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Who cares about Bangladesh? 2. Who Cares if Bangladesh Drowns? Documentary by Afsan Chowdhury

In 2009, IRIS, together with York International and Faculty of Environmental Studies, held a conference: Strengthening the Ecojustice Movement

At the conference, Afsan Chowdhury's documentary, about the plight of many Bangladeshi's faced with rising sea-levels, "Who Cares if Bangladesh Drowns?" was screened.

This film remains a must see in the canon that brings attention to how global warming will affect people both in the near future, and right now. You can watch most of it, or all of it, on YouTube. Afsan continues to advocate for social and environmental justice in Bangladesh.

And, here's the original post:

"IRIS is delighted to announce the release of the International Ecojustice Conference Report. The conference  took place at York University in April of 2009, bringing  together activists and engaged academics from Brazil, India, and South Africa, as well as Canada, represented by Inuit and First Nations.

The Ecojustice Conference represented York's response to a challenge to host a conference that ran directly counter to the norm of international climate meetings.  At our conference, members of the Global North heard voices from the Global South, as well as Canada's North, as speakers told of challenges and inequities faced by people who are already experiencing the results of climate change.

The impacts of climate change are unevenly distributed, with the most vulnerable groups experiencing the worst effects, including droughts, floods, threats to food security and other extreme environmental events. Our Ecojustice-themed conference created a space where concerns and opinions regarding climate change could be voiced. The stories that emerged were hopeful ones of resilience and adaptation, but also of the need for resources, information sharing and self-determination.

The conference report outlines some of the key issues that emerged from the conference, including a list of recommendations. They included: building international solidarity with disenfranchised peoples, putting pressure on our governments for fair and ethical international negotiations, and reducing consumption levels in the Global North.

For more information on the conference, please visit photos or download the report here: Ecojustice Conference"


“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

“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #6: Greetings from Doha

    A message from Professor Idil Boran, delegate from York University, attending the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP 18.

"Greetings from Doha.  I want to begin by saying that the conference has been

incredibly informative.  I went to some impressive panels and met very
interesting people.

The country negotiations are, as you know, going slowly and the expectations are

The side events, panels, and initiatives are absolutely fascinating.  As the
negotiations are going slowly, there is an impressive effort at figuring out
alternative pathways for attending to the issue of climate change.  The
dominant idea at Doha 2012 is the need to think in innovative ways on how the
issue can be dealt with.  I also found that there is a heavy focus on
instruments other than traditional policy approaches.  For example, the idea of
"innovative and green financing" is central to the discussions.  So is the idea
of considering Development Banks as instruments that could facilitate climate
financing, transfer of green technology, and green development.

Yesterday, I went to a fascinating panel on women and climate change, where the
idea of making climate instruments gender sensitive was advanced.

I hope to give a full account of all my observations on my return.  I haven't
had too much time writing, because I am trying to maximize my observations and
have been focused on absorbing new insights as much as possible"

“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #5: Introducing York’s UNFCCC delegates

It's that time of year again: the annual Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. This year, UNFCCC COP 18, is being held at Doha, Qatar, and meetings began yesterday, Monday, November 26th. This year, York's delegation is made up of professors from quite different disciplines: Professor Muhammad Yousaf (Chemistry - at left) and Professor Idil Boran (Philosophy - below right). Sadly, Professor Ian Garrett from the Department of Theatre, who received accreditation as part of the delegation, was unable to attend the COP in person, but plans to blog about it from afar.

Professor Boran is carrying out SSHRC-funded research which re-examines climate change policy, with a special focus on the challenges for decision-making, both at the individual and the societal level. She is interested in understanding the extent to which recent research in the social sciences that pertains to the effect of social and cognitive factors on our decision-making processes can help to develop new approaches to climate change policy. Professor Boran seeks to articulate the implications of this research for international debates and negotiations toward a global agreement.

Her participation at COP18, will, she hopes, allow her to assess whether the strategies and arguments used in international debates are compatible or incompatible with the latest social scientific developments, and whether they can mutually learn from one another. In light of these observations, she will be able to draw implications both for theory and policy practice. She will set targets, for her own research, on how to analyze the new scholarly advances on decision-making on climate change policy, in light of insights from actual decision-making and negotiation processes. This in turn can potentially contribute to a more refined theoretical analysis and help bridge the gap between theory and practice in scholarly research.

Although Professor Yousaf is newly arrived at York's Chemistry Department (in 2011), which he chairs, from the Chemistry Department at the University of North Carolina, at Chapel Hill, he is no stranger to the campus. He is a York alumnus, having graduated with a Chemistry and Biology B.Sc. degree in 1994!

Professor Yousaf has wide-ranging research interests that span from chemistry to biology, and he also has an interest in understanding how science informs policy. He will be bringing his science-perspective to the COP, as he seeks to understand exactly how the science of climate change is regarded by the policy makers, and politicians.

Ian-GarrettWe wish Professors Boran and Yousaf all the best in Doha. They will be sending updates and mini-blogs as time permits. Professor Ian Garrett (at left), who attended COP 15, is a veteran blogger and co-founder of the Center for Sustainable Practice in the Arts. He is the recently arrived Professor of Sustainability and Design in the Faculty of Fine Arts, and he will be casting his critical artist's eye on the Doha meetings, from Toronto.

This is the fourth delegation that York University is sending to the annual meeting of the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change, since 2009, when we applied for, and received Civil Society Observer Status for York University in time for COP 15 in Copenhagen. Past York delegations have included staff, students and faculty from areas as diverse as Political Science, Nursing, and the Faculty of Environmental Studies. Outcomes from delegates have included experiences that informed a book, Climate Change - Who's Carrying the Burden, edited by Professor Anders Sandberg and his son, Tor, and blogs by Jacquie Medalye, as well as extensive national and international networking.

Dawn R. Bazely

“Climate Change is NOT a hoax” (B. Obama) blog #4: David Miller lectures to students in Climate Change Science & Policy (ENVS 3400)

While it's possible for university students to spend all of their time outside of scheduled classes, so as to be learning even more (perish the thought!), by attending additional guest research seminars and lectures, most students don't take advantage of opportunities to hear well-known speakers who come to campus.

Realizing this, Annette Dubreuil, the IRIS co-ordinator, spearheaded an effort to bring invited speakers, who will be of interest to the broader community, into the classroom, and to open up these lectures as IRIS events. Last Thursday, former mayor of Toronto, David Miller spoke to students in Dr. Kaz Higuchi's course, Climate Change Science and Policy (ENVS 3400).

Originally, Kaz had discussed convening a panel to debate opposing views on climate change, but David categorically dismissed this option; as he put it - the climate skeptics funded by corporate interests don't need another platform.  In case you're wondering, Dr. Higuchi is a climate scientist who recently retired from Environment Canada's Adaptation and Impacts Research Group. He has been teaching in the Faculty of Environmental Studies for several years, and he is very concerned that academics from all disciplines learn how to debate and handle arguments for and against climate change.

David Miller, who has been teaching at the Polytechnic Institute of New York University based in Brooklyn, showcased his oratorical skills in a tour-de-force lecture about how Toronto and other cities are mitigating and adapting to the effects of climate change.

It was a text book lesson in how to explain, very clearly, evidence-based policy that leads to actions which are beneficial for people, the planet and, profits. Citing many statistics and studies, as he laid out the challenges facing cities, David described and explained the steps that Toronto took while he was mayor. He described Change is in the Air, the 2007 Climate Change, Clean Air and Sustainable Energy Action Plan, as well as other Toronto city plans, and how they are driving action on combatting climate change.

David also explained some fascinating, green jobs technologies, including one in which heat is extracted from sewage - this also has a high "ick" factor. He challenged the audience of students, faculty and staff to come up with a snappier name for the company and product - International Wastewater Heat Exchange Systems (IWHES)! (Check out the awesome video on their site).

We filled one of the gorgeous new lecture halls in the recently opened Life Sciences Building which is built to LEED silver rating standards, on the Keele Campus. After a 45-minute lecture, students lined up to ask David questions, for 45 minutes, about all kinds of sustainability, climate change and social justice issues. After the talk, I asked Roger Keil, director of York's CITY Institute, who was sitting behind me, why he hadn't asked a question, he quipped "what for? the students did a great job!"

And, after all the questions were finished, David stayed for a bit longer, and chatted informally with students, many of whom were keen to have their photos snapped with him. Enrique Miranda (Student Engagement co-ordinator) and Ramsen Yousif (President) of the Undergraduate Political Science Council executive, a co-sponsor of the event, are shown above left, with the former mayor.

At the end of the day:

Score one for a brilliantly delivered explanation of evidence-based policy.

Score two for articulate speakers who can explain the science and connect the dots for making the social justice case clear, when it comes to climate change.

Score three for former politicians who live on in more ways than in old fridge magnets (that's my super-duper green fridge at right, on which we have a collection of old magnets, including one from when David Miller was our city councillor - back in 1995). One student remarked after the lecture "I just learned more about municipal planning in this lecture than I did all year!"

The lecture will soon be available on the IRIS website, in case you missed it and want to hear what David had to tell the students.

Dawn R. Bazely

“Climate Change is NOT a Hoax” (B. Obama) Blog #1: Cognitive Dissonance and Denial

The relevance of Twitter and Tweets to my life and society at large continues to elude me, even though we have had an IRIS twitter account for several years. Mostly, Twitter reminds me of the Roald Dahl book, The Twits! (By the way, the Roald Dahl museum in Great Missenden, UK has a Sustainability programme)

Nevertheless, I felt compelled to Tweet what President Obama said about "climate change not being a hoax", during his acceptance speech at the Democratic National Convention. A ton of other people also tweeted this! Obama's comment has inspired me to write a series of 10 blogs exploring why the president of the USA actually had to make this statement. He might equally have said "there is no evidence that mermaids are real."

I spent a good part of the last year, while living in the USA, trying to wrap my head around why so many of its citizens are able to dismiss the evidence of human-induced climate change. I have given a lot of thought to the link between science, policy and politics. As well, I have been reading about personality types, learning styles, economics, etc. etc.

Which brings me to Cognitive Dissonance. This is the state of holding conflicting cognitions. As in, for example, refusing to believe that IPCC scientist reports that carbon emissions from human sources are causing climate change, while at the same time, happily living in a country where most of the infrastructure is directly based on technology that comes from the very same scientific method. To a rationale thinker, who respects the power of peer-reviewed research and logical thought, this particular example of cognitive dissonance is puzzling and unfathomable. But it's so widespread that I have been compelled to ask - what's the science behind this?

Two excellent CBC radio programmes about Risk in the IDEAS series currently being (re)broadcast in the afternoons, directly address my question.  Additionally, in a study published earlier this year in Nature Climate Change, Yale University researchers found that climate change denial was associated more with cognitive dissonance than scientific illiteracy.

Here's a summary: "On the simplest level, we take risks to derive benefits. If the benefit outweighs the risk, we've made a good decision. But decisions are subject to bias, even those of experts. How do we live with uncertainty and make good decisions? Vancouver broadcaster Kathleen Flaherty talks with risk takers, risk managers and risk assessors to find out." (from the Ideas with Paul Kennedy website)

Clearly, if human-induced climate change is real, then NOT taking serious steps to reduce greenhouse gas emissions constitutes extremely risky behaviour. Why aren't people in the countries with the highest carbon footprints, such as Canada and the USA NOT acting more decisively? Obviously, they must be thinking that the experts are biased. Even though we are talking about widespread scientific consensus!

The interviews and conversations with researchers and authors in the programmes explain how and why people react to uncertainty and risk with inaction. Basically, people avoid thinking uncomfortable thoughts by convincing themselves that everything is ok. How so? Well, for a start, they tend to hang out with others who have similar outlooks and beliefs, which leads to all kinds of fundamentalist and dogmatic denialist thinking, because there is no one there to challenge them.

The example of the consequences that can come from surrounding oneself with "yes men", that is given in the programme, is that of Lord John Browne, former CEO of BP. BP had failed to address poor safety practices at the Texas City oil refinery where there was an explosion in 2005. Apparently, Lord Browne has said in subsequent interviews that he was not questioned and challenged enough by those in his immediate circle, or something to that effect. But, of course, as Kathleen Flaherty  pointed out, the membership of his top management team was his choice.

I strongly recommend this programme to everyone wanting to understand how denial arises in the face of bad news and uncertainty - and climate change. This is the process of self-delusion. Of course, the extreme irony about using Lord John Browne as an example of the tendency  to avoid those speaking inconvenient truths to power, is that in 1997 he was one of the only Big Oil executives to publicly endorse the IPCC consensus on  climate change being related to human activities, and to refer to its second assessment. Browne also rebranded British Petroleum as BP, and "Beyond Petroleum", and is considered a visionary.

And, one last thing: the programme gave an alarming statistic that 30% of US white males interviewed believed that all activities are risk-free. This contrasted with women, and African American men and women amongst whom there was hardly anyone holding this view. This lack of ability to detect and acknowledge risk would, logically,  be occurring amongst white male bankers. And, we all know what happened on Wall Street a few years ago!  You can download the podcasts here

Dawn Bazely


Robert Watson, then and now: the former chair of the Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change who was removed by President George W. Bush in 2001

In May 2012 , Professor Sir Robert Watson FRS gave a very informative lecture at Oxford University, entitled:

Climate change and biodiversity loss - the importance of scientific assessments to national and international policy formation

The talk was sponsored by the Biodiversity Institute (which hosted me during my sabbatical time at Oxford this year), one of the interdisciplinary Oxford Martin Schools. It was important for several reasons.

First and foremost, Robert (Bob) Watson is an excellent example of a scientist who is actually well versed in the ways of anti-science politics. He gave a detailed explanation in his lecture of how evidence-based policy ought to be formulated. The UK National Ecosystem Assessment, of which he was co-chair provided a case study.

I was excited to be able to ask him my current standard question for colleagues in the science community:

"What can Canadian scientists based in Universities do to bring attention to the current anti-climate change science and anti-peer-reviewed research policies of the Harper government?"

Who is better placed to be asked this question than the man who was was pushed out of IPCC by George W. Bush in response to pressure from Big Oil? Was Robert Watson demoralized by  his experience? Absolutely not - he's dynamic, positive and inspirational. This makes him an important public voice in advocating for evidence-based policy. He has continued to serve in a series of high-level science-policy roles as well as being a professor at the University of East Anglia.

In responding to my question, Prof. Watson indicated that he is very up-to-date on the Harper government's track record on Kyoto. He is also well aware of its gutting of Statistics Canada and of the political ideology driving this and other cuts. Why wouldn't he be? He was, himself a victim of political ideology.

In a nutshell, he advised that scientists MUST go directly to the public to advocate for the importance of peer-reviewed research. So, scientists must invest in learning to not "be such a scientist" outside of their labs and field sites. (For most of my colleagues in the natural and physical sciences, I immediately thought "well, good luck with that - I really don't see it happening!").

I will end this post with the text of his 2000 speech to the COP 6 of the UNFCCC. I have bored many second year Ecology students (BIOL 2050) by reading chunks of it out loud during lectures, when I was teaching this course from  2000-2006....

It might be boring but it's important - so much of it is coming to pass - WE WERE WARNED BY SCIENTISTS...

OK - on balance, perhaps it's more fun to listen to Robert Watson in person, Dawn Bazely




Occupy COP17

A new Occupy movement has just started up for COP17 in Durban. They are seeking to protest against the further entrenchment of the carbon market and trading as a solution to climate change. They have poignantly stated  that " [the] very same people responsible for the global financial crisis are poised to seize control of our atmosphere, land, forests, mountains and waterways. They want to institute carbon markets that will make billions of dollars for the elite few, whilst stealing land and resources from the many. We need to organise to protect the planet and safeguard those who depend on and defend our ecosystems." Follow them or join their occupation of the COP by visiting

UNFCCC Adaptation Photo Contest

The Adaptation Fund of the UNFCCC has placed a call out for photos on adaptation. Anyone can apply and the winners will be announced in Durban at COP17. York University will have a delegation at COP17, so please let us know if you have a photo you'd like to submit.

The Competition focuses on adaptation to the adverse effects of climate change, which is defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), as the adjustment in natural or human systems in response to actual or expected climatic stimuli or their effects, which moderates harm or exploits beneficial opportunities (IPCC Third Assessment Report, Climate Change 2001)

The deadline for submission is November 22nd, 2011. Late entries will not be accepted. An entry is considered only if received by the photos must be submitted electronically to the Adaptation Fund Board Secretariat

For more information on submitting your entry, please visit: or contact our delegate Rachel Hirsch at