Categories
Arts

Ecologies pays homage to planet Earth

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts’ latest exhibition captures the complexities of global warming

I have rarely left a museum feeling emotional and so deeply invested in the curator’s cause. Walking out onto Sherbrooke Street after leaving Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet, I found myself breathtaken and with a heavy heart; both hopeful and troubled for the future that awaits us.

Curated by Iris Amizlev, curator of intercultural arts, Ecologies features over 90 works from the museum’s collection, all of which interpret the current environmental crisis in a different way. Featured artists include Shuvinai Ashoona, Olafur Eliasson, and Lorraine Gilbert.

Upon walking into the space, viewers can observe Giuseppe Penone’s Path (1983), an almost whimsical sculpture that appears to be at once a human and a flowering tree. Penone’s bronze cast figure serves as a demonstration and connection between humans and nature — a theme which Amizlev has made apparent at various instances throughout the exhibition.

Another example of the relationship between humans and the environment can be observed in Lorraine Gilbert’s Boreal Forest Floor, La Macaza, Quebec (2010). The print, which is only half of a diptych from the series “Once Upon a Forest,” features manipulated photographs of plants that are native to Quebec.

Gilbert manipulated the photographs, creating what is essentially a collage, in an attempt to give viewers a “man-made” view of an already beautiful landscape. By resizing, reorganizing, and essentially recreating the scenery, the work demonstrates society’s inclination towards controlling a natural process.

Further in the space, viewers can admire Osuitok Ipeelee’s Untitled (Walruses) (1977) and Peter Qumaluk Itukalla’s Untitled (Bear and Cub) (2003). Though the works are not directly about the climate crisis, the stone sculptures capture the beauty of the threatened Canadian wilderness.

By referencing Indigenous artists and the impacts of colonization, Amizlev makes the important connection between a longstanding history of environmental injustice and the mistreatment of Indigenous peoples, two issues which fall hand-in-hand.

Olafur Eliasson’s Untitled no. 44 (1997), from his series “Iceland,” is a print featuring a stunning depiction of an Icelandic landscape. The contrast between the grassy plain and snowy field in the distance allows viewers to appreciate the grandiosity and serenity of the vast Nordic region.

Eliasson’s works frequently incorporate science, and specifically more “elemental” materials such as water and air. The Danish-Icelandic artist primarily creates installations, and explores themes such as weather, the environment, and space.

In contrast to Eliasson’s tranquil photograph, Adrian Stimson’s Beyond Redemption (2010) is forthright and provocative. Consisting of a taxidermied bison surrounded by ten bison skins draped across black crosses, Stimson’s installation pays homage to the history and importance of the bison in Indigenous communities.

Stimson, a member of the Siksika nation, sacrificed a bison as a means of honouring the near-eradication of the species, as well as the Indigenous tribes who rely on them for sustenance. He offers a glance at the importance of the bison in Indigenous spirituality, as well as the ramifications of human actions on a group of animals that once dominated the wilderness.

Presented alongside Ecologies, viewers can view Paul Walde’s mesmerizing video installation, Requiem for a Glacier (2013). Performed by over 50 artists on the Farnham Glacier in British Columbia, Walde’s piece serves as an homage to the land.

In addition to being threatened by global warming, the government of British Columbia had announced developing a ski resort on the unceded Indigenous land of the Ktunaxa Nation, causing a series of land disputes which lasted over a decade. Walde’s performance features a choir singing the Latin translation of the press release published by the government authorities.

At once aesthetically gratifying and informational, Ecologies provides the public with a compelling narrative and ode to planet Earth. Amizlev’s selection of works so profoundly captures the intricacies and complexity of the climate crisis, offering viewers an experience that is both alarming and stunning.

Ecologies: A Song for Our Planet is on display at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts, at 1380 Sherbrooke St. W., until Feb. 27, 2022. The museum is open from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. Tuesday to Sunday. Reservations must be made in advance. To book a ticket, visit https://www.mbam.qc.ca/en/ticket-office/.

 

Photos courtesy of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Categories
News

Simply Scientific: Planting trees to absorb carbon dioxide

Half a million flocked to the streets of Montreal for the Climate Strike last Friday. A Swedish girl with braids led the crowd alongside Indigenous representatives. Pickets yelled that now is more of a time than ever to redefine tree huggers as regular citizens. Signs, such as “stop deforestation,” bobbed among the sea of people. However, what is it about deforestation that hurts the planet? How does planting trees exactly combat global warming?

The answer is intrinsically tied with the atmosphere, fossil fuels, and something called fixation.

Fixation is not about being excited to see that cute boy Sebastian from class on the shuttle again. It doesn’t reference picking at chipped nail polish or studying profusely. Fixation, for our purposes, refers to the process of converting something in a gaseous state to an organic solid one. Such deposition plays a major role in the growth of plants.

For trees, fixation starts around tiny windows on their leaves called stomata. Carbon dioxide passes through them like little Ellis Islands. From those portals, the gas assimilates into being an integral part of nature’s skyscrapers; used to synthesize sugars crucial to making bark, roots, et cetera. Without carbon dioxide, timberlands would have nothing to be made out of.

When plants evolved into existence, they diversified and spread across the habitable Earth. Vast forests expanded and soaked up tons of carbon dioxide from a prehistoric atmosphere. For millions of years, greenery all over the globe fixated tons of the gas into stalk, leaves, and whatever other arborous body parts that can cross the mind.

As geological eras progressed and different woods died, a lot of their remains became trapped underground. Hidden away by dirt and the ages, the forests of the past (along with some animals) would be pressurized and decomposed into fossil fuel. The same shrub a dinosaur might have eaten also feeds your uncle’s car!

In the period that H.G. Wells wrote The Time Machine, the Industrial Revolution created its own chronological loophole. Humanity began burning natural oil and gas to spark the modern age we live in. As payment for all the progression, the planet has been forced to deal with almost two centuries of greenhouse gases transported from eons ago.

Gaseous carbon dioxide can take hundreds of years to leave our skies. Planting trees is a way to fix the substance into an organic form that won’t absorb the sun’s heat. A garden you like to read in is not only a sanctuary for the brain, but a way to maintain icecaps, safe sea levels, and weather patterns. Every nonelectric car and lawnmower helps pollute our ecosphere with chemicals from before our ancestors had fingers.

 

Graphic by @sundaeghost

Categories
Opinions

Let’s talk about the environment

Why the upcoming protest about climate change is needed

On Friday, March 15, from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m., many Concordia students will participate in a walkout to protest inaction from authority figures on the issue of climate change. The strike will be in solidarity with international climate strikes and walkouts in other institutions in Montreal, such as McGill and UdeM. Later in the day, protesters will join a Montreal-wide march to stand up for climate action.

Now, although I do not condone skipping class, I would like to stress the importance of the call to action this protest aims for: to raise awareness on the current environmental crisis we find ourselves in and to act now for a more sustainable future for our planet. To get a little scientific, the Keeling curve (which many aren’t aware of) is a graph of the accumulation of measurements of the concentration of CO2 emissions taken at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii from 1958 to today. The sense of urgency to take action stems from the Keeling curve, as it has been increasing—this year it has reached its highest level of CO2 concentration measured ever!

As a Master’s student in environmental assessment, in the Department of Geography, Planning and Environment, I’ve learnt about the environmental science behind these issues firsthand and the detailed extent of how humans impact the planet. Just last week, our class visited the Anthropocene exhibit at the National Gallery of Canada. Witnessing attendees appreciate the beauty in photos of environmental destruction as art was terrifying, to say the least. However, it did bring about an opportunity for the public to learn about the effects we’ve imposed on our environment, similarly to what the walkout aims to do.

March 15 is an important date since many schools will be on strike that day to follow the European demonstration movement initiated by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish political activist working to fight against climate change and global warming. It is crucial to acknowledge that this walkout is a response to a global issue. It is also important to emphasize the international scale of this crisis, as seen by the lone protest of Thunberg. Her actions have led to a powerful global movement of school climate strikes, spreading to countries in the UK, Australia, Belgium, Germany, the United States, Japan and dozens more, demanding politicians act on behalf of the planet, according to The Guardian.

At the UN Climate Change COP24 in Katowice, Poland, in December 2018, Thunberg announced, “[World leaders today] only talk about moving forward with the same bad ideas that got us into this mess even when the only sensible thing to do is to pull the emergency brake.” Following this urgency for action against today’s environmental issues, Concordia’s Department of Geography, Planning and Environment has begun a number of projects in support of raising awareness and promoting ways to reduce our environmental impact.

Some of these projects include Concordia’s Climate Clock, which shows how current greenhouse gas emissions affect our planet’s trajectory to reach two degrees. Another project is Climate Bytes, which aims to translate complicated studies on climate change into “digestible byte-sized pieces of information” for the public to more easily understand the science behind these issues. Another is the newly formed Climate Emergency Committee, which allows students within the department and professors in the field to come together and discuss the issues and ways to move forward in addressing these problems.

To learn more about these issues, I invite you all to attend the upcoming Sustainability in the City and Beyond conference from March 19 to 21 at the Loyola Jesuit Hall and Conference Centre. Here, the Climate Emergency Committee will be speaking more about their work.

Remember, the need for action is urgent, and the time to become aware of environmental issues and how to help is now!

Graphic by Ana Bilokin

Categories
Student Life

Thousands rise for justice

Action against climate change and divestment is needed, now.

With signs held high and voices ringing clear above the blaring traffic on Commune St. E. in the Old Port on Saturday Sept. 8, more than 200 protesters united against the climate change crisis. Rise for Climate was supported by non-profit organization 350 Canada, in collaboration with a handful of local grassroots initiatives such as Leap Montreal, Rap Battles for Social Justice (RB4SJ) and the Montreal Raging Grannies. The gathering was one of more than 900 rallies simultaneously taking place across 95 countries worldwide, all demanding divestment from fossil fuel industries, among other things.

“Indigenous women and girls are three times more likely to experience violence, and six times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women,” said Beatrice Dimaculangan, an activist, rapper, and community organizer with RB4SJ.

“We’ve already passed the point of no return,” said Sally Livingston, a Concordia alumna and member of the Montreal chapter of the Council of Canadians. “We do not want our tax dollars going to any more fossil fuel investments.” Toward the end of August, according to Global News, the Federal Court of Appeal quashed the Trans Mountain Pipeline plans due to insufficient consultations with Indigenous communities. However, according to the same article, Trudeau has not yet ruled out appealing the court’s decision, and “is maintaining that it will get built.”
“The fact that [the federal government] is pushing the Trans Mountain Pipeline through […] shows us that they haven’t changed their ways,” explained Nicolas Chevalier, one of the founding activists of the non-hierarchical organization Leap Montreal. “They don’t understand what it means to be in a climate crisis.”
“I think the Kinder Morgan Pipeline is totally retrogressive,” said Carole, a protester. There are three things Trudeau has shown us by spearheading this project, she explained: “He has broken his primary election promise, he has ignored consensus, and he is going backwards – just like Mr. Trump.”
Rise for Climate was attended by people from all walks of life: activists from various backgrounds, patrons, both young and old, families with children—all united as a community trying to salvage this planet we call home.

“The same system (capitalism) that drives climate change is the same system that drives inequality,” said Bianca Mugyenyi, a member of Leap Montreal. “At the end of the day, we want to do more than just avoid catastrophic climate change,” she said. “We want better lives.”

But the window for avoiding catastrophic climate change is quickly closing; we are and will continue to experience the effects of rising global temperatures throughout our lifetimes, albeit with regional variances. During a press conference on March 29, Amina J. Mohammed, secretary-general of the United Nations, explained that, unless accelerated action against climate change is adopted by 2020, the 2016 Paris Agreement goals will become unattainable. According to the 350 Canada website, 97 per cent of scientists agree that climate change is caused by human greenhouse gas emission. “So then why do our politicians keep making the wrong decisions?” asked Mugyenyi. “They’re moving in the wrong direction.”

Bea Dimaculangan spoke about how climate change disproportionately affects marginalized communities. Photo by Alex Hutchins.

Capitalism benefits from the existence of systemic oppression: from racism, from sexism, from violence against Indigenous communities. Capitalism is rooted in the mass exploitation of resources, and exponentially increasing profit margins somehow justifies the further exploitation of those resources and the political violence directed to already marginalized communities.
“Indigenous women and girls are three times more likely to experience violence, and six times more likely to be murdered than non-Indigenous women,” said Beatrice Dimaculangan, an activist, rapper and community organizer with RB4SJ.
“When Indigenous girls are trafficked into sex trade […] where is left for these girls to turn to when the very system meant to protect them proceeds to exploit and neglect them?” Dimaculangan held back tears as the power of her voice kept the crowd locked in to her every word. “These women are not solely victims of violence, but also of a justice system that doesn’t seem to give a shit about them.”

We have a responsibility—as Canadians, as allies, as human beings—to speak up. Not after the next major environmental catastrophe; not after coastal cities are completely underwater; not after the next oil spill wreaks havoc on another Indigenous community. The time for change is now. “The science is indisputable,” said Mugyenyi. “Enough is enough.”

Feature photo by Alex Hutchins

Categories
Student Life

A look at global warming through a camera lens

Photojournalist, explorer and environmentalist Luca Bracali uses photography to help save our planet

Some educate in classrooms. Others, like Luca Bracali, an Italian photojournalist, explorer and environmentalist, aim to educate youth about global warming through a camera lens.

“My job is to try to save a bit of our planet,” said Bracali at a talk hosted by Concordia’s Italian Studies Association (ISA) on Nov. 6. “I am really in love with our planet because it belongs to everybody. It is the only thing that we need to share.”

Bracali wanted people around the world to understand the importance of the environment, and he chose photography as the medium because it is “the most international language of all,” he said.

Bracali’s love of photography started when he was a child. “When I was really young, I was really shy. I decided to start with photography [as an outlet].” His career began with photographing cars and fashion models, but he soon realized taking photos of material possessions was not fulfilling.

In 1991, when Bracali began travelling the world, he discovered his true mission—to help save the planet using photography. “I fell in love with this after my first trip,” he said. Since then, Bracali has traveled to 140 countries and worked for National Geographic. His photography focuses on capturing the natural world’s picturesque mountains, wildlife, northern lights, deserts, prairies and icebergs.

Photojournalist Luca Bracali gave a talk at Concordia University on Nov. 6. Photo by Enrico Barbini

In 2003, Bracali traveled to Antarctica to visit the Vernadsky Research Base where a hole in the ozone layer was first discovered back in 1985. It was during this trip that Bracali decided he wanted to explore the topic of global warming and find ways to help protect the planet.

According to Bracali, one of his most challenging trips was a visit to the North Pole. “It’s something that I had done once in my life, and it’s the only trip I would not do twice.” He said even the simplest things, such as water to drink, were difficult to come by. “You don’t have anything to drink […] you have to melt and dig the snow,” he said. “As soon as you remove your gloves, you can get frostbites. You use fire to melt the snow and, finally, you can drink something.”

The greatest threat Bracali faced on that trip, however, was the possibility of encountering a polar bear. “You go to sleep with a gun,” he said. “If the bear enters your tent, you have to find the gun [in the dark].”

Bracali said the ultimate goal of his photographs is to show the danger our planet faces because of global warming. “I try to capture something related to ice-melting, [or] something that is there now that won’t be there anymore in 20 years, such as ice or polar bears,” he said.

When discussing the everyday habits people can change to help save the planet and reduce waste, Bracali emphasized the importance of conserving water. “For showers, maybe you can have two or three showers maximum per week,” he said. He also suggested people avoid long showers by turning off the water when using soap and only turning it back on to rinse off. “Water is a precious element,” Bracali added.

According to Giuliano Sandoval, president of Concordia’s ISA, the purpose of Bracali’s talk was to actively raise awareness about global warming. “We can make a difference, even in the smallest action. We all need to be concerned with our planet,” he said. “Things are changing, and global warming is happening. People need to be conscious of it.”

Olivia Venneri, the vice-president of finance for Concordia’s ISA, said the talk was part of the association’s initiative to advocate for the environment and educating young people. This included going “to elementary schools, high schools and CEGEPs to talk about the environment.”

During his talk, Bracali also offered advice to aspiring photographers. “Be ambitious but very humble,” he said. “Have a project on your mind and try to develop it as much as you can. With technology nowadays, everything is so easy, so you must keep a very focused project on your mind.”

He later told The Concordian: “My goal is trying to teach young people how to preserve and take care of our planet. I want to go to elementary [schools] and to universities to show [students] the beauty of our planet,” he said. “It’s your planet. Please open your eyes.”

Categories
News

Concordia study sheds light on global temperature increases

A new Concordia study has shown that the United States and China are part of the seven countries most to blame for global temperature increases.

The study, entitled “National Contributions to Observed Global Warming,” showed that the seven biggest contributors are the United States, China, Russia, Brazil, India, Germany and the United Kingdom. Together, they account for 63 per cent of temperature increases up to 2005. The top 20 countries caused 82 per cent of the observed temperature increases. Canada ranked 10th on the list.

The study shows that the U.S. has caused nearly 20 per cent of observed global warming up to 2005.

“I was surprised that the US [sic] was so far ahead [2.5 times larger] than the next highest contributor,” said Dr. Damon Matthews, who lead the study and is an associate professor in the department of geography, planning and environment.

The study also looked at temperature increases in degrees Celsius per capita, or per person. For this part of the study, Canada ranked third after the United Kingdom and the United States. The United Kingdom caused an increase of temperature of 0.54 °C per billion people, while the United States caused an increase of 0.51 °C  per billion people. Canada caused an increase of 0.41 °C per billion people, which was equal to Russia’s per capita results.

Matthews said that he was not surprised by Canada’s results in the study, saying that the results were consistent with past studies.

Although China was the second highest on the list of contributors to total global warming, it was 19th on the list of per capita global warming, causing an increase of 0.05 °C per billion people.

“…The disparities that we have illustrated regarding differences in per-capita contributions to global warming underline the critical issues of international equity that are at the core of current efforts to decrease global greenhouse gas emissions,” the study stated.

The study went on to say that, although population and population growth has been consistently cited as being a cause for the increase in greenhouse gas emissions, it is “clear that population alone does not determine a country’s climate contribution, given the vast differences in per-capita energy and resource consumption between the developed and the developing world.”

The study also looked at what greenhouse gases (GHG) caused the most total global warming per geographical location and per population over a span of 200 years, ending in 2005.

The report concluded by saying that this study could help decide how much emissions different countries will be allowed to produce in the future.

“Our analysis has the potential to contribute to this discussion, by providing both an improved estimate of current contributions, as well as a relatively simple, yet robust method with which to calculate a given country’s current and potential future contribution to global warming,” the study stated.

The study took about three years to complete, and had started out as an honour student’s project. The team consisted of both graduate and undergraduate students in the department of geography, planning and environment.

“As a follow-up study, I would like to assess how these calculations could be used to set future emissions allowances for each country,” Matthews said.

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