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.
Neoliberalism,nature, and buen vivir: Diverse and divergent pathways to living well in Ecuador
By: Jan Kucic-Riker (2015)Vol. 21 No. 7 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
Through a case study of buen vivir in Ecuador this paper considers the challenge of building postcapitalist alternatives and reimagining wellbeing as separate from economic growth in the context of globalization. Buen vivir is an adaptation of the Quechuan concept sumak kawsay, meaning to “live well” which rests on preserving (or regaining) a state of harmonious coexistence between humans and nature. The “living well” of Andean indigenous societies differs from the “living better” of industrialized civilization insofar as it must not come at the expense of others or the environment. I contend that buen vivir emerges out of a longer history of neoliberal development and colonialism in Latin America and provides a pathway from which to transcend the legacy of these systems. I argue that the incorporation of buen vivir into Ecuador’s 2008 constitution and its national development plan is more an attempt at moulding buen vivir to fit with existing state structures than at remaking those structures in a fashion that resonates with the ethos of buen vivir . I claim that many substantive differences exist between the state’s reading of buen vivir and indigenous understandings of sumak kawsay and that these are a source of contradictions in the policies and programs seeking to operationalize alternatives to conventional development models in the country. Through considering recent decisions over oil, mineral, and water governance, I suggest that the state pursues an export driven growth model dependent on theextraction of raw materials that leaves Ecuador’s submissive form of insertion in the global market unquestioned. While the insertion of sumak kawsay into Ecuadorian political discourse by no means bridges the Andean and Western cultural worlds nor does it transcend the ontological divide between humans and nature, it frees the state to think outside of dominant economic and political narratives. I conclude that buen vivir ’s success depends not on its realization of a post-capitalist and post-colonial order, but on its ability to prepare the ground from which such alternatives can take root.
Tough Vinyl: Packing in Our Record Collections
By: Jacob McLean (2015)Vol. 21 No. 8 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
This paper seeks to illuminate a series of contradictions between the way we talk about, write about, and interact with vinyl records on the one hand, and the material and social relations required for the use, production, and disposal of vinyl records on the other. I examine vinyl as both an ethical commodity (the sonic equivalent to slow food) and as “the poison plastic”; vinyl as both a medium for “subaltern” voices and as a toxic substance that causes cancer in the bodies of working class communities of colour; and vinyl as it both preserves the dead and destroys the living. These contradictions and many more, all part of what I call the vinyl-network, are exposed throughout this paper in a process of de-fetishizing vinyl. The central argument of this paper is that the nostalgia for petrocapitalism’s 20th century bounty (of which records are an iconic piece), is a dangerous fetish that perpetuates destructive social and material relations. Ultimately, I contend we need to abandon the vinyl revival and mourn the vinyl record, lest the way we listen to recorded music perpetuate the destructive economic system that is petrocapitalism, enabling it to spin on and on like a broken record. If we cannot move beyond this economic system, the dead will continue to pile up; we will repeat the same tragedies, different not in cause but in effect, as temperature and sea levels rise, as the Anthropocene Extinction Event wipes out one quarter of all mammals on earth, and as the screams of the dying are drowned out by the bourgeoisie’s hi-fi. This paper concludes with the suggestion that we take the broken record that is petrocapitalism, smash it into a million pieces, and feed it to a hungry colony of soil fungi.
The Role of the Environment in Mental Health Promotion: Investigating Mental Well-Being in the Credit River Watershed
By: Alexandra Elizabeth Belaskie (2015)Vol. 21 No. 1 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
As more and more individuals are moving to and living in cities, the mental health burden of illness is rising, having individual, social and economic ramifications across the entire population (Srivastava, 2009). This raises the question of how to prevent, mitigate or reduce the effects of urban stress on individuals living in cities as the population continues to rise. This question was approached within the context the Credit River Watershed. 107 household surveys were administered in two contrasting urban neighbourhoods to discern the habits of respondents with regards to attending different types of natural spaces, and how relaxing those spaces are. These responses showed that overall, respondents found blue space, i.e. being near water features like rivers, ponds, and lakes, to be the most relaxing of all types of space, followed by looking out of windows at natural spaces, and private green space. Factor analysis was conducted on the responses of how relaxing different natural spaces are. This revealed four different factors within the data, which have been named“Self-Reported State of Mental Well-being,” “Wilderness and Personal Spaces,” “Designed Spaces,” and “Relaxing Activities.” These factors, excluding the “Self-Reported State of Mental Well-being” factor, were used in designing an Environmental Index of Mental Well-being (EIMWB), which could be used as a way of monitoring the impact of environmental management on mental well-being over time. The information from EIMWB monitoring and other data about the effects of natural spaces on mental well-being could be used together within the context of mental health promotion. Due to the more subjective nature of data connecting mental health with the environment, mental health promotion has not been embraced fully by public health agencies, where most health promotion strategies are positioned. Assuming that the requirement for hard scientific data will not be changed, alternative iii venues within which to place mental health promotion should be considered. This paper thus concludes that environmental management and design within urban areas can provide a setting for environmentally-based mental health promotion.
Land as Place-maker, Land as Medicine: Integrated Community Health and Earth-Based Healing
By: LP Pavey (2015)Vol. 21 No. 9 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
This work concerns the emotional healing properties of the earth imagined through an anticolonial lens. Its aim is to think about the potentialities of alternate methods for personal and social change—methods that challenge normative investments in Western rational knowledge and cure. It reaches beyond individual trauma, colonizing therapies and considers how generational suffering can be addressed, in Dian Million’s words, when “people understand their knowledge as inextricable from their lived experience in their distinct places, in spiritual relationships, with land and life, and from traditions that change but are millennial” (2013, 13). Throughout my research, and specifically in my “Knowledge-Ways” component, I lean heavily upon Indigenous ways of knowing that prioritize the process or journey over arrival or end product. Knowledge understood through journey is not pre-determined, often spontaneous, and does not privilege outcomes. Where Indigenous perspective tends to value knowledge made through story, journey, experience and a relationship to the land, Western knowledge values positivist, empirical and results-oriented methods. The purpose of this research is not to create a one-size fits all way of thinking about healing but to create alternate narratives and ways of thinking to the dominant western medical model. This research will explore the earth and its relationship to health and spirituality, broadening the scope of what’s possible for urban marginalized communities. It also explores the challenges faced, particularly among urban groups, to secure land, funding and recognition for the value of earth-centered programs. My literature review takes up earth related knowledge gleaned from the fields of ecopsychology, critical urban studies, and Indigenous studies. While research in ecopsychology demonstrates empirical evidence that support the healing qualities of the earth, my projectdemonstrated the necessity for an anti-colonial analysis of earth-based healing. My personal narrative essay documents the journey that led me to a project on earth based healing. Through story and art, I describe how my arrival is made from difficult experience, political insight and spiritual growth. Personal narrative, as a methodological approach allows space for non-traditional knowledge-making. In story and art, emotional knowledge is transmitted and difficult experience is processed through the telling. My personal narrative situates me, the story-teller, as knowledge-maker. Finally, I developed a workshop module for facilitating an earth-based healing group. The module outlines engagement strategies, brainstorming activities, knowledge sharing exercises, story-telling circles, artistic mapping activities and closing ceremonies. My hope is to create a workshop template that is flexible in nature but that embodies key strategies for creating space that fosters meaningful community connectedness.
Writing My Way Home: Disconnections, Connections, and Reconnections; Rifts and the Possibility of Healing Through Memory and Story
By: Lois Kamenitz (2015)Vol. 21 No. 2 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
The current environmental crisis in western, capitalist, colonial societies reflects a moral crisis for which one more technological fix will not suffice. It reflects rifts between our body and the rest of nature that originate with the lack of a sense of embodied, felt somatic relationship to self, others and to nature, of which we are a part. In this paper, I explore how a critical autoethnographic lens, as self-reflective research and writing: shines a light on the interplay between an individual’s lived experiences and those of the wider world; situates the individual in a broader context; returns the gaze and, by so doing, leads to both a greater understanding of the interconnections between all things and to the possibility of healing. Autoethnography has become an important way for those on the margins to “talk back to power.” The notion of truth is one I see as very relevant to autoethnography. What is truth, whose truth are we referring to when we say something is true or not true, how is truth constructed and, who is privileged to speak the truth, who is silenced? In a similar fashion, knowledge and knowledge making are important. Autoethnography frees the writer to write in an evocative, engaging manner that can be easily accessed by a broad crosssection of readers. It speaks to how all creatures survive and thrive, even in difficult situations, and how they leave behind, not only the remnants of their material possessions and their physical presence, but their strength, their courage, their passion, their ingenuity, their rage and their love. “Autoethnography disrupts the binary of art and science (Ellis, Adam, & Bochner, 2011, Section 5). It weaves together the social sciences, the humanities and the craft of writing. I draw on myth and folklore, literature, poetry and photography, as well as academic writing in environmental studies, sociology, social and political theory, narrative theory, philosophy, and women’s studies. In telling my story, I am gathering knowledge from the past, but it is not necessarily knowledge about the past, for all that I sometimes have are traces and fragments. Memory too is selective; it plays tricks on us, for it is mediated. There is also collective memory. Most relevant to auto ethnography is the link between personal and collective identity. Through the writing process, I learn how loss begins to fade into memory and how I am able to construct memory and bring to consciousness seemingly lost memories, both individual and collective.