Finding Urban Nature exhibit showcases unique green spaces in Montreal

The exhibition co-hosted by Concordia, McGill, and urbaNature celebrates the biodiversity and community spaces found in areas around the city.

On Tuesday, Jan. 16, groups and individuals came together to celebrate the urban nature spaces in Montreal. The one-day exhibition focused on four urban nature spaces and dived into their histories, uses, and biodiversity. 

The event was coordinated by Ashley Spanier-Levasseur, a Concordia student in the Loyola College of Sustainability and Diversity, in conjunction with McGill and urbaNature Education. 

This exhibition drew attention to the uniqueness of spaces like Champ des Possibles, which is an abandoned-rail-house-turned-communal-green-space in Rosemont. Other spaces acknowledged in the exhibition included Falaise St-Jacques (a stretch of forested cliff located south of NDG), Parc-Nature MHM (a large site made up of wetlands, meadows, and woodlands in Hochelaga), and Technoparc Montreal (a high-tech industrial park near the Montreal-Trudeau airport).

“They are not parks. They are not these manicured, perfectly maintained spaces where you can have baseball diamonds—they are nature,” said Morgan.

Concordia political science professor Amy Poteete had conducted research studying the use of these spaces and their environmental and ecological impacts. Maps charting the community use of green spaces, graphs comparing the daily temperatures inside and outside of them, and infographics about the uses and histories of the spaces were displayed.

The artistic contributions to the exhibit were made from various communities and independent artists. The contributions included; wish flags from a summer camp in NDG, photography from community members, and videographic ‘portraits’ of the urban nature spaces from photographer KWP Morgan.

Interactive elements like audio recordings of birdsong and bat calls were set up around the exhibition for attendees to listen to with headphones, and 360 degree video portraits of the four spaces were projected on a screen in the centre of the room. Video navigation was controlled by a mouse on a podium in the middle of the room, and those involved with the creation of the exhibit encouraged attendees to use the mouse to “look around” the spaces. 

One hope of the exhibit was to bring awareness regarding these spaces to those who may not know they exist. 

“Surprisingly not everyone knows that these places exist,” said Morgan. “To a degree [our hope for this] was that we want people to know these spaces exist, and also we want people to know that these spaces are important.”

Another hope was to bring together a mix of organizations and individuals who worked in similar contexts around urban nature. 

“We wanted to not leave out the community partners who have been working, protecting these spaces and advocating for the continued community uses of these spaces for many years before Concordia got involved,” said Spanier-Levasseur about the importance of collaboration with and between the different organizations and individuals who contributed to the exhibit.

Poteete added, “We know that the community groups are also producing knowledge. They know their sites better than anybody else does and they have a lot of knowledge about the history of their spaces.”

The exhibition ran from 10:00 a.m. until 6:00 p.m., with a Q&A panel held at 4:00 p.m. A turnout of over 100 people was reported, as a steady stream of attendees had been exploring the exhibit.


What is the future of sustainability science?

Concordia’s fourth annual sustainability conference evaluated the climate crisis on campus and beyond

Hosted by the Loyola College for Diversity and Sustainability and the Loyola Sustainability Research Centre, in collaboration with 4TH SPACE, Concordia’s fourth annual sustainability conference took place from March 15 to 19.

The five-day series, Sustainability and the Climate Crisis, which was hosted via Zoom, featured a variety of lectures, workshops and discussions centred around the progressing climate emergency. Topics included global warming, loss of biodiversity, renewable energy, and examined Concordia’s position in addressing the aforementioned issues.

Guest speakers included professors, undergraduate and graduate students from various disciplines, including the departments of Biology, Communication Studies, and Geography, Planning and Environment.

The week kicked off with a series of presentations centred around Current topics in sustainability science. Graduate students in the Advanced Seminar in Environmental Science course presented their research and the potential ways in which certain solutions can tackle sustainability issues. 

Among the presentations was Brian Armstrong’s research on the importance of small-scale subsistence fisheries. Armstrong’s research is done in partnership with the Cree Nation Government and the Hunters and Trappers Association and explores food security, funding for hunter-trappers, and Indigenous knowledge of food sustainability.

“I believe cataloguing and understanding these initiatives and relationships can put fisheries and food security back into the greater context of cultural wellbeing, environmental stewardship and belonging for long term, intergenerational sustainability,” said Armstrong, adding that, on a greater level, this would entail fostering partnerships, respecting Indigenous communities, and reevaluating the way settlers conceive their role in the world.

In the next discussion, Insects: Indicators and agents of global change?, panellists examined climate change from an entomological perspective. More specifically, Concordia Professor Emma Despland discussed how climate change has been disrupting insect ecosystems and causing mass outbreaks.

Despland explained how warming temperatures lead to an influx of insects to a specific region, in turn, causing damage to forests as a result of the insects’ eggs — or larvae — feeding on growing and underdeveloped bark. Thus, this disrupts not only the insect’s ecosystem, but forestry as well.

From a more economical perspective, Concordia Professor Damon Matthews’ lecture Implications of the remaining carbon budget for climate policies and emissions targets offered an overview and analysis of carbon budgets and how this data and information is applied in creating corporate policies and targets. The carbon budget is essentially the amount of carbon dioxide emissions permitted to prevent the Earth from warming above its threshold.

Whereas in Emission targets and a challenge to capitalism?, postdoctoral fellow Anders Bjørn and PhD candidate Daniel Horen Greenford discussed how applying science-based emission targets and considering alternatives to capitalism can potentially help the climate crisis. Science-based emission targets are goals developed by businesses and corporations in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

For a more biological approach to the climate crisis, Climate Change and Natural Systems, and The future of biodiversity in a changing planet explored the ramifications of human impact on forestry, marine life, and its threat to ecosystems in general.

In one of the presentations, Clara Freeman-Cole delved into protected areas, such as national parks. Freeman-Cole described the concept of landscape fragmentation, a process by which habitats are broken up into smaller areas as a result of infrastructure, agriculture, and natural resource extraction, among others.

Sahar Alinezhad’s discussion on the importance of community gardens as a tool to promote social wellbeing, and Jacques Simon-Mayer’s research on remote mapping and monitoring of chlorophyll levels in the water were among the other panels that presented findings on the future of sustainability in Canada.

In PhD candidate Alexandre Pace’s lecture, he presented his research about recording the events of climate change via the observation of tree rings, whereas Clare O’Neill Sanger delved into her research about pollen records. The two presentations offered a glimpse at the ways in which the observational analysis of living systems can provide us with information about the climate crisis and state of the environment for the past, present, and future.

Later in the week, Concordia Professor Pedro Peres-Neto, whose research centres around community ecology and biodiversity from a statistical and theoretical approach, discussed the Earth’s declining biodiversity. He further discussed the difficulties and concerns where policies and models are concerned, and the ways in which these models aid in understanding these occurrences and phenomena.

Building on Peres-Neto’s discussion, Lilian Sales, a post-doctoral researcher in the Department of Biology, delved into her research, which uses statistical and mathematical models as a means of further understanding the distribution of various species on different scales. Species distribution models (SDM), mentioned throughout both Peres-Neto and Sales’ discussions, are models which use locational data of species in order to better understand and predict their locational distribution.

Of course, while considering the climate crisis on a global and national level is of great importance, it is equally as important to recognize the ways in which we can take action on a local level. Various discussions introduced viewers to initiatives for climate action on campus and in academia. 

Climate action at Concordia: A panel discussion aimed to educate students about Concordia’s Sustainability Action Plan, which was launched in 2020. The plan presented the university’s vision and plans to divest from greenhouse gases and reduce waste. The presentation centred primarily around a Q&A session wherein students could ask questions about the five-year plan and its implications.

For those interested in careers focusing on the environment and sustainability, Careers in Sustainability offered students a glimpse at the various paths that can be taken upon graduation. The talk featured Faisal Shennib, Concordia’s environmental specialist at the Office of Facilities Management, Katerina Fragos, manager of sustainability and climate change at multinational accounting firm PwC, and Anthony Garoufalis-Auger, climate emergency organizer at Rapid Decarbonization Group, a non-profit organization. The panel demonstrated the ways in which students can become actively involved in the climate crisis, even without a formal education in science.

To end the week off on a more interactive note, attendees were invited to join the Climate Emergency Committee for an engaging game of Climate Geopardy. The committee consists of students and professors from the department of Geography, Planning, and Environment who are aiming to raise awareness about the climate crisis throughout the province via a series of workshops, lectures, and events. 

The game, which takes a similar form to the popular American game-show, Jeopardy!, was meant to educate the public on the current climate emergency and its underlying science. By introducing scientific concepts and research in an engaging manner, players were able to educate themselves and test their knowledge, all while putting an entertaining spin on an important issue.

The series left viewers with a variety of topics to think about, both where personal and institutional changes and policies are concerned. The speakers and presenters offered a well-encompassed glance at a simultaneously distressing and hopeful possibility for our future. Regardless of one’s area of expertise, one thing is certain, the future of the climate emergency is in our hands: as citizens, students, scientists, consumers, and beyond.

The recorded lectures from Sustainability and the Climate Crisis are available for viewing on 4TH SPACE’s YouTube channel. To learn more about 4TH SPACE and for more information about upcoming events, follow them on Instagram and Facebook.




Leaders and environmental groups react as the Amazon continue to burn

Spanning eight countries and more than 5 million kilometers squared, the Earth’s largest rainforest is still ablaze. Earlier in August, day turned to night as smoke from the fires darkened the Sao Paulo sky.

The record number of fires in the Amazon rainforest are mobilizing environmental groups and spurring debate about the forest’s Indigenous population. According to Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, the number of active wildfires in the Amazon rainforest increased by more than 80 per cent since last year.

Sustainable Concordia is concerned about the wildfires and deforestation. Their mission statement advocates sustainability through “acting locally and networking globally.” In a statement to The Concordian, Sustainable Concordia emphasized the economic link between deforestation and the fires.

“The fires (at least in part) are being set on purpose, driven by an exploitative capitalist system that values products and profit over people,” wrote Emily Carson-Apstein, Sustainable Concordia’s External and Campaign Coordinator.

Environmental group Greenpeace Brazil also blame deforestation. Márcio Astrini, Greenpeace Brazil’s Policy Coordinator, denounced in the Mongabay the practice while linking it to the thousands of fire hotspots.

“Deforestation only damages Brazil’s economy, the planet’s climate and endangers wildlife and the lives of thousands of people,” wrote Astrini.

In an interview with The Concordian, Christian Poirier, Program Director of Amazon Watch, said the cattle and mining industries are the most significant contributors to deforestation. Amazon Watch is a California-based nonprofit dedicated to protecting the rainforest and Indigenous rights. According to Yale University’s Global Forest Atlas, 450,000 kilometres squared of deforested land now are used for cattle ranching. He said removing trees for cattle ranching is often achieved by intentionally setting fires but this year’s increase is unusual.

“Fires are an annual phenomenon to clear parcels of land, but this year it’s an on an unprecedented scale,” said Poirier.

Like Sustainable Concordia, Poirier is concerned about economic incentives that encourage deforestation. In a statement, Poirier said that President Jair Bolsonaro encouraged farmers to light fires, with anti-environmental rhetoric.

“Farmers and ranchers understand the president’s message as a license to commit arson … in order to aggressively expand their operations into the rainforest,” wrote Poirier.

The fires attracted international attention at last weekend’s G7 summit. Leaders from around the world offered technical and financial support. According to AFP, the G7 pledged $20 million. Bolsanaro initially refused the aid. He has since agreed to accept foreign assistance as long as Brazil controls the funds.

Following the G7 summit, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau committed $15 million to fight the wildfires and praised international collaboration. However, Poirier said Canadian-owned mines are part of the problem, referring to Toronto-based and traded Belo Sun Mining Corporation.

Belo Sun operates the Volta Grande Project, a proposed open-pit mine in the Amazon located on a 160,000-hectare property. According to Environmental Justice Atlas – an organization that tracks global environmental conflicts – the project seeks to open Brazil’s largest open-pit gold mine. Mining operations often require massive amounts of deforestation and mineral extraction – two detrimental procedures to the forest’s sustainability.

Last July, Reuters reported on Belo Sun’s numerous legal challenges in Brazillian courts over construction permits. State and Federal Court cases have left the project on hold. On Jul. 12, Belo Sun released a statement lauding a Federal Court of Appeals ruling in Brazil’s capital, Brasília. However, the judgment was described as a “procedural win.”

With legal disputes ongoing, uncertainty surrounds the Volta Grande Project and the Amazon’s future. Despite international outcry, wildfires continue to burn in the world’s largest rainforest. For now, what effect these fires will have on the Amazon and the world-at-large remains unknown.

Student Life

Minimize waste to maximize impact understanding

The Dish Project challenges Concordia students and faculty to live waste-free for five days

From March 11 to 15, several Concordia organizations are encouraging students to partake in the Zero Waste Challenge 2019. Part of the event series Sustain’alive, the Dish Project, Concordia University Center for Creative Reuse (CUCCR), and Zero Waste Concordia organized this challenge to encourage Concordia students, faculty and staff to try living “zero waste” for five days.

“The objective of the challenge is to really start a conversation about waste and unsustainable waste management on and off campus, and to create a strong community around the zero waste movement at Concordia,” said Maya Provencal, the external coordinator of The Dish Project. Participants are challenged to refrain from creating any landfill waste, and instead use products that are recyclable, reusable, or able to be repurposed.

Adopting a completely zero waste lifestyle may sound difficult at first, which is precisely why the Zero Waste Challenge was created. Since it is a community effort, participants are encouraged to share tips and tricks for living a more sustainable lifestyle. This way, the challenge won’t seem as intimidating. “It can be really scary to try and move away from that dependency, especially alone, so The Dish Project started the Zero Waste Challenge in an attempt to make this a community affair rather than an individual one,” said Provencal.

Those wishing to partake in the challenge can sign up through email and receive tips from The Dish Project. Participants are also encouraged to tailor the challenge to meet their own lifestyle if they feel they cannot commit to living completely zero waste. For example, changing one aspect of their daily routine, such as packing a reusable water bottle instead of a plastic one, is an excellent start. Taking small steps towards being more eco-conscious contributes to larger change.

Taking steps to create a waste-conscious community both on and off campus is pertinent since sustainability is an issue that affects everyone, albeit disproportionately. Many think it is simply an environmental issue, yet it is also a social and economic issue.

Provencal explained that our current extraction-based economic system wastes valuable resources, contributes to landfills and other waste management sites, and that this system affects marginalized communities at an extremely disproportionate level. “We want students to understand that by reducing their waste production, they are rejecting this destructing system and creating a better world,” said Provencal.  

Feature graphic by @sundaemorningcoffee

Exit mobile version