All Posts Tagged With: "environment"
Divestment movement gets a boost
The Dalhousie Student Union unanimously passed a motion on Wednesday calling for the university’s Board of Governors to end investments in fossil fuels, putting pressure on the school to respond. It’s a win for a global movement that wants to hurt the industry they say causes climate change.
“It is morally bankrupt for an institution who claims to be a leader in sustainability to profit off the extraction of fossil fuels, the warming of the climate, and the displacement of millions of people, ” said Divest Dal member Rob McNeish, according to a press release.
Environmental adviser misrepresented credentials
When Maurice Dusseault heard the news, his reaction was, “Dammit, dammit, dammit. That shouldn’t happen.” Louis LaPierre—then chair of New Brunswick’s new Energy Institute, where he was Dusseault’s colleague, and an esteemed scientist—had lied about his Ph.D. in ecology. In revelations that have shocked the scientific community, it turns out that LaPierre, who received the Order of Canada last year for his environmental conservation work, doesn’t have such a degree. Instead, he has a Ph.D. in education with a focus on the environment. He lied about his master’s degree, too—it’s in environmental education, not wildlife ecology.
LaPierre has refused interviews since he first told Radio-Canada a mix-up in his resumé accounted for the false claim that he received a doctorate from the University of Maine. But last week, he issued a statement admitting he “misrepresented” his credentials.
LaPierre was already at the centre of New Brunswick’s debate over how—or if—the province should develop its shale gas reserves. His 2012 report on the topic helped shaped the government’s plans to allow exploratory drilling. He recommended the province establish an energy institute to provide independent scientific input on public policy decisions over energy resources and, earlier this year, the government picked LaPierre to chair the new body. He resigned the position last week.
Artificial turf to be revisited in 10 years
After debating all day, Toronto’s city council voted 31 to 12 against designating a natural grass field at the University of Toronto as a cultural heritage landscape. That means the installation of artificial turf will go ahead in July.
However, a small compromise was reached. There will be a formal assessment of the project in 10 years.
The decision to install the turf was made in 2012 after two years of debate at the University of Toronto’s Council of Athletics and Recreation (CAR).
The plan for an artificial field was mentioned as early as 2009 when the province put forward its bid for the Pan Am/Parapan Am Games, which require fake grass for field hockey and para soccer.
Petition asks university to pull money from fossil fuels
McGill University’s Board of Governors has rejected a petition from the environmental activist group Divest McGill, which collected hundreds of signatures calling on the school to take money out of companies that develop, transport, refine or sell oilsands products, reports the McGill Daily.
The vote was likely a first in Canada and the rejection is a setback for a global movement.
Hundreds of campus groups across North America affiliated with 350.org have pressured schools to pull out of fossil fuels in an attempt to slow climate change by cutting off the cash.
Ontario offers support
The Ontario government says it has found common ground with the federal government and other partners to keep a world-famous experimental research area open in the northwestern part of the province.
The province says it will provide operating support and work toward an agreement so the “important science” conducted in the Environmental Lakes Area near Kenora can continue.
The remote region of 58 pristine lakes has been used since the late 1960s for groundbreaking freshwater studies.
ELA shuttered by Conservatives to save cash
The Harper government is refusing to permit fully funded freshwater research to take place this summer at the remote Experimental Lakes Area in northwestern Ontario.
A group of researchers from Trent University in Peterborough, Ont., was told this week they are barred from the site, despite starting their work last summer and spending thousands of dollars on an approved trip to one of the ELA lakes as recently as last month.
Ottawa is currently negotiating with the Ontario government and others to take over the Experimental Lakes Area, which has been conducting world-class science since 1968 into everything from acid rain and climate change to mercury exposure.
The federal government says the decision to close the facility, part of last year’s budget cuts, will save it about $2 million a year — although sources say the actual operating cost of the facility is about $600,000 annually, of which a third comes back in user fees.
Clean-tech sector grows
For Chris Rogers, owner of Corporate Chemicals and Equipment in St. Catharines, Ont., the wake-up call came when his father Cecil was diagnosed with lymphatic cancer in 2000. Cecil, who owned the business before Chris took over, had worked in the industry since he was 18. “He opened my eyes to what he thought was the cause,” Rogers says: the vats of chemicals that surrounded Cecil through his working life. “I started to rethink things.” The company, which makes and sells sanitation supplies, started going green—a philosophy that’s affected everything from products to marketing and, of course, its employees. “The green chemistry of today is the everyday chemistry of tomorrow,” he says. The same could be true of green jobs.
Canada’s green economy is growing fast. Our clean-technology sector, made up of more than 700 companies, saw an 11 per cent jump in employment between 2008 and 2010, according to a January report from the Pembina Institute, a non-profit environmental think tank. Once considered a niche, the green-jobs sector is now comparable to the booming oil and gas extraction sector, and has exceeded the aerospace industry, says a 2012 report from Analytica Advisors, an Ottawa-based consulting firm that specializes in clean energy.
Canada’s “green-collar jobs” aren’t just found at clean-technology firms. More than 12 per cent of the Canadian workforce “has some sort of environmental initiatives within its work,” says Grant Trump, CEO of the non-profit ECO Canada. Another four per cent of the workforce spends more than 50 per cent of its time on environmental activities, he says. And 17 per cent of Canadian companies—318,000 in total—employ one or more environmental professional.
Study calls for national energy strategy
A new study found that Canadian energy companies are factoring higher carbon-related costs in their investment, planning, and technology decisions.
The study, prepared by the Ottawa-based think-tank Sustainable Prosperity, found the companies are using a self-imposed, internal carbon price as they plan for the future, suggesting they’re anticipating a day when carbon tax or cap-and-trade systems are more widespread.
Without a clear sense of the country’s energy strategy, companies are creating their own carbon price to make long-term strategic planning and investment decisions, said Alex Wood, a senior director at Sustainable Prosperity.
“At some future point, there will be a price on carbon,” he said.
“What they are doing is essentially anticipating that and they’re factoring that into their decisions and so are addressing that risk.”
An environmentalist argues in favour of divestment
Torrance Coste studied conservation geography at the University of Victoria before becoming a Vancouver Island Campaigner with the Wilderness Committee. He argues that universities should exit investments from companies he considers unethical, like those in fossil fuels. After reading his piece, check out Professor Todd Pettigrew’s argument that divestment is unrealistic.
While the debate around fossil fuel development and climate change intensifies in Canada, there is an effort emerging to hit the perpetrators of this global environmental disaster where it hurts—the bank account. The premise is simple: pressure post-secondary institutions to stop investing—or divest—money from companies in fossil fuel and other environmentally and socially destructive industries.
The call has been sounded through the Go Fossil Free campaign, an initiative of 350.org, a U.S.-based organization that fights climate change. Recently, a group of Canadian university graduates have petitioned Maclean’s to include an “ethical investment” category in its highly regarded annual university rankings.
Third place in “reinvent the toilet” contest
A team of University of Toronto engineers are flush with cash as they continue working to build a better toilet.
The team — lead by Prof. Yu-Ling Cheng — has received a $2.2-million grant from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to continue designing a waterless, hygienic toilet for the developing world.
The 15-month grant comes after the team — which also includes researchers from Western University in London, Ont., and the University of Queensland — placed third in the Foundation’s “Reinventing the Toilet Challenge.”
Waterloo researchers chart the decline
Canada’s economy may well be muddling through, but on a more personal level, Canadians generally are not, a new study of well-being suggests.
The Canadian Well-being Index, led by researchers at the University of Waterloo, shows that quality of life in Canada deteriorated by 24 per cent between the onset of recession in 2008 and 2010.
Canada’s main economic indicator, gross domestic product, only declined by about 8.3 per cent over the same period and began to make a turnaround by the end of 2010.
“When Canada’s economy was thriving, Canadians only saw modest improvements in their overall quality of life,” said former Saskatchewan premier Roy Romanow, who is co-chair of the index’s advisory board.
Environmental grads are employed where you’d least expect
Alex Benzie, 26, is less than a year from finishing her master’s degree in environmental studies at Queen’s University. She shops locally, buys most of her produce from nearby farms and questions the federal government’s recent streamlining of the environmental review process. She’s an environmentalist, in other words. In fact, her belief in sustainability is one of the reasons she chose to pursue the M.E.S. after a bachelor’s degree in geology instead of going straight into a job.
“I didn’t really want to be part of the oil industry or the Canadian mining industry, and that’s what a lot of geologists end up doing,” she says. “I just don’t think they’re sustainable.”
Universities are the cradle of the environmental movement. They’re a refuge where people worried about the planet can debate, research and write papers. In recent years, universities have built green buildings, imposed bottled-water bans and played host to rallies against the Alberta oil sands.
Skateboarding, Shell, eSports, Indian booze and 1812
1. The University of British Columbia’s Vancouver campus may be the first big campus in Canada with a skateboard and BMX bike park. The final park designs are here.
2. Citing printing difficulties and a monthly schedule that turned it stale, The Cadre, one of Canada’s funniest student newspapers, has gone online-only. Arshy Mann of the Canadian University Press worries that ink-and-paper expertise will dry up, that the paper will lose most advertising revenue and that students read it less since they can’t take it on the bus.
3. A Conservative MP says Canada’s largest union of federal public servants, which represents people who work for the Canadian government in Canada shouldn’t have endorsed the separatist Parti Quebecois that wants to leave Canada. Pierre Poilievre is calling for new rules to allow members to opt out of paying union dues.
Many teens aren’t interested in driving
This summer, Sarah Mohammed is going on a road trip. She and three of her friends plan to drive from Montreal, where they live, to the Okanagan Valley. “We’re going to work on some orchards and vineyards in the Interior of B.C.,” says Mohammed, 23. The trip is to mark her recent graduation from the University of King’s College, in Halifax. “I just finished school and I want to do something different,” she says. But on the long drive west, Mohammed won’t be taking any shifts behind the wheel—she doesn’t have a driver’s licence. “Oh, I won’t actually be driving. I’m just being a leech,” she jokes.
Brigette DePape on the Power of Youth
Brigette DePape was a uniformed Senate page when she made herself an instant symbol of youth protest nearly a year ago by silently holding a handmade “Stop Harper” sign on the floor of the upper chamber during the reading of the Conservative government’s Throne Speech. Since then, she’s been travelling the country meeting with activist groups, and this week the 22-year-old launches Power of Youth, a collection of essays she co-edited on activism.
Q: You went from unknown to icon awfully quickly. Did you ever ﬁnd the transition intimidating?
A: To be honest, I was really scared when I took the action. The hardest part was that moment of, “Should I do this?” I could either stand back and watch as the government was eroding our social services and destroying our environment or I could do something. I was scared about my parents’ reaction, my family’s reaction. But then I really thought about the people who are impacted by Harper—women, indigenous people and workers. That really gave me strength and the feeling that I’m part of something bigger.
Q: How did your parents react?
A: My dad was really critical of the action. My parents want what’s best for me and all that, and I respect that. So they were concerned—“How are you going to pay the rent?” and that kind of thing. But then there was a real sense from my sisters that they were proud of me. I do feel a lot of support from my family. That’s huge and really important to me. To be honest, I think my dad is coming around.
Would cost $12-million more
Vancouver’s transit authority has released a report on the viability of a gondola to ferry students and professors up Burnaby Mountain to Simon Fraser University. The report by CH2M Hill found that it would cost $12-million more than using buses over a 25-year period. That means it won’t be built anytime soon. The option may be considered in a “future strategic transportation plan,” says TransLink. Many people supported the aerial alternative because winter weather often keeps buses from navigating the icy roads and because the gondola may be more environmentally friendly than buses. However, the gondola was opposed by some homeowners who would have lived underneath it.
Two-wheel transport speeds ahead on campus
From the 21st Maclean’s University Rankings—on newsstands now. Story by Jason McBride.
If you were to design the perfect bicycling environment, it would include safe, well-maintained and lit streets. It would have almost no car traffic, dedicated bike paths and ample secure parking and storage. It might even have showers purpose-built for sweaty commuters and a well-equipped repair shop where cyclists can get help fixing a flat tire. In short, it would look quite a bit like the campus of McMaster University.
McMaster is located in blue-collar, largely car-centric Hamilton, Ont.—an unlikely champion of the bicycle. But in the past two years, the city has been in the vanguard of sustainable travel, expanding cycling infrastructure, improving regional transit and adding carpooling programs. Municipal support has, in turn, emboldened the university, and encouraged both students and faculty to take up, in great numbers, alternative modes of transportation. According to Kate Whalen, manager of McMaster’s office of sustainability, a 2010 campus survey revealed that 37 per cent of students walked or cycled to school. “We have a very engaged population,” she says. And the university is very responsive to the needs of that population. Just one example: after a civil engineering student did a systematic geographic information survey of the use of university bike racks, underutilized racks were relocated to more optimal spots on campus. Ten additional racks are installed each year, Whalen says.
BIXI heads west
The University of British Columbia is poised to benefit from the likely arrival of the BIXI bike sharing service in Vancouver, reports The Ubyssey. Carole Jolly, Director of Transportation Planning for UBC told the newspaper that she has been working with the City on the project since last April. Her initial analysis shows that a trial could include 200 bicycles and 20 docking stations on campus. The City would presumably install a number of docking stations in various locations off-campus, close to where students live.
Bicycle sharing has obvious environmental benefits, but is can also be a money-saving option for commuters. In Toronto, for example, BIXI members pay $95 annually for a membership key that allows them to pick up and ride the black bikes to other docking stations sprinkled across the city. There are no charges so long as bikes are docked at any station within 30 minutes and there are minimal late fees thereafter. Best of all, there’s no worry that your fancy new ride will be swiped while you’re in a lecture. It’s always locked.
Pettigrew: It’s only water and plastic. Let’s all take a breath.
Another university, this time Toronto, has announced a ban on bottled water, continuing what must be the most overblown crusade since, well, the actual Crusades.
It’s hard to think of another product where the campaign against it is so out of proportion to the potential harm. Unlike smoking cigarettes — which was banned from professors’ offices when I was an undergraduate — drinking water is not unhealthy in itself. Just the reverse: it’s a vital nutrient. Moreover, unlike smoking, consuming water indoors doesn’t put anyone’s health in jeopardy.
Advocates for the water bans say that bottled water is wasteful because one can get water from taps, which is, of course, true. But if eliminating waste is the issue, why stop — or indeed start — with bottled water? Why not ban cars from campus in favour of bikes? Why not ban paper cups? Why not ban paper textbooks and force students to save paper by reading only electronic versions?
Indeed, if waste is the issue, why focus on a product so eminently recyclable? Are there universities in Canada where plastic bottles aren’t recyclable? And if the problem is that people aren’t being diligent about which bin they’re putting their empties in, the solution should be to convince people of the merits of careful recycling rather than banning a recyclable product.
But even if I conceded that bottled water were a bad thing in itself, and even if I agreed that people were entirely incorrigible when it comes to distinguishing types of garbage, it seems unlikely that a bottled-water ban will help. While it’s nice to imagine that in the absence of bottled water, all the water drinkers will have refillable bottles with them at all times, I think it’s just as likely that those who had been drinking bottled water will bring bottled water from home, or switch to other drinks like cola and iced tea which, by the way, also come in bottles, and are less healthy than water to boot.
I’m not arguing against bringing your own refillable container if that’s your thing. Save money, reduce waste, and feel superior. And start an advertising campaign to encourage others to do likewise if you want. Point out that bottled water may be a thousand times more expensive than tap water, that municipal water supplies may actually be safer than bottled water because they are monitored more closely. Point out that a lot of bottled water is essentially just tap water anyway.
But we have crossed a line when when what seems like a good idea to some becomes a necessity for all. If you don’t like bottled water, don’t buy it. And try to convince others not to buy it.
But don’t insist that I can’t buy it either.
Test was to take place in Goderich, Ont.
Zak Ashley, a 19-year-old University of Windsor student, missed his exam on natural disasters due, ironically, to the tornado that tore through Goderich, Ont. on Sunday, reports The Windsor Star.
The resident of nearby Wingham was supposed to take the distance education environmental science exam at a United Church in Goderich on Monday, but he didn’t show up because he believed that the church had been destroyed by the storm. In fact, it was another United Church in town that was damaged. The school will allow him to write the test in the fall instead.