Updates of the Chair

  • Join us for this Celebration of Nations event

    Click here for more information.

    Full programme: NEBN_CoN_program 2023_V3

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • Vasseur’s appointment as UNESCO Chair renewed for another term

    Liette Vasseur (centre), Brock University Biological Sciences Professor and UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Global to Local, travelled to Paris, France, recently for the 30th anniversary of the UNESCO Chairs Network. Pictured from left are: William Hodgson, support program for the representative of Quebec Government at UNESCO; Frédérick Armstrong, co-Chair UNESCO, Cégep Marie-Victorin; Shin Koseki, UNESCO Chair at Université de Montréal; Vasseur; Michel Bonsaint, representative of the Quebec government at UNESCO; Julie Halle; and Richard Hotte, UNESCO Chair TELUQ University.

    Photo: Justin Steepe, Brock News

    Liette Vasseur’s appointment as UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global has been renewed for four years.

    Vasseur also recently travelled to Paris, France in celebration of the 30th anniversary of the UNESCO Chairs Network. She was invited to provide reflections on the event’s plenary as well as presenting in a session on the importance of integrating different ways of knowing into research.

    Read the story in The Brock News



    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • 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

  • 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

  • Vasseur chairs session at York University’s Global Sustainable and Inclusive Internationalization Virtual Conference

    Liette Vasseur, UNESCO Chair on Community Sustainability: From Local to Global and President, Canadian Commission for UNESCO, has been chosen as the Chair for a session at the Global Sustainable and Inclusive Internationalization Virtual Conference: Reimagining Approaches in Higher Education in an era of Global Uncertainties. Hosted by York University, the conference will bring together scholars, policymakers, sustainability experts and other key stakeholders.

    Vasseur will chair Plenary Session 2: Student & professional mobility 2030 and beyond: transferability of degrees, credit transfer, refugees and immigrants
    on Thursday, January 21 at 9:30 a.m.

    Plenary Topic:
    What are the grand challenges for higher education having a mobile student community and workforce today and in the future? How can universities/colleges help create welcoming structures in receiving societies? Who is winning and who is losing through this global mobility?

    Dr. Ethel Valenzuela,
     Director, Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization (SEAMEO) Secretariat, Thailand
    Fabio Nascimbeni, Senior Expert, UNIMED – Mediterranean Universities Union, Italy
    Sjur Bergan, Head of Education Department, Council of Europe, Belgium

    Read more about the conference

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • New publication: New pathways for teaching and learning: the posthumanist approach

    How can we engage all teachers and learners in thinking, feeling and being responsible for ourselves, one another, and the planet? In the new paper, New pathways for teaching and learning: the posthumanist approach, written by  Fiona Blaikie, Christine Daigle and Liette Vasseur, the authors explore embracing a posthumanist pedagogy and returning to holistic, ancestral and Indigenous ways of knowing.

    From the paper’s introduction:

    “How does one “posthuman” teach another? Applying a posthumanist approach to education involves rethinking pedagogy, knowledge production and dissemination. If there is a need to understand the world differently, we must “defamiliarize [our] mental habits” (Braidotti 2019, 77) by moving away from a humanist worldview. This worldview has not only shaped our thoughts, but also our institutions. Universities and education systems are structured around binaried teacher-learner relationships, as well as seeing disciplines and school subjects as discrete entitites with their own objects and methods of study and practices. What changes must we bring about so that we can imagine and understand the world and ourselves in new ways? A posthuman approach can change the way we value ourselves, other species, the planet, and beyond. It requires thinking about the system as a whole instead of each agent as a perfect independent entity; it requires valuing all agents and their relationality.”

    The paper was prepared for the Canadian Commission for UNESCO and can be found on its website. 
    You can also download the paper here .

    Categories: Updates of the Chair

  • A few thoughts on permaculture

    An example of permaculture application at the household scale.

    Have you ever heard the term permaculture? If you do any gardening or have investigated methods of living more efficiently and sustainably, you might have heard about it (even if you aren’t entirely sure what it is).

    Permaculture is the combination of two words: perma (short for permanent) and culture (short for agriculture). It was coined by Australian researchers Bill Mollison and David Holmgren in 1978 during the rise of the sustainable agriculture movement. While most commonly used in reference to food growing systems, permaculture has now evolved to apply to all aspects of our lives. Simply put, permaculture is a set of principles developed to help us meet our basic human needs by utilizing and imitating systems found in nature.

    As expressed in Holmgren’s 2002 book, Permaculture: Principles and Pathways Beyond Sustainability, there are 12 design principles most commonly associated with permaculture. They are as follows: Observe and Interact; Catch and Store Energy; Obtain a Yield; Apply Self-Regulation and Accept Feedback; Use and Value Renewable Resources and Services; Produce No Waste; Design From Patterns to Details; Integrate rather than Segregate; Use Small and Slow Solutions; Use and Value Diversity; Use Edges and Value the Marginal; Creatively Use and Respond to Change. Mark D. Hathaway also explores these concepts in his 2015 research article titled Agroecology and permaculture: addressing key ecological problems by rethinking and redesigning agricultural systems. 

    Permaculture gardening, specifically, takes a holistic approach to how plants, animals, and humans interact together to make each garden plot more sustainable. These gardens use natural forces to provide everything the garden needs to flourish while seeking to reduce the need for any external inputs, such as fertilizers or pesticides. It can be quite flexible to implement and can be done in rural or urban places, started on a balcony, in a backyard, or on a small farm.

    Permaculture is often promoted as an ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change or a strategy or action that employs the use of nature-based solution (looking to nature for tackling socio-environmental challenges). Just as an ecosystem is healthier when filled with multiple species, a diverse garden also tends to be more resilient to climatic variability. Companion planting (planting numerous mutually beneficial species of plants together) can also support greater yields, as well as having the capacity to reduce erosion and water runoff during storms.

    Permaculture attempts to ensure that humans and the natural environment can adapt to climate change. An example of this is utilizing permaculture gardening as a cost-effective way to promote food subsistence and security for individuals and communities. The permaculture and circular economy movements are also closely linked, as both strive to avoid the generation of waste by promoting recycling and the reusing of materials.

    Applying permaculture principles to gardening can help the garden itself to be more productive while also reducing the work needed to maintain it.  The micro-climate and fertile soil found in the Niagara Region also makes for an ideal location for utilizing permaculture principles to provide healthy and nutrient-rich food. Incorporating permaculture into your next garden project can help you enjoy a diverse range of foods, while also allowing you to do your part to combat climate change in the process.

    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-Caspell, Bradley May, Pulkit Garg, Sam Gauthier & Jocelyn Baker) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit our website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     *Holmgren, D. (2002). Principles & pathways beyond sustainability. Holmgren Design Services, Hepburn.


    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • Creative Kitchens: Alternatives to plastic for kitchen use

    Glass containers, beeswax wrap and food storage bags are a few of the many sustainable alternatives to plastic for kitchen use.

    From daunting news reports to the removal of straws from restaurants and the five cent bag tax, awareness around the impacts of plastic pollution is increasing. More than one billion tons of plastic have been produced over the past fifty years, and less than nine per cent of that has been recycled. As it takes centuries for plastic to decompose, most of that plastic ends up in the natural environment — including our oceans and lakes. This type of pollution is now present all over the world, contributing to overflowing landfills and the death and contamination of many aquatic species.

    The amount of plastic products in your kitchen alone (often used for eating, drinking and transporting and storing food) is staggering. One trillion single-use plastic bags are used annually across the globe. In 2016, there were more than 480 billion plastic bottles sold worldwide—that’s nearly two million every minute. There are also several other plastic waste producers in your kitchen that you might not think about, such as plastic containers, food wrap, and storage bags.

    There are some simple and cost-effective switches you can make to create a more sustainable kitchen, however. Reusable fabric grocery bags and water bottles made of metal or glass can help you cut back on your plastic consumption. While the bottles may take more energy to produce initially, they are generally reused more times than a single-use water bottle and are more sustainable in the long-run. If you choose bottled water over tap water because you’re concerned about the water quality, you can always purchase a water filtration or reverse osmosis system to treat your water. Tap water, however, is generally of excellent quality and is required to meet strict provincial safety standards.

    Saving leftovers in the fridge is another great way to reduce food waste and save money, but it’s also important to look at the sustainability of your food preservation system. Consider shifting from plastic to glass containers, for example, and replacing plastic food wrap with a natural and compostable product, such as beeswax wraps or bags. Another perk to using beeswax is that it allows for produce and fresh food to breathe, which will prevent it from spoiling as quickly. All you have to do to reuse your beeswax wraps and bags is to wash them with cold water and mild soap, and then dry them thoroughly. These products are becoming more readily available and affordable, and can be purchased on the internet, at your local farmers’ market or in certain grocery stores.

    If possible, buying in bulk can also help reduce the amount of disposable containers and plastic waste that you are purchasing. In some cases, doing so can also save you money.

    These are just a few great examples of how you can reduce our footprint and reduce waste. Small actions play a big role in climate action, and it is crucial to find sustainable alternatives for everyday use in order to help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and our contribution to climate change. The suggestions listed above are affordable and easy ways to begin reducing plastic use at home, move toward a circular economy, and practice the 5 R’s: rethink, refuse, reduce, reuse, and lastly, recycle.

    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 brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca


    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • Community Gardens

    Depending on its size, a community garden can produce enough food to fulfill a portion, if not all, of the gardeners’ fresh produce and herb needs during the growing season. The Brock University community garden, pictured here, is a great example of what companion planting may look like.

    Community gardens are a great way for families and individuals to grow fresh and healthy produce and connect with other passionate greenthumbs in their area. They contain individual and / or shared plots for growing a variety of fruits, vegetables and other desireable plants (including flowers). They are gardened by a group or a community of people which are usually volunteers. Community gardens can be located in a variety of locations such as schools, parks, churches, community housing properties and even private properties. The Niagara Region has more than 70 community gardens, including one at Brock University.

    The success and sustainability of community gardens relies on community support and a variety of people getting involved. If you don’t have a greenthumb, there are many other opportunities to volunteer or get involved with your local community garden. Taking on some of the maintenance of the garden, donating materials or leading workshops are a few of the many ways to contribute. Every member of the community brings their own strengths, knowledge, and experience to the garden, which serves to increase its overall productivity.

    Many community gardeners look to use healthy and sustainable techniques to increase the success and productivity of their plots. One of the most common techniques is known as companion planting, which involves placing a crop (e.g., kale) in combination with another crop (e.g. onion) for benefits, such as reducing pest infestation. Companion planting can also involve the use of flowers. This method, also called diversification, helps with pest control, pollination, maximizes the use of space and increases crop productivity.

    While there are thousands of successful plant combinations, here is a small list of common crops grown together and their benefits:

    • Planting onions in between lettuce and carrots will help to keep away rabbits.
    • Marigolds are often planted with lettuce, bean plants and tomatoes to prevent a variety of pests.
    • Lemon balm can be planted near flowering crops, such as apples, to help attract bees and encourage pollination.
    • Planting basil near asparagus will attract beneficial insects such as ladybugs. Ladybugs help to fight off unwanted pests such as aphids or leafhoppers.
    • Beans are generally a great companion to all crops as they help to increase healthy nutrients in the soil such as nitrogen.

    Gardens can be managed at a very low cost while also utilizing vacant green spaces.  As well as allowing members to get to know and interact with their neighbours, a garden can also help to partially address the food security of a community. They also promote local produce and help to reduce our energy footprint, which is a mitigation action to climate change. Finally, community gardens have the opportunity to address several of the sustainable development goals (SDGs) and, through these goals, create a healthier and more sustainable environment for our communities.

    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 brocku.ca/unesco-chair or email us at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca


    Categories: MEOPAR-Lincoln Blog, Updates of the Chair

  • OSCIII BLOG: The importance of supporting local consumption and research

    Locally sourced produce grown here in Ontario, May 2020 (Photo: Abby VanVolkenburg).

    Where does our food come from? If your answer was the local grocery store, think again! As we talked about in last week’s blog, much of the food found in grocery stores comes from somewhere other than Canada. This causes challenges such as heightened emissions, attributed to shipping, as well as food chain supply disruptions, especially in times of  uncertainty, such as during the current COVID-19 pandemic. Now, more than ever, we need to consider supporting our local farmers to allow them, in turn, to support us. The relationship is reciprocal, with both parties standing to gain a great deal from one another’s support. Supporting local growers means supporting their livelihoods as well as our overall quality of life. There are also countless environmental benefits of supporting local.

    So how does one support local growers? At first the answer may seem obvious: We need to educate ourselves on where our food comes from and try  to buy locally sourced products whenever possible. Yet, there is so much more to it than that! Aside from selling what they produce, farmers are also faced with many uncertainties in terms of how they produce. Extreme weather events that result from climate change, such as temperature and wind fluctuations and more intense periods of heavy rain or prolonged dry periods, present challenges for farmers. In addition, they also face increasing pressure from pesticide/herbicide resistant organisms, depleted soil fertility, and dwindling (not to mention expensive) synthetic fertilizer options. Farmers need management options that utilize approaches to farming that are more sustainable.

    Sustainable farm management options already exist; many of which have been utilized in the past, before industrialized agriculture became a dominant figure on the landscape. From supporting beneficial organisms, to utilizing non-synthetic fertilizers and increasing cropland diversity, there is no shortage of alternate management options. What is missing, however, is guided research that investigates those different options, and combinations of options, to help farmers apply the best option to suit their own unique situations. Research is not only an important part of understanding farm management techniques, but also in policy making decisions, as well. Policy can either support or work against management choices that are connected to our food supply chain.

    In many ways, farmers are supported by policy and policy is created based on current research data. Anecdotal information is not enough to dictate or change policy (which often works against more sustainable farming practices). There is a need to support both our farmers  and local research efforts to ensure that solutions to today’s sustainable agriculture challenges, both environmental and social, are possible. The OSC3 here at Brock is one such research project that embraces farmers’ knowledge, sustainable practices and the investigation of novel crop management strategies for the future of Canadian food security.

    This blog 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, Updates of the Chair