Welcome to the July 2022 edition of the EUC Research Update - bringing you highlights from research activities at York's Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change. We invite you to view our past updates on our Research News page.
Dayna Scott on novel approaches to restoring Indigenous governing authority over lands and waterways.
Shira Taylor on making sex education more accessible to young people by theatre.
Accolades, Appointments and Awards
Warm welcome to our new faculty appointments!
Mahtot Gebresselassie is an architect, urban planner, educator, and social-science researcher with research interests in smart mobility and equity, accessible urban and digital spaces, urban design, human-computer interaction (HCI), Uber and Lyft transportation in unusual events, and the sharing economy in the transportation sector. Most of her research focuses on Uber and Lyft and transportation equity in relation to people with disabilities and low-income earners. Her current research centres on Uber and Lyft usage disparity during extreme weather, comparing the two companies' usage during heatwaves between high- and low-income neighbourhoods in New York City. For further information about Mahtot, visit her personal webpage which details her research, teaching, publications and architecture portfolio.
Adeyemi Oludapo Olusola is a physical geographer with research and teaching interests in fluvial geomorphology, ecohydrology, environmental science as well as GIS/remote sensing. His other research interests include landscape evolution, polluted pathways and sediment fingerprinting. He completed his postdoctoral research at The University of Free State in South Africa and has served as a lecturer at the University of Ibadan and Osun State University, both in Nigeria. He finished his PhD at University of Ibadan with a dissertation on the process-form dynamics of Upper Ogun River Basin in Southwestern Nigeria.
Joshua Thienpont's teaching and research focus on landscape disturbances and how they impact ecosystem processes. He is particularly interested in studying the connection between physical disturbances and ecosystem changes, including the biogeography of organisms. His current research examines how marine storm surges in the Mackenzie Delta of the western Canadian Arctic result in widespread salinization, fundamentally altering terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems. He uses lake sediment records to reconstruct past environments where direct monitoring data are sparse or absent.
Bria Hamilton recently received a seed grant from the Harriet Tubman Institute (HTI) for her graduate research on Blackening the City: Counter-Cartographies as a Tool for Community Planning. She also earlier completed a Mitacs Accelerate research internship with Esri Canada and the Centre for Social Innovation Institute where she demonstrated how GIS tools can be used to map communities for connection. Read her interview with ESRI Education Specialist, Susie Saliola, on her community mapping study. At the CSI Institute, Bria works as a GIS Technician/Consultant, where she is creating an online, spatially-referenced resource for Regent Park community members to share knowledge, learn about initiatives, and connect with one another.
Amanda Little, PhD candidate in Physical Geography, is a recipient of Polar Knowledge Canada’s Polar Scholarship. Amanda studies how arsenic moves through the environment and the long-term impact of arsenic contamination from the Giant Mine near Yellowknife, Northwest Territories. Her research will directly inform ongoing restoration and freshwater conservation efforts in and around Yellowknife, and specifically assist the Dene First Nation in understanding both the current and future risks of legacy arsenic exposure to their water and fish. Her research will also provide new information regarding arsenic toxicity thresholds in aquatic systems, how arsenic cycling and toxicity are likely to be influenced by climate change, and highlight specific times of the year when arsenic may be more harmful to both human and environmental health.
James O’Mara was (in 1979) York’s second ever PhD graduate in Geography, completing his doctoral work on the historical geography of urbanization in 18th century Virginia. Jim maintained close ties with York Geography throughout his career with the Ontario Public Service, including many years on the executive of the York University Geography Alumni Network. Before his death in November 2020, Jim completed a monograph titled Anthropocene: An Historical Geography Perspective (215 pp). His family have now made that work available through open access on ResearchGate. Our emeritus colleague John Warkentin notes that it is a thoroughly researched scholarly monograph and deserves to be more widely known.
EUC Research in the Media
Kean Birch discussed Bill C-27 in a National Post comment noting that the Digital charter bill will do little to protect Canadians' personal data. The digital charter implementation act covers consumer privacy, data protection tribunal processes and the regulation of artificial intelligence systems. “It’s good to see the federal government doing something about regulating personal data and algorithmic technologies…Unfortunately, I don’t think Bill C-27 will actually deal with the pressing challenges we’re facing, for a number of reasons,” says Birch.
Sheila Colla discusses in The Globe and Mail the urgent need to protect and provide habitat for native bees. Accordingly, as threats from climate change become more pronounced, there’s no time like the present to help protect Canadian bees by preserving and creating habitat. “We need to work to nurture those relationships, even if we don’t fully understand them,” she says. Colla recently authored with Lorraine Johnson a book titled A Garden for the Rusty-Patched Bumblebee: Creating Habitat for Native Pollinators featuring a thorough guide to native plants that support bees and other pollinators in Ontario and the Great Lakes region. When you do come across bumblebees, Colla asks that you upload photos to Bumble Bee Watch, a citizen science initiative that helps researchers track and conserve these species.
Jose Etcheverry leads York University's 4REAL (4th Renewable Energy & Agricultural Learning) project supported by the Co-operative Education and Work-Integrated Learning Canada (CEWIL Canada). The 4REAL experiential learning opportunity focuses on local climate change solutions through the lens of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically regenerative agriculture and gardening, value-added food production, sustainable building construction, renewable energies, electric mobility, Indigenous knowledge and environmental education, including arts-based learning. Project coordination is led by MES graduate Dale Colleen Hamilton, and administered by MES student Codrina Ibanescu. If you are interested in participating in Project 4REAL between now and September 27, register at eventbrite. See YFile news for more info.
Gail Fraser in a CBC news piece on the Toronto Islands' newest visitors, weighed in on the arrival of double-crested cormorant near Hanlan's Point. A cormorant expert, Fraser expressed surprise that it has taken this long for cormorants to show up on the Toronto Islands, and noted that it may take a lot of effort to keep them away, now that they've already nested there. She added that it is important to be aware that cormorants are native species that have recovered from near extinction and advocated tolerance and long-term planning.
Andil Gosine is co-editor of the Wasafiri summer issue on Afterlives of Indenture that explores the legacy of indentured workers across the Indo-Caribbean and the diasporic experience. Gosine was joined by Nalina Mohabir (Concordia University) on July 5 at the Art Gallery of Ontario’s Jackman Hall to present the special issue. Gosine described the newly released Wasafiri issue and event as “a dream gathering of talent.” Accordingly, “York University was a key site for organizing for Indo-Caribbean communities in the city, and numerous lectures and events, mostly thanks to the incredible work of former Professor of English Frank Birbalsingh.” He noted the latest magazine edition continues that connection in some way as the Wasafiri Issue 110 is a landmark issue that brings together a collection of writers whose ancestries trace back to the indentureship program that brought Asians to the Caribbean in the 19th and early 20th centuries. See YFile News for more info.
Nadha Hassen, ES PhD candidate, recently had an exhibit on her community-based participatory research project, Park Perceptions and Racialized Realities in Two Toronto Neighborhoods, exploring the experiences of racialized and Black, Indigenous and People of Colour (BIPOC) in public greenspaces in two under-resourced Toronto neighbourhoods -- Jane and Finch and St. James Town. In the Design TO exhibit, a group of 18 resident photographers from Jane and Finch and St. James Town used photography and storytelling to share their experiences as racialized people navigating and using greenspaces. The exhibit is a curated selection of over 200 photos and videos shared as part of a community-based participatory research project that will be shared in multiple venues. Through a collaborative 'sensemaking' process, 8 key themes were identified: 1) Belonging & social connection; 2) Exclusion; 3) Mental health & well-being; 4) Right to access play & children’s recreation; 5) Maintenance inequities; 6) Access & accessibility; 7) Safety; and 8) Gentrification & complex use of space. The interactive installation is in collaboration with the Department of Imaginary Affairs and part of a broader collaboration with Greenchange at the Jane/Finch Community and Family Centre, the St. James Town Community Co-op and community members from both neighbourhoods. Hassen will further have two exhibit installations at Jane and Finch on August 12 and St. Jamestown on August 23.
Roger Keil, Philip Harrison (University of Witwatersrand) and Xuefei Ren (Michigan State University) penned an article on How COVID-19 lockdown measures — and their outcomes — varied in cities around the world in The Conversation. The article is based on their study of the disparate responses to COVID-19 undertaken by three major cities -- Johannesburg, Toronto and Chicago -- funded by the Urban Studies Foundation. The authors examined the nature and impact of public health measures on various populations in these cities and found “lockdown” to be an imprecise description for the range of restrictions put in place. Their preliminary research suggests that the experience of COVID-19 should at least give authorities pause before introducing lockdowns as a blanket strategy. While the lockdowns were understandable as a public health measure in a time of insecurity and ignorance of the emerging disease threat, they most deeply affected the poor and other vulnerable groups, worsening social inequalities. The lockdowns intensified social conflict, eroded democratic practice and undermined trust in politics and governance. The authors conclude that lockdowns should be a measure of last resort but, if they are unavoidable in future pandemics, governments must consider more targeted approaches, put in place a support system to cushion the impact on vulnerable citizens, and keep democratic ground rules in place.
Deborah McGregor participated in a podcast series on The Voices of the Greenbelt where she discussed biodiversity within Ontario’s Greenbelt. Among the discussion points were species living in the Greenbelt, their endangerment status and threats to their survival, and how humans benefit from the biodiversity in the region.
"Biodiversity conservation means recognizing that fundamentally it is moving away from the thinking that humans are separate from nature," says McGregor. "Biodiversity conservation is recognizing that humans are part of that conversation and that humans have a responsibility to caretake and be in relation to those particular areas and everything else that lives in there," McGregor adds.
In the podcast, McGregor also notes that biodiversity means supporting Indigenous people and their way of life and even thinking about language revitalization as part of the conversation and conservation processes. "Supporting Indigenous language revitalization and cultural revitalization is critical for biodiversity. It is good to discuss these at all levels to maintain planetary health. That is a food for thought", she concludes. Here is the link to the full transcript.
Valerie Preston commented in Newmarket Today on recently released census trends in income and household makeup in Newmarket and York region. In a report by Statistics Canada, household dynamics in the region and beyond are changing with more young adults living with their families. “It really shows that our idea that children becoming young adults and moving away from home is outdated,” says Preston. She noted that the housing market and cultural factors are probably driving these trends which is expected to continue for some time.
Cate Sandilands' podcast in Green Dreamer is now available for listening. In Episode 362, Cate talks about botanical colonialism and biocultural histories. In conversation with Kamea Chayne, she noted that "the idea of botanical colonialism is premised on the fact that colonization by humans would not have been possible without the plants that they brought with them."
“We sometimes forget that the knowledge systems we use to conceptualize the world are not necessarily exactly the same thing as the world that we’re conceptualizing. We mistake the model of the model for the thing that is being modeled. We mistake the map for the territory. We mistake the word for the thing.”
Cate's research interests include queer and feminist posthumanities, critical plant studies, biocultural histories, ecocriticism, and public environmental engagement through literature and storytelling.
Green Dreamer is a community-supported podcast exploring our paths to collective healing, biocultural revitalization, and true abundance and wellness for all.
Murat Ucoglu and Ute Lehrer penned an article titled "Ontario must commit to affordable housing for all, not attainable housing" in The Conversation. They argue that housing financialization has resulted in the creation of new housing projects for investment purposes, rather than affordability and accessibility. They point to the need for a strong housing data and note that affordability can only be achieved with a plan that invests in affordable rental housing. They call on all three levels of government to come together and to develop an ambitious plan for affordable housing for all.
Mark Winfield wrote an article titled Climate ball is now in Ottawa’s court in The Hamilton Spectator. He expressed disappointment in the outcome of the Ontario elections particularly for those concerned about the environment and climate change. He notes that there were glimmers of hope in the Ford government's interest in “greening“ the steel industry, electric vehicle manufacturing and decarbonizing the electricity sector, but without a wider vision than has been seen so far, the province faces another four lost years for the environment. An important variable, therefore, will be the behaviour of the federal Liberal government toward its Ontario counterpart.
Anna Zalik has a guest blog on "The Opposite of Extractivism? Resource Imperialism Under Calls for “Green Transition” at Le Club de Mediapart. In this piece, Zalik notes that imperial relations in geostrategic resources such as hydrocarbons are associated today with what appear at first glance to depart from extractivism or reverse it. Moreover, imperial relations in geostrategic resources are also associated with purportedly redistributive global regimes. Thus, despite the apparent reversal in terms resulting from these departures from historical forms of extractivism, the ultimate result is to extend imperial relations, reducing energy sovereignty and ecological justice for states of the Global South. Her article is a contribution to the Berliner Gazette’s “After Extractivism” text series; its German version is available on Berliner Gazette. More content is also available on the English-language “After Extractivism” website.
Publications and Reports
Biglieri, S., De Vidovich, L., Iacobelli, J., Keil, R. (2022). Health governance of COVID-19 in Milan and Toronto: long-term trends and short-term failures. Studies in Political Economy: A Socialist Review, 103:1, 55-79, DOI: 10.1080/07078552.2022.2047483
Fawcett, L., Havice, E., Zalik, A. (2022). Frontiers: Ocean epistemologies - privatise, democratise, decolonise. In K. Peters, J. Anderson, A. Davies & P. Steinberg (Eds), The Routledge Handbook of Ocean Space. Routledge. 1st Edition.
Guay, R., & Birch, K. (2022). A comparative analysis of data governance: Socio-technical imaginaries of digital personal data in the USA and EU (2008–2016). Big Data & Society, 9 (2), 205395172211129. https://doi.org/10.1177/20539517221112925
Ford-Smith, H., & Hanson, B. (2022). Justice as a labor of care: Self-care, collective entanglement, and feminist activism in Caribbean Spaces. Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, 11(1), 42–65. https://doi.org/10.1353/pal.2022.0001
Gosine, A. and Mohabir, N. (2022). Afterlives of Indenture. Wasafiri, 37:2, 1-3, DOI: 10.1080/02690055.2022.2031035
Hassen, N., D’Souza, D., Khan, S., Das, M., Arizala, C., Grey, J., and Flicker, C. (2022). Park Perceptions and Racialized Realities in Two Toronto Neighbourhoods. Community Report. Toronto.
Hyndman, J. (2022). Geo‐scripts and refugee resettlement in Canada: Designations and destinations. The Canadian Geographer / Le Géographe Canadien. https://doi.org/10.1111/cag.12785
Keil, R. (2022). Die stadt lebt in ihrer auflösung. Sub\Urban. Zeitschrift Für Kritische Stadtforschung, 10(1), 170–173. https://doi.org/10.36900/suburban.v10i1.782
Olusola, A.O. (2022). River sensing: the inclusion of red band in predicting reach-scale types using machine learning algorithms. Hydrological Sciences Journal/Journal des Sciences Hydrologiques, July.
Sivarajah, B., Korosi, J. B., Thienpont, J. R., Kimpe, L. E., Blais, J. M., & Smol, J. P. (2022). Algal responses to metal(loid) pollution, urbanization, and climatic changes in sub-arctic lakes around Yellowknife, Canada. Arctic Science. https://doi.org/10.1139/as-2021-0052.
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Faculty of Environmental and Urban Change (EUC)
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