Each year, in the form of dissertations, theses, major papers and major projects, graduate students in the Faculty of Environmental Studies produce some of the best and most original scholarship within the York University community. The purpose of the Outstanding Graduate Student Paper Series is to recognize exceptional MES major papers and projects and to make them available to a broader readership (all dissertations are available from the National Archives of Canada).
The topics of the papers published through the series vary as widely as the research interests of the Faculty's graduate students. The papers address many of the issues typically associated with the natural environment, such as conservation, pollution and climate change, but also focus on other issues affecting or affected by the environment, such as health, politics, economics, planning and design, ethics, culture and technology. All of the works strive to reveal the complexity underlying and linking social and environmental problems and solutions. In past years, topics have included regional-development planning in the Czech Republic, idealizations of the female body in writing and photography, citizenship and the democratic process, First Nations story telling and political and environmental discourse, the ethics of disrupting and restoring nature, heritage conservation and interpretation, the biotechnology industry in global environmental politics, and environmental decline and disaster as the basis of refugee status.
Since 2000, the series has been published electronically. Papers from the 1999 series or earlier are still available as separately published works through the Faculty's publications office. For copies, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Blades of Fury: A Look at Wind Energy Resistance in Ontario
By: Alexandria Piccirilli (2015)Vol.21 No. 11 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
Anthropogenic activities are causing unequivocal and persistentclimatic alterations. Wind energy and other alternative energy forms can minimize harmful emissions and provide sustainable solutions to climate change. Despite environmental benefits, public backlash and implementation issues impede wind energy. The development of wind energy in Ontario is substantially impacted by public perception of the technology. This paper explores the social barriers to the widespread adoption of wind energy in the province asidentified by residents in two rural communities – Prince Edward County and Kincardine. Forty-one residents in close proximity to the Armow Wind and the White Pines Wind projects were asked to describe their experiences with project planning and identify grievances. Human health, noise concerns, property value, and aesthetic disruption are primary concerns for residents, which is consistent with findings presented in the academic literature. Public perception plays an integral role in project development. Wind energy in Ontario faces significant resistance from community inhabitants near wind farm developments. This paper also examines how public participation in energy planning shapes residential wind energy perceptions. An in-depth examination of the participatory processes in both regions demonstrates that increased public involvement can positively shape wind energy attitudes. Public involvement strategies must be re-evaluated to reconcile community-proponent tensions and maximize resident decision-making power. Some residents in Kincardine and Prince Edward County are willing to re-evaluate their stance on wind energy projects with more active engagement in planning. These research findings also demonstrate how strained relationships between local communities and the provincial government can impact wind development. An inherent distrust of the provincial government and project planners exists in both study locations. This distrust leads to public unwillingness to accept government-issued wind energy information, shapes wind energy attitudes, and perpetuates misconceptions.
Visualizing Absence: Memorializing the histories of the former Lakeshore Psychiatric Hospital
By: Anne Zbitnew (2015)Vol.21 No. 12 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
My area of concentration looks at the connection betweeninclusive and collaborative visual art and communication. The components are visual communication, inclusive and collaborative visual art and there-creation and transformation of public space for exhibition and creative expression…My exploratory research involved students from Humber College Lakeshore and other artists who collaborated with me to make art as a response to historical narratives, archival images, the dominant psychiatric model and the hidden and lost stories that make up the history of the former psychiatric hospital which is now a learning institution. I work from a tangled perspective and this project offers a specific thread that connects to a knot. This tangle is not an unfocused or unsolvable mess but rather an intersection of ideas that can work together to create a new way of seeing and being. Inclusion and collaborative art connect with visual literacy and communication and also intersect with the re-creation of public space. My project, Visualizing Absence, aims to make aninclusive place for the creation of collaborative art as a way to connect and communicate. As I tug, pull and unravel that thread, I wonder how I can weave the threads back and forth, in and out, to make a fabric that may be uneven but strong.
The Politics of TEK in Oil and Gas: Knowledge Reconstructions and Assimilation
By: Leanne Ross (2015)Vol. 21 No. 4 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
Indigenous Knowledge, now known by some as TraditionalEcological Knowledge (TEK), has informed Indigenous ways of life since time immemorial. Relatively recently, it has become of interest to dominant, settler society in Canada. The way in which I situate this research aims to examine TEK studies’ institutional processes, lived experiences of those processes, and finally how and why TEK is being collected and used for natural resource management in recognizing Indigenous Knowledge and reconciling a hegemonic relationship. The importance of this research is evident not only due to an increasing interest in TEK by dominant society, but also in terms of what it represents to Indigenous peoples versus how it is being defined, collected, and constructed by settler colonial state institutions to facilitate capital gain through resource exploitation. Through a socio-historical and contemporary analysis of colonization in Western Canada and the role oil and gas plays in the culture of liberal capitalism and knowledge development, TEK can be unpacked andunderstood in the context of settler colonial relations and structures. The methodologies employed for this research include a review of relevantliterature as well as interviews with individuals who have experience contributing and collecting TEK for oil and gas development. This research suggests that TEK is inadequately understood and collected by industry and state institutions, used to appease regulatory requirements, avoiding legal battles with Indigenous communities through what industry and government understands as ‘regulatory certainty’. In this way, the state has failed in attempts to recognize Indigenous Knowledge systems and continues to oppress, manipulate, and exploit Indigenous peoples and lands.
Power, Truth, and Fossil Fuels: The Inuit community of Clyde River’s struggle against the Arctic resource rush
By: Ava LIghtbody (2015)Vol.20 No. 1 6 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
The 21st century has seen the world fix its eyes upon the fossil fuel and mineral resources of the Arctic. The Canadian government has embraced neoliberal policy in its efforts to draw investment to the region, offering low royalty rates, lenient regulatory regimes, and limited powers for northern governments. The approach has not necessarily sat well with Inuit, the Indigenous peoples of the Canadian Arctic. A 450-year old history of extractive industry has left them on the losing side of a core-periphery relationship with the global capitalist economy, and many now seek liberation from economic and political subordination. Inuit therefore hope to control extraction in order to a strike a balance with other priorities, including subsistence practices and protection for their distinct cultural identity. The fight to assert Inuitself-determination in the face of the oncoming resource rush is perhaps nowhere clearer than in the resistance of the tiny Baffin Island hamlet of Clyde River to a proposed offshore oil exploration project in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait. During the four year environmental assessment and public consultation process headed by the National Energy Board, Canada’s arms-length federal energy regulator, opposition grew as Inuit became convinced that the process was meaningless, that their input was irrelevant, and that there would be no significant regional benefit. Nonetheless, the NEB celebrated the level of public participation that had occurred and approved the project in June of 2014 (NEB 2014). Examined as part of a chain of boom and bust cycles, facilitated in part by government policies that sought to sedentarize Inuit, the Clyde River case represents an example of the mechanisms through which Indigenous peoples are subordinated as their lands are sought for the purposes of resource extraction (Bonesteel 2006; QIA 2010). Such processes ultimately generate dependency on the market economy and ensure that economic surplus flows out the region (Amin 1976; Harvey 2005; Hodgkins 2009; Frank 1966; Wallerstein 2004). According to Marxist theory, imperial trade relationships are a strategy to stave off the crises of overproduction that capitalism is structurally bound to produce (Harvey 2005; Marx 1867). However, the Clyde River case and its historical context suggest that the exercise of power in these processes transcends pre-meditated strategies intended to uphold the capitalist system. Foucauldian criticisms of Marxism assert that power does not belong to the elite, but is an active force that circulates throughout society through the concept of “truth” (1980). Power relations arise in the discursive practices through which we police what can be considered true, and who can be considered a truth-speaker. Drawing upon this theory, the formation and maintenance of the Arctic as an extractive periphery in cases like Clyde River’s are explored through the operation of power as truth, within which the elite agenda is but one element. Current environmental assessment and consultation processes inevitablyreproduce these power relations, and are therefore not adequate to ensure Inuit are able to temper the effects of extraction or to protect their way of life.
Accumulation, Poverty and Dispossession : Unequal Distribution of Mining Benefits and the Impact of Chirano Gold on Local Communities in Ghana
By: Stephen Aboagye (2015)Vol. 21 No. 3 ISSN 1702-3548(online)
Gold mining in Ghana has gained unprecedented global attention and attraction. At the moment, Ghana is Africa’s second leading producer of gold and ranks tenth in the world. The sector is the country’s leading foreign exchange earner, and continues to play a key role in the country’s socio-economic development. While the government of Ghana and other financial institutions defend the mining sector as a viable vehicle for facilitating economic growth in Ghana, concerns are raised about its negative environmental impacts and adverse problems affecting mining communities. This paper is grounded in a specific socio-political and cultural context through a case study of Chirano Gold Mines Limited (CGML) that explores the impact of both large scale and artisanal small-scale mining on the livelihoods of local communities, power relational inequality, and the mechanisms that foster and facilitate it. The study draws from the perspective of theory of International Political Economy (IPE) particularly the discourse of accumulation bydispossession to critically analyze the specific research questions. Generally in mineral economies, it is the national economy that benefits and welcomes increases in national revenues in the form of foreign direct investment and taxes, which are largely unequally distributed, with local communitiesshouldering the majority of adverse social and environmental risks. This enormous relational inequality and distribution of benefits in the mining area is an outcome of firms seeking to protect their interests at the expense of the local community. Findings from the study indicate that these interests are not necessarily in line with those of the impacted communities, nor concerned with protecting the environment. I argue that equitable distribution of benefits through certain established frameworks, such as Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) programs and objectives and compensation injected into the community, largely serve the needs and goals of a minority group in impacted communities, given internal struggles among residents to enhance their livelihoods and ongoing power relations and inequality in the community.