Articles by author: sackles

  • Vasseur publishes first position paper with Building Back Better Post COVID-19 Task Force

    Liette Vasseur, UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, is part of a new task force that will publish a series of Policy Briefs focused on Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Green Infrastructure and Food Systems.

    Known as the Building Back Better Post COVID-19 Task Force, it brings together Canadian experts that are proposing economic recovery measures that would make our communities stronger in a post-COVID-19 world. It was established by the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and the UNESCO Chair on Food, Biodiversity, and Sustainability Studies at Wilfrid Laurier University.

    The first Position Paper published by the task force introduces the series of Policy Briefs focused on Ecosystems and Biodiversity, Green Infrastructure and Food Systems that will be released in the weeks to come.

    Along with Vasseur, other contributors include:

    Alison Blay-Palmer, UNESCO Chair in Food, Biodiversity and Sustainability Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University
    Sébastien Goupil, Secretary-General, Canadian Commission for UNESCO
    Debora Van Nijnatten, Professor, Political Science and North American Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University and Faculty Member, Balsillie School of International Affairs
    Eleanor Haine-Bennett, Natural Sciences Program Officer, Canadian Commission for UNESCO
    Harriet Friedmann, Professor Emeritus, University of Toronto
    Liette Vasseur, UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global; Brock University
    Simon Dalby, Professor, Balsillie School of International AffairsWilfrid Laurier University
    Patricia Ballamingie, Associate Professor, Environmental Studies and Human Geography, Carleton University
    Amanda Di Battista, Project Coordinator, Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems, Wilfrid Laurier University
    Heather Reid, Researcher, UNESCO Chair in Food, Biodiversity and Sustainability Studies, Wilfrid Laurier University
    Johanna Wilkes, PhD Candidate, Balsillie School of International Affairs
    David Zandvliet, Simon Fraser University, Professor, Faculty of Education; Director, Institute for Environmental Learning
    Heather Mcleod-Kilmurray, Professor, Centre for Environmental Law and Global Sustainability, Faculty of Law, University of Ottawa
    Wayne Roberts, Advisor, Laurier Centre for Sustainable Food Systems

    Read the full policy brief.

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR BLOG: Green Infrastructure—An Effective Climate Change Adaptation Mechanism

    Green infrastructure offers promising potential for increasing the sustainability of our existing infrastructure in the Niagara Region. 

    Even if you haven’t heard of the term green infrastructure before, perhaps you have seen examples of it on a building around you. Ever noticed that a neighbour or local business has replaced traditional roofing with grass or living vegetation? That is just one of many great examples of green infrastructure at work.

    Green infrastructure combines innovative green technology with natural vegetative systems, resulting in a wide array of social, economic and environmental benefits for the community. It includes both natural and engineered system solutions that promote healthy and rich ecosystems. Management practices that use a range of cost-effective measures to mimic the natural water cycle, manage stormwater and reduce flooding are examples of green infrastructure. Other examples include bioswales, green roofs, permeable pavement, rain gardens, rainwater harvesting and urban tree canopy.

    More affordable and reliable energy systems, energy savings through efficient fixtures and renovations, reduced flooding (by increasing ground permeability), more efficient stormwater management, lower runoff, improved water quality and quantity (replenished water tables) and lower soil erosion (with increased stability from planted vegetation) are but a few examples of the benefits green infrastructure provides. It also improves local biodiversity and reduces air temperature by providing shade, and, most importantly, leads to better community health, wellbeing and local aesthetics. By restoring natural flood defence systems, more resilient and reliable energy systems, reducing heat island in urban areas and implementing natural water retention mechanisms, green infrastructure serves as an effective climate change adaptation mechanism.

    Green infrastructure also creates jobs in many economic sectors including landscaping, engineering, plumbing, and design. Additionally, it lends support to various jobs associated with the manufacturing of materials such as roof membranes, rainwater harvesting systems, and permeable pavements. The  Green Infrastructure Ontario Coalition also reports that green infrastructure systems are 5 to 30 per cent cheaper to construct and about 25 per cent cheaper over its lifespan than conventional infrastructure of comparable performance.

    In 2018, the Governments of Canada and Ontario entered into an agreement to invest more than $2.2 billion in green infrastructure projects across Ontario over the next ten years. A similar trend is also being followed in other countries such as Germany, Singapore, Australia, and New Zealand. It will be interesting to see the role investments in green infrastructure will play in Niagara’s transition into a more climate resilient economy.

    Be sure to read our article next week, where we will focus on the various certifications and standards that specify and measure the sustainability of our buildings.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at or email us at




    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • OSCIII Blog: What is the Organic Cluster project?

    Early spring in a Niagara, Ontario vineyard partnered with the Organic Cluster project, May 2019 (Photo: Heather VanVolkenburg).

    In 2019, Brock University initiated the new project: “Unique Cover Crops, Rootstocks, and Irrigation Techniques for Canadian Vineyards”. The project is funded through the Organic Science Cluster 3 (OSC3): Connecting Environmental Sustainability and the Science of Organic Production, managed by the Organic Federation of Canada (OFC) in collaboration with the Organic Agricultural Centre of Canada (OACC) at Dalhousie University. The OSC3 is also supported by the AgriScience Program under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Partnership (an investment by federal, provincial, and territorial governments). More than 70 partners from the agricultural community are also involved in these projects.

    Brock’s Dr. Liette Vasseur and Dr. Medhi Sharifi, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Summerland, BC, are the two principal investigators on this OSC3 grant. Heather VanVolkenburg, a recent graduate student of Dr. Vasseur, is supporting and contributes to the research as a Scientific Project Manager. Together, they are leading the project with several undergraduate and graduate students, with the long-term goal of developing and testing combined cover crop, rootstock, and irrigation strategies that support vineyard soil health. The research is being conducted at vineyards located in two major wine growing regions of Canada.

    Bi-weekly research activity updates will be provided in on-going blog posts. These will be written by Vasseur and the research team, including Heather VanVolkenburg, Kasia Zgurzynski, Habib Ben Kalifa, and Diana Tosato. The team will also write informative pieces delving 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, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR Blog: Green Buildings For Sustainable Living

    Greg Redden, Principal Architect at Macdonald Zuberec Ensslen Architects Inc, stands in the DSBN Walkers Living Classroom, in the Woodend Conservation Area. His firm designed this green space, or living classroom, to engage all senses in the learning environment while also utilizing natural light and space so that no utilities are used and energy costs are reduced.

    With the warm weather finally here, many of us are thinking about new home projects. But how often do we think about projects that can reduce our ecological footprint and increase the health of our community, or the impact of the materials we use when we build?

    We can contribute to a global effort to increase the number of green buildings in our communities. A green building refers to one constructed by using any method that will minimize or eliminate adverse impacts on human health and the environment. Multiple ideas can apply to green buildings, ranging from the use of solar panels as a way to increase energy efficiency to the installation of a simple rain barrel to reduce city water consumption. The concept of a green building encompasses the analysis of how materials we use in our projects will have an impact on the environment over their lifetime. This means looking at them from the planning and design stage through to the construction, operation, maintenance, and demolition of the project.

    The green building concept has gained traction because conventional buildings have massive ecological impacts throughout their life cycle. For example, buildings account for one quarter of global carbon emissions and more than 10 per cent of global water consumption every year. By incorporating several measures to reduce our footprint, we can conserve precious natural resources. The green building concept is not only for houses or apartment buildings, you can also apply it to your garden or backyard, such as in the construction of a small greenhouse or a plant wall made of recycled materials.

    Green building projects can include issues such as water resource consumption (efficient management and recycling), energy efficiency, material efficiency (by using sustainable, non-toxic and locally sourced building materials), health and well-being of occupants (better ventilation, natural light, improved indoor air quality), and waste reduction (reduce, reuse and recycle).

    Green buildings offer a multitude of benefits for the environment including the preservation of natural resources, enhanced ecosystem health and biodiversity and lower waste generation. Green buildings also provide economic advantages, such as lower operation and maintenance costs that mean savings on water and energy bills due to increased efficiencies.

    In the Niagara Region, green buildings have a high potential to address many long-term sustainability targets while simultaneously providing solutions to pressing economic development concerns such as resilient infrastructure. In upcoming articles, the MEOPAR team will focus on some aspects of green infrastructure and the various certifications that exist to certify buildings as sustainable.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier and Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at or email us at

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR Blog: Creative kitchens: helping meet global sustainability goals

    Day three of romaine lettuce grown in a windowsill.

    With the arrival of spring, many of us are spring cleaning, planning our gardens, and starting our seeds. But what about those of us who don’t have a backyard, live in an apartment without a balcony or patio, or don’t have the physical ability to be on our hands and knees gardening all day? The good news is that there are many fun and creative ways to grow and prepare food.

    Did you know that you can re-grow lettuce you bought in a grocery store? All you need to do is to save the bottom 2.5 to 3.5 cm of the lettuce stem and place it in a small dish of water! Remember to replace the water every day or two, and about two weeks later, you will have the perfect sandwich-sized helping of new lettuce. You will not have an unlimited supply with this method but seeing how much you can get from one stem can be a fun experiment, especially with children. You can also try this same method with celery or green onions. For green onions, you simply plant the white bulb and roots in a small pot with potting soil and you will soon have a never-ending supply! You can simply cut off what you need, and the plant will continue producing. This cuts down on food waste for those who struggle to use all of their store-bought green onions before they expire!

    There are lots of other ways to be more creative in the kitchen while also minimizing waste. Many of our fridge contents have plenty of unexpected uses! Take leftover pickle juice, for example, which is actually a great meat tenderizer! The brine can also be used as a vinegar substitute for salads and dips, or to extend the life of vegetables that are about to go bad in your fridge. Adding some sliced-up beets to pickle brine and storing them in the fridge makes for an easy and colorful addition to salads and sandwiches.  It’s important to note that you should never reuse pickle brine to make new pickles that you intend to can and store in a pantry, however, and to always keep it in the fridge. The diluted brine also won’t last forever and can only be safely reused a limited number of times — so plan on using it sooner than later.

    We have talked about the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, or the SDGs, in many of our blog posts. Although they may seem intimidating or too globally spread for any one individual to do anything to help, when you get into the nitty-gritty of each of the 17 goals, they are actually broken down into many small, measurable goals that are easy for individuals to contribute to. By being creative in our kitchens, minimizing food waste, and doing things like re-growing our lettuce and celery, we are actually contributing to not only one, but several of the SDGs!

    Helping meet the global goals can be fun if you are using your innovative spirit, and we encourage you to try out some fun, new kitchen adventures of your own!



    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • MEOPAR Blog: How practicing mindfulness can create a more sustainable future

    Practicing mindfulness, such as yoga, is a great way to add a sense of calm and peace to our daily routines.

    Being present and finding joy in small things is known to be good for our mental and physical

    One of the best ways to calm our minds and enjoy the present is by practicing mindfulness: focusing our attention on the present moment — exactly what is happening right now — and accepting it without judgment. This includes paying attention to our thoughts and feelings while we are experiencing them.

    Mindfulness can help us better handle the uncertainty of the future and reduce anxiety, as
    practicing mindfulness exercises can help direct attention away from negative or stressful
    thoughts. It can also train your brain to be more alert (as long, deep breaths bring more oxygen to the brain), lower stress levels, increase happiness, lower blood pressure, and improve sleep.

    What does mindfulness look like? Exercising mindfulness can be as simple as taking time to
    pause and breathe when the phone rings, instead of rushing to answer it. Another good
    practice is to notice sights, sounds, smells, tastes, and touches while doing daily tasks;
    experiencing the moment fully with no urgency to move to the next task. Mindfulness can also
    be very helpful while waiting in long lines at the grocery store — especially in these stressful
    times when grocery shopping can be somewhat daunting. Instead of worrying about rushing
    through the line at the checkout (or to get into the store in the first place), take the time to feel
    gratitude that you have food to stock your cupboards and were able to make it to the grocery
    store that day.

    Another form of mindfulness is meditation. Being still with your eyes closed, either repeating a
    phrase or mantra or focusing your attention on your breathing, is one form of mediation. This
    method encourages you to let your thoughts to come and go, without being bothered by them,
    and to focus on being present in the current moment and space. Yoga is another excellent way
    to practice meditation as the movements in a yoga sequence focus on breathing and being
    present in each pose, with no urgency to move on to the next.

    Mindfulness is also a great way to engage with the natural world around us and can even help us shift to a more sustainable society. Mindfulness can even influence how we respond to the
    climate change crisis because it allows us to change the way we process information and can
    even help increase our motivation. When we practice mindfulness, we can gain a better
    appreciation for both people and nature and become more compassionate towards each other—helping to build a more sustainable future as a result.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the
    impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur,
    Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, and Sam Gauthier). Visit our website
    at or email


    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • Protecting snapping turtles and other wetland species

    Wetlands are beautiful habitats where many unique species of animals can be found. We are all
    able to help protect and conserve these critically important ecosystems.

    In Ontario, most of our important wetlands have been mapped and are protected through various regulations. Wetlands that support critical habitat and species are called Provincially Significant Wetlands (PSW) and are protected from development and disturbance. However, simply drawing a line around a wetland and saying it is “protected” is not enough to ensure the protection and survival of the species it contains. Many wetland species, such as turtles, snakes, and frogs, are mobile and capable of traveling great distances to find food and suitable habitat for breeding. When wildlife moves between habitats, they become extremely vulnerable to threats that could impact their ability to survive (and thrive).

    Everyone can play a part in helping to protect and conserve our treasured wetland species. One
    simple thing we can all do to help is to be mindful of the presence of wildlife on our roadways.
    Springtime, in particular, is a vulnerable time for many wetland species as they are on the move to find suitable nesting areas. Snapping turtles are of special concern in Ontario because they often lay their eggs in gravel along roadways in late May and early June and are at high risk of road mortality.

    You can help snapping turtles and other turtles by safely removing them off the road if you see
    them. Many tips and tricks can be used to ensure you do this without harming yourself or the
    turtle, but here are a few of the basics:

    • Never lift a turtle up from the tail, as the tail is attached to the turtle’s spine. To a human,
      this would be like being lifted up by your neck.
    • Snapping turtles have long necks and can extend their mouth past their front legs. You
      can safely pick up a snapping turtle by holding the very back of its shell behind its back
    • Large snapping turtles can be effectively maneuvered backwards across road surfaces by
      pulling on the back part of their shell. Although slightly bothersome to them, it can save
      their life without hurting them.
    • Mats from your car can also be used to wedge under large turtles and move them to
    • Leave a nesting turtle alone while she is egg-laying in the sand, gravel, or even loose soil
      (she will appear very docile, almost as if she is asleep, while she is laying eggs). Brightly
      coloured objects such as pylons, painted rocks (which can be a great craft for young kids)
      or safety vests can be placed beside a nesting turtle on the edge of the road to increase her
      visibility for other drivers. This will not bother her, as she will be focused on the job at-

    The Toronto Zoo’s Adopt a Pond YouTube video also offers a variety of useful and clever
    techniques for safely removing turtles from roads. Just remember, if you see a turtle on the road, remove it in the direction it was traveling and be mindful of traffic. It is never worth putting your personal safety at risk.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR project are working to raise awareness about the
    impacts of climate change and how communities can effectively adapt, and increase resilience, to these changes. Follow along with our blog every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur,
    Meredith DeCock, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier, and Jocelyn Baker). Visit our
    website at or email

    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • Online discussion to aid migrant workers during COVID-19 pandemic

    Categories: Media releases

  • Brock Profs call for renewed connection with nature in new book chapter

    What does the future of education look like, and how does it need to be adapted and re-evaluated to create a more sustainable future? Two Brock University professors contributed to this debate in their chapter selected for publication in a recent e-book from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).

    Liette Vasseur, Professor of Biological Sciences and UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability: From Local to Global, and Christine Daigle, Professor of Philosophy and Director of Brock’s Posthumanism Research Institute, were chosen to present their work in the e-book titled Humanistic futures of learning: Perspectives from UNESCO Chairs and UNITWIN Networks.

    UNESCO initiated the call for chapters last summer with the goal of bringing together diverse perspectives of how education can provide a foundation for building peace and driving sustainable development. The book will later serve as the basis for a global report, developed by the International Commission on the Futures of Education and will guide future policy debate, research and action.

    Vasseur and Daigle’s chapter, “Strengthening our connection to nature to build citizens of the Earth,” was selected from numerous contributions from around the world. In the chapter, they highlight the dangers of rampant consumerism and explain why the existing disconnect between humans and the realities of a depleting planet will prevent current and future generations from creating a sustainable future.

    “If we don’t begin to realize now the important connection we have with nature, we will continue doing what we are doing, which is destroying this planet,” says Vasseur.

    She says that by relying on technology as a learning tool instead of spending time physically immersed in nature, it is difficult to fully grasp the critical functions that biodiversity and the natural environment play in everyday life. Without fully understanding this interconnectivity, it is impossible to then understand that overall well-being is directly impacted by ecosystem degradation.

    Bridging that gap requires a shift away from the unsustainable model of viewing the natural world as merely a vessel for consumerism and economic growth.

    “We assume that economic growth can be infinite, but our planet is finite — we only have one,” says Vasseur. “We can’t continue to exploit what’s non-renewable or there will be nothing left for future generations.”

    Vasseur and Daigle propose that a new educational approach focusing on nature, our place in it, and a mindfulness of the relationships between all living things, must be developed.

    “A critical posthumanist perspective, such as the one I embrace, sees all beings as fundamentally entangled,” says Daigle. “We must understand this and work toward fostering relations with the other beings with whom we live, so that the web of beings may thrive—including, potentially, ourselves.”

    She says achieving that will require a major overhaul of the entire education system from pre-school to lifelong learning.

    “We seem to be going in circles in our environmental policy decision-making — we devise solutions that cause other problems that we then must address — but the reason we fail is that we are devising those solutions based on the same old problematic worldview and set of values,” says Daigle. “If we transform this radically, a goal we propose in the chapter, we will start devising different and better solutions.”

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Earth Day Message from Brock’s UNESCO Chair

    Since we can’t celebrate in person this year, Liette Vasseur, Brock University’s UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: from Local to Global, has a special Earth Day message for us all — which is more important now than ever. Watch the video below, or on YouTube.

    Categories: Updates of the Chair