News

  • MEOPAR BLOG: Looking to Mother Nature for solutions to climate change

    Restored wetlands are a great example of Nature-based Solutions. They can retain more water during heavy rainfall events plus their presence increases biodiversity of the area.


    Have you ever noticed that nature has some ingenious ways of dealing with changes? Natural systems can adjust to respond to changes in the environment or the climate, such as changing blooming cycles or growing slower during droughts. This can be also be a source of inspiration for us, as well. This is what we call Nature-based Solutions (NbS).

    Nature-based Solutions are any actions that address challenges that societies are facing by protecting, sustainably managing, and restoring natural or modified ecosystems. These challenges can stem from environmental or climate changes and usually lead to threats in the sustainability of the communities where the changes occurred. Therefore, NbS aims to simultaneously provide human well-being and biodiversity benefits. Ecosystem-based Adaptation, which we have discussed in previous articles, is one example of NbS where green infrastructure can help a single residence to an entire community adapt to a change in climatic conditions. The addition of green spaces in an urban centre can also become a NbS if it helps reduce the heat island in the centre of that area and thus refreshes people during heatwaves. A heat island phenomenon occurs when an urban area is warmer than the surrounding rural area due to the replacement of vegetation with built structures that absorb and release heat throughout the day. Adding community garden plots into that green space has the added bonus of also helping residents produce food and reduce food insecurity.

    NbS can also be combined with grey infrastructure (sewage drainage, permeable sidewalk, etc.) when physical modifications are needed to accommodate new natural systems. For instance, the impacts of a flash flood from heavy rainfall can be reduced by combining an upgrade to the municipal sewer system with the addition of little creeks or the restoration of removed or degraded wetlands from the surrounding area. This combination provides more locations where excess water can be stored, thus reducing the stress on the wastewater treatment plant.

    NbS is based on equity, the inclusion of all sectors of society, and the restoration or protection of biological diversity as a top priority. Decisions can range from very local (neighbourhood) to a large landscape (regional), but in all cases, decisions should be transparent and integrate sustainable ideas and solutions for all. NbS are also a viable approach for meeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals and ensuring that basic societal needs are met in a safe and sustainable environment. These solutions can be quite innovative, and many of them are coming directly from people like you, who reside in the very community where these changes will have the biggest impact. Think about it—you may even have some ideas of your own!

    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) 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: News

  • Sustainability Poetry Contest submission deadline extended to March 1

    The submission deadline for Brock University’s annual Sustainability Poetry Contest has been extended to Saturday, March 1 at 5 p.m.— providing budding poets with an extra week to submit their entries!

    The theme of this year’s contest, hosted by Brock’s United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Chair, is International Year of Plant Health. The theme highlights the important role that plants play in sustaining all the life on Earth.

    The contest, which is under the patronage of the Canadian Commission for UNESCO, includes categories for elementary, high school and post-secondary students, as well as the general public. It is open to everyone who resides or studies in the Niagara region. Poems will be accepted in English and in French and participants may enter up to two poems.

    Submissions are accepted via online form submission by visiting the UNESCO Chair’s website. Prizes, such as books and gift cards, will be awarded in each of the four categories and the winners will be announced at the Chair’s World Poetry Day celebration on Monday, March 23 at the Niagara Artists’ Centre in downtown St. Catharines. The event is free, but registration on the Chair’s website is required as space is limited.

    For more information or to request assistance with your submission please contact Sarah Ackles at sackles@brocku.ca

     

     

    Categories: News

  • Overcoming the fear around climate change

    Reading your local waste guide can lead to the reduction of compostable and recyclable materials being sent to landfill.


    Climate change, global warming, sea-level rise, extreme weather events: these are some daunting topics of conversation that can often feel overwhelming. When something as big as a global catastrophe come to mind, a common reaction might be to feel utterly helpless. It can also raise the question: “what could I possibly do as one person?” If you have ever felt this way, you are certainly not alone; this phenomenon is called ecoanxiety. The next time you ask yourself that question however, it may be helpful to stop considering it a rhetorical question and start reflecting on what it is you actually can do.

    Everyone has their own strengths and attributes that can influence change. This can happen on an individual, household, workplace, or community level. People too often think their actions don’t have any impact, but our world’s ecosystems do not operate in vacuums—all actions count.

    Fear often goes hand-in-hand with climate change and can originate from the presence of risks due to hazards such as storms or heavy rainfall. Recent storm events in the last few years may have left people feeling anxious about what is to come. The best action is to respond to this fear with adaptation. There are many solutions and strategies that you can consider, such as thinking proactively about how to prevent flood damage or looking into what changes you can make on your property to ensure proper drainage. Our suggestion is to start small. Maybe pick one thing this month and see how it goes, then next month re-evaluate and consider adding something else into your routine.

    The United Nations developed an amusing yet helpful “Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World” that provides tangible actions for people to help in addressing these big global issues. They have even broken the actions down into different levels of effort or commitment. To see the complete guide, go to: https://www.un.org/sustainabledevelopment/takeaction/.

    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) 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: News

  • MEOPAR Blog: The transportation sector can drive us toward sustainability

    An example of sustainable transportation via public transit systems


    Did you know that the oil and gas and transportation sectors are the single largest sources of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions (carbon dioxide, methane) in Canada? In fact, together they account for 52 per cent of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions. Today we are talking about the importance of sustainability in the transportation sector, and how you can contribute to a cleaner and healthier future.

    We discussed the concept of a low carbon economy last week, which essentially involves reducing greenhouse gas emissions without significantly affecting its economic growth. The transportation sector can play a pivotal role in the transition towards a low carbon economy while also improving air quality and overall human and ecosystem health.

    Sustainable transportation refers to any mode of transportation that supports the mobility needs of a society while causing the least impact on the environment. This enables current and future generations to meet their mobility needs.

    Sustainable transportation modes make use of renewable energy sources (like solar, wind, or hydro) and are not based on non-renewable resources like gasoline, propane, and natural gas. Some examples of sustainable transportation modes include walking, biking, electric vehicles or public transportation, such as buses or light-rail transit, especially those powered by hydroelectricity.

    Some of the benefits of sustainable transportation include reduced traffic congestion on the roads and minimizing environmental impacts such as air pollution associated with idling in traffic jams. Many of these modes of transportation are also economically cheaper. Biking or walking also increases our physical activeness, which can help prevent various health problems. Public transit can help improve our social interactions thus giving us a better sense of community. Reducing cars on the roads can also help reduce respiratory diseases, such as asthma, by reducing smog.

    The role of the government and the private sector is critical for encouraging people to shift towards more sustainable modes of transportation. There are various ways to encourage this transformation by making public transport infrastructure more reliable, convenient and accessible for all, increasing the affordability of electric vehicles, designing carpooling programs, and having well-developed bike lanes in cities. This will not only contribute to minimizing our carbon footprint and the impacts of climate change due to transportation, but it will further help us to improve the air quality and health of our community.

    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) 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: News

  • Brock Master of Sustainability Candidate to present at national conference

    Brock University Master of Sustainability Candidate DeCock-Caspell is one of only three graduate students chosen to present at a national conference this month.

    DeCock-Caspell will be participating in the Student Delegate Program as part of the MSA Research and Catastrophe Indices and Quantification Inc. (CatIQ) Connect 2020 conference. The national, three-day discussion takes place in Toronto and brings together industry, academia and government to discuss Canadian natural and man-made catastrophes. The conference is focused on catastrophe management and fostering collaboration before, during and after catastrophic events.

    DeCock-Caspell will present her thesis on coastline change and vulnerability on the second day of the conference, Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre. She said that being selected as a student delegate for CatIQ Connect 2020 is a momentous moment in her studies.

    “This opportunity means a great deal to me,” she said. “Not only do I get to share my research (and that of my team) with a broad national audience, but it will be an incredible networking opportunity.”

    Her research analyses how the Town of Lincoln’s shoreline has changed over time and the role that climatic factors and human activities have played in its evolution. This is part of a larger project that is working directly with the community to co-construct adaptation strategies and understand the barriers stopping those communities from acting on climate change.

    She will use a combination of historical air photographs, climatic and non-climatic data and land-based photographs submitted from the community to tell the story of shoreline evolution in Lincoln. The photograph comparisons will be later be integrated with the coastline analysis maps in an online, accessible web application that will be shared with the public. The technique she is utilizing can be generalized to other communities interested in disaster risk reduction and adaptation to the increased exposure to natural hazards brought about by climate change.

    “Being selected to speak about my research at an event such as this affirms that what I am doing matters,” DeCock-Caspell said. “Not only to the residents of the community I am working with, but to all Canadians.”

    Categories: News

  • MEOPAR BLOG: Sustainability Through A Low Carbon Economy

    Shifting to a low carbon economy can help us combat climate change and make our ecosystems more resilient for the future.

    A low carbon economy refers to a system or society that aims to reduce the emissions of greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide and methane) while affecting its economic growth as much as possible. The term gained traction after the landmark Paris Agreement was reached in 2015, and participating countries agreed to considerably reduce their carbon emissions by 2030. Shifting to a low carbon economy essentially involves transitioning from exclusively fossil fuel-based systems (coal, oil and natural gas) to more renewable energy systems (solar photovoltaic, wind energy, hydroelectric systems). It also involves behavioural changes, such as shifting to more sustainable modes of transportation, efficient heating systems in buildings, use of materials that are less reliant on petroleum products and the change of consumption patterns.

    The concept of a low carbon economy is an important part of the development of climate change adaptation and mitigation plans for communities. Transitioning to a low carbon economy can also be a strong driver of job creation and poverty eradication, as new jobs are created through the development and implementation of new technologies. There is also a financial benefit in transitioning to a low carbon economy. By taking steps to reduce their carbon footprints in their day-to-day operations, many businesses have actually become more competitive and profitable. A low carbon economy may also be indirectly promoted, as an increase of trees around buildings will reduce heat and wind impacts, which then decreases the amount of energy required to heat or cool buildings.

    Countries like Australia, Costa Rica, Iceland, Peru and the UK have already shifted toward low carbon economies in an effort to avoid the negative impacts of climate change and ensure sustainable social, economic and environmental development. Here in Canada, the federal government is investing in projects that make a significant impact in greenhouse gas reductions and tackle climate change through programs such as the Low Carbon Economy Challenge. The funding program is intended to support strategic projects that lead to the reduction of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on the provincial and municipal level.

    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) 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: News

  • MEOPAR BLOG: Swales – ‘The Silent Stormwater Sweepers’

    Swales, shown above, are an example of an efficient adaptation measure for excessive rainfall/flooding.


    As communities face unprecedented challenges for managing flooding and other severe rainfall events, swales and other drainage mechanisms have come to play a critical role in climate change adaptation.

    Swales are shallow, broad and vegetated channels that have gently sloping sides. Swales can exist naturally or be man-made, created to manage water runoff, filter pollutants, and increase absorption of rainwater in the ground. These drainage ditches are typically located next to roads, but they are also utilized in heavily landscaped areas and can be found near parking lots, fields, and other open spaces. You may even have a swale running across your backyard, which was built to direct water downward and prevent flooding. In urban areas, swales might also be used to reduce the turbidity (cloudiness caused by suspended solids) in water before it enters the municipal wastewater system or is discharged into a nearby water body. This process reduces harm to plants and other aquatic species in that ecosystem.

    Swales have many advantages as they are easy to incorporate into landscaping have a low capital investment compared to a storm drainage system, their maintenance can be integrated with the general management of the landscape, and) any blockages are easy to view and manage. They may not be suitable for landscapes with steep hills, however.  Additionally, if regular maintenance is not carried out, swales can become blocked by litter, rendering them ineffective and blocking downstream pipe systems.

    Despite these limitations, swales are a crucial climate change adaptation measure that will continue to be beneficial to communities across the region as patterns of erratic rainfall become more frequent every year.

    The researchers involved with the MEOPAR-Lincoln Community Sustainability 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) 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: News

  • MEOPAR BLOG: Agricultural Ditches: A Unique Ecosystem For Climate Change Adaptation

    You may think of them as little more than the space that separates agricultural fields, but ditches are actually very complex ecosystems. Integrating the characteristics and features of streams and wetlands, ditches can exist as straight channels with sediment at the bottom, or as full-on intermittent wetlands that support year-long vegetation and organic matter.

    Humans have been using ditches for agricultural purposes since 9000 B.C. in Mesopotamia. These small to moderate depressions, found along the sides of fields, can be used to either drain water from low-lying areas or bring it in from elsewhere for use in plant irrigation. They vary in size, ranging from small, depressed channels, designed to carry surface runoff, to big channels, used for draining watersheds and regional groundwater.

    Their primary function is to ensure first that the fields are not too wet to cultivate. This helps plant growth and agricultural yields by reducing waterlogging and crop damage. Water is moved from poorly drained agricultural areas in the field to these ditches through tiles that are integrated into the fields. Vegetated ditches also reduce the flow of pollutants from agricultural fields to downstream water bodies like lakes, ponds and rivers. This offers farmers a low-cost alternative to manage chemical run off from their fields, which also protects natural resources. Water can also be stored in these ditches and wetlands to be used later when the area is experiencing drought conditions.

    With the impacts of climate change becoming more evident every day—especially with the increased variability of rainfall from year-to-year—ditches hold a great deal of importance to the agricultural community as a measure of climate change adaptation. As we continue to experience higher water variability and increasing instances of severe rainfall events and flooding, efficient drainage solutions can become even more critical. In the next blog, we will discuss the importance of swales, which are other drainage ditches found along the side of roads.

    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) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved.

     

    Categories: News

  • MEOPAR Project: Impact of Climate Change on Agriculture

    Vineyards in the Niagara region, like the one pictured above, taken in May 2019 by Liette Vasseur, are among are among those impacted by climate changes.


    When we think about the effects of climate change, we most often think about the planet becoming warmer, melting glaciers, biodiversity loss, flooding and drought. What many of us may not realize, however, is that the food we consume, and the way it is grown, is also impacted by climate change.

    Farming communities all over the world are bearing the brunt of climate change. Changes in precipitation, for example, means that there may be less water available for irrigation, and can lead to droughts during the growing season. With extreme rainfall, on the other hand, soils can become saturated, which delays crop planting and can lead to lower overall crop yields.  Warmer weather can also lead to increases of invasive pest species that can become a financial burden and drain on resources for farmers. Climate change can also result in increased cooling requirements and energy costs for greenhouse operators and inflict higher heat stress on animals and livestock.

    While farmers in some regions are struggling to grow crops due to droughts, the excessive rainfall and flooding experienced in other regions are wreaking havoc for others. The Niagara region has experienced both of these extremes (flooding in the spring, droughts in the summer). This can impact local farmers not only financially, but emotionally, as well. Under these conditions, it may become increasingly difficult to maintain production. Climate change adaptation is therefore an important step to ensure agricultural sustainability.

    Examining the possible strategies to adapt to climate change is a good first step and the  MEOPAR Research team will be holding focus group meetings on these issues. The first will focus on agriculture,and will be held on October 31 at 8:30 am in Beamsville. For details, contact meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

    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 these articles every week (written by researchers Liette Vasseur, Meredith DeCock, Bradley May and Pulkit Garg) to learn more about the project and how you can get involved. You can also visit the project website at brocku.ca/unesco-chair or contact the team via email at meopar-lincoln@brocku.ca

     

    Categories: News

  • MEOPAR BLOG: Green Spaces and climate change

    An example of a green space in the Town of Lincoln is Charles Daley Park.


    Research has shown that cities with well-maintained green spaces are more sustainable and have citizens that are happier and healthier. But what exactly are green spaces and why are they so important?

    A green space is an umbrella term that refers to an open area such as a park, sports field, nature reserve, forested area, and natural meadow, that have been integrated into our built environment. They are rich in biodiversity as they are home to numerous animals and plants that would not normally exist in the built urban environment. Green spaces represent a fundamental component of any urban ecosystem to maintain various ecological, health-promoting, aesthetic, and recreational functions.

    For example, trees in green spaces help filter out harmful air pollutants and airborne particulates to keep our air clean. They also have aesthetic and recreational values. Green spaces serve as sites for social interactions and help build positive attitudes among people. They contribute positively to people’s physical and mental health by helping to reduce stress, anxiety and depression. Some cities have even transformed green spaces into gardens, where members of the local community can spend time planting and tending to vegetables and congregating and developing relationships with fellow gardeners. This is all in addition to harvesting the food they have grown.

    Trees and shrubs in green spaces contribute to climate change mitigation by capturing carbon dioxide, one of the major greenhouse gas emissions. Through shading buildings and people, trees keep the urban areas cooler by dissipating the heat accumulated in landlocked urban settings. Placed strategically around buildings, they can reduce sun and heat exposure during the day and reduce winds.

    Maintaining and utilizing green spaces and promoting plant diversity within them is important for communities seeking to reduce their footprint and enhance their resilience to climate change. Effective participation and involvement of everyone in the community is critical to maintaining these green spaces and reaping the associated benefits.

    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) 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. For more information about the project, contact us using this form, or, via email at lvasseur@brocku.ca

     

     

     

    Categories: News