The most wasteful time of the year

Holiday festivities come at a major environmental cost

The most wasteful time of the year

Along with the festivities, the holidays are a time for trash — yes, trash. It’s just one of the things that make the holiday season so unfriendly to the environment.

Canada produces some of the highest amounts of trash among all developed nations, with 720 kilograms of waste produced per capita in 2012 alone. Even more waste is generated during the holiday season, in part because of the increase in gift purchasing.

It is also becoming more common to purchase these gifts online. A report released in 2014 by the National Retail Federation, the world’s largest retail trade association, projected an eight to 11 per cent increase in online shopping compared to the previous year.

A large environmental impact of online shopping is the amount of fossil fuel consumed by delivery. This is especially true for items shipped overseas, which must be transported by a boat or a plane.

The production of goods themselves have an environmental impact as well. Electronics, now a major part of the consumer landscape, are among the worst culprits.

U of T professor Miriam Diamond, who studies environmental contaminants like e-waste, says that the production of electronic devices is typically more wasteful than traditional items made from wood or fabric. “It takes a lot of greenhouse gases [and waste] to achieve the purity of the materials used in electronics,” explained Diamond.

The size of the electronic device doesn’t matter. “You could have a very small handheld device that [has] the same amount of waste and greenhouse gases and toxins in it as a much larger product.”

Diamond said that humans produce around 40 million tons of e-waste every year.

The average shelf life of an electronic toy, such as a doll with a chip in it, could be 10 years. While energy is consumed to produce electronic goods, there is also the same amount, if not more, produced when those same products are thrown out. If the doll is not disposed at an e-waste recycling facility, it may end up in a landfill in a third-world country; it is common for e-waste to land there.

There are also social impacts to consider, noted Diamond. Textile workers and electronic toy manufacturers often work in very poor conditions. “There are social costs that are really well hidden from Western consumers… it’s not all about us — it’s also about the impact that our purchasing creates on other people’s lives.”

Along with the increase in waste, additional energy is consumed during the holiday season because of Christmas lights. A 2008 study by the US Department of Energy found that Christmas lights consume 6.63 billion kilowatt hours of electricity every year.

Haven’t thought of a New Year’s resolution yet? No worries. Aim to shrink your ecological footprint.

Diamond suggested that this year, instead of giving material goods, consider giving your time — share experiences with your friends and family instead of goods.

How green are we compared to other Canadian campuses?

U of T lacks published stats on greenhouse gas emissions, water consumption

How green are we compared to other Canadian campuses?

Despite its environmental accomplishments — like being named one of the country’s greenest employers — U of T does not publish annual statistics on its greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) and water consumption, unlike some other schools in Canada. Here, The Varsity takes a look at what other schools are accomplishing around the country — and how U of T compares.

GHG emissions and water consumption are two of the most important measurements of greenness, so it is difficult to quantitatively compare U of T’s accomplishments with those of other schools across Canada.

Greenhouse gas emissions

Some schools, like Université Laval and the University of Northern British Columbia are already carbon neutral, meaning that they don’t produce more carbon than they offset.

The University of Calgary (UCalgary) has decreased its GHG emissions per student by 35 per cent between 2008 and 2016, while the University of British Columbia (UBC) saw a 30 per cent reduction between 2007 and 2016. McGill University, as of 2015, reduced its GHG emissions by 25 per cent since 1990, and it has recently announced plans of to go carbon neutral.

Amelia Brinkerhoff, a sustainability strategy coordinator at McGill, said that they wanted to put something more ambitious on the table to work toward. “It’s one thing just to say that you’re going to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but it’s more interesting to say let’s go for zero.”

While U of T does not publish statistics on its GHG reductions, the annual Sustainability Yearbook that the school releases does highlight some savings in carbon dioxide. Notably, as of 2015, Robarts Library has saved 1,221 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year, while the Medical Sciences Building has saved 1,205 tonnes.

According to Ron Swail, U of T’s Chief Operations Officer for Property Services & Sustainability, the university has managed to decrease GHG emissions despite the “massive growth” U of T has seen since 2000.

“We use less energy today… than we did in the year 2000. We’ve been able to avoid over 50,000 tonnes of greenhouse gases, which is the equivalent to taking 2,000 cars off the road,” said Swail.

Water consumption

Water consumption is another major indicator of whether a school is achieving its sustainability goals. At UBC, water use per student has gone down 59 per cent between 2000 and 2016. According to the same metric, UCalgary has decreased consumption per student by 27 per cent between 2008 and 2016. The University of Waterloo has decreased water use per square metre by 22.1 per cent between 2010 and 2016.

James Tansey, Executive Director of the UBC Sustainability Initiative, said, “We don’t really have water shortages on the campus, we have [a] pretty good water supply, but we still [report on water reductions] in order to demonstrate leadership.”

Though U of T does not measure water consumption as these other schools do, Swail said that the school does use less water today than in the year 2000.

Waste diversion and releasing statistics

One statistic that U of T does publish is its waste diversion rate, which measures how much material is diverted from landfills. UTSG has one of the highest rates in Canada, diverting 70.6 per cent of its waste. In comparison, UBC was at 67 per cent in the 2015-2016 academic year, the University of Ottawa is at 64.5 per cent, and Waterloo is at 41 per cent.

Op-ed: President Gertler’s retreat from responsibility

President Gertler and UTAM’s choices subvert U of T’s divestment policy

Op-ed: President Gertler’s retreat from responsibility

The University of Toronto Asset Management Corporation’s (UTAM) recent report on responsible investment describes steps to include environmental, social, and governance (ESG) considerations in U of T’s investment decision making. However, the proposed actions are an inadequate remedy to the enormity of climate change.

The “resolute commitment to the principles of equal opportunity, equity and justice” in the university’s Statement of Institutional Purpose requires us to do more. U of T should act on this issue, as it did with divestment from tobacco and firms associated with apartheid in South Africa.

U of T’s policy on divestment arguably exists because the university recognizes that the activities of some corporations are contrary to U of T’s values. The policy demands that responses to questions about the university’s social responsibility as an investor be based on the concept of “social injury” imposed on consumers, employees, or other persons, and the violation of domestic and international laws that protect the health, safety, and basic freedoms of people around the world.

The divestment brief comprehensively documents the social injury imposed by the fossil fuel industry, including through climate change, as well as the industry’s well-documented efforts to mislead the public and lawmakers, and its violation of Indigenous rights. The ad hoc expert committee selected by President Gertler acknowledged the industry’s contributions to social injury, as did the President’s response to their recommendations. And yet the remedy chosen has little logical connection to the problem identified, and little prospect of mitigating how U of T’s investments are aggravating climate change.

If the administration will only undertake insignificant and incremental action when social injury has been so comprehensively demonstrated, then President Gertler’s actions have rendered the divestment policy essentially meaningless.

The divestment campaign has laid out a compelling ethical and financial rationale for urgent and substantial action, whereas UTAM’s report barely mentions climate change and does not discuss social injury or the conduct of the fossil fuel industry. This contrasts sharply with the ad hoc committee’s conclusion that some fossil fuel companies “engage in egregious behaviour and contribute inordinately to social injury,” and its recommendation of divestment from firms spreading disinformation or receiving over 10 per cent of their revenue from coal production and burning or non-conventional and aggressive extraction.

Now, UTAM doesn’t even propose screening stocks, but rather “selection and monitoring” of investment managers. It is not convincing that having UTAM review and evaluate various characteristics of its investment managers — or “discuss securities that appear to have material ESG risks,” as the report puts it — will help curb the abuses of the fossil fuel industry or the ways in which it is imposing harm through climate change.

Shareholder activism, also endorsed in the UTAM report, is a similarly inadequate strategy. Asking major coal and oil companies to leave their proven reserves unburned is not a credible response to climate change.

President Gertler himself has acknowledged the seriousness of climate change risks and the fossil fuel industry’s history of misconduct. When describing fossil fuel corporations that are “non-conventional or aggressive extractors and disinformers,” he said, “My expectation is that such investments — properly assessed — would indeed be deemed undesirable from the perspective of ESG-related factors.”

This expectation is not reflected in the U of T administration’s actions. Climate change threatens to devastate low-lying nations like Bangladesh and the Netherlands, and is causing death and suffering in communities around the world.

Moreover, U of T’s complicity in colonial harm caused to Indigenous communities by the fossil fuel industry undermines the university’s commitment to reconciliation. It is not ethically defensible to continue investing in the corporations that work to confuse the public and block political action while their products cause the problem. 

The administration has consistently sought to escape responsibility for the consequences of its investments by relying on UTAM’s unwillingness to divest without clear direction from the President and Governing Council. This contrasts with U of T’s action concerning tobacco and apartheid divestment, as well as the leadership of over 100 educational institutions worldwide that have committed to fossil fuel divestment.

President Gertler should revisit his decision not to divest, implement the spirit and letter of the divestment policy, and stop funding an industry that is burning up the future of U of T’s students.

 

Amelia Rose Khan is Vice President of Toronto350, a group that brings together organizers, activists, and citizens to lead campaigns and actions focused on solving the global climate crisis.

Julia DaSilva is a first-year undergraduate student at Victoria College and co-founder of Leap UofT.

Kristy Bard is a member of United Steel Workers Local 1998’s NextGen Committee, which aims to inspire and educate young members of the United Steelworkers.

Milan Ilnyckyj is a fifth-year PhD student in Political Science and a Junior Fellow at Massey College.

Peter Martin OC, FRSC is a professor in the Canadian Institute for Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Toronto and a Senior Fellow at Massey College.

Op-ed: Why risk arrest?

Canada’s youth won’t stand for Kinder Morgan, and it’s time for the government to listen up

Op-ed: Why risk arrest?

When I was 12 years old, I wrote a speech about climate change for a primary school speaking contest. Unfortunately, as I would soon learn, it takes a lot more than giving a speech to move governments. For the next eight years, impassioned by the same goals, I wrote petitions, signed letters, attended rallies and marches, and spoke up at climate town halls. I have used every available traditional forum to voice my concerns, and yet the politicians that are supposed to protect my future have consistently failed to take necessary action on climate change.

When an opportunity presented itself to take my demands to the next level, I took it. For the past two months I have recruited students and youth for Climate101, a civil disobedience action calling on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to reject the Kinder Morgan pipeline. Last Monday, that action culminated in 99 young people being arrested on Parliament Hill — the largest act of youth-led climate civil disobedience in Canadian history.

Opposing Kinder Morgan is a matter of climate justice. As students, many of us with experience in fossil fuel divestment campaigns, we know that expanding the tar sands means trampling on the rights of people across Canada and around the world. Canada made commitments in Paris last year to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees, but if Kinder Morgan and other tar sands pipelines are built, we will be on track to use up almost one quarter of the world’s remaining carbon budget. Approving Kinder Morgan means standing by as small island nations are drowned, people die of famine, and increasingly prevalent and dangerous natural disasters destroy communities.

If Prime Minister Justin Trudeau approves Kinder Morgan, he will also be breaking his campaign promise to respect the rights of Indigenous peoples. Cedar Parker-George of the Tslei-Waututh First Nation, one of the youth speakers at the action on Monday, says it best: “Justin Trudeau promised to listen to Indigenous communities. Well, my community has been pretty clear; reject this pipeline and protect the water, the land and the climate.” Tslei-Waututh and other members of Indigenous communities protecting the land are protecting their right to survive, and we need to stand with them.

Young people took action on Monday because the stakes are high, and because it just might make the difference. We know that when young people come together, we are powerful. For instance, the fossil fuel divestment movement, led by students, has collectively led to $3.4 trillion in assets being divested thus far. In the United States in 2014, dozens of youth were arrested outside the White House protesting the Keystone XL pipeline. A year later, after dozens of other actions and fierce opposition from Indigenous peoples, Obama rejected the pipeline.

Climate 101, similarly, drew on the power of young voices to influence change. Last election, 45 per cent of people aged 18–25 voted Liberal and helped along the formation of a majority Liberal government. That same demographic, spanning all the way up to 35, is overwhelmingly opposed to pipelines and supports strong climate action and respect for Indigenous rights.

Those of us arrested on Parliament Monday came with a plea, but also a warning: if Trudeau wants the support of millennials next election, he needs to reject Kinder Morgan. Perhaps seeing 99 youth arrested on his doorstep will be the tipping point he needs to make that decision.

Amanda Harvey-Sanchez is a third-year student at Trinity College studying Environmental Studies, Social Cultural Anthropology, and Equity Studies. She was one of three youth organizers working on recruitment and planning for Climate 101 with 350.org.

Letter of solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux

U of T students, faculty, and staff support protesters, condemn the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline

Editor’s note: The following is a letter of solidarity signed by over 160 University of Toronto students, faculty, and staff, expressing support for the Standing Rock Sioux and other groups protesting against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. The letter was sent to The Varsity on October 12, 2016. 

This statement was written prior to the court ruling on September 19, 2016, which halted construction for 20 miles on either side of Lake Oahe. Protests have continued in response to the construction still ongoing at other locations across the pipeline route.


 

As members of the University of Toronto community, we, the undersigned, express our resolute solidarity with the Standing Rock Sioux and all land and water defenders at the Sacred Stone Camp against the construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

The DAPL is one of the largest pipelines currently under construction, and it would transport 450,000 barrels per day of fracked oil from North Dakota to southern Illinois. The pipeline route travels through 1,800 km of land, through lakes and waterways, like the Missouri river, that provide millions with drinking water, and through sacred Indigenous sites and territories (some of which have already been destroyed). We stand in opposition to the development of oil pipelines in North Dakota and across Turtle Island – infrastructure that ignores and violates Indigenous sovereignty; that threatens the health of present and future generations and their environments; that exploits land and people for short-term capitalist profit.

Like the pipelines themselves that traverse colonial borders, we recognize that the Standing Rock struggle is part of the same fight being waged and won by Indigenous nations the world over against the dispossession, displacement, and destruction of Indigenous peoples, lands, and ways of life; that this action is part of a broader struggle against the violence of extractive activities that reflect and entrench ongoing state commitments to settler colonialism, environmental racism, and capitalist exploitation – violences equally perpetrated by the Canadian state. We oppose the Canadian government’s allocation of billions of taxpayer dollars towards the expansion of the Albertan tar sands, an industrial megaproject that carries far-reaching social, economic, and environmental consequences for people across Turtle Island, including the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies. We oppose the investments made by the Canadian oil conglomerate, Enbridge, in the DAPL project.

We celebrate and give thanks for the labour and the victories of the land and water defenders at the Sacred Stone Camp, including their efforts to gather people and build community – a show of power and determination that has secured the ruling by the Obama administration to halt construction on part of the DAPL. We add our voices and efforts to the struggle until we can guarantee full respect for Indigenous sovereignty and land rights, and ensure healthy land and water for generations to come.

In solidarity,

Maureen FitzGerald, Fellow, Mark S. Bonham Centre for Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto

Nickie Van Lier, PhD student, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Leah Montange, PhD student, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Michael Chrobok, PhD student, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Isabel Urrutia, PhD student, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Robert Fajber, PhD candidate, Department of Physics, University of Toronto

Cristina Jaimungal, PhD student, Social Justice Education, University of Toronto, University of Toronto Graduate Students’ Union (UTGSU) Executive

Cindy Ka Man Lee, Masters student, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Christopher Cully, MA candidate, Department of Social Justice Education, President, OISE Graduate Students’ Association

Brieanne Berry Crossfield, M.Ed Student, Social Justice Education, University of Toronto

Emma McClure, PhD student, Philosophy Department, University of Toronto

Mary Jean Hande, PhD Candidate, Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, OISE, University of Toronto

Cynthia Morinville, PhD student, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Anna Shortly, MScPl student, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Zachary Anderson, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Jeremy Withers, PhD student, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Justin Kong, MA Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Phoebe Edwards, PhD student, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

Emily A. Moorhouse, MA, Department of Social Justice Education, University of Toronto.

Anna Heffernan, MA Candidate, Centre for European, Russian and Eurasian Studies, University of Toronto

Alexander Ivovic PhD Candidate, Department of Physiology, University of Toronto

Emily Gilbert, Associate Professor, Canadian Studies Program and Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Deborah Cowen, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Benjamin Patrick Butler, PhD student, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Laura Landertinger, PhD Candidate, Department of Social Justice Education, University of Toronto

Jeff Bale, Associate Professor, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Jillian Linton, MA Candidate, Department of Geography & Planning, University of Toronto

Ellyse Winter, PhD student, Department of Social Justice Education, University of Toronto

Dylan Clark, Lecturer in Anthropology, Contemporary Asian Studies, and Geography. U. of Toronto

Léa Ravensbergen, PhD Student, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Lauren Kepkiewicz, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Shane Lynn, PhD Candidate, Department of History, University of Toronto

Jocelyn Piercy, PhD Candidate, OISE, University of Toronto

Jessica Concepcion, Teacher Candidate, OISE, University of Toronto

Yukiko Tanaka, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Louise Birdsell Bauer, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Kim de Laat, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Ambika Tenneti, PhD Candidate, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto

Nasim Ramezani, PhD Student, Faculty of Forestry, University of Toronto

Sarah Cappeliez, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Noah Kenneally, PhD Candidate, Department of Social Justice Education, OISE, University of Toronto

Fernando Calderón Figueroa, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Jonathan Kauenhowen, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Merin Oleschuk, PhD Candidate, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Matthew Farish, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Katie Mazer, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Ximena Martinez, PhD student, Social Justice Education, University of Toronto.

Jesse Jenkinson, PhD Candidate, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto.

Anelyse Weiler, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Andrew Merrill, PhD Student, Department of Geography, University of Toronto

Sarah Snyder, PhD Candidate, Department of Social Justice Education, University of Toronto

Jess Clausen, PhD student, Social Justice Education, University of Toronto

Khursheed Sadat MA Student, Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto

Marie Laing, MA candidate, Department of Social Justice Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Kimberly Todd, Ph.D Student, Social Justice Education, University of Toronto

Suzanne Narain, PhD Candidate, Department of Social Justice Education, OISE, University of Toronto

Yessica Rostan, MA Student at OISE/UofT in Social Justice and Comparative International Developmental Education, Youth Worker and Community Educator

Kristy Bard, USW1998 Chief Steward, Faculty of Arts & Science, University of Toronto

Victor Barac, Ph.D., Lecturer, University of Toronto, Dept. of Anthropology

Sam Spady, PhD Candidate, Social Justice Education, University of Toronto

Storm K. Jeffers, PhD Student, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto

Diana M. Barrero, M.A student, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Justin Holloway, USW1998 Steward (OISE), M.A. student, Department of Leadership, Higher and Adult Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Lora Senechal Carney, Arts, Culture and Media, UTSC

Linda Kohn, Professor, Biology Dept., UTM

Karen Dewart McEwen, PhD Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Nicole Laliberte, Assistant Professor, Department of Geography, UTM

Nhung Tuyet Tran, Associate Professor of History & Canada Research Chair, UNiversity of Toronto

Theresa Enright, Assistant Professor, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

Rosa Sarabia, Professor, Department of Spanish and Portuguese, University of Toronto

Natalie Rothman, Associate Professor, Historical and Cultural Studies, UTSC

Dana Seitler, Associate Professor, Department of English, University of Toronto

Tavleen Purewal, PhD Student, Department of English, University of Toronto

Francis Cody, Associate Professor, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Jens Hanssen, Associate Professor, Departments of History & NMC, University of Toronto

Sarah Wakefield, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Kanishka Goonewardena, Associate Professor, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Kerry Parrett MA student, Department of Occupational Science and Occupational Therapy, University of Toronto  

Catherine Thompson-Walsh, PhD Student, School and Clinical Child Psychology, Department of Applied Psychology and Human Development, OISE, University of Toronto

Anna Ek, MA Student, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Angie Fazekas, PhD Student, Women and Gender Studies Institute, University of Toronto

Alex Djedovic, PhD Candidate, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology. University of Toronto

Kajri Jain, Associate Professor, Departments of Visual Studies and Art History, University of Toronto

Jennifer Jenkins, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto

Paul Hamel, Professor, Faculty of Medicine, University of Toronto

David Seitz, Lecturer, Sexual Diversity Studies, University of Toronto

Michelle Murphy, Professor, Department of History and WGSI, University of Toronto

Alejandro I. Paz, Assistant Professor, Anthropology, University of Toronto

Rena Helms-Park, Associate Professor, Linguistics/Speech Pathology, University of Toronto

Sylvia Mittler, Associate Professor, Centre for French and Linguistics, UTSC

Ron Smyth, Department of Psychology and Centre for French and Linguistics, UTSC

Jennifer Nedelsky, Faculty of Law and Department of Political Science, University of Toronto.

Ilana Newman, MI student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Laura Moncion, MA student, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto

Noah Ross, MA student, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto

Amy Wood, PhD student, Political Science, University of Toronto

Sara Klein, MI student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto, Irena Smith, MA Student, Women and Gender Studies

Alexandra Izgerean, MA student, School of Public Policy and Governance, University of Toronto

Kathryn Henzler, MMus student, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto

Judi McIntyre, MIRHR student, CIRHR, University of Toronto

Hoda Ebrahimi, MT Student, OISE, University of Toronto

Megan Harris, PhD Candidate, English Department, University of Toronto

Zoe David-Delves, Master’s of Global Affairs Candidate, Munk School of Global Affairs, University of Toronto

Olivia Shortt, MMus in Instrumental Performance, Faculty of Music, University of Toronto

Napat Malathum, MMSt student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Mohammad Alhaj, MD. DLSPH -Department of Epidemiology, University of Toronto.

Bogdan Smarandache, PhD Candidate, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto

Nisha Toomey, PhD Student, Social Justice Education, OISE, University of Toronto

Bhavani Raman, Associate Professor, Department of History, University of Toronto.

Maria-Saroja Ponnambalam, MA student, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Lauren Maxine, MI student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Andrew Kaufman, PhD Student, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Evan Miller, PhD Student, Department of Mathematics, University of Toronto

Katherine D. Balasingham, PhD Student, Department of Physical and Environmental Science, University of Toronto

Alison Traub, MASc Student, Department of Chemical Engineering & Applied Chemistry, University of Toronto

Holly Pelvin, PhD Candidate, Centre for Criminology and Sociolegal Studies, University of Toronto

Sarah Dungan, PhD Candidate, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

Talha Khan, MSc Candidate, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Milan Ilnyckyj, PhD Student, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

Una Creedon-Carey, PhD Student, Department of English, University of Toronto

Patrick Lorenzo, MSW Student, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto

Rebecca Jacobs, MA Student, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Nicholas Field, PhD Student, Department for the Study of Religion, University of Toronto

Fatima Altaf, MA Student, Department of Political Science, University of Toronto

Madelaine C. Cahuas, PhD Candidate, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Heather Hanwell, MSC PhD – MPH (Epidemiology) Candidate, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Elizabeth Davis, PhD student, Department of Social Justice Education, OISE, University of Toronto

Peige Desjarlais, PhD Student, Department of Social Justice Education, OISE, University of Toronto

Angela Michener, MSW Student, Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto

Christopher Wai, MMSt  (Museum Studies) Student, Faculty of Information (iSchool), University of Toronto

Christopher Boccia, MSc student, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

Camille-Mary Sharp, PhD Student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Neil Nunn, PhD Student, Department of Geography and Planning, University of Toronto

Shaniqwa Thomas, M.ed Student, Department of Social Justice Education, University of Toronto
Alison McAvella, MT, Department of Curriculum, Teaching and Learning

Madison Stirling, MMSt (Museum Studies) Student, Faculty of Information (iSchool), University of

Toronto

Celina Carter, RN, Doctoral Student, Dalla Lana School of Public Health, University of Toronto

Andrea Meeson, Research Education Coordinator, Collaborative Program in Resuscitation Sciences, University of Toronto.

Dominique Soutiere, PhD candidate, Department of Physics, University of Toronto

Nicole Stradiotto, MI student, Faculty of Information, University of Toronto

Tania Ruiz-Chapman, PhD Student, Department of Social Justice Education, University of Toronto

Shanelle Henry, MA Student, Applied Psychology & Human Development, University of

Toronto OISE

Paul Matthews, MA Student, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

James A. McNamara, MT student, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto

Ben Losman, MEd Student, Social Justice Education, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education,

University of Toronto
Kaylee Cameron, MA Student, Adult Education & Community Development, Ontario Institute for

Studies in Education, University of Toronto

David Helps, MA Student, Department of History, University of Toronto

Lila Platt, MA Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Dr. Giselle Gos, Celtic Studies, University of Toronto

Tadhg Morris, PhD Candidate, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto

Shea Sinnott, MEd Student, Adult Education & Community Development, Ontario Institute for Studies

in Education, University of Toronto

MattheW Badali, PhD Candidate, Department of Physics, University of Toronto

Iehnhotonkwas Bonnie Jane Maracle, Aboriginal Learning Strategist, First Nations House, University

of Toronto

Nishant Singh, PhD Student, Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto

Brent Wood, Lecturer, Department of English and Drama, University of Toronto at Mississauga

Raina Loxley, MPH Candidate, Epidemiology, DLSPH, University of Toronto

Alberto Garcia-Raboso, Postdoctoral Fellow, Department of Mathematics, University of Toronto

Ann Wilkin, M.A. English, University of Toronto and M.Ed. Curriculum Studies and Teacher

Development, OISE

Tim Wesson, M.Ed student LHAE, OISE

Emily Clare, PhD Student, Linguistics Department, University of Toronto

Linda McNenly, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Mississauga

Justin Stein, PhD Candidate and Course Instructor, Department for the Study of Religion, University of
Toronto

Shayne A. P. Dahl, PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Rastko Cvekic, PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Jessica Broe-Vayda, PhD Student, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

Vasuki Shanmuganathan, PhD Candidate, Department of German and Women & Gender Studies, University of Toronto

Op-Ed: Environmental protection is crucial for public health

U of T should be a leader in action against climate change

Op-Ed: Environmental protection is crucial for public health

Extreme temperatures, natural disasters, air pollution, the spread and emergence of infectious diseases, food insecurity — these are just some of the ways that climate change can impact our health. In fact, these concerns are so pressing that the World Health Organization named climate change the greatest public health threat of the twenty-first century. 

Against the backdrop of the 2015 Paris Climate Conference (COP21), it is important to consider the role of universities in taking action against climate change. 

COP21 conference held in Paris. CC Flickr by Arnaud Bouissou.

COP21 conference held in Paris. CC Flickr by Arnaud Bouissou.

At the Dalla Lana School of Public Health (DLSPH), our vision is “[a] world in which every person and community… can have the same opportunities to live a long and healthy life, as part of a sustainable planet.” As public health professionals, we are required to advocate for health, and especially against health inequities. 

Unsurprisingly, then, DLSPH recently signed on to a statement of commitment, which was spearheaded by the White House, to ensure that the next generation of health professionals are trained to tackle the health challenges posed by climate change. We joined more than 70 other health faculties in the United States and Canada in signing onto this commitment.   

Additionally, the DLSPH recently joined the U of T community, led by Toronto350, in submitting a statement of support for fossil fuel divestment to the Presidential Advisors Committee on Divestment from Fossil Fuels. DLSPH called for action in light of the “the dangers that climate change poses to health and the need for climate change mitigation to protect our livelihoods.” 

Over the December break, the committee released a report acknowledging that there are fossil fuel companies that “engage in egregious behaviour and contribute inordinately to social injury.” The committee recommends that the university set up a method to evaluate which companies fall into that category. If we as a university community are indeed committed to protecting our climate, and consequently our health, then it is imperative that president Gertler accept these recommendations. 

Despite ongoing research, education, and advocacy, we must recognize the urgency of the climate issue and the need to continue efforts to combat it. Complex problems require complex solutions; collaboration across faculties and disciplines is necessary to come up with innovative strategies that can collectively tackle climate change. While adaptation to and mitigation of climate change are touted as the greatest global health opportunities of our time, climate action produces co-benefits across sectors, including health, economy, transportation, and social institutions. 

U of T and the DLSPH have strength to contribute. We have been leaders in climate research. Our scientists are regular contributors to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, the leading international body on climate research. We should continue to support research that not only quantifies and predicts the impacts of climate change, but puts forward tangible solutions. 

Our campus groups are tireless in their efforts, and we must join them in this cause. Divestment from fossil fuels presents a wonderful opportunity for U of T to be a leader. Led by U of T’s Sustainability Office, we should reduce carbon emissions on campus, putting our money where our mouth is. As members of the university, we must embrace the important role that we play as scholars and citizens of the world. Within and outside the university, we are obligated to put our strengths to good use in our quest for a healthy and sustainable planet.