Multi-Disciplinary Panel on Sustainability

This session will be held in CE265.

This multi-disciplinary panel will address conversations taking place in a diverse range of academic fields.

Bruce Hatcher (Biology)

Nuanced meanings of “Sustainable Development” in the context of the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere Program, with examples of application in the Bras d’Or ecosystem.

Dana Mount (English)

“Problem Garbage: A Cultural Studies Approach to Waste.”

What does it mean to be a garbage-producer in this age of environmentalism? Each day, all day, we face choices about what to do with the objects we encounter. We have myriad ways to rid ourselves of the waste we generate. Rather than focus on our ‘Garbage Problem,’ l argue that it is time to consider our problem with garbage . It is a luxury to live in garbage-free spaces. To render it invisible, as we do, is to create a fiction of green virtuousness. Garbage as an important thinking and imagining tool. Waste and excess may have led us to a global environmental crisis, but like Norway, where garbage is now imported to produce energy, it may also be the key to thinking our way back out.

Pat Maher (Community Studies)

Islands Mistrust: Reconfiguring island sustainability  using  a one-pillar stool.

When the Islands Trust was established with the mandate of protecting the unique amenities and environment² of the Gulf Islands region of British Columbia, the modern construct of sustainability had not emerged fully as a priority within society.  While the notion of sustainability continues to be refined by those who study it and those who try to bring it about in practice, many still largely view it as balancing development (of the economy) within the confines of cultural and environmental limits.  The Islands Trust has served an important role in protecting the island environment, but has also been criticized for constricting the ability of the economy to contribute to a more holistic notion of sustainability.  This tension, which has existed for some time, emerges at different points of time on different islands.  The responses by residents has produced a complicated landscape of organizations with mandates to support, watch, or expand the work of the Islands Trust which suggests an ironic culture of mistrust in the Islands Trust region.

This presentation proposes the need to reconfigure the construct of sustainability from the three pillars or three legged stool to a unified or one pillar stool. It uses the Southern Gulf Islands as a case study for this proposition, based on a observations made during a graduate field course in 2012. The author suggests that updating the notion of pillars is needed in order to consolidate ideas and initiatives and to establish a culture of trust in the region. Linkages to our own Island home (Unama’ki/Cape Breton) will be made.

Jason Loxton (Geology)

Preparing for the Worst Case Scenario: Insights into Ecological Responses to Extreme Climate Change from the Fossil Record

Despite warnings from the scientific community, anthropogenic CO2 emissions continue to not only rise, but increase in rate. Climate sensitivity is still  understood only inexactly, but numerous historical examples of ‘tipping points’, where geological feedback mechanisms, such as the release of stored oceanic methane, led to abrupt and catastrophic climate change, demonstrate that ‘runaway climate change’ is a real, if low proability,  near future scenario. Even if present day climate change does not mimic these past extremes, the large and dramatic changes in species distributions and abundance patterns during these events can provide important data for understanding how climate stresses affect biological communities in general, and cause or presage species loss. My research, a small part of a much larger international project, aims to quantify the extent and timing of community structure and biodiversity changes in an exemplar group of zooplankton during the Late Ordovician Mass Extinction, an event caused by a dramatic short-term climate and sea-level shift.

Nina Kent (Business)

Traditional First Nations Knowledge and IP

This presentation will highlight some factors for consideration in maintaining integrity/sustainability in the commercialization of traditional medicines in a for-profit (100% Aboriginal owned) cosmetics business venture.

Geoff Carre and Michael Wall (Psychology)

Exposure to Nature but not Urban sounds increase heart-rate variability and restore cognitive capacity after a mental load.

Research has demonstrated that exposure to Nature but not Urban environments will improve performance on a working memory task. Exposure could entail a walk through the surroundings, watching a video of the surroundings, or simply viewing pictures of Nature or Urban sites. We demonstrate for the first time that a five minute exposure to Nature as opposed to Urban sounds will also improve performance on a working memory task. By one measure, exposure to Nature sounds also promotes greater parasympathetic nervous system activity (increased high-frequency heart-rate variability) but neither influences sympathetic nervous system activity (skin conductance).

Matthias Bierenstiel (Chemistry)

Abstract forthcoming.