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“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #8: York delegates at Doha

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Professor Babatunde Ajayi (School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology, Nigeria)) and Mr. Isaiah Owolabi (Project HACEY, Nigeria), York University accredited delegates to COP 18 of UNFCCC can be seen, at left, with Philosophy Department professor, Idil Boran, along with other pictures of Doha and the convention centre.

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Here is Professor Ajayi’s biography – WELCOME to the York University Delegation during COP 18!

- See more at:, York University accredited delegates to COP 18 of UNFCCC can be seen, at left, with Philosophy Department professor, Idil Boran, along with other pictures of Doha and the convention centre.

ABOUT PROF. BABATUNDE AJAYI - profile kindly supplied by Project HACEY

"His area of research is the production of Bio-composites materials from wood and agricultural wastes. Currently, he is working on the production of plastic bonded composites using virgin plastic (HPDE), recycled plastic (LPDE), and used car battery case as binders. He is also investigating the suitability of agricultural wastes for the manufacture of cement bonded composites as affordable products for core low cost housing for low income earners. Professor Babatnde Ajayi was born on 25th August, 1955 in Ijan Ekiti, Nigeria. He obtained his Diploma in Forestry at the school of Forestry Ibadan, PGD in Timber and Material Technology at High- Wycombe, UK in 1986, MSc in Forest Industries Technology at Bangor, UK in 1990 and a PhD in Wood Science and Bio-Composites Technology from the Federal University of Technology, Akure in 2000. He assumed the status of a Professor in 2010 and he is currently the Head of Department of Forestry and Wood Technology, Federal University of Technology, Akure, Nigeria. He has published more than 50 papers in reputable local and international journals and presented papers at 33 conferences and professional meetings.

In 2011, he received a Merit Award for Local Raw Materials Content, Research and Development from the Raw Materials Research and Development Council of Nigeria at TECHNO-EXPO 2011 (A Technology and Innovative Fair) in Abuja, Nigeria. He also exhibited his work at the United Nations Geneva- 2010 Exhibitions of Innovative Wood Products and for the 2011 International Year of the Forest.

He is a member of many professional bodies including the Institute of Wood Science, U.K., Commonwealth Forestry Association, U.K., Forest Products Society, U.S.A., Forestry Association of Nigeria, Nigerian Society for Environmental Management, Forest and Forest Products Society, Nigeria, International Union of Forestry Research Organization, International Inorganic Bonded Composites, USA and Society of Wood Science and Technology."

About SAAT - from the website.


Over the past years, the School of Agriculture and Agricultural Technology (SAAT), like every other school or faculty in Nigerian Universities, focused essentially on teaching and research (basic and applied). It determined its teaching and research agenda within the framework provided by the National Universities Commission, the main regulatory body, and the perceived needs of the society. The scope of this teaching and research agenda has been severally limited by the relatively dwindling government funding for the universities. This has led to most teaching and research facilities (laboratories, lecture rooms, libraries, office accommodation, communication and information equipment. etc) becoming obsolete, and inadequate to satisfy the aspiration of the school to meet the challenges of teaching and research in Nigerian Agriculture in the 21st century. In order to be at the cutting edge of agriculture and agricultural technology and impact positively and significantly on Nigeria’s rural, agricultural and agro-industrial landscape, the school has accepted a paradigm shift towards “the town and gown”. In this new paradigm, SAAT will not only teach and research, but will also render services that can transform the Nigerian socioeconomic and technological landscape. The services will be rendered to its stakeholders within the university and in larger Nigerian society.

The implication of the new paradigm is that SAAT’s work programme agenda will be needs driven Teaching and research will become more tailored to needs of the society than were previously case while SAAT will devote a substantial proportion of its resources and expertise to rendering services to its stakeholders within the larger Nigerian society. A further implication of the new paradigm is that the school will be more involved in the activities of the larger Nigeria society, by rendering services and soliciting for support in terms of collaboration, patronage, grants and endowment.

Akure is NE of Lagos, about a third of the way to Abuja."


“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #7: Introducing York University’s other COP 18 Delegates


View Doha UNFCCC COP 18 in a larger map

In addition to our York University professors, who are at the UNFCCC in Doha (see map above, and skyline at right), two members of Project HACEY, a capacity-building NGO working in the health and sustainability sectors, were able to be accredited through York, as NGO Observers at the UNFCCC COP 18. We will have more about our Project HACEY colleagues in a future post. Project HACEY is based in Lagos, Nigeria.

Dawn Bazely

Another slap in the face for critics of Canadian mining companies? Barrick Gold settles SLAPP suit against Noir Canada

Barrick Gold’s lawsuit against the authors and publisher of the book Noir Canada: pillage, corruption et criminalité en Afrique, a French language exposé of the practices of Canadian mining companies in Africa, has been settled out of court.

(See Barrick Gold’s press release, a Le Devoir news story (in French), and a story in the Winnipeg Free Press)

The defamation lawsuit was a classic example of a “SLAPP” – a Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation, employed by powerful individuals and corporations to intimidate critics and stifle scrutiny of their actions, typically by claiming that the criticism amounts to libel or slander. Such lawsuits have been employed in efforts to silence indigenous people, environmentalists, labour groups, human rights activists and others who try to oppose logging, mining, resource extraction, pollution, dam-building, and other activities that they believe are harming or may harm health, safety, welfare, or ecological integrity in affected communities.

The Québec Superior Court had ruled that the lawsuit was an abuse of process designed to intimidate Barrick Gold’s critics, and that Barrick should pay the defendants’ legal fees. Despite this important victory, and facing the prospect of a lengthy knock-down, drag-out legal battle, the defendant authors and publisher decided to settle the case out of court. As part of the settlement (according to the Barrick press release), they agreed to cease publication and reprinting of the book, and to make a “significant payment” to Barrick.

Barrick explicitly agrees, in its press release, that the authors and the publisher, Écosociété, wrote and published Noir Canada in good faith, in the belief that it was legitimate. It also acknowledges that

“Noir Canada was written to provoke a public debate about controversies surrounding the presence of Canadian interests in Africa and to call for the creation of a public inquiry about this Canadian presence in Africa. [The authors] still maintain this position and continue to inquire about the role of private corporations active as commercial partners with African political representatives engaged in armed conflicts.”

But how much room does this settlement leave for such investigation into and public debate about the connection between Canadian companies and environmental damage, armed conflict, and human rights violations around the world?  A group of Québec intellectuals thinks that it will have a chilling effect, and I believe their concerns are well founded. Their commentary was published in Le Devoir yesterday, in French. An English translation was posted today on the blog Free Speech at Risk. It is important reading.

Here is a bit of what they said:

“Still the reader may wonder why the authors have nevertheless "accepted" another SLAPP from Barrick Gold. Why did they "choose" to comply with these conditions? Those who ask these questions have no idea of the kind of psychological pressures that can take place in thèse circumstances. The consequences of this lawsuit are enormous for the authors. Lives have been turned upside down forever. One must be aware of the fact that the out of court deliberative process does not in general take the form of a conversation over a cup of tea. In the case of a continuing SLAPP, a poisonous atmosphere often prevails, even if one is looking for an out of court settlement. The lawyers try to demoralize the opposition. Thus, the authors and the publisher did not choose anything. They were desperately trying to extricate themselves from a legal unbearable straitjacket.

“Despite the ferocity with which Barrick's lawyers have practiced censorship, it is remarkable to note at the end of this process the strength of character of the authors and the publisher. They strongly reaffirmed the rationale for the publication of their book.

“Moreover, the admissions required by Barrick in fact reveal a certain weakness on the part of the company itself. It can only win its case by exerting an enormous pressure on its opponents. But in so doing, it shows that the lawsuit was from the very beginning not a procedure meant to refute but rather to silence the authors and their legitimate questions.”

This episode underlines the need for anti-SLAPP legislation in Canada.  In the United States, around half of the states have anti-SLAPP laws protecting the right to public participation, allowing courts to dismiss abusive lawsuits, award legal fees to SLAPP defendants, and allow them to launch “SLAPPBack” lawsuits against those who launch SLAPPs. British Columbia had such a law briefly in 2001, enacted by the departing New Democrats and repealed quickly by the incoming Liberal government. Québec introduced draft anti-SLAPP legislation in 2008, which was enacted in 2009—too late to stop Barrick from bringing its lawsuit. Ontario is mulling the prospect (see a thoughtful paper on this by Osgoode Hall Law School student Christine Kellowan, posted days before the Noir Canada settlement in an effort to renew the debate that had appeared to die down in the last year).

A ‘Green’ World Cup with a carbon footprint of 2,753,251 tons of CO2?

Amid the excitement of the World Cup it is easy to forget that international sporting spectacles as large as the FIFA World Cup in South Africa have significant environmental impacts. The media has tended to focus our attention to controversies surrounding the World Cup such the banning of the vuvuzela, predicting final contenders, and more serious concerns such as the inequalities that plague South Africa. However, the media has been quick to turn a blind eye to the carbon footprint of the World Cup. How ‘climate-friendly’ is the World Cup? According to the United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), the FIFA World Cup in South Africa is undeniably ‘green’. Three days before the kick-off, UNEP issued a press release highlighting its major initiatives to reduce the carbon emissions of the World Cup. The initiative is a result of a partnership between the Global Environment Facility (GEF), UNEP, and the South African Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA).  Supported by US$1 million in GEF funding, the initiative includes three major greening projects: renewable energy interventions in six World Cup host cities, an awareness-raising drive on green tourism, and a programme to offset the carbon emissions of eleven World Cup teams. In addition, the DEA, identified five carbon offset projects to counter travelers' emissions. The projects include solar cookers, soil composing, energy efficient lighting, wind energy, and domestic fire lighting. But are these efforts at reducing the carbon footprint of the World Cup really enough? Not according to a study conducted by the Norwegian embassy and the Government of South Africa.  The study found that this World Cup will emit 2,753,251 tons of CO2 into the atmosphere, which is roughly equivalent to the amount released by one million cars over the course of a year. In other terms, the games will emit as much CO2 as 6,000 space shuttle fights or a 1 billion cheeseburgers. Even worse news is that the emission levels of this World Cup are six times higher than the last World Cup in Berlin.  The reasons include the number of international flights, the ‘necessary’ new infrastructure developments, and the reliance on coal burning to meet the influx of tourists’ energy demand. Ironically, this World Cup’s massive carbon footprint coincides with the June 2010 Bonn international climate talks, where, once again, negotiators failed to move forward on a post-Kyoto text. Naturally, the international talks in Bonn have been completely foreshadowed by international World Cup fervor. So before we watch the next match, perhaps we should take a moment to consider how our thirst for entertainment might impact the global climate system.

For more see:

Sustainability and exhaustion – don’t let it get you down

[photopress:Messy_desktop1.jpg,thumb,pp_image][photopress:Messy_desk2.jpg,thumb,pp_image][photopress:messy_study_3.jpg,thumb,pp_image]Being a director of a sustainability institute and an academic is very tiring - even for a hyper Type A personality who can still put in a 16 hour field day. Not only am I always having to think about my ecological and carbon footprints, and where to buy good offsets, but in a world of greenwashing, scrutinizing everything for its authenticity is also de rigeur.  Uggh - AND THEN THERE'S THE BLOGGING. I have always had two settings - on and off. I like to jump out of bed and hit the ground running, but these days, I often feel like a car engine that's starting on a cold winter's morning. So, it's time for a mechanical overhaul. Here's what I have used  in the past, and will again, to fix the stalled engine:

These may also be helpful for those of you out there who feel overwhelmed by your life, the state of the world and the fact that Terence Corcoran in the National Post is still insisting that the science of climate change is suspect:

1. A life coach (I wrote about this in the article, Coaching for My Life, University Affairs, 2005) (I don't have time for this, these days, but you might).

2. Some great organizational and behavioural modification (often, from business) books. My ipod is filled with audiobooks such as Eat that Frog by Brian Tracy, The Golden Rule of Schmoozing by Aye Jaye, Ready for Anything by Dave Allen, The 60 Second Procrastinator by Jeff Davidson (may be out of print, so borrow it from the library), Your Management Sucks by Mark Stevens, Women and Money by Suze Orman, Crucial Confrontations and Crucial Conversations by Kerry Patterson and colleagues, Making Work Work by Julie Morgernstern (Oprah's organizing guru - and my favourite organization person to read, including her other book, Never Read Email in the Morning), What got you here, won't get you there! by Marshall Goldsmith (and, of course, The Art of War).

3. Podcasts. If you are a poor student and can't afford to pay for a life coach or audiobooks, then download some podcasts, such as Motivation to Move's Daily Boost, The Suze Orman podcast (on itunes), Marcus Buckingham (big time life coach) and Oprah's Take Control of Your Career and Your Life (itunes), and while you are at it, grab some Yoga lessons from Yogamazing (itunes), plus the Manager Tools podcast (itunes) will give you all kinds of sound advice on organizing things.

4. Other people who are more swamped than me: and, you can see the incredible mess on my computer screen and in my home office (above), and feel a sense of superiority. I find that it's always comforting to know that someone else is worse off. Here's what I will be using today, in my surroundings to give me motivation and energy:

The 2006 farewell Globe and Mail article by Ken Wiwa about his decision to return with his family to the UK and to work with the Nigerian government,  pinned to the wall in front of me. The dried edelweiss flower that my former student, and current research collaborator, Andrew Tanentzap gave me as a gift, from a trip to Europe. The photos of past and present grad students and family that are part of the clutter: they make me smile and feel guilty at the same time - a great carrot and stick, combined into one item!


Dawn Bazely

Africa’s Overlapping Crises

UNEP has just released a visually stunning and deeply disturbing atlas of Africa's changing environment. Using an array of satellite images, ground photographs and maps, the nearly 400-page publication depicts a sobering portrait of environmental destruction on a massive scale. While Africa's population has certainly increased in the 20th century, much of this damage is occuring due to continued unsustainable resource extraction or straight out plunder as in the case of many of the continent's bloody but underreported brush wars. The resulting widescale dislocation of populations as well as rapid urbanization have also taken their toll (Independent).

However, the transformation of African Agriculture has perhaps carried the biggest environmental and human impact. As noted economist Walden Bello has noted, a combination of ill-advised agricultural and economic policies have successively destroyed "the local productive base of smallholder agriculture" in favour of Western-style agriculture. These developmental disasters have been further compounded by unfair global trade that has broken the back of African farmers, even has the conversion of ever more land to cash crop production has claimed forests while only producing massive food insecurity.

Indeed, at the time of independence, Africa was a net food exporter, a situation that has been turned on its head under World Bank tutelage and IMF structural adjustment. Now famine perpetually stalks the land, while the African people's age-old coping mechanisms for drought have long overwhelmed by their economic weakness. As Bello argues, biofuels have only provided the coup de grace to a global food system that has been heading towards the current disaster for decades.

Short segment on Uganda’s Carbon Offset experience

Check out this short news segment about carbon offsetting in Uganda. I'll let the tragic story in the three minute video speak for itself:

Related to this comes scathing criticism leveled by indigenous and policy research groups against the UN's support for the World Bank's promotion of carbon trading. In their words, the World Bank is playing "both sides of the climate crisis" by supporting the market-based scheme on one hand, and investing in fossil fuel companies on the other.

With such concerns mounting, it is no stretch that carbon trading schemes need to be studied intensely, something that universities with their multidisciplinary approach could assist with a great deal.

Colloquium on the Global South

The Social and Environmental Implications of Extractive Industries in the Global South

Panelists: Kernaghan Webb (Associate Professor, Business Law, Ryerson), Uwafiokun Idemudia (Assistant Professor, African Studies, York), and David Szablowski (Law and Society, York)

Many aspects of our daily lives rely heavily on resources obtained from the South. Extractive industries such as mining and oil cause severe social and environmental degradation in many southern countries. This panel aims to discuss the consequences of these industries as well as address possible changes in the structure and governance of the mining and oil industries.

Topics covered will include: mining as a development model, governance of MNE Extractive Activities in Developing Countries as well as examining partnership initiatives that address the links between oil extraction and poverty reduction in the Niger Delta.

Wednesday, March 19 (2:30-4:30 pm)
Room 390 York Lanes, York University

This event is co-sponsored by the Institute for Research and Innovation in Sustainability (IRIS).