ESSENCE The University of Victoria Environmental Studies Student Association Periodical
Volume 6 Issue 1 March 2013
Letter from the editorS
Jaime Chong – Editor-in-Chief Kayla Amaladas – Editor-in-Chief Brigitte Dreger-Smylie – Managing Editor David Norwell – Publisher Julia Warren – Publisher Matt Hammer – Advertising William Workman – Martlet Assistance
“The primary threat to nature and people today comes from centralising and monopolising power and control. Not until diversity is made the logic of production will there be a chance for sustainability, justice and peace. Cultivating and conserving diversity is no luxury in our times: it is a survival imperative.” —Vandana Shiva
Layout Stephen Littleford Jaime Chong Julia Warren David Norwell Katie Williams Kayla Amaladas
Most of you are aware that ESSENCE is an environmentally focused newspaper, produced primarily by Environmental Studies students at the University of Victoria. What the readers might not know is that the Environmental Studies department was created as an interdisciplinary program, meaning students must diversify their area of study. Our hope with this paper, and the hope of our contributors, are all towards the same thing: bridging the gap amongst people and knowledge across all disciplines. A part of embracing diversity as a central principle in dealing with climate change is acknowledging how complex and diverse climate change is. For example, a lot of people are pointing toward
Copy Editors Morgan Davies Yvonne du Pleiss Brianna Cerkiewicz David Norwell Katie Williams Danny Larsen Mathew Janeway Cover Blakeney Malo Photography Elizabeth Cronin Juan Wang David Norwell Writers Brigitte Dreger-Smylie Nathalie Vogel Elizabeth Cronin David Norwell Katarina Hedler Henri Simpson Stephen Littleford Jaime Chong Kayla Amaladas Rose Prieto Drew Copeland Maya Herzog Thanks to all who contributed thumb prints for the back cover Special thanks to The Martlet especially J.P. & William for kindly sharing their workspace and being mentors in empowering us to make this paper possible. Thank you!
The views expressed in each article are specific to the author; they do
not necessarily represent those of the producers,
contributors, advertisers, The environmental studies student association
University of Victoria. We are an independent, student driven, submissions-based publication. or the
For more information about ESSA or to view this issue online visit:
http://web.uvic.ca/~essa/ This newspaper was made on 100% recycled paper. Please either recycle this paper or give it to someone else to enjoy. Preferably the latter.
awareness raising and education as a number one solution in dealing with climate change. So how will we do this? Writing a newspaper about environmental issues seemed like a great way to raise awareness and educate citizens about issues about climate change, and so we decided to continue the tradition of this biannual publication. Quickly did we remember, however, that paper comes from trees, and fossil-fuelled machines cut down these trees of which our paper comes from, and fossil-fuelled machines enabled us to print this paper, and fossilfuelled vehicles transported these newspapers to our school, and the list goes on. We are saying these things not to deflate our ideas and suggest that this paper is not worth our efforts, because it absolutely is. The intention behind these words is to convey the complexity of climate change, and suggest that only proenvironmental solutions that have been considered from a diverse number of perspectives are the way to go. The world is filled with seven billion people, who see themselves as leaders, followers, skeptics,
optimists, caregivers, providers and a plethora of other qualities; and yet, one factor unites them all: we are all human. Indeed, we have all been a part of the problem, but more importantly, we are all a part of the solution. Some of you might be asking, how can I be a part of the solution? To this we may respond, being a part of this conversation is a great place to begin. Having multiple, microprojects, and movements in local arenas doesn’t seem to be ideal for change on the global scale. We’re not saying we need to save the world tomorrow. We’d just like to suggest, wouldn’t it seem like a good idea to share all of our diverse ideas and strengths with each other, and find a way to work together? This was our primary goal of this newspaper: bridging the gap that exists amongst people. And inherent within this suggestion lies the principle of diversity. Cheers, Jaime Chong and Kayla Amaladas Editors-in-chief
Photo courtesy of community garden Maya Herzog When I think of Georgia, I see her big, shining smile; her bare feet in the water; and a bushel of kale hanging out of her backpack, her electric-blue bicycle always at her side. She inspired me with her sense of adventure, free spirit, strong drive to follow her dreams, and encouragement for others to join her in all that she did. Sweet Georgia, you are on my mind. I hold you in my heart. You sit with me in the trees; I see you smiling in the moss, and your spirit shining above in a soaring bald eagle. As a wise magical man said, “Georgia is the wind. She carries us. She holds us. And she pushes us forward.”
Deep Sea Diversity Brigette Dreger-Smylie It is often said we know more about space than we do about the deep sea. To many, the ocean is a place of mystery and curiosity, the home of slow-moving whales, chilledout sea turtles and human-eating sharks. Everyone is familiar with the poignant poster child of climate change: the polar bear stranded on a patch of ice surrounded by water. But if we take the grand, elegant species out of the equation, how much do we really know of this massive biome? The average depth of the ocean is 4267 metres. That’s 4.3 kilometres. Roughly how far you could run in 20 minutes, or the height of four CN Towers laying end to end. With this in mind, it’s no wonder we know so little about the biome that covers 71 per cent of our planet. But that 71 per cent is home to half of all the species on earth — exponentially more than the handful of charismatic large mammals and carnivores we quickly recognize. It would be an understatement to say that the ocean is understudied. In reality, the media has garnered the attention of the masses by creating those popular images we’re so used to seeing: we want to know more about polar bears and grizzlies. Our interest is piqued when we hear that the lifespan of some whale species may reach into the centuries. The average person isn’t interested in the organisms they need a microscope to see, living in an environment startlingly different than our own. So the question remains, how important is the diversity that resides in the depths chillingly far below our terrestrial world? From studying ecosystems on land, we know that species diversity
is a critical component of their functioning. It is easy to see the effect of habitat destruction and biodiversity loss at a terrestrial level. We see forests being cut down and watch as animal assemblages change. Generalist species dominate a habitat composed of edges, and native species are pushed into increasingly smaller ranges. Eventually the animals that were present all along are doomed to either adapt in our new human age, the Anthropocene — or die. In the ocean, judging a species’ response to human activity is difficult. Fragmentation can’t be measured in a functional sense, and edges don’t exist; not to mention that data collection can be difficult and dangerous, and there is little chance of fame or glory in searching the seafloor. But our human fingerprints are all over the marine world. In the deep sea, evidence of our presence is conspicuous; think of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, an area where the currents meet to bring garbage we have thrown away,. They have formed a patch two times larger than the whole of the United States. Small seabirds, dissected after washing up on shore, are found to have stomachs full of plastic. Mesopredator release, the phenomenon in which the loss of top predators causes lesser predators to explode in numbers, is being seen in jellyfish, small skates and rays, while their larger shark and whale counterparts continue to dwindle. As we descend through the depths of the ocean, biodiversity — and ecosystem functioning — becomes increasingly more difficult to measure. One research team, headed by Robert Donovaro, attempted to show the relationship between species diversity and benthic ecosystem productivity. They
Photo by elizabeth Cronin managed to do this by using correlates of prokaryote production (as a parallel for photosynthesis) and the amount of energy transferred to higher trophic levels. The result? Losing biodiversity does, indeed, cause reduced ecosystem function. However, as with all science, this is just one paper. More studies will be necessary before relevant conservation measures will be taken. That isn’t to say we don’t already know seafloor communities are hugely affected by human activity. Trawling, which rips ancient coral specimens out of sediments, removes prey in hiding and degrades a critical nursery habitat. Along with this, oceans have become the reservoir for human garbage, animal waste, and billions of tonnes of carbon from the burning of fossil fuels. Suffice it to say that we are all in terrible danger of doing irreversible damage to one of the most productive, diverse and massive areas on the planet. Yet
funding for deep sea research is dropping precipitously. That isn’t to say there isn’t hope: last March, explorer-filmmaker James Cameron made the deepest descent ever to the bottom of the Mariana Trench. This was perhaps a turning point for deep-sea exploration — and a perfectly timed renaissance for marine scientists everywhere. National Geographic documented the descent, and Cameron’s trip gained an impressive amount of media coverage. Perhaps it is time we couple such poignant revitalizations with scientific research to garner support for deep sea exploration. Understanding the functional importance of marine biodiversity will only help us understand the necessary management strategies. It is from research such as this that it becomes increasingly evident that everything on our planet — even that we cannot see — is connected.
Dig up your lawns David Norwell
Why lawns are destroying our planet Grass lawns and cookie-cutter houses are the worst things that have ever happened to society and ultimately diversity as a whole. The majority of readers exploring this newspaper will inevitably go home tonight, or are already comfortably reading this in their house. With the exception of “tenters,” boat residents, ecovillagers and the homeless population, we will enter this house by walking up a cement driveway that is neatly coupled with a grass lawn, walk through a conventionally sized door, turn on some impractical, wasteful heating system, and go to bed in a four walled one window room. In most cases these cookie-cutter houses are built strictly because of road access as opposed to aspect, regional geography, and sustainability potential. Ultimately, current landuse plans are a testament to the conventional thinking that rules Western civilization. My question to home builders and residents alike is simple: where is the innovation when it comes to land use?
Innovation in the nation Companies are constantly impressing on society that technology is improving itself. We pride Western society on its ability to be innovative, and ability to stay on the “cutting edge” of technological advancement. Whether it’s the meaningless
upgrade of the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5, or new laptops that serve the exact same function as the previous model but are four grams lighter, we are addicted to consuming innovation. However, when it comes to residential land use, we settle for the same old. To continue polluting the atmosphere, reducing biodiversity, and exploiting resources without forecasting beyond our current generation, while leaving the majority of the global population to suffer in poverty, is irresponsible at best. When it comes to land-use development, we must begin to actively account for site location characteristics, regional geography and climate, architectural potential, as well as efficient use of water, energy and waste. Rarely do we see homeowners attempt to become self-reliant or efficiently integrate their homes with the natural environment. This is because we are bound to conventional capitalist ideals that rope us down to a system in which all homes require inputs (whether it’s energy, water, food, or access). These inputs cost money and build a dependence on external sources. Additionally, this lowers resilience. How will Vancouver Islanders fare if there is a shock or blackout to the food system, or another major crash in the financial markets? Will we survive if we are subjected to a natural disaster like an earthquake or tsunami? The answer is resounding: dead. We
are vulnerable because we rely on so much to maintain ourselves. So again, the question arises: what innovations are possible to become more resilient, self-sufficient and efficient with the resources and land available?
O.U.R. Ecovillage O.U.R. Ecovillage, located near Shawnigan Lake, is an example of a building with the intention of living within the landscape for many generations to come. The term ecovillage refers to a “full-featured settlement in which human activities are harmlessly integrated into the natural world in a way that is supportive of healthy human development and can be successfully continued into the indefinite future” (O.U.R. Ecovillage website). This mentality is essential if we hope to live equitably into the future without turning the planet into a basket of toxic kittens. The paradigm shift required to transition us from energy-sucking cities that are dependent on international imports to locally and regionally resilient communities is monumental, but achievable. The natural buildings at O.U.R. Ecovillage are predominately cob with the addition of reused and donated building supplies. The initial community involved lived on the property for a year studying the conditions and characteristics of the land, climate and geography before building any permanent
structures. This thoughtful approach towards development allows for a relationship to form between humans and the environment. This is fundamental to land-use planning, for if there is no relationship with nature we will continue to take advantage of the resources available for ignorant, short-term gain.
There are ecovillages all over the world. There are communities seeking change and resilience. However, where do you start if you’re not already involved? Go outside your house and dig up your lawn. “By the community, for the community and through the community.” —O.U.R Ecovillage
Photo by Juan wang
Photo by juan wang
Fernwood Urban Village Pursuit for community in an individualistic society Drew copeland They share meals several times per week, carpool, help to raise each others’ children and meet monthly to discuss the well-being and future of their community. The houses are highly energy efficient, and their ample garden space allows the residents to grow many of their own fruits and vegetables. There is a group of people striving to turn this ideal into reality. The first meeting for prospective members of the Fernwood Urban Village was held on Aug. 22, 2010. Today there are 19 board members and the group is in the final stages of gaining approval for development from Victoria City Council. Following this, the members of the Fernwood Urban Village can commence construction of their future homes. Since August 2010, this group of dedicated people has met on the lot at the corner of Chambers and North Park streets to create what is to become Canada’s 18th co-housing project. The idea of co-housing emerged in Denmark in the 1960s as an alternative to the status quo standalone, single-family dwellings. Cohousing communities are typically structured as a neighbourhood of 20–40 homes clustered around a common area — which includes amenities such as workshops,
greenhouses, a kitchen, a dining area, a children’s play room and a laundry room. Co-housing differs from other intentional communities in that the residents do not elect representatives for governance, are not subsidized by the government and do not involve the magnitude of sharing that communes seek to achieve. The project site at Chambers and North Park Streets reflects the ambitions and motivations of the current membership. At the perimetre, blueberry bushes climb up trellises. Farther from the sidewalk, beets, garlic, kale, brussels sprouts and broccoli grow in tidy rows in raised beds. At the centre is the floral bed. The plants in this part of the garden have been transplanted from the single-family homes of the people who created this garden. The outside of the temporary structure serving as the office headquarters of the project is painted with images of sunflowers, tomatoes, a cat and a bicycle. Inside the office, members Mollie Kaye, Sue Hara and Bill McKechnie sit and discuss the latest in the development process and community formation. Kaye speaks with calm conviction about the benefits of living in community. She expounds the lack of satisfaction and meaningful interaction afforded by the single-
family dwelling. In 2006 she found herself living in a nice house with her children in Fairfield, in what she feels is generally regarded as a high standard of living. “You know, a block away from the ocean and four bedrooms: who would want anything more than that? But I felt myself withering, and that was not actually what was supporting me in being a healthy human being, even though it had all the trappings of what we call success in North America,” says Kaye. The rejection of this part of North American culture is one of the values commonly held in the members of the Urban Village. Sue explains that collective social well-being and environmental consciousness are two others. “Nobody is joining this if they are driving an SUV and shopping at Walmart,” she states. Members of the Urban Village are committed to reducing their environmental impact by reducing dependence on fossil fuels. A wealth of garden space, greenhouses, and fruit trees will provide members an opportunity to produce some of their own food. Each member of the project will be given a city transit pass and have access to a vehicle through the Victoria Car Share Co-op. There will be just 13 parking spaces in
the Urban Village. A decision that will soon be tabled by the membership of the community is whether or not to adopt a building practice called passive house. This design practice incorporates thicker walls and triple glass on the windows to capitalize on existing heat from occupants, light bulbs and the sun. Building with a passive house design will have a greater initial building cost, but the investment will be recouped in energy savings in about 10 years. If the membership decides to use passive heat, some of those buildings will become the first multi-resident buildings to do so in British Columbia. Like all major decisions affecting the community, the decision of whether or not to build with passive house practices will be decided by consensus. The collaborative decisionmaking process employed by the membership allows the opportunity for each member to discuss the issue, provide input, and propose amendments before a decision is reached. The formal structure is designed to ensure that decisions do not become stuck in process, and to attain an egalitarian mode of politics. Inside the office, Mollie, Sue and Bill continue to converse.
Each listens attentively to the others, and reflects a moment before voicing their own thoughts. When it is Bill’s turn to speak, he says he found inspiration in the community. “When I first moved to Fernwood I remember sitting out on the front porch and the parade of people that went by. They nodded, they said hello, they started to engage me, and all of a sudden I decided this is the community I want to be in.” The development of the Fernwood Urban Village and other projects like it invites the question: why are people seeking out communal living situations? Cameron Owens is a professor in Geography at the University of Victoria who, among other things, researches sustainable cities and land-use decision-making. He explains that throughout history, societies have swung back and forth between being more communally oriented and being more individually oriented. “These sorts of things [co-housing, the commune movement of the 1960s and ecovillages] are a response to the fact that we’ve swung way too far over to the hyperindividualism, consumerism, competition, independence and there is a yearning to live more communally.”
March 2013 a dear friend On Feb. 16, I lost three good friends, and the world is now missing three beautiful people, three intelligent voices, three sets of hands, three brilliant minds that would absolutely have made a significant positive difference for Mother Earth. Having known them as well as I did, I feel blessed and know I am a better person because of it. I could wish that I had spent even more time with them, as we had often planned more than resulted. But they would say there is no point to regret, and that it is better to live in the now. I have known Mark for about 20 years, Georgia since 2011 at the University of Victoria and the Community Garden, and I was lucky enough to meet Emily through Mark at the Island Folk Festival last summer. The first time I realized Georgia knew Emily and Mark was at the Campus Community Garden’s Harvest Party last year. We had many plans for the future,
and I now realize little in life could be considered certain. Thoughts and focus continually come back to the more important questions, as Mark’s mom asked the day after his passing, “What was the purpose of this happening? And, what were their life’s purposes?” I had that on the front of my mind for many days and I realized there were many great things they were going to do in life. It may take collective input from the people they knew to find all the answers. They wanted to share knowledge, especially about food and how it is directly connected to the health of all living beings. It took some time but I realized just how significant, direct, and universal this is. Learning about and sharing information about how to grow healthy food locally may be one of the best ways to help people and animals all around the world. Their values directly aligned with what they did and spoke, and they actively lived what they knew was right. Other purposes these three beautiful spirits had were all related and interconnected with each other
— creating community, helping introduce gardening to children and people of all ages, teaching that herbs and plants are the real medicines that heal, the joy of creating music and many other art forms, meditating, community potlucks, reading, researching, giving, being happy, getting knowledge like this into the schools and much more. Mark and I (with the inevitable participation from Georgia and Emily when not in school) planned to create community gardens this spring, and also knock on peoples doors and ask them if we could help them dig up their lawns to put in some tastier and more diverse edible plants. I can’t do this alone, though in their honour I will start. These things can be achieved with mass participation. Their bodies may have passed their time on this earth but I know their spirits remain in all of us. Let’s keep them alive in out hearts and minds and follow the positive examples they gave us. With our help many of their purposes can be fulfilled, and the world will become a better place.
Curtesy of the campus community garden Rose Prieto Georgia Clap, along with Mark Mitchell and Emily Morin were tragically lost in a Victoria house fire on February 16, 2013. It was a shock not only to all those who knew them, but to those who did not get the chance to meet these passionate young individuals. Fortunately Georgia, a University of Victoria undergraduate student continues to live on through the stories generously shared about her, and in the memories of those who knew her.
courtesy of redfish school of change
i’m Happy I said ‘hey’ Jaime chong I was sitting alone in the BiblioCafé at the University of Victoria (UVic), eating my packed lunch. It was a beautiful, glowing, sunny day, but it was still January and there is an inevitable frigid breeze to be expected when living on the coast. I don’t do it often (on purpose anyways), but sometimes I kill time people-watching and making up imaginary stories about what my day, weekend, life or some interaction would look like if I were actually close friends with that person. What would we do? What would we share? What would we talk about? What would we laugh about? Would I secretly hate them? Would I secretly love them? If I sat beside them and said, “Hey, I’m Jaime,” what would they do? This was my first year at UVic, my first year living on my own, and my first year not living in Burnaby, my hometown. It felt good for the most part, although I couldn’t help but feel desperate to expand my social group beyond my household of three. I became one of those people that join 10–12 clubs on club day, in hopes of meeting people I’d jive with.
After I finished my lunch, I looked at the time. I had 15 minutes until class. I drank my tea and looked at the girl beside me. We made awkward eye contact. “I like your earrings,” I said, pointing at the long, peacock feather earrings subtly peaking out from her dreadlocks. Her headband, tights and leg warmers also caught my eye: all earthy tones, comfortable-looking and decorated with pretty emblems. “Thanks, my friend made them for me,” she said warmly as she snacked on her own lunch, which was packed in a mason jar. We both packed up our things and left. We walked in the same direction, and entered the same lecture hall for Intro to Anthropology. I went to my usual spot in the back of the front section, far right. She met with a friend and they sat directly in front of me. Class ended and I carried on with my day. It was a Wednesday and time for the Environmental Studies Students Association (ESSA) meeting. It was the first one of the semester and I wanted to see what it was all about. I thought it started at 4 p.m., but when I got there, only one guy was in the common room.
He seemed surprised to see me, and I quickly realized I was half an hour early. More people trickled in, all of them perky and friendly with each other because, apparently, they were all close friends already. It was 4:25 p.m. and I sat by myself on a couch watching them for a couple minutes. Then a dreadlocked girl with cool accessories came in. We made eye contact and both chuckled a little bit as she sat down beside me. “Hey, I’m Jaime.” “Hey, I’m Georgia.” “We should probably be friends if we’re apparently going to be hanging out all the time anyways,” I said. I can be a little forward sometimes. She smiled at me. “Yeah, sit with me in Anth next time.” I did, of course, and we bumped into each other all the time, went for walks, enjoyed food, talked about the crazy world we live in, and cool things we should do. Our friendship was limited to the school grounds but she made school more enjoyable for me. I saw her at the Anthropology final exam, and afterwards, we did the usual post-exam high-five and summer farewell. I had plans to go to India in the fall so we left on “I’ll see you when I see you” terms. We’ve
What is a memory? A phantom, running like children; a brook — laughter in retrospect; a yawn, blurring the edges of one’s vision. Subtly, memories start to slip and absence fills the empty space. Our memory caches must be up-kept,
always been on those terms because usually the intervals weren’t long. The following January I was in my fourth year and it was the start of a fresh semester. I was walking down the maze of a hallway in Cornett and found myself walking beside a familiar face that looked just as lost. “I like your onesie,” I said as I went in for a hug. It was Georgia, and she was looking for the same room that I was. We both decided to apply for a field school program called Red Fish School of Change for the summer. However, I realized I didn’t need any more environmental studies credits and they wouldn’t count towards psychology, my other major, so I needed to focus on classes that would. Georgia still went through with the program and I’m happy she did. I regret not going. That fall, I attended the Campus Community Garden Harvest Party. Of course the first person I saw was Georgia, who, it turns out, had organized the event. I helped her set up, painted some letters for the sign, and had some solid catch-up time with my old friend. I met her parents, who were lovely, and told her how awesome it was that her parents were cool enough to come to her
rid of cobwebs, folded neatly like laundry. Realizing these memories keeps them alive; sharing them is like watering your memory plant. Sharing your personal memories with others will allow the community to get to know Georgia in her multitude of colours. I encourage you to record your memories of Georgia Clap, Mark Mitchell and Emily Morin; use a pen or bang on some keys. Afterwards come out to Georgia’s memorial on April 27th at the Campus Community Garden to share them in a celebration of her life. Email the Campus Community Garden for more details or to get involved in the event planning! email@example.com
harvest party. I’m always envious of supportive parents like Georgia’s. I saw Georgia not long after. She told me she actually decided not to register for school that semester because she didn’t know what she wanted to do anymore, apart from being outdoors. She felt that her time could be better spent participating and volunteering in the community, rather than being in school and stressing about classes. I’ve felt that way all five years of my undergrad, but continued with school anyways. Like Georgia, I went on a field study, and though our programs and experiences were completely different, we both returned having a hard time bringing ourselves back into a classroom to learn about the outside world. Georgia had the courage to do what felt right and spent her life doing what she wanted to do. I have never had anything but admiration for my first new friend at UVic, in a friendship that formed organically, through crossed paths and a sense of warmth while being in each other’s presence. Together we shared a lot of walks, talks, laughs, knowledge and food. As much as I miss her, I’m happy I said, “Hey.”
Photo by elizabeth cronin
Students and Restoration
It’s not just about plants Elizabeth cronin
Ecological restoration is an activity that many people see as a way to “fix” ecosystems that have been degraded. But the fun, social connection, and hands-on education that it offers are often overlooked. In the area around the University of Victoria, there are many restoration organizations supporting the removal of invasive plants by volunteers, and natural areas on campus could benefit from similar initiatives. Invasive plants threaten native ecosystem diversity and integrity, and restoration volunteers can help with this problem. Restoration goals are often based on reducing the abundance of certain invasive species, increasing populations of native species, and altering other physical attributes of the ecosystem. These measurements neglect some of the most important effects of restoration: the individual and collective benefits of groups of people volunteering together in nature. Making restoration part of UVic culture could benefit thousands of students and drastically change the relationship between the diverse ecological and social communities that share our campus. Students can face an incredible amount of stress, and nothing beats stress like attacking a huge mat of ivy or other type of invasive plant with several other people. Laughing, falling in the dirt, and breathing in the complex smells of an entire ecosystem are some of the healthiest and most effective stress relievers I have tried, and in Victoria they are available year round. Restoration events could be a powerful addition to existing stress-management programs and
services available to students. As a restoration volunteer in Saanich during the first year of my degree, I touched, smelled and saw the species of the ecosystems through different seasons. No amount of formal education could have made me feel a stronger
Restoration cultivates connection with the ecosystem connection to nature and to Saanich, nor taught me more about local species and just how complex and fragile ecosystems are. The faculty of Environmental Studies understands this, and takes classes full of students out to participate in restoration on campus several times a year. The UVic Restoration Club has also recently started hosting volunteer events on campus. If a large, university-funded restoration program welcoming students from all areas of study were formed at UVic, it would only take a few years to noticeably transform the connection between students and nature, to drastically increase ecological knowledge on campus, and fundamentally change the UVic student experience. Another benefit of restoration that is often overlooked is the social experience it offers. I’ve seen volunteers become friends as they hack together at a particularly stubborn vine of ivy. It’s amazing how many
stimulating conversations can be conjured in the damp air while volunteers from different backgrounds struggle and sweat to liberate native plants from shrouds of invasive species. It’s exciting to think about the medley of perspectives that could be shared during UVic restoration sessions, since not just environmental studies students would participate in a large-scale restoration program. During my five years as a student in Victoria, I have done volunteer restoration work alongside students from a huge variety of disciplines: music, biology, engineering, nursing, writing, economics, political science, environmental studies, history, anthropology and more. Restoration can be enjoyed by a huge diversity of students because it offers so many different things: stress relief, social connection, exercise and ecological education, all in the equalizing setting of nature. There are many sustainability facilities and initiatives at UVic including recycling, composting, and even two “green buildings” in residence. These are absolutely essential, but are unlikely to get students who don’t care about the environment to go green or join the conversation about sustainability. Restoration cultivates connection with the ecosystem being worked in, and gives a face (or a place) to “the environment,” a concept so huge that it can otherwise seem meaningless. A side effect of the social nature of restoration volunteering is the tendency for students who wouldn’t normally be interested in such efforts to be strongly encouraged to come (“voluntold” if you will), by their green-minded or outdoorsy friends. For these students, restoration could help bridge the gap between the sustainability
Photo by elizabeth cronin
Photo by elizabeth cronin efforts on campus and their understanding of why they are important. So what could restoration at UVic look like? The UVic campus has many natural areas that could benefit from invasive species removal, but the issue that stands out as needing the most attention is the huge extent of the invasive plant English ivy. Ivy grows throughout many of the forested areas at UVic and threatens to engulf trees, eventually killing them. According to Dr. Joseph Antos, a plant ecology professor at UVic, the ivy infestation on
campus is so severe it would be impossible to completely eradicate it. This species alone could provide engagement opportunities for thousands of students per year for the foreseeable future. Just add some gloves, tools, and willing students under cheerful supervision and watch lives change. Looked at through this lens, “degraded,” “invaded,” and “threatened” natural areas on campus are transformed from depressing eyesores to priceless resources for engagement and connection. Why let them go to waste?
A Time of Transition Environmental studies director retires Steve Littleford The University of Victoria is saying goodbye to one of its most extraordinary and well-respected faculty members this April, as Dr. Peter H. Stephenson, professor of Anthropology and director of the School of Environmental Studies, is retiring. The “R” word, as he calls it, just means “not being paid a regular salary from UVic. It doesn’t mean anything else.” He adds, “I’ll give up anthropology and environmental work when I can’t do it anymore, and that probably means when I’m dead.” We can all be thankful for that, since Dr. Stephenson’s work has been extremely meaningful and diverse — both in the university and in the field. While this article can only offer a brief glance into his life and career, I hope to convey the most pertinent lessons and values Peter Stephenson has taught me, and which I think we, as people trying to contribute to a healthier and more positive future, can all learn from. Perhaps the best place to begin is by mentioning that as a young man Peter Stephenson didn’t plan to become director of Environmental Studies, or get a PhD in Anthropology for that matter. He first took an anthropology course in university because his girlfriend was in it, and when he was growing up, he says, “there wasn’t much called environmental anything.” He didn’t know where environmentalism was going to go; it was making other kinds of decisions he felt were important that led him along his journey to where he is now. It is important for students to know this about Dr. Stephenson’s story because most of us are in a similar position of not knowing what our future holds. The valuable lesson for students, he
says, is that it’s okay “if you don’t know where you’re going or what you’re doing. If you’re making principled decisions and ones that are grounded in values that you hold strongly, you’re making the right decisions, and you’re going to wind up some place.” Dr. Stephenson’s principles are unshakeable and grounded in a deep respect for people and the environment. In the field, he has worked with isolated and vulnerable populations — whom he calls “misunderstood minorities” — including, refugees, Hutterites, ethnic migrants, First Nations, the very old and the very ill. One of the aims of his work has been to understand how researchers wishing to be of assistance to these groups can do so without causing them further harm. In particular, he has looked at how research involving vulnerable populations can most effectively be used in community planning, housing, health services, etc. In the university, he has worked diligently to create a strong and diverse community, where collaboration, cooperation, and inclusivity can thrive. Fellow Environmental Studies faculty member James Rowe says that Peter Stephenson “ensures the flourishing of all people, not just certain people.” Dr. Rowe continues, “We’re a young department with a lot of young faculty. [Dr. Stephenson] has really helped us grow and stabilize. It’s exciting moving forward. We’re healthy. It feels healthy. It’s a great place to be working from, and he has really contributed to that over the past three years [as director].” Dr. Stephenson has certainly made an enormous impact as director of the School of Environmental Studies. However, he has done so not by controlling or changing how the
department is run, but rather by empowering others around him. He says his goal as director “has not been to create something new — that’s automatically going to happen and that creation is up to the people that are here. For me, I tried to retain the most positive things we’ve always had in that process. I have tried to make sure we, in the university, don’t get too inwardly focused and continue to connect to other people doing very different things. None of the stuff we do in Environmental Studies will work if we become really disciplinarian and defensive. It goes against having open systems, ecosystems, and everything we know about how life works.” While Dr. Stephenson is clearly
We are all involved in healing the world around us a man with strong principles, he can equally be described as a man of action. In the university, where politics and bureaucracy can so often get in the way of inclusive and co‑operative decision-making, this is especially pronounced. James Rowe says Dr. Stephenson “does a great job of balancing pragmatics with principles. He gets things done, while at the same time being very mindful of effective and ethical process such that as many people can be brought into the conversation as possible and that you’re not excluding anyone, but also being mindful of expediency.”
This can be a difficult balancing act, but it’s one Dr. Stephenson is uniquely skilled at executing. A big reason why he is so driven to see inclusive and collaborative action regarding social and environmental issues is that he believes “we are all involved in healing the world around us.” We all have a role to play, and we all have something to offer. “That,” he says, “is important for students to get. You don’t have to save the world, you just need to act in a way that makes you feel whole in life, and that you’re participating and doing something positive for people and the environment around you.” Whether you are working for an environmental NGO, trying to make ‘greener’ or more socially-informed decisions, educating yourself and others on why human rights and environmental issues are important and interconnected, or participating in any other positive way — it all matters. It is crucial for all of us to contribute in our own unique way, keeping in mind that we each play a part in creating positive change, and that none of us can solve the problems of the world on our own. It is a huge loss to the university and its students to see Dr. Stephenson retire. The university needs more people like Peter Stephenson, and as one of his former students I say this with unwavering certainty. He has consistently shown how values of inclusion, respect for difference, collaboration, and meaningful participatory action are always better in practice and in principle than their negative counterparts. No matter where you are or what you do, this is something we can all learn from. While Dr. Stephenson is retiring after a long and fruitful academic career, ending here at UVic, his legacy and
Photo by peter stephenson teachings will remain with thousands of students, colleagues, and friends. In the coming years, Dr. Stephenson plans to move to the Gulf Islands where he will have more primary engagement with the land around him. Ideally, he wants to steward a slightly larger property and gradually make efforts to improve the health of ecosystems connected to it. He will also switch from downhill skiing, one of his life-long passions, to cross-country skiing. In addition to spending more time outdoors, he hopes to continue writing about important environmental and social issues. In particular, he plans to write accessible pieces on human engagement with novel ecosystems, and how “it’s up to us to try to figure out a better way to engage together with those communities. We can’t just eradicate them. We need to try to make these ecosystems more viable, more complex, and more diverse.” Diversity, as always, is key. As Peter Stephenson says goodbye to UVic, it is important for us to remember what he stood for: the importance of a strong, open, co-operative, collaborative and creative community that contributes in meaningful ways to the world around us. At least, this is what I have learned from him, and it’s something I will always hold strong.
Rolling for the Truth Henri Simpson Sometimes, despite our greatest intentions, we need a little help to make things happen. This is a story of a time that still brings a smile to my face whenever I remember it. I’ve been skateboarding for about 12 years now, and I can’t count the number of times it’s gotten me into situations like this one. Let’s take a trip back to 2008. It’s about a year and half since I graduated from high school, and my only goal since then has been to travel and explore the rest of the world. I find myself sitting in a Turkish bus station waiting for my bus to pull in and take me away to the next new and exciting place. How am I making use of these hours that I’ve been given with absolutely no obligations in a country I’ve come to explore? Am I talking to one of the strangers in the bus station? Eating some strange local food? Wandering the streets and peering into the nooks and crannies that often hold the most vibrant and exciting parts of a foreign culture? No. I’m sitting on my backpack in
a dark corner reading a book that has absolutely nothing to do with anything around me. I get bored, and decide to go for a little roll around the bus loop to pass the time and get some jitters out. After about five minutes of trying to get my lazy legs back into flicking the board around, I notice a sharply dressed man in black, with some exceptionally
shiny leather shoes, strolling in my direction. Oh no, I think, I guess the party’s over. So used to being back home, where more often than not a man in a suit walking my way means I’m either leaving right now or getting into some unwanted altercation, I’m completely unprepared for what comes next.
The man walks up to me with a smile on his face. He doesn’t speak English, but he’s prepared to try and communicate something to me. As it turns out, he’s actually excited to watch this strange display, and pretty soon a whole pack of well-dressed, middle-aged bus drivers are standing around, cheering me on. Before I know it I’m off the board and on my
Artwork by Tiia Trogen
feet, towing one of these guys around in circles while he grins from ear to ear. His friends are in hysterics and I’m almost doubled over in laughter as I run around the parking lot. In my plans for travelling, the thought of this situation occurring had never crossed my mind. I’m generally not the kind of person to approach a stranger and start trying to fumble through a conversation in a language I don’t know. I had managed to fly across the ocean and take endless buses and boats in search of new and interesting things. I was someplace new. There were strangers all around speaking a different language. I, however, was sitting alone in the corner. In the end all it really took was skateboarding around in a circle to put me in a situation I’ll never forget. It’s obviously not just skateboarding that has this magical effect of throwing you into situations you would never expect. Music does it. Art does it. Whatever you’re into probably does it. So here’s to hobbies and passions and the places they take us. Get some!
Seeking Variety Matt Morrison As the bees start to buzz and the birds pick up their spring time tunes, the community garden on campus is quickly turning over from its winter sleep. Although many plants and critters live in the garden year round, the spring, summer and fall really exemplify the diverse nature of a garden. In the garden, one does not need to look far to understand what is meant by biodiversity: diversity of living things, humans included. Many varieties of kale, broccoli, carrots, cabbage, squash, beans, beets, peas, tomatoes, potatoes, flowers and even asparagus are grown in the garden every year by the diverse gardening community on campus. We are diverse in what we grow, but also in who we are. As students, the pass over from plot to plot
happens quickly, as our transient nature prevents us from holding on to anything in any given place for too long before we either choose to move, or are somehow forced to. As Staff and Faculty, the transition is less frequent, as people who have plots hold on to them, finding comfort and joy in their small piece of land that they may cultivate as they wish. Within the solid community of each staff, student and faculty, and their various associates, a diverse set of personalities, gardening styles, places of heritage, languages of preference, identities of race, gender and lifestyle are all present in the garden. We grow together, learn from each other, and propagate diversity in what we grow and who we are. As in inclusive space for all critters (except rabbits) and all peoples, the garden on campus fosters an environment for diversity to
manifest organically (we don’t use any pesticides for people or plants!). By being in the garden, you are participating in diversity, as your presence embodies the community spirit of that space. By helping grow food, tend to flowers and otherwise be present, you are helping with something meaningful, something tangible that very literally cultivates community.
Join us on Facebook: UVic Campus Community Garden Send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up for newsletters Drop by office hours to chatw: Room B118 SUB Tues: 11:30 to 1:30, Thurs: 10:30 to 12:30 Visit our Website: http://web.uvic. ca/~ccgarden/ OR Come to Workparties! Every Friday at noon in the garden.
Photo by David Norwell
Creatively United for the Planet Nathalie Vogel What started off as a curious response to a volunteer opportunity ended up being one of the most fun and rewarding weekends I’ve had the chance to partake in. When my professor posted an ad for Creatively United for the Planet last spring, I thought it sounded like an interesting event and a fun way to get more involved with the community. Little did I know that this was one of the biggest collaborations of charities, artists, environmentalists and community members from the area — all coming together to raise awareness about the protection and preservation of the planet. Created last year, this festival is the brainchild of Frances Litman, an international award-winning photographer, environmental advocate, and force to be reckoned with. Frances’s vision and innovation earned her the CRD EcoStar Award last year for her community environmental leadership surrounding the festival. Her inspiration for the event was connecting the community to promote a happy, healthy environment starting from the ground up. Last year, thousands of
dedicated hours from Frances, as well as her team of co‑ordinators and volunteers, resulted in a greater success than anyone had anticipated, and even higher hopes for the following festivals to come. It was a weekend of inspirational talks, incredible music, delectable dishes, smiling faces, sharing of knowledge and only two bags of garbage to show for it! Four thousand people attended the inaugural event last April, and between 5 000–6 000 are expected this year. Here are a few of the details you might want to know: All ages are encouraged, admission is free. Workshops, shows, and lectures to partake in, performances and shared laughter for the three days! The festival will take place at St. Ann’s Academy on Humboldt Street and will run from 7:30 p.m. on Friday, April 19 to Sunday, April 21 at 6:00 p.m. The lineup this year includes inspirational talks by Robert Bateman, grizzly bear expert Charlie Russell and Dr. Andrew Weaver; photography workshops with master photographer Craig Minielly and a fashion show featuring local eco-friendly clothing. For more information or to volunteer, visit the website: creativelyunitedfortheplanet.com.
Kayla’s Kitchen 2.0:
Kitchen Diversity One-Pan Indian-Ukranian Fusion Kayla Amaladas When it comes to food in the Global North, diversity and choices are the name of the game. Even in
the cereal aisle we can find nearly 50 distinct choices of what to eat. We are truly lucky, and yet I felt very unlucky in some sense when I learnt about the amount of
carbon emissions that contribute to our options of diverse foods and flavours. As a lover of all food, this truth was incredibly difficult to overcome. The act of grocery
Photo by steve littleford
shopping and dreaming about which country I could visit for dinner now seemed tainted. And so I asked myself, is there anything I can eat and feel good about? Indeed, there is, and, in fact, far more than I could have hoped for. Did you know that beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, celeriac, cilantro, garlic, kale, kohlrabi, leeks, lettuce, onions, potatoes, radishes and Swiss chard can all grow through British Columbia’s winter? What more variety could I ask for? This recipe features the beloved potato and cabbage — humble, hearty and homey. I have yet to find a grocery store that sells potatoes and cabbages from anywhere other than B.C., so this dish is a great way to support these stores, who ultimately support our local farmers. I should put in a disclaimer that, though I am very conscious of where my produce comes from, I have yet to tackle the realm of “spice-miles”. For anyone out there shaking their head at this, I will ask for forgiveness, and for your knowledge. I have done some preliminary research and still cannot locate the primary sourcing for spices such as cumin, curry powder, or even pepper. If you have such knowledge, I would really appreciate it.
So, I present to you, IndianUkrainian Fusion!
Ingredients: 6–8 Potatoes, cubed (Yukons or a good red potato will do just fine) 1–2 Red or yellow onions, diced Half a head of Cabbage, thinly sliced like you would for coleslaw (green or red, depending on personal preference) 1 cup of cooked lentils/beans of choice (I often use French lentils in this dish) A few shakes of cumin (about 1–2 tbsp) Oil Salt and pepper A dollop of yogurt or sour cream, and a handful of cilantro for serving
Directions: Heat a large wok/pot on the stovetop with oil, and add the cubed potatoes into the pot. Cook them in oil with a bit of salt and pepper for about 10–12 minutes, until they are about three-quarter’s of the way cooked. Then, add the diced onions for about 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the cumin and coat the onions and potatoes well. Lastly, add the chopped cabbage and cooked lentils, or beans of choice, plus a bit more salt and pepper if needed. Cook down for another 2–3 minutes. When serving, add a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, a handful of cilantro, and enjoy! :)
Stories Retold KATIE WILLIAMS This poem came to me after a refreshing yoga class. I wanted to express the vast number of opportunities that are available when it comes to practising yoga in Victoria! By trying to incorporate the sound of ॐ (om), which represents the cosmic sound of consciousness, I hope it helps you tune in. (Try reading it out loud to hear the sounds!) Stories retold Of cow, moon, bow. Young or old Free or sold. Flow or hold Hot or cold. Your only soul Becoming whole. Your own follow, Roaming home. Knowledge, hours Volunteer power, Lotus ﬂower, Empower now. Rounds no holster, Solely block or bolster, Lots of studios For toddlers to bros. Hot contours cold. All yoga is gold. Om śāntiḥ Forward fold.
What is life? It is the ﬂash of a ﬁreﬂy in the night. It is the breath of a buffalo in the wintertime. It is the little shadow which runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset. Crowfoot, Blackfoot warrior and orator, 1830–1890
Caring for our campus and our planet. The University of Victoria has created a Sustainability Policy and five‐year Sustainability Action Plan for Campus Operations that will further advance our commitment to sustainability on the ground, in the classroom, in research, and in the region. We want UVic to act as a living laboratory for students and demonstrate innovations in integrating sustainability into teaching, learning, research, community partnerships, and in the way we operate our campus.
It is tassels ﬂying and the banging of hand drums the thud of handsfeetheartsbreath crooning to nature feathers falling from headdresses children running to claim them before the birds return the caw of a crow as it sees them running ﬂapping feathered ﬁngers and when the seasons change and the children learn new a language they rake up leaves instead of swimming through them like salmon make neat piles on the lawn and bag them up.
Together we can all be part of the solution.
What is history? it is a story 3/4 ﬁnished torn from the author and stored behind iron bolts and steel resolve desperation obnubilating the sky treaties broken with moon shadow smiles a child who can’t sundance the hopeless who turn to wine a spray paint sign on plywood denoting “sacred land” hand drums banging on sidewalks feathers that no one picks up.
WHAT SHE AND THE SKY SAID CHARLOTTE PRIEST It was after the funeral. I couldn’t stay for the reception. Too many people I didn’t know too well, too much space, too many little triangular sandwiches, which reminded me of my grandmother — and too much laughter too soon. Someone who had spoken earlier said Georgia was like the wind. You were never ready for her. You never knew what to expect. We were blessed by a windy day that day. Or perhaps the Earth knew a great soul was passing and decided to send it’s sympathies. I went down to the ocean where the waves were being whipped into frothy torrents. The sky was doing a peculiar dance between light and dark. On one side masses of dark, angry clouds were arming themselves for an attack. Meanwhile,
beyond the horizon, lay clear blue skies and a rainbow that glimmered seductively. In between was the sea, pure silver; and over it the sun, behind clouds, also silver, like a portal into the ether. Rain pelted down all around me. I had a mission, and stood playing tag with the water for a long time. All I wanted was to dip my hands in her eternity and wash my face with the salt; but I didn’t want to get wet. Finally we came to some compromise. I got a little wet, but not soaked, and I got to splash the freezing sea onto my tired face. I looked up and around me at this grand epic between light and dark that was staging itself before my eyes. And whether or not She knew it, the Earth blessed me then. She reminded me of the eternal play of the dark and the light, how one is
A WORD FROM ESSA The Environmental Studies Student Association (ESSA) is the Environmental Studies undergraduate course union. The group focuses on linking environmental activism and social networking within the undergraduate community. It is a venue for connecting students to resources, opportunities, outreach and each other. ESSA provides an opportunity for Environmental Studies students to learn about volunteer and job opportunities, workshops and environmentrelated events around Victoria and the greater CRD region. It also provides a safe, inclusive space for environmental studies students to meet each, ﬁnd connections in their classes and create meaningful and hopefully long lasting relationships. ESSA is always open for new ideas and possibilities and no one is ever turned away.
the seed of the other, how they are interdependent, & how they create beauty in their lovemaking. It had been a week of much sorrow, of new and old grief, of a few very low days of wanting to shout, “Stop! I want off this never-ending rollercoaster of life!” It was a week of much darkness. But my friend Georgia, who was always searingly honest in sharing her ups and downs, and the Earth which always spelled out the most profound of truths simply and elegantly, both reminded me that day of something very important. Something my soul momentarily forgot when it was deep exploring its caverns: We need both on our journey. And for that I am eternally grateful . . .
ESSA is always looking for new, eager members, whether they are driven to take the lead on a new project or want to come out and contribute in a less time-consuming way. If you’re an Environmental Studies major or minor, or neither but have come to ﬁnd yourself interested and want to get involved, ESSA is the place for you.
Call for submissions! Also, volunteers! Do you like to write? Edit? Take photos? Do you know how to use design software? Are you a power organizer?
ESSENCE wants you! POSITIONS AVAILABLE FOR NEXT SEMESTER: • • •
Advertising coordinator Distribution coordinator Production team members
• • •
Contributors Copy editors And more!
Don’t go through your UVic career without taking up the opportunity to include “(student publication) media resume! *To apply, attend an ESSA meeting and meet the team.
executive” on your