News

  • Make Canada a world leader in renewable energy production and use: national research group

    26 May 2017
    R00100


    A Brock biologist is among a large group of university researchers calling on the Canadian government to become a world leader in the production and use of renewable energy.

    The Sustainable Canada Dialogues research group made up of 71 researchers, including Brock’s Liette Vasseur, released the Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future report Friday, May 26 that says Canada can use the “global low-carbon energy transition” as an economic engine for the country.

    The report outlines ways Canada could speed up its shift to low-carbon energy systems from its current reliance on fossil fuels.

    “We’re highly reliant on oil and gas,” says Vasseur, a UNESCO Chair in Community Sustainability: from Local to Global. “We need to look at changing the way that we are working: how we move away from oil, gas, coal and other fossil fuels and move toward forms of low-carbon electrification like hydro-electricity and other renewable energy.”

    The researchers identify three ways Canada could transform itself into a low-carbon economy:

    • Cut down on the demand for energy through conservation and efficiency
    • Increase electrification and switch to electricity that emits low levels of carbon
    • Replace high-carbon petroleum-based fuels with low-carbon options

    “The future competitiveness and success of companies will be influenced by their readiness to engage in the low-carbon energy transition,” says the report.

    Sources of alternative energy include: hydroelectricity; solar, wind, wave and tidal power; geothermal power; and biofuels produced from plant materials, animal waste and other organic material.

    Vasseur contributed to sections of the report that deal with social acceptability, social justice and culture, and how these are key factors in determining what Canada’s energy systems will look like in the future.

    “There’s the issue of changing lifestyles,” says Vasseur. “People in general have a fear of change and might resist using new sources of energy.”

    She says people with lower incomes tend to bear a disproportionately higher cost of clean energy.

    “We already know the debate that occurred in Ontario when electricity prices went up. If you can’t afford it, you’ll have a tougher time,” says Vasseur.

    “One of the suggestions is how to better distribute the revenue coming from new energy sources so that it is more fair, such as a rebate given to families that have lower incomes,” she says.

    The report lays out a plan that will result in Canada slashing its 2005 carbon emission levels by 80 per cent by 2050. The presence of carbon dioxide has been steadily and sharply increasing since the 1950s as a result of burning fossil fuels and other human activities. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that trap heat in the atmosphere, increasing the Earth’s surface temperature.

    Vasseur and the other authors of the Re-Energizing Canada: Pathways to a Low-Carbon Future say the steps they’re suggesting will help meet a goal set by 196 countries in 2015 to avoid a global temperature increase of two degrees celsius from pre-industrial levels. Scientists report that a two-degree rise would have a range of serious impacts, including increases in heat waves, rainstorms, water levels and the total destruction of tropical coral reefs.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

    Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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    Categories: Media releases

  • Industrial agriculture can have negative impact on local communities: Brock research

    26 April 2017
    R00086


    Industrial agriculture might seem good on paper, but the trend of reducing biodiversity in the name of profits is harmful to communities.

    Liette Vasseur, a Brock University Professor of Biology, says many species of vegetable and fruit plants that have fed communities around the world for generations are being phased out to make room for large commercial crops such as coffee, tea, wheat and canola because of the strong international market demands.

    “When heritage crops are lost, we reduce genetic diversity,” she says. “We know that native species that have been there for a long time are often more adaptable to local conditions and may respond better to changing conditions, especially those coming from climate change.”

    Vasseur is part of an international team that researches ways of connecting plant biodiversity to agricultural systems in communities in Ecuador and Canada, and examining how this relates to climate change.

    The team’s project, “Agro-biodiversity, Nutrition and Sustainable Marketing of Heritage Crops in Ecuador and Canada,” is headed by Brian McLaren, Associate Professor in the Department of Natural Resources Management at Lakehead University.

    Vasseur said the profits gained by replacing heritage crops with commercial crops, or even non-food products such as cotton and tobacco, are often short lived.

    In one particular community the Brock researcher was working with, the government encouraged farmers to replace their heritage crops with potatoes to meet high demand.

    “All the farmers started growing potatoes,” she says. “The problem is the market got saturated, and when that happened, they can’t get a good price for their potatoes. It has been the same for quinoa.”

    Not only does that translate into less income, but it means fewer nutritional food choices for families.

    The research team was recently awarded $660,000 from the Canadian Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Advanced Scholars Program. As a co-applicant, Vasseur will receive a portion of that fund.

    Under the project, Vasseur and several graduate students at Brock will work with researchers, graduate students and post-doctoral fellows from Lakehead and Escuela Superior Politecnica de Chimborazo university in Ecuador.

    The team will look at how communities in that country, as well as in Ontario, can expand their food production by preserving their heritage crops and growing various species of crops together.

    Having a wider selection of crops will increase communities’ access to nutritious food while protecting the environment, says Vasseur.

    “The community we’re working with in Ecuador is gradually losing its original biodiversity and has overused agrochemicals,” she explains. “Now they’re having issues with water shortages and decreased water quality because of fertilizers and pesticides.”

    The research team’s activities include:
    • Documenting how small-scale agricultural production enables farmers to adapt to climate change and conserve biodiversity
    • Describing opportunities and barriers related to farm-based agro-biodiversity conservation
    • Understanding changes in consumer attitudes, nutrition and well-being associated with new marketing methods and logistics, such as e-commerce, organic co-operatives, and the promotion of traditional food culture

    Brock University Professor of Biology Liette Vasseur is available for interviews about her research.

    For more information or for assistance arranging interviews:

    * Dan Dakin, Media Relations Officer, Brock University ddakin@brocku.ca, 905-688-5550 x5353 or 905-347-1970

    Brock University Marketing and Communications has a full-service studio where we can provide high definition video and broadcast-quality audio.

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    Categories: Media releases