forest fires, disease, and other natural disasters is temporary, with forests regenerating naturally as they always have. Logged forests are also not considered to be a permanent example of land-use change, as these forests are required to be replanted and regenerated under law. This is not to suggest that there are no issues in terms of loss of biodiversity or ecosystem function. The largest deforestation impacts to Canadian forests are from agriculture, urbanization, mining, oil and gas exploration, highways, hydro-electric infrastructure, and recreational uses such as ski hills and golf courses. These practices have resulted in the permanent loss of Canadian forests.

    So while conserving paper is still a great thing to do, remember that you are not technically saving trees by doing so. Rather, you are diverting waste from landfills, minimizing the use of chemicals used in the paper-making process, and reducing greenhouse gas emissions — all of which play an important part in mitigating the impacts of climate change.

     

     

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog

  • Online panel seeks to ensure equitable future for all academic talent

    Brock University faculty, staff, students and members of the broader community are invited to attend an interactive online session to learn more about the barriers women face in academic prize and award processes.

    The session takes place Wednesday, June 23 at 3 p.m. and will feature Liette Vasseur, Professor in Biological Sciences and UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, as well as a panel of experts from universities across Canada.

    The panel seeks to raise awareness of the major issues surrounding STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) prizes and awards, and to provide solutions for breaking down barriers in academic prize and award landscapes.

    The panel follows the publication of a report entitled “Prizes & Awards: closing the gender gap to ensure an equitable future for all academic talent,” authored by Vasseur and Jocelyn Baker, Research Assistant with Brock’s UNESCO Chair. The report, which is available in English and in French, highlights how women scholars statistically win fewer prizes than men, receive less financial compensation, and are denied the same access to the accolades and distinguishing benefits that awards bring.

    The paper reviewed 11 prestigious Canadian and global academic prizes and awards to highlight the barriers to awards that exist for women in STEM and then offer key considerations and good practices that can be implemented for calls for nominations and selection committees. The overarching goal is to ensure that future top prize winners are of the most deserving talent, regardless of gender.

    Deb Saucier, President and Vice-Chancellor of Vancouver Island University, will moderate the discussion, which will also feature Nicole Fenton, Université du Québec en Abitibi-Témiscamingue; Jeremy Kerr, University of Ottawa; Juliet Daniel, McMaster University; and Shohini Ghose, Wilfrid Laurier University.

    The panel will take place on Lifesize and is free and open to all members of the public. Pre-registration is not required and interested participants can join the discussion here.

    Categories: Activities & Events, Updates of the Chair