The Sustainable Canada Dialogues’ members and partners featured in A\J represent diverse communities across Canada.
Sustainable Canada Dialogues/Dialogues pour un Canada vert is an incredible collaboration of academics from across Canada. The project is led by Catherine Potvin, UNESCO-McGill Chair in Dialogues on Sustainability, and guided by a committee composed of Sally Aitken (University of British Columbia), Fikret Berkes (University of Manitoba), José Etcheverry (York University), Aerin Jacob (University of Victoria), Liat Margolis (University of Toronto), Howard Ramos (Dalhousie University), Natalie Slawinski (Memorial University of Newfoundland), Mark C.J. Stoddart (University of British Columbia) and Tarah Wright (Dalhousie University).
Sustainable Canada Dialogues (SCD) is the Canadian branch of Dialogues on Sustainability, a partnership between McGill University and a Panamanian academic research coalition working to advance sustainability education, research and dialogue in the face of global environmental change.
More than 60 scholars are working with SCD, formulating viable, science-based policy options to guide Canada through the necessary transition to sustainable development. These bright minds and big ideas span a wide range of disciplines including agriculture, ecology, economics, energy, forestry, mining, philosophy, physics, political science, resource management, sociology and transportation.
The work of more than 20 SCD members and partners is featured in our special issue Canada's Map to Sustainability. Let's meet the contributors – and take a peek at these agenda-setting articles.
Opening the dialogue on our sustainable future.
Authors: Catherine Potvin, Natalie Richards
In order to address our nation's sustainability deficit, we must adopt bold new policies, practices and definitions of sustainability. The good news is that many Canadians are already thinking along these lines.
Catherine Potvin is a professor in the Department of Biology at McGill University. As a plant ecologist, she has been working on issues relating to climate change and sustainability, focusing on the link between vegetation land use and atmospheric levels of CO2. Her field work mostly takes place in the tropics. She has also been a negotiator at the United Nations (UN) Framework Convention on Climate Change between 2005 and 2009. Potvin sees "action as a positive opportunity to change and move on the path to sustainability.”
Natalie Richards is a master’s candidate in biology at McGill University, with a degree in international development. Leading up to her master’s research, her studies had been focused on global development, such as poor development practices, best practices and their outcomes. As a result, Richards is able to look critically at Canada’s chosen pathway to development and the desirability of our current trajectory, as well as to consider covetable and viable amendments. She notes that “there has been a huge response to climate change and sustainability issues, and [Canada is] going to either enter the playing field soon or be left behind.” Richards believes that a positive and sustainable transformation of Canada is possible and in reach, and she is “proud to join alongside the nation-wide efforts to serve this end.”
Species loss endangers us all.
Author: Sarah Otto
Over the past few decades, the situation for Canadian species has worsened. The status for species at risk in Canada has declined for more species than improved, but saving species at risk is possible – especially when governments and communities work together.
Sarah Otto is a professor in the Department of Zoology and Director of the Biodiversity Research Centre at the University of British Columbia. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Theoretical and Experimental Evolution, studying population genetics and evolutionary biology in order to identify the possibility of evolutionary transitions. As a scientist, she cites biodiversity as her inspiration and enjoys studying “why the world is the way it is. What an amazing job!”
Ecological agriculture is chicken soup for the soil.
Author: Martin Entz
To maintain our position as an agricultural powerhouse, we must sustain the land and livelihoods upon which Canadian agriculture depends. We must, in short, shift from industrial to ecological farming.
MARTIN ENTZ is a professor of Natural Systems Agriculture in the University of Manitoba’s Faculty of Agricultural Food Sciences, after receiving his PhD in Conservation Agriculture from the University of Saskatchewan. He is the founder and science director of the Glenlea long-term study, Canada’s oldest organic field crop experiment. Having worked in Canada, Asia and southern Africa, Entz says that what he loves most about his work is that agriculture provides an important intersect between science and people. With the help of his 40-acre “shady maple lane shared family farm,” he brings non-farmers in touch with their “agrarian side.”
How we can protect the water we drink and the air we breathe.
Authors: Sally Aitken and Suzanne Simard
In 2014, the World Resources Institute reported that Canada has accounted for 21.4 per cent of wordwide forest degradation for the past 13 years, the highest rate globally.
SALLY AITKEN is a professor in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, and Director of the Centre for Forest Conservation Genetics at the University of British Columbia. She investigates the population genetic structure of temperate and boreal trees, and the evolutionary dynamics resulting from this structure in comparison to their historic climates. Aitken says she loves her topic because the health of our atmosphere and our planet is directly tied to the health of our forests, which is in turn a product of how we manage them. “I am still awestruck at the sight of ancient trees that have withstood many challenges over the millennia, and the vast forests these species comprise.”
SUZANNE SIMARD is a professor in the Department of Forest and Conservation Sciences, and Project Leader of the NSERC CREATE TerreWEB programme, which is focused on global change science and communication. She studies how social networks of soil fungi, microbes, plants and trees work together to help forests recover from disturbance and stress as climate changes, and how to communicate them. Simard grew up in the wild forests of British Columbia and has dedicated her life to understanding, promoting and protecting these precious places for our children.
Building Better Cities
How we can improve urban areas through sustainable design.
Author: Liat Margolis
Without a doubt, we are faced with an unprecedented set of issues that call for a radically different approach to urban planning and design.
LIAT MARGOLIS is an assistant professor in the John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecutre, Landscape and Design at the University of Toronto. She is also Director of the Green Roof Innovation Testing (GRIT) Laboratory, where she studies how green-building technologies can advance sustainability in cities. She believes that “building climate-smart, low-carbon cities should be the foundation of any local and national climate change agenda.”
Iqaluit's Five-Year Plan
A northern community reclaims sustainability for a more just society.
Author: Robyn Campbell
Our sustainability is about people. It is people who help the environment, people who support each other and people who work for a better future. Placing people at the heart of sustainability makes all the more sense in light of our history of colonization.
ROBYN CAMPBELL has worked for over a decade in community engagement and interdisciplinary research in the fields of sustainability, community art and education in Canada and England. She enjoys connecting with people about meaningful issues, inventing formal and informal approaches to local dialogue, and seeing results emerge from creative modes of interaction.
Faire Bouger les Transports
C'est le tournant de la durabilité pour nos villes.
Auteur: Catherine Morency
Il est difficile de ne pas être témoin des impacts du transport dans le quotidien. En milieu urbain, le transport joue un rôle de premier plan dans le développement durable à plusieurs niveaux.
CATHERINE MORENCY is a civil engineer and an associate professor in the Department of Civil, Geological and Mining Engineering at Polytechnique Montréal. She holds a Research Chair in Evaluation and Implementation of Sustainability in Transportation. Morency believes that transportation systems linking people and places are the underlying structure of cities and is what makes them alive. “Everyday I observe travel behaviours, transportation challenges and all the potential benefits of moving toward more sustainable strategies that will change the daily life of individuals," Morency says. "Through my research, I believe I can contribute to build a better society.”
Powering tomorrow begins with making changes today.
Authors: Jennifer McKellar, Heather MacLean and Joule Bergerson
Canada's economic competitiveness is tied to the sustainability of its energy system.
JENNIFER MCKELLAR is an assistant professor in the Faculty of Energy Systems and Nuclear Science at the University of Ontario Institute of Technology. Her research focuses on developing tools for the techno-economic and environmental assessment of energy systems, both to help guide future research and to inform decision- and policy-making by government and industry. McKellar believes that our supply and use of energy impacts all the major factors of sustainability and therefore must be analyzed on a systems level.
Heather MacLean is a professor in the Department of Civil Engineering at the University of Toronto. Her expertise is in the evaluation of conventional and alternative energy systems, passionate about the topic of energy systems and improving their sustainability. She believes in its critical importance to society, the interdisciplinary, dynamic and challenging nature of the subject. She acknowledges that “we have much work to do in moving toward a sustainable energy system globally.”
Joule Bergerson is an assistant professor in the Department of Chemical and Petroleum Engineering at the University of Calgary. Her research focuses on systems-level analysis for policy and decision making of energy systems. Bergerson aims to develop tools and frameworks for the assessment of prospective technology options and their policy implications.
Carbon pricing is an essential first step.
Authors: George Hoberg and James Meadowcroft
GEORGE HOBERG is a processor of environmental and natural resource policy in the Faculty of Forestry at the University of British Columbia. He believes that helping Canada play a constructive role in addressing global warming is the most important thing he can do professionally.
JAMES MEADOWCROFT is a professor in the School of Public Policy and Administration, and in the Department of Political Science at Carleton University, teaching sustainable energy policy and global environmental politics. He holds a Canada Research Chair in Governance for Sustainable Development and his research focuses on reforms to structures and processes of governance to promote the transition toward sustainability. He loves his topic because “how we treat the environment really matters: for people today and in the future, and for the other species with whom we share a planet.”
Rethinking the extraction industry to improve ecological and social outcomes.
Authors: Martin Mkandawire and Ken Oakes
Growing societal scrutiny of mining practices might mean that resource extraction may simply not proceed outside acceptable and agreed-upon levels of environmental, societal and human health impacts.
Martin Mkandawire is an associate professor in the Department of Chemistry at Cape Breton University, and is a researcher at the Verschuren Centre. He holds an Industrial Research Chair in Minewater Management, and he specializes in environmental nanotechnology with research focus in mine water remediation and management.
KEN OAKES is an assistant professor in the Department of Biology at Cape Breton University, and is a researcher in the Vershuren Centre. He holds an Industrial Research Chair in Environmental Remediation studies the impacts of acid mine drainage from the former Cape Breton Coalfields on biological communities inhabiting local receiving environments. He says that he loves his work because it integrates the legacy of historical industrial activity with current treatment technologies and the goal of environmental remediation.
Managing Shared Resources
Collective community action is the best way to close the curtain on the Tragedy of the Commons.
Authors: Fikret Berkes and Taysha Palmer
Much can be learned from the management of local and regional commons to gain insight into managing global commons. The approach most likely to succeed is hard work on a case by case basis, according to Nobel Laureate Elinor Ostrom – but there is no panacea, no blueprint solution.
Fikret Berkes is a distinguished professor of Natural Resources at the University of Manitoba, and holds the Canada Research Chair in Community-Based Resource Management. His expertise is in areas of commons and resilience theory, and researches integrated and social-ecological systems, currently emphasizing adaptive co-management and indigenous knowledge.
Taysha Palmer has significant experience in progressive administration and management through serving in both the private and public spheres, for not-for-profit organizations and science/research teams. She is a Knowledge Transfer consultant in the areas of health, health policy and environment and loves translating research outcomes into information that is accessible to people.
To move the masses, speak boldly and carry a big schtick.
Authors: Mark C.J. Stoddart and Howard Ramos
By becoming more visible in public communication, environmental scientists and academics can help shift the tone of environmental debates that are currently led by media workers, politicians and activists.
Mark C.J. Stoddart is an associate professor in Sociology at Memorial University of Newfoundland whose research focuses on environmental conflict and social-ecological sustainability related to tourism and outdoor recreation, as well as mass media coverage of Canadian climate policy debate. His work was recognized with the 2014 Early Investigator Award from the Canadian Sociological Association. Stoddart believes that a better understanding of how local communities and environments are embedded within and shaped by various disciplines can help us move toward the social-ecological viability of our communities.
Howard Ramos is a political sociologist and associate professor in the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at Dalhousie University, and he investigates the relationships among social movement and NGO advocacy and media coverage. Interested in examining the underlying patterns and mechanisms that shape successful media advocacy, his expertise is in Environmental, Indigenous, and Human Rights Advocacy.
Inform electrion dialogie with these 13 essential questions.
Author: Andrew Reeves
Before those party activists appear on your front step, you should know what you want to ask. Then be concise and direct – and don't let them get away with platitudes.
Andrew Reeves is an award-winning environmental writer based in Toronto with a Masters in Geography from the University of Toronto. Andrew covers environmental politics for A\J and on his own blog, The Reeves Report.
Protecting nature by ensuring that the law is for the land.
Author: Ann Dale
Current federal and provincial government structural arrangements work against the implementation of effective environmental policy development in Canada, never mind moving to integrated policies for sustainable development.
ANN DALE is a professor with the school of Environment and Sustainability at Royal Roads University. She holds a Canada Research Chair in Sustainable Community Development and is the Principal Investigator of Meeting the Climate Change Challenge (MC3 2.0). Dale believes in the importance of government leadership in moving us forward on climate change adaptation and mitigation.
Just Watch Us
We did it before; we can do it again.
Author: Robert Paehlke
Environmental thinking can change behaviour and most people will understand why they have to change. Sometimes the change will require legislation, regulation and enforcement, but sometimes we do not even need new laws, just information, motivation and opportunities.
Robert Paehlke is a professor emeritus at Trent University where he taught environmental policy and politics for 35 years. Over 40 years ago, he envisioned a magazine that was both scientifically sound and journalistically interesting, and Alternatives was born. “Bob P,” as we call him, sits on the magazine’s editorial board and he contributes articles and blog posts as often as we can trick him into it.
His new book Hegemony and Global Citizenship is available from Palgrave Macmillan (New York).
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