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“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

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!

LCBO probably makes more progress in one flyer than Toronto’s cycling advocates make in two years…

My latest set of blogs are a bit delayed, because following on from teaching BIOLOGY 2010, York's Plant Biology course, and the arrival of a very early spring, I am writing a lot about food - security and sustainability. These blogs take a lot of fact-checking and research and are time-consuming to write.

So, here's a quick shout out to the LCBO - the Liquor Control Board of Ontario - who this past weekend, likely did more to promote cycling as a form of sustainable transportation among non-enthusiasts, than all of the cyclists, cycle clubs and cycling advocates that I know, put together, including the City of Toronto cycling office!


They put a very handsome young man, dressed in an impeccably tailored suit on a bike, and made it the cover of last weekend's flyer promoting French wine. This arrived as an insert in our Saturday paper.

Marketing-wise, we'd normally expect to see this chap in an ad for an expensive sports car, but here he is, on a bike, looking cool and trendy. Ahem, note to male members of my fellow middle-aged cohort "you are more likely to keep fitting into your expensive suits, if you cycle, rather than buy a sports car".

I have cycled hundreds and hundreds of kilometers in Oxford and Cambridge, as well as in the Netherlands, and Sweden. Everyone and their dog cycles around. BUT here in North America, despite the best intentions of  advocates, cycling's just not as widely perceived as something that everyone should do, for all of their life. I hope that this flyer cover has some unintended consequences that are good for the environment and people's health.

Just one beef about the adverts: as the parent of a teen, who thinks that bike helmets are totally dorky, despite the stats and the wide availability of cool helmets (widely reviewed, including at the website, Outdoor Urbanite) - I do wish that the inside shot with the baguette and flowers showed the model wearing a bike helmet.

[photopress:LCBO_french_lessons2.jpg,thumb,pp_image] DrumTom

Dawn R. Bazely

Save The Walrus – by reading and subscribing to it

We have just decided to do our little bit, and to renew our family subscription to The Walrus magazine, which has been in financial peril, as far as I can tell, since its inception. This is very unfortunate, because it has some of the most thoughtful, in-depth writing about sustainability issues to be found anywhere in Canada, and, indeed, in the world.  For example, the article on urban agriculture, The Future Has Begun in Jan-Feb 2009 is excellent. When I look at our attempt at an urban eco-garden - note the clothes line, upside-down tomato planters, beans, peppers, many herbs, composter (rat-free, this time, we hope), rain barrel, and lots of native plants, aimed at encouraging insects - I believe that it is significant that I don't see this replicated much, if at all, in my neighbourhood. In Toronto, we have a very long way to go compared with Havana, Cuba, and The Walrus can help us along the way. Please think about supporting it.

Dawn R. Bazely

PS Update in September 2010 - I just renewed my Walrus subscription AGAIN and gave it as gift to Annette Dubreuil

The Healthy Butcher

The Healthy Butcher are two Toronto based organic and local meat shops, one on Eglinton West and the other on Queen St. West. While, specializing in local certified organic meat they are expanding to produce as well. In light of recent issues with processed meat and the always present concern over the ecological impacts of meat consumption and industrial agriculture, the Healthy Butcher offers an alternative to becoming a vegetarian. They are fundamentally committed to healthy, organic, and most importantly local meat. They buy directly from farmers and have extensive information on what certified organic means to them. For this company, organic meat means;

  • Livestock must be fed 100% organic food;
  • No use of chemical pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, and fertilizers in the growing of the animals’ feed;
  • No use of genetically modified organisms;
  • No use of growth hormones;
  • No use of drugs (such as antibiotics);
  • No use of animal by-products for feed;
  • Treating animals humanely (i.e. they have outside access at all times);
  • Inspections by an independent certification body occur on a regular basis;
  • All certified products records are kept for 5 years;
  • Strict Canadian and International standards are met.

In all they are making a commitment to healthy meat consumption, environmental and social sustainabililty by supporting local farmers. Organic meat is more humane as the animals are treated better and raised naturally without chemical hormones. The Healthy Butcher also makes the best effort to ensure that their prices are comparable to non-organic meats. Even if the prices are a little more, is it not worth it for a little piece of mind.

YSTOP – three essential skills for not getting LOST

Laura Zeno and I did an afternoon session with the grade 8 YSTOP students last Monday. The goal was to improve our map reading, compass use and tree identification.

Why? Well, if you know how to do all this, you should never get lost. It turned out that only one of the 32 students and teachers in the room had NEVER been lost. We figured out, that this might mean that out of a crowd of 1000 people, only perhaps 30 will be worth taking directions from! Getting lost is normal, so how do you work around it?

Kurtis, in Grade 8, described how he always notes landmarks, directions, and distances when he is hiking in the bush. He makes a mental map. Laura told us about asking for directions when she and a friend got lost in downtown Toronto. We listed famous explorers, and asked why they are mostly men, and how most of these Europeans, like Cartier and Champlain, in fact relied on the help of local peoples to find their way around. We looked at maps from York University's map library and learned about scales - large and small. We discovered that students lived around Lake Simcoe in the north and in Toronto, near Lake Ontario in the south.

The students all got a really useful gift - a carabiner key ring with a compass, and I gave them homework of watching one of my favourite movies, "Romancing the Stone", in which a tree is an important landmark on the treasure map. Go Joan Wilder!

Dawn Bazely

Toronto Green Awards

Mayor David Miller, Deputy Mayor Joe Pantalone and members of Toronto City Council invite you to join them to help celebrate the greening of Toronto at the 2008 Green Toronto Awards.

At the ceremony, we will honour and celebrate the achievements of the 2008 Green Toronto Award winners — the individuals, organizations and companies leading the way to a cleaner and greener Toronto.

We are very pleased to include Justin Rutledge and Julie Crochetière as our special musical guests. The 2008 Green Toronto Awards will take place at the Direct Energy Centre at Exhibition Place, in conjunction with the Green Living Show. Complimentary tickets will be available for pick up at the ticket office in Hall A after 4 p.m.

Friday, April 25, 2008
Ceremony begins 7:00 p.m.
Refreshments 8:15 - 9:00 p.m.

Please feel free to share this invitation with your friends, colleagues - anyone and everyone who might be interested in attending - all are welcome!

Download the Flyer.

Hydrogen Talk

IRIS presents the following talk:

The Social Benefits of Hydrogen and Fuel Cell Technology: Creating a Sustainable Infrastructure in the GTA
A Talk by Rymal Smith of Hydrogen Village

Ry has done extensive work in the fields of natural gas vehicles and hydrogen/fuel cell vehicles, and is a recipient of the Michael Grant Technology Award from Natural Resources Canada.

Wednesday, November 28, 4:30 p.m.
Room 013, Accolade East Building (At the east end, downstairs)
Refreshments will be served.