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Yesterday was World Water Day

What with Earth Hour and Earth Day coming up and International Women's day come and gone, I totally forgot about World Water Day. But, last year, 2007, York University students, led by Korice Moir, who was helped by Roberta Hawkins (see the gender and water poster), and Paul Marmer, the 3 Master's students, who went to Mongolia for 3 months in 2006, as part of our Sustainable Water in Mongolia project, organized a great event with fellow Faculty of Environmental Studies students. Here are a few pictures. We had a hike around the campus (see our former Campus Planner, and IRIS exec. member, Andrew Wilson, in the central picture at the bottom) and learned about lost rivers, and the First Nations land claim that still remains to be settled. There were also posters and displays in Vari Hall and students taste-tested the difference between tap and bottled water (top photo).

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Alberta Tar Sands documentary airs on CBC tonight

A new documentary "Tar Sands, The Selling of Alberta" commissioned by the CBC, will be on channel 5 Toronto, tonight at 9 pm. In an interview on The Hour last night, the filmaker, Peter Raymont, pointed out that Fort McMurray, in Alberta, is the third largest Newfoundland city in Canada (that's an indication of the extent of within-Canada migration!).

For those of you who haven't paid much attention to exactly what the fuss about the Tar Sands is, imagine that you take a can of motor oil, walk over to your child's sand box (or the local park's kiddie sand box!), pour the oil into the sand, and mix it around. Then, someone tells you that you need to get that oil off of that sand and back into the can! That is the challenge with the Tar Sands - it's a huge fossil fuel reserve, but the oil is very difficult and energetically expensive to extract. When it comes to carbon emissions, the cost of extracting the oil is huge. The documentary explores the social impacts and geopolitics of this issue, moreso than the environmental aspects. But, all of these aspects are directly linked when it comes to sustainability. Highly recommended viewing.

Dawn Bazely

March 8th – International Women’s Day

When I spent time in Tromsø University, Norway, in 2005 and 2006, developing a joint International Polar Year project with my colleagues there, I was very lucky to have my office in the Peace Studies Centre. While this very modern building reminded me of a Dalek from Dr. Who, simply sitting there, got me thinking about and paying attention to recent Nobel Prize winners (this is me with the bust of Mahatma Gandhi outside the Centre - ironically, he never won the Nobel Peace Prize, though he was nominated. I was so inspired by this bronze bust that I wrote an essay about Busts of Gandhi in Toronto and Norway).
I was particularly inspired by the story of Wangari Maathai, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 for her work on women’s rights and environmental protection in Kenya. Wangari Mathai is a feminist, environmentalist and human rights activist, who has, in the past, been jailed for speaking out. Her autobiography, Unbowed, is a fascinating read, and I highly recommend it. Women’s rights - access to education, political office, and simply basic human security - are as much an issue today as when I was learning about them, while growing up, attending all-girls schools, and reading authors like Germaine Greer. I am delighted with the support that the Nobel Foundation gives to women - visit their web site today.

Linda Lundström announces bankruptcy

Just over a year ago, I attended the Green Carpet Series, an event promoting sustainable fashion. The evening was aimed at an audience of younger people who work in the downtown Toronto core, and who might not normally be prone to thinking about their ecological footprint. Numerous young women were lured there by the presence of George Stroumboulopoulos, host of CBC's The Hour , who acted as a co-host for the fashion show (I had no idea that he's considered such a sex symbol - I simply admire his in-depth interviews with authors, when I manage to stay up late enough to watch his show!). The fashion show featured lots of cool, environmentally-friendly fashion, including some amazing recycled dresses, along with local food, wine and biodegradable spoons and forks. The gorgeous designs of Canadian, Linda Lundström were also featured. She has been actively involved in and leading efforts to reduce the environmental impact of the textile industry. Her clothes are made locally, and her latest lines featured many organic materials. I was very disappointed to hear, just one year after this event, the sad announcement, that her business has failed. It's incredibly disheartening that she hasn't been able to make it in the current business environment. I very much hope that Linda Lundström will be able to make a come back, and to continue to provide much needed leadership on the fashion and clothing front with respect to sustainability.

Dawn Bazely

Blogging on IRIS

Hello everyone. This is an exciting time for both sustainability in general and York University in particular. More and more people in North America are realizing how important it is to be aware of our ecological footprint, and to actively reduce it (check out At IRIS we are exploring ways to increase York's sustainability profile. In this new BLOG, we will be bringing you updates of what's going on at York. IRIS affiliates - students, faculty and staff - are constantly in touch with our many colleagues and friends both in Canada and across the world, learning about what's going on with sustainability initiatives, and we are going to write about what we hear.

To kick off, I want to introduce the resident members of the IRIS blogging team. Myself (Dawn Bazely, Director), Melissa Leithwood (Acting IRIS Co-ordinator), Duane Lakin-Thomas (IRIS Co-ordinator - occasional blogger), Rajiv Rawat (IRIS webmaster) and Annette Dubreuil (International Polar Year Project Manager). We will also be having guest bloggers.

York University and the National University of Mongolia


From left to right in Dalanzadgad, Mongolia: Jargal, Gail, the leader of the local herder's group and her son, Joni, Bataar, the two other sons of the local leader, Uska, Dawn and Bagii.

by Dawn Bazely & Carol Irving
SWiM Team Project Newsletter, March 2007

Water is essential for life on earth. As global warming increases, many areas of the world will become much drier. Sonya Nergui, a Botany Professor at the National University of Mongolia (NUM), visited York University in Spring 2006. She has been charged with heading and developing NUM's Water Research Centre in Ulaanbaatar, which will be vital in allowing Mongolia to cope with pressures on water resources.

Sonya's visit was part of an international agreement between the National University of Mongolia and York University, Canada. In the Fall of 2005, Adrian Shubert, York University's Associate Vice-President, International, signed the agreement in Mongolia.

The agreement also provides for student exchanges between the two universities. At York, Sonya was hosted by Prof. Gail Fraser in the Faculty of Environmental Studies and by Associate Dean of Science & Engineering, Paula Wilson. Dawn Bazely led a grant application to AUCC. We settled on a project about Human Security and Water. In addition to Sonya's visit, there has also been an exchange of Administrative staff between York and NUM.

How did six York University students and faculty come to be in the Little Gobi desert in Fall 2006? And, how did four Mongolian visitors come to be looking at Niagara Falls in November 2006, and commenting on it being "a lot of water!"? We all participated in the Sustainable Water in Mongolia (SWiM) project, a Students for Development project of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) that is funded by the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). We thank the AUCC and CIDA for their strong support of our project.

More stories like this one are included in the first SWiM (Sustainable Water in Mongolia) Team Project Newsletter available here for download in PDF format.