Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Elizabeth May on youth activism and not politics

I recently had the opportunity to listen to Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada and former President of the Sierra Club of Canada, speak at an environmental science conference. She was a fascinating speaker, and hardly mentioned politics during her talk, until most of the questions at tbe end focused on government. May spoke about the importance of youth activism in our current society, with the attempt to inspire the conference delegates into action. She talked about the need for science and how it is very relevant. We need to be innovative and find new solutions to many problems. For example, we are now changing the types of light bulbs we use, and finding alternate solutions to burning fossil fuels.

One of her coolest stories was about when she attended one of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The delegates from many different countries were having a hard time with negotiations. The youth delegates at the conference had a very impactful session where each on of them stoof before the assembly and said "look into my eyes and tell me my future is secure". This got the other delegates to realize the greater importance of what they were debating.

When the UN started hosting several conferences on climate change many years ago, not everyone was on the same page. One memorable quote the May said was "Humanity is conducting a global experiment...the consequences are second only to global nuclear war" -said at the a climate conference in Canada about 20 years ago. She spoke about how we need to make severe investments in reducing our CO2. Trees are only a 'feel good' measure, and there needs to be more green energy and carbon credits. She only travels for business, and usually by train, only plane if necessary. She doesn't take vacations to far away places.

By the end of her interesting talk, which was mostly preaching to the converted, many of the questions asked about her politics. May stated that the Harper government is anti-science. They have cancelled the position of National Science advisor. The IPCC graphs on climate change were removed from the Environment Canada website, and there have been significant cuts to research, etc. The White house had a reception when the IPCC and Al Gore won the Nobel Peace Prize, but the Tories did nothing for the Canadian recipient, so instead the other parties organized something. The Tories have also never been briefed by a scientist on climate change, ever, scary.

I'm hinking about going to Law school, so it was interesting to hear what else a former lawyer had done with her career. She mentioned how she understands policies very well, she sees the tricks and is ready for politics. Currently, she's studying theology, and spoke about how it wasn't to promote the religious dogma, but to be more critical when examining texts. She also joked about retiring as a priest after she is Prime Minister.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My favorite poem

Haikus are easy
but sometimes they don't make sense

The genuine progress index

GPI Atlantic is an NGO which measures the GPI or Genuine Progress Index: a new measure of sustainability, well being and quality of life. This is instead of measuring the GDP, which can be a false indicator because it is affected by high cost of living, crime, disease, natural disaster clean-up, war, and high cost of post-secondary education, among other things. But GDP, or Gross Domestic Product has become the convention method, even though it is a very scewed and unsatisfactory way of measuring our progress. GPI is a very interesting and critical way to ask questions about how we measure the success of our society.

GPI measures our overall well being and subtracts from the index for negative aspects, such as the social costs of obesity and tobacco use. GPI Atlantic has been resleasing reports over the past year on various topics, and when they are all completed it will be a unique description of the quality of life in Nova Scotia.

For example, their recent report on education showed the effects of increasingly rising costs of post-secondary education. This included things like students working longer hours at jobs while in school, and graduating with severe dept-loads. The report focused not on literacy rates, how long a degree was, or how much was payed for it, but instead on life-long learning and a range of 'literacies'.

Thesis on green roofs

Soooooo good to be done my thesis. I can't believe I made it or that it's finally over. For anyone who didn't know, I spend the last year completing an undergraduate honours thesis in Environmental Studies. Last summer, an NSERC research award payed me to find and categorize green roofs (literally vegetated roofs, with lots of environmental benefits) and perform a couple temperature studies. After that, I had a lot of data to analyze, which I spent most of the fall doing. In January, the write-up started, almost 70 pages later it was finished in March. After a few revisions I defended my thesis orally in April.

The whole process was very challenging, but well worth it. I'm satisfied with the result, and feel like I've contributed something useful. It was a struggle at first to figure out what I was going to do for a year that was interesting and that I wouldn't get sick of. And it was hard to force myself to meet smaller deadlines that meant a lot to a bigger deadline, because I am such a procrastinator. You can't procrastinate on something that large though, haha.

So for everyone who hadn't seen me all semester, sorry, but now you know why. It was really hard to stay in or go home early just to work on it, but I guess I learned something...I'm glad I'm not graduating this year though, sort of. It would be nice to be all done, but I would have missed out on the "last" of a lot of things. I'll catch up next year, and at least I only have a few classes left.

Doing the research and writing it up was definitely something very different than what I am used to in most of my classes. In the short term it will probably help me figure out what I want to do next. Do I want to go to grad school and keep researching, or try something different? All that is left now is a couple revisions and to get it printed and bound. I will probably do a bit more analysis on the data, once I get around to it, and hopefully submit some of it to a journal to get published. I also got to present my findings at a green roof conference in Baltimore, which was pretty exciting.