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Who cares about Bangladesh? 3. Kevin McKague’s doctoral research on how to make markets work for the poor

This is a re-post. Kevin will be adding some photos and a short comment. This past term at York, Kevin organized a seminar series about Sustainable Value Creation. If you want to learn more about how to be a responsible, activist consumer, please check out the work of the speakers that Kevin brought to York.

"Congratulations to long-time IRIS Senior Research Fellow, now Dr. Kevin McKague, on a successful defence of his dissertation last week.

Kevin's research has focused on micro finance and farmers in Bangladesh. Some of Kevin's research will be published in the journal, California Management Review (McKague and Oliver, 2012 vol 55 no 1. pp. 98-129. Enhanced Market Practices: Poverty Alleviation for Poor Producers in Developing Countries)

Over the years, Kevin has been active in the IRIS community and has brought in excellent seminar speakers including a wonderful talk on microfinance by speakers from MEDA, the Mennonite Economic Development Association.

Here is his dissertation title and abstract.

Kevin's PhD. is titled, Making Markets Work for the Poor: Market-Based Approaches to Poverty Alleviation as Institutional Leveraging and Redistribution of Social Control

Interest in market-based approaches to reduce poverty has grown substantially in the last decade. To date, however, explanations in the management literature of how this can be achieved have focused on viewing the poor as consumers at the base of the economic pyramid, as microentrepreneurs in need of microfinance loans, and as potential employees of local small and medium-sized enterprises. Missing from the core of the management conversation has been an adequate understanding of the poor as primary producers and an explanation that situates them within their broader market and institutional context. Drawing on an in-depth study of market-based poverty alleviation initiatives for smallholder farmers by a non-governmental organization in a least developed economy, this dissertation offers the first theoretical model to explain the process by which a non-state organization can strategically enhance market practices in ways that reduce poverty for poor producers and improve overall market functioning. Findings suggest that meaningful improvements in income can be explained by the enhancement of market practices that redistribute social control toward poor producers in ways that reduce market and government failures. In addition, data revealed that the effectiveness of market development and poverty alleviation strategies is moderated by the extent of institutional leveraging to incentivize market changes in alignment with existing norms and logics. The model offers an integrated explanation of how market-based approaches can alleviate poverty and grow inclusive markets for poor producers. Findings suggest a number of business implications, including the importance of rebalancing power relations and enhancing productivity throughout an entire value chain. In addition, findings contribute to the literatures on business and poverty alleviation and the literatures on institutional change."

Dawn Bazely

Who cares about Bangladesh? 1. Consumers and human security in the Global South

The collapse of a poorly-constructed building and the deaths of many garment workers in a textile factory in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has many Canadians talking, because some of the clothes sold in Canada, by the Joe Fresh brand, of Loblaws, were made in this factory.

The poor working conditions and wages, along with prior indications of cracks in the building, pointing to its instability, has prompted global and Canadian media to ask the question "will this change how you buy your clothes?" and articles with titles like, "Is your wardrobe killing Bangladeshis, or saving them?".

Garment Factory in Bangladesh

Photograph  by Fahad Faisal, via Wikimedia Commons 

I managed to get onto the CBC Noon radio phone in, last Friday (that's me at 17:40 mins into the podcast, What is the cost of a bargain?), to explain that I try to buy Canadian labels and locally manufactured clothes, that I encourage my kids to understand how much work goes into sewing clothes (please bring back Home Economics to schools!), and to ask questions in those mall chain stores, that in my opinion, are full of cheaply manufactured, but expensive goods, about their corporate social responsibility policies and fair-trade practices....  (seriously, I do..!).

The issues of sustainability - economic, social and environmental - are at the heart of this tragedy. This building collapse and high death toll has brought unwelcome publicity for Loblaws, who is sending senior representatives from its supply chain team to the factory, to Dhaka, in an effort to understand what caused the tragedy.  The renewed conversations and debates about the role of the consumer and corporations in affecting the livelihoods and working conditions of people in the Global South, are, in my opinion, most welcome, not least because this disaster highlights the complexity of this issue and the fact that it is a "wicked problem" with no easy solution. We must remember, for example, that Loblaws, is, in many respects an exemplary company, when it comes to leadership on sustainability issues: its Sustainable Seafood Initiative, and the Oceans for Tomorrow campaign, in partnership with the Marine Stewardship Council and World Wildlife Fund Canada, is a marvellous programme, that has resulted in increased consumption of certified sea food in my home - after many years of trying to NOT eat down the food chain.

Bangladesh, its people, its environment, and sustainability, have been in the minds of us at IRIS and the York University community over the years, as highlighted in many events and activities.

This is the first in a series in which I will be updating and re-posting blogs from the past, highlighting the issues faced by Bangladeshis, and the efforts of colleagues, here and abroad to bring attention to these complex challenges and propose solutions.

Dawn Bazely

DISCLAIMER - in the interests of transparency, I should say that my husband, Dr. Peter Ewins, works for WWF Canada. I, myself, undertook my first fundraising campaign for WWF UK when I was 11 years old! BUT, this doesn't mean that I have given WWF a 100% thumbs-up on all of its policies, programmes and actions over the last 40 years - there is always room for improvement.


“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

Food Blog no. 10 – cities as sources of food – The Toronto Urban Veg Tour 2012 & 2011

The City of Havana, Cuba produces a tremendous amount of the food for its citizens, as we see in the BBC show, Around the World in 80 Gardens. In the 2004 documentary, The End of Suburbia, the futurist, James Kunstler talked about how people living in the 'burbs, will, in the future, use their front gardens to grow food.

Just how close are we to this being the case in Toronto? Based on my experience across the city, with schools, neighbours, various botanic gardens and teaching the Plants course, I would say that we are still pretty far off. But, there has been movement and a steadily increasing interest amongst youth (for me, that's everyone under 30) in gardening and growing food over the last 5 years - the same trend is happening for knitting. One example of why I think we are far off this, is that I spent a good chunk of my volunteer time in the mid 2000s on my knees, digging, with other dedicated parents (see Catherine Majoribanks, Pete Ewins, myself, Sheila O'Connell and Jeff Hanning above), and restoring an overgrown public school butterfly garden to have a focus on food and herbs, and installing a new native species garden. My various strategic attempts, at that time, to make the sporadic efforts of parent-driven efforts in school gardens more sustainable and widespread over incoming generations of parents, teachers and children, failed. There was simply not a broad enough interest and uptake on multiple fronts - in other words, the tipping point hadn't been reached.

In 2011, The Horticultural Societies of Parkdale and Toronto became a part of the local urban food movement. In an initiative led by Beth Kapusta, a resident of the High Park-Roncesvalles,  the Society supported the highly successful Veg Tour 2011. When Beth was looking for local gardens to include in the tour, my family's garden got volunteered as a stop on the tour by the owner of our local cheese shop, the Thin Blue Line.

In 2012, instead of a public Veg Tour the local gardeners previously involved in the tour visited each others' gardens as well as new gardens, and exchanged ideas, as well as a taste of  food grown in our' gardens (those are my tomatoes and nasturtium pesto on the tray - photo by Howard Rideout, used with permission).
It was very interesting and educational. This year's tour was an illustration of the principles of successful grass-roots movements. First, it was notable that the leads and participants in the Veg Tour were neighbours who are activists, gardeners, writers, etc. with lots of background knowledge and experience. For example, the 2011 Veg Tour included gardening writer Lorraine Johnson and social innovator Tonya Surman, while the leader, dynamic Beth Kapusta, grew up in Delhi, Ontario, a farming community. What the tour did, was to allow us to aggregate as a group. Reaching critical mass is important for grass roots efforts. As we say at IRIS, "if you're not networking, you're not working".

There are two main challenges for local urban food movements like the High Park-Parkdale Veg Tour. The first is to broaden the community participation to include diverse gardeners from varied cultural backgrounds, who might not normally think about getting involved with such a group. A few years ago, the Toronto Botanical Garden held a workshop aimed at figuring out how to be more relevant to the broader Toronto community. I, along with others suggested the idea of asking culturally diverse gardeners to plant gardens characteristic of those that various waves of immigrants to Toronto created when they arrived: so many immigrants have brought with them knowledge about growing crops. Many of us at the workshop also suggested increasing engagement with school gardens.

A second challenge facing these urban food movements is to transfer the knowledge to less experienced and skilled, but interested youth. Bottom line, is that sustainability-ideas such as growing more local food  in urban locations is not new. It's about getting to a tipping point where a critical mass sustains the movement. In Cuba they had no choice. In Toronto, it's more of a choice, at the moment.

Here are some of my favourite veggie gardens in my west Toronto neighbourhood.


Dawn Bazely

PS Through the Veg Tour events, I discovered some interesting York University connections. Clement Kent, the president of The Toronto and Parkdale Horticultural Societies is a post-doctoral fellow in the Biology Department. He was  featured in a Y-file article, about the Pollinator Advocate Award that he received for his Pollinator Garden Project.

Food Blog no. 9 – Thinking about how fossil fuels subsidize food production

Could you imagine having to grow your own food?

Industrial agriculture has, in the recent past, brought us wine and milk lakes and butter mountains. This industrial approach to agriculture is the main reason why the per capita food production continued to increase during the 1990s and early 2000s. Though there is concern that this upwards trend may now be declining.

The downside of industrial agriculture seems to be most often expressed in arguments for organic foods. What is very rarely mentioned, however, is that our ability to engage in industrial agriculture is primarily due to fossil fuels.The energy value of the apple that we buy in the store is about 60 kcals. The total energetic cost of producing that apple, is far higher. Energy was burned in the form of gasoline that drove the tractor, and in the production of the fertilizers. While financial subsidies to Europe, via taxpayers' money, are often a hot topic of debate, in general as a society dependent on fossil fuels, we are generally not considering the energetic subsidy from fossil fuels of food production.

The energetic cost to a Medieval peasant, working the land, of producing a kcal was explained to some of us in an excellent lecture in 2008, by Professor Verena Winiwarter. There was a very high human energy input, but the relative production efficiency was actually much better than it is today! If you saw any of the excellent TV series, the Victorian Farm, you may have been aghast to learn, as I did, that 100 years ago, a ploughman might walk, on average, 14 miles a day behind his horse and plough. And, that plough was a modernized steel version that was a direct product of the industrial revolution. No wonder he would sit down to a Ploughman's lunch.

Even WITH fossil fuels to run our tractors, bailers and harvesters, food production is HARD work. As a doctoral student in Oxford, I had to put in my time on the University Farm, with sheep dipping and bailing. Could you imagine what would happen without  fossil fuel energy replacing human (peasant-style) labour? Recently in Colorado USA, John Harold, a local onion farmer  decided to bring in less migrant labour for the harvest, and to offer the jobs to local unemployed people. But, they either did not apply, or if they did, could not hack the physical work involved... as reported in a recent New York Times article - "Hiring Locally for Farm Work Is No Cure-All" (Oct 5th 2011).

Dawn Bazely   

Paper (&) Tigers: The Trouble with Barbie’s New Commitment to “Sustainable Sourcing”

What should we make of Mattel's October 5, 2011 announcement of new "sustainable sourcing" principles for its paper toy packaging? The move came after a highly-publicized Greenpeace campaign featuring Ken and Barbie “breakup” videos on the internet and huge banners draped from Mattel's Los Angeles headquarters declaring, “Barbie: It’s Over. I don’t date girls that are into deforestation.”

Greenpeace banner on Mattel HQ, June 2011 (Greenpeace)

The principles commit Mattel to some significant concrete steps.

Under Mattel's new policy, 70% of its paper packaging will be harvested sustainably or recycled by the end of 2011, rising to 85% in 2015, with preference for paper certified under the Forest Stewardship Council program for sustainable forestry certification.  The company has also directed all its suppliers to exit known controversial sources of paper fibre. It has committed to avoid such sources in the future by ensuring that fibre sources are known and traced throughout the supply chain, fibre is harvested in compliance with local laws, and is not harvested from old-growth forests, from forests recently converted to timber plantations, or in ways that violate internationally recognized indigenous rights.

Like most voluntary corporate codes of conduct, the principles are couched in qualifiers like “where possible” and “to the extent feasible”, and do not provide for independent third-party verification. But they are not mere window-dressing. They commit Mattel to some significant concrete steps, including to establish specific goals, report publicly on progress, and adopt procedures to ensure that its procurement practices actually reflect the principles.  They also require Mattel to support “multi-stakeholder” efforts to protect global forest resources and give preference to fibre certified under schemes that “exhibit the highest standards and robust audit processes.”

While the principles do not spell out which programs this language is intended to mean, most people familiar with forestry certification would read it as referring implicitly to the FSC, with its innovative tri-cameral structure (environmental, social and economic chambers, each split further into global North and South sub-chambers), as opposed to its mainly industry-driven counterparts such as the big forestry companies’ favoured American Forest & Paper Association’s Sustainable Forestry Initiative, the Canadian Standards Association’s Sustainable Forest Management program, and the small woodlot owners’ favoured Program for the Endorsement of Forest Certification (PEFC).

Sumatran tigers (WWF)

Greenpeace claims that the new policy will help the endangered Sumatran tiger by preventing Mattel from sourcing paper from companies like Jakarta-based Asia Pulp and Paper, which Greenpeace alleges is a major contributor to deforestation in the tiger’s rapidly shrinking Indonesian rain forest habitat—and which, incidentally, has been buying up Canadian forest industry operations at a rapid pace.

At one level, this is a victory for environmentally responsible business. Mattel is the largest toy maker in the world, the self-proclaimed “worldwide leader in play.” Its procurement practices have a significant impact on the behaviour of suppliers around the world and send a strong signal to other global toy brands like Disney and Hasbro. If Mattel goes “sustainable,” others will likely follow. Its new procurement practices will make business more difficult for some of its more ecologically destructive suppliers, and reward those that are less destructive. In the long run, if extended throughout the industry, they might help ease the seemingly relentless pressure on tropical rainforests and Sumatran tiger habitat.

Let’s face it: The Sumatran tiger will not be saved by buying Barbies packaged in sustainably harvested paper.

But will Mattel’s new principles reduce the number of Barbie, Hot Wheels and Fisher Price toys purchased by and for the children of the world? Far from it. You can bet Mattel hopes they have the opposite effect, boosting sales by easing the consciences of consumers who fancy themselves environmentally responsible.

Let’s face it: The Sumatran tiger will not be saved by buying Barbies packaged in sustainably harvested paper. If Mattel and the other big toy brands stop sourcing paper products from tropical rainforests, less scrupulous players—companies not as susceptible to public shaming—will take up the slack. Tropical deforestation, like other ecological crises, will not be reversed unless we confront humanity’s insatiable and constantly growing appetite for material consumption, especially in the already affluent industrialized countries like Canada.

I have two school-age children. After reading the Mattel announcement, I thought I would count the toys in their rooms. I lost track around two hundred. Then I tried to imagine all the old toys we have discarded or given away, a pile that would dwarf those we currently have. A pile made largely of plastics that take millennia to break down in the environment. And how many of these toys do our children play with more than once, twice, a dozen times?

Instead of saying “I want a toy in sustainable packaging,” consider saying “I don’t need another toy just now.”

Don’t get me wrong. I love toys, and they can be crucial for children’s intellectual, emotional and other development. But how many does one child need? I’m not suggesting that all a child needs for a full play life is a stick and a mud puddle, although those ingredients can fill entire childhood afternoons. What I am suggesting is that the next time you think about buying yet another toy, instead of saying “I want a toy in sustainable packaging,” consider saying “I don’t need another toy just now.” If hundreds, then thousands, then millions of people choose not to buy that next toy, encouraging children instead to create and explore interior and exterior worlds of play with their own minds and bodies using the materials around them, not only will we help reduce the pressure on species and ecosystems, we will help raise generations of stewards eager to protect them.

I don’t mean to be unduly harsh on Greenpeace or Mattel. Initiatives like Mattel’s sustainable sourcing policy are victories of a sort. With Greenpeace turning forty this year, it is worth reflecting what kind of victories its often dramatic direct action campaigns achieve. Their greatest significance, as Greenpeace asserts in a fortieth birthday pamphlet that just arrived in the mail, is to create “the possibility of another future” by shining a spotlight on environmentally and socially unsustainable business practices. “Sustainable sourcing” is one small step toward such a future. Buying less, and creating more with our own imaginations and hands, would be a larger and more rewarding one.

The Challenges of Green Marketing in The Age of Persuasion

I am an unabashed Public Radio junkie. All of my Sony Ericsson Walkman phones back to 2006, have not only had integrated flashlights but also functioned as transistor radios, allowing me to be permanently hooked up to CBC Radio 1, or to BBC and NPR Podcasts.

This week's award-winning Age of Persuasion Episode is titled "It's Not Easy Being Green: Green Marketing" and is one of my three essential Podcast episodes of 2011*.

Rachel-Carson-Bridge-in-PittsburghTerry begins with Rachel Carson (that's her bridge in Pittsburgh) and then traces the history of environmentally conscious consumerism, linking it to how marketers and advertisers have shaped their campaigns for sustainable, green goods. In  2007, 300,000 green trademarks were registered with patent offices, which is more than the number of trademarks and patents sought at the height of the boom.

The three main take-home messages are:

1. "Beginning with the publication of Silent Spring in 1962... various environmental crises have provoked behavioural change and new behavioural changes created new demands from the public." Responding to these demands for new products (such as sun protection lotions following the discovery of the ozone hole) has required "very delicate, very careful marketing on behalf of advertisers".

In green marketing, the public wants to know the motives of companies immediately, and green marketing ignites scrutiny.

2. "One of the biggest problems for marketers is that sustainability is a moving target. And there haven't been any universally-accepted baselines or calculators." E.g. "Are paper products green and good or, do they flatten forests? Is glass eco-friendly or, does it take a lot more fuel to transport glass than it does plastic? Is cotton one of the most natural products in the world or, is cotton one of the world's biggest pesticide crops? It's a very complicated issue."

3. The fatal mistake when it comes to green marketing is that "virtue cannot be proclaimed in green marketing". Smart marketers stay humble in their green marketing, so that the customer and press spread the word about green and ethical companies. Accusations of "Greenwashing", the deceptive use of green marketing or PR (Jay Westerveld, 1986), are likely to be targeted at green marketing campaigns with over-the-top claims, and to have major consequences.

The most cited example of Greenwashing is the rebranding of British Petroleum (BP) as Beyond Petroleum. The campaign strategy was to rebrand BP as a progressive energy company, bp. The rebranding implied that wind and solar were being invested in heavily by BP, but the reality was that BP was investing more than ever in oil exploration. (And, was recently rebranded, and not by themselves, but the public, as Biggest Polluter).

This brilliant episode of The Age of Persuasion ended with the correct observation about the contradiction that lies at the heart of green marketing: that being sustainable means consuming less, while marketing is about encouraging people to consume more. Nevertheless, he goes on to conclude, that the main task of green marketing is to normalize those high quality, truly green products, that are sustainable across multiple social and environmental indicators.

And, from Bruce Philp's new book, The Consumer Republic: "Buy the change you wish to see in the world."

Congratulations, Terry!

Dawn Bazely

*My other two top Podcasts for 2011, so far...

July 26th  2011 Interview of David Altman by Jian Ghomeshi on Q, CBC, about the rise of narcissism in North America:

July 2nd  2011 interview of Lori Gottlieb by Jian Ghomeshi on Q, CBC, about how overparenting is creating brittle youth who lack resiliency because their parents have not allowed them to learn how to recover from failure.

The Green Marketing Manifesto by John Grant, was Terry's essential background reading.

The City of Toronto’s Core Service Review

As my previous postings have referenced, I am working for the Toronto Environment Office for the summer. It is an extremely interesting time to be working for the municipal government. Last week, the Core Service Review, conducted by KPMG, recommended that the City undertake a number of changes and reductions in its environmental protection and improvement activities to help the city realize cost savings and close the deficit gap.

Political leanings and ideology aside, this is a great example of how our government works and the democratic process. On Thursday July 21, the public is invited to provide deputations (in person or written) expressing their opinion about these proposed reductions. 

As an MBA student focusing in both sustainability and organizational change, I am very interested in the outcomes of this process. How will the vision, mission, and activities of the Toronto Environment Office evolve? How will these changes be communicated not only to TEO staff, but within City Hall and to the general public? How will the key decision makers obtain buy in from key stakeholders?

Live Green Toronto Festival

With the sun shining and the mercury soaring (30+ degrees), I think we can breathe a collective sigh and say, "summer is here". The July long weekend is the official start of cottage weekends, summer concerts, and events and street festivals in the city. From Pride Week to Taste of the Danforth, the Honda Indy to Caribana, there is no shortage of action this summer.

One of the festivals I am most looking forward to is the Live Green Toronto Festival at Yonge and Dundas Square on July 16. This is Toronto's largest outdoor green festival with hundreds of green products and services, outdoor vendors, and live music throughout the day!

I can't wait to check out the vendors, munch on some local (and wheat free!) food, and take in some great live music. I'll also bring some of my duplicate, or less loved, DVDs for the SWAPZONE. I'm always looking to update my DVD collection at home and at the cottage (I need to at least entertain the possibility that there might be a rainy day) and this swap event is a totally free way to add some new titles to my collection -- plus, unlike other no cost options i.e. holding up your local blockbuster or downloading titles online, it is legal! 

Meaning, after it's all said and done, I'll have some new movies and music, and some extra coin in my wallet for some more tasty treats or perhaps a local microbrew on a patio that evening…

Summer Internships in Sustainability Do Exist!

As an MBA student at the Schulich School of Business at York University interested in sustainability, I started to wonder late this spring what summer internship opportunities are actually available in The City of Toronto? As my friends and colleagues, one by one, received internship offers at financial institutions, consulting firms, consumer packaged goods companies etc. I began to wonder; maybe the summer internship in sustainability was just an urban myth? An experience reserved for the sibling of a friend of a friend…

I can now say, from firsthand experience, that there are opportunities to work in Sustainability. You just need to find them!  Talk to anyone and everyone you know – and even people you don't - and let them know what you are looking for. I was able to secure a 16 week internship with the City of Toronto Environment Office (TEO) supported by a grant from York University and the Knowledge Mobilization Unit.

In addition to blogging on the IRIS website, my primary focus is on Climate Change Adaptation. Adaptation? You ask, as you scratch your head quizzically? What is that? I thought we were focusing on mitigation, you know, reducing our Greenhouse Gas emissions?!?

Well, you are right, we are still focusing on reducing our GHG emissions, but TEO is also recognizing that our climate is changing and we are currently experiencing more extreme weather events (remember all that rain in May or the record breaking heat on June 8th??). There was a great article in the Globe and Mail on Saturday June 4th, 2011 that further explains adaptation and actions currently being undertaken in Toronto

I have been at TEO for just over a month now, so I can say with some credibility, that it is going to shape up to be a pretty exciting summer!  I am working on some really neat projects with regards to Climate Change Adaptation in the Toronto region and with the upcoming Live Green Toronto Festival on July 16th.

In the coming weeks I hope to be able to update you on my projects!