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 email@example.com.
Justice on the Rocks: (Re)Writing People and Place in Banff National Park
By: Adam Linnard (2015)Vol. 21 No. 5 ISSN 1702-3548(online)
Banff National Park is most commonly and powerfully representedas a place intended for wealthy tourists to experience leisure and for “all Canadians” to encounter “the essence of Canada,” representations that emphasize transience, leisure, safety and abstract notions of nature and nation. These institutional narratives of place validate management decisions that alienate residents and motivate them to assert special claims to belonging that distinguish between the local who belongs and those who are out of place. My first argument, developed through a survey of creative non-fiction and fiction literature of the Rocky Mountain Parks, is that literature has been a key sight forarticulating such claims and setting such distinctions, as evident in recurrent emphasis on permanence, work, risk and place-based knowledge. Supported by the work of scholars and activists in environmental justice and the related fields of critical race, gender, queer, disability and Indigenous studies, my second argument is that the dominant narratives of Rocky Mountain literature, while resisting institutional narratives and promoting Banff National Park as a co-creation of more-than-human assemblage, inscribe a highly privileged framework for belonging. Such a framework naturalizes white, masculine, heterosexual and able bodies through their engagement with rugged wilderness landscapes and other-than-human animals while negating, excluding or marginalizing those who do not conform. This paper goes on to present a series of Banff National Park stories, derived from walking interviews and textual research, that historicize, politicize and otherwise confound naturalized normativity without abandoning efforts to narrate more-than-human co-creation of Banff National Park spaces. These stories are told in two sections – one which takes place in the wilderness setting of Saskatchewan River Crossing and the other within the urban Banff town site – and attempt to disseminate experiences of making a home in theparticular social and environmental landscapes of Banff National Park that are complicated by intersections of race, gender, sexuality, nationalism,capitalism, religion, Indigeneity and class. This paper argues that those resisting institutional processes of exclusion in Banff National Park must interrogate their own privilege if they hope to promote anything approaching environmental justice in the Canadian Rockies, while simultaneously attempting to model new narratives by engaging with and privileging a variety of claims to place that destabilize my own, including stories of Indigenous displacement, imprisoned labour, gender queer performance and racialized migrant labour.
Cultivating Critical Learning: Critical Food Pedagogy in FoodShare's School Grown Program
By: Cassie Wever (2015)Vol.20 No. 1 7 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
There are numerous problems created by the industrial food system. These include redefining the relationship between eaters and their food as one between a consumer and a product, and the concomitant consumer deskilling and lack of knowledge around all aspects of food production; impacts to human and ecological health; struggles for farmers; a loss of culture and sense of place; numerous forms of injustice; and the gross misuse of waste as an industrial output, rather than an ecological input. Academics, activists, not for profit organizations, and laypeople often state that better education around food can help to solve these issues, at least in part. However, this raises questions around the purpose, praxis, and impacts of food education, and its role in change: Can food education programs teach a critical perspective on the food system? Or do they reinforce dominant paradigms around food while teaching only particular aspects of food literacy? This paper seeks todetermine what knowledge and skills students gain in FoodShare’s School Grown program, a secondary school market garden-based food and employment education program. It then asks whether the knowledge and skills gained foster acritical/emancipatory perspective or learning on the food system. It uses a case-study approach relying most heavily on interviews with the program coordinator, five graduated students, two teachers, two principals, a social worker, and a guidance counselor at the two schools involved in the program, as well as program documents, direct observation, and publicly available media. The paper begins by exploring issues in the industrial food system for which education is often purported to be a part of the solution. It then outlines the theoretical framework of critical food pedagogy and several related concepts: ecological literacy, transformative learning, and critical place-based pedagogy. These concepts are applied to the idea of food literacy, building off of the work of Goldstein (2014) and Sumner (2012) to create metrics for measuring three kinds of food literacy: empirical/analytic, historical/hermeneutic, and critical/emancipatory. The paper explores related models of school gardens, farm-to-school programs, and youth employment market gardens before describing FoodShare’s School Grown program model and the results of the research. The data indicates that the program greatly impacts personal and interpersonal knowledge and skills, employment skills and opportunities, overall learning skills, and builds empirical/analytic and historical/hermeneutic food literacy knowledge and skills. In terms of critical/emancipatory learning, the program fosters and supports the beginnings of critical/emancipatory perspectives on food and related systems. The program also builds skills and knowledge that are linked to prosocial and proenvironmental attitudes and behaviours, and are ultimately related to critical/emancipatory learning, such as a sense of personal and group competency. The paper concludes by offering recommendations for supporting critical food pedagogy in the School Grown program. The findings can inform all food education programs that wish to foster critical perspectives on the food system.
Food and Fiction: Literature and Creative Writing as Food Pedagogy
By: Genevieve Fullan (2015)Vol. 21 No. 6 ISSN 1702-3548(online)
Writing about food has proliferated in the last few yearsand in many ways has been responsible for propelling the food movement, which can be broadly defined as the movement against alienating corporate industrial agriculture, into the mainstream. With the food memoir, or food alienation drama, becoming almost as ubiquitous as the nature memoir, this paper gives due attention to the works of fiction that perhaps less obviously deal with food issues, but nonetheless offer valuable insight. Food is always already storied and stories about food occupy a unique place in that every reader has their own material experience with food. Each reader has their own varied experiences with food and as such they bring with them a wide range of assumptions and understandings based on the role that food occupies in their lives. Both reading and writing offer a moment of intervention into those assumptions. Stories, particularly as they take shape in the novel, have the unique ability to transform our understanding by engaging readers beyond informationtransmission, making literature an important component of food pedagogy. Creative writing engages the mind and engages language in a way that is different from more formal academic writing, but in a way that is just as valuable. This paper consists of ecocritical readings of two novels—Timothy Taylor’s Stanley Park and Eden Robinson’s Monkey Beach—using food as the primary lens, as well as creative responses to those novels, in order to explore how both reading and writing offer different modes of research and inquiry. Together, ecocritical reading and creative writing offer complementary methods of food pedagogy that enhance and enrich the more common hands on approaches of current food pedagogy practices.
ʻThe publicʼ and planning in Toronto
By: Nadia Galati (2015)Vol.20 No. 1 8 ISSN 1702-3548 (online)
As both a science and an art, planning is regulated by public policy, concerned with shaping and guiding the physical growth and arrangement of natural and built environments. Within these environments what is considered ʻpublicʼ and how ʻthe publicʼ is used in planning discourses and planning tools is based on constantly changing, socio-political contexts. Shaped by planning decisions, ʻthe publicʼ often learns about transformations of urban space through stories in the media. These planning stories help ʻthe publicʼ understand and relate to their physical environments by ascribing meaning to space. Through a case study of the Mirvish + Gehry development, this research substantiates the importance of telling a good story about ʻthe publicʼ and ʻthe public goodʼ in relation to development. Mirvish + Gehry invested heavily in telling their version of a planning story. By funding and staging numerous appearances, centred on the benefits of his development, Mirvish embodied his story and his developmentʼs brand by exercising his social leverage, capital, power and privilege, all of which afforded him the attention of the media and therefore ʻthe public.ʼ In a Toronto context, place-based psychological ties to the community – like the Mirvish family history – are often found in discourses of legacy, art and the future. These ties have become useful tools for private and public development to build emotional connection to spatial environments. Both theoretically and in practice, planning stories help to build support and ʻcommon-senseʼ application of future, public spaces, by leveraging current placebased attachments through neoliberal narratives in the media. Developers and politicians have realized the potential of partnering with arts communities, through growth coalitions, to tell more persuasive and poignant stories. As MP Adam Vaughan stated (Galati 2015c), it is the “coolness factor” that arts and culture bring to development that helps it stand out in a fiercely competitive global market.
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.