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Interaction between Drivers of Global Change in PEI – pollution, invasive species, and global warming

(Prof. Brian Leung, McGill School of Environment & Department of Biology)

Our client, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans (DFO) Canada, the government body responsible for Canada’s marine and freshwater policies, is interested in implementing an integrated management approach to address environmental problems facing Prince Edward Island (PEI). The DFO has recognized that three of the listed global drivers, climate change, nutrient pollution and invasive species are particularly relevant to PEI’s economy, environment and society. DFO has therefore asked us to investigate the current state of knowledge on how each driver will affect PEI, what interactions can be expected between them, and how these drivers could interact with human activity (DFO 2008).

The main goal of our paper was to give DFO a well rounded approach to researching the interactions between industrial activities and key global drivers of environmental change. We addressed these using three sections. The first section sought to identify and describe the effects of three important global drivers in their current states as well as in the future. The second section outlined a framework we felt would best help DFO in identifying inputs, activities, and the outputs of industrial production on PEI, so that interactions between industries could be better understood. The last section gives DFO an example of the quantification of an interaction identified in the previous section, with and without the affects of global drivers included.

Risk Management of Invasive Species

(Prof. Brian Leung, McGill School of Environment & Department of Biology)

Aquatic invasive species (AIS) are entering Canadian waters at an unprecedented rate. In the absence of natural predators and other controls, the most aggressive of these have spread rapidly, radically altering habitats and ecosystems, often to the detriment of native species.

The Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) is responsible for developing and implementing policies and programs in support of Canada’s scientific, ecological, social and economic interests in Canadian waters (DFO 2008). Similarly, the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR) strives to use the best possible science to develop natural resource management policies and standards to conserve Ontario's fish and wildlife resources through planning, legislation and policies, fish culture and stocking, resource monitoring and allocation (Government of Ontario 2008). These two organizations are critically interested in the next step of AIS risk analysis. Now that risk assessments of non-indigenous species have been conducted, it is time to consider how that information may best be used to inform management decisions. They have requested that our team formulate a model that can take this body of knowledge accumulated over the last few decades, and use it to make informed, effective, and feasible management decisions.

This project has three overarching goals: 1) to identify available information for analysis in this risk management procedure; 2) to link and weigh this data using cost benefit analysis and scenario planning in order to inform management decisions; and 3) to develop a general framework for the management of aquatic invasive species in Canada. Overall, the project will provide the clients with the tools necessary to make informed, effective and feasible management decisions.

Democracy School: Canadian versus US laws on communities, corporations and the natural environment

(Prof. Gregory Mikkelson, McGill School of Environment & Department of Philosophy)

The question of whether environmental regulation works is one that our client, the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF) has been asking for more than a decade. Founded in 1995, the Pennsylvania based non-governmental organization (NGO) is committed to supporting local communities in their struggle for environmental justice. Hence, it created the Democracy school which argues that the legal system of the United States undermines sustainability by (1) denying people‘s right to local self-governance, (2) granting personhood rights to corporations, and (3) refusing to give legal standing to ecosystems. Several Canadian communities have reached the CELDF in order to implement the Democracy SchoolTM in Canada.

Our research question is: What are the relevant similarities and differences between Canadian and American approaches to corporate rights, local self-governance and rights for natural systems? By illuminating these factors, we hope to (a) establish whether the CELDF‘s Democracy School model is suitable for the Canadian context and (b) offer specific recommendations of how best to adapt the curriculum to the realities of this country. In addition to this analysis, our client provided us with a detailed workplan with the goal of creating a Canadian version of the Democracy School course pack.

Transportation Alternatives for rue Notre-Dame

(Prof. Gregory Mikkelson, McGill School of Environment & Department of Philosophy)

This report dealt with the issue of urban transportation in Montréal. Our client, l’Association Habitat Montréal, is involved in an opposition movement to a proposed Ministère des Transports du Québec (MTQ)/Ville de Montréal joint modernization plan for a 9 km stretch of rue Notre-Dame. Notre-Dame is a major urban artery on the south-eastern tip of the island plagued by chronic congestion, pollution, and safety, among other problems (voiced by citizens, private and public organizations alike). Our initial analysis involved assessing the governmental plan, with heavy emphasis on its public transit component. Opponents have manifested and voiced their discontent with increasing private vehicle capacity on this artery. Our client wishes to see a larger role for public transit and the redefining of conditions for economic development in eastern Montréal. An alternative plan for rue Notre-Dame was elaborated based on concepts and ideas gathered from various stakeholders. Rudimentary in terms of its practicality of implementation for this specific project, it nonetheless provides a viable alternative to the well-defined governmental plan. Montréal has had plans for a tramway service to its downtown area for quite some time now. Barriers remain to the paradigm shift involved in encouraging people to shift from cars to public transit.

“Naturally Occurring Asbestos” (NOA) Exposure in El Dorado County, California

(Prof. Bruce Case, Associate Member, McGill School of Environment & Department of Pathology)

This paper discusses the results of biological and social research regarding naturally occurring asbestos (NOA) in El Dorado County, California. The approach taken was twofold, incorporating both the biological and social components of this issue. First, we sought to determine if there is a biological hazard associated with living in proximity to sites where naturally occurring asbestos is present. In the second component of our study, we assessed the perceptions of selected residents of El Dorado Hills, a town located in El Dorado County, on the subject of the presence of naturally occurring asbestos.

Urban Agriculture in the Plateau

(Prof. Elena Bennett, McGill School of Environment & Department of Natural Resource Sciences)

Urban greening entails the integration of vegetation into city landscapes, improving the quality of both physical and social environments. The possibilities of urban greening and agriculture were explored in the Duluth Avenue neighbourhood of Montreal; community gardens, green alleyways, large and small planters, rooftop gardens, and vertical gardens were considered as methods of greening. Our goal was to help Greening Duluth, a local environmental organization, realize its ultimate vision of transforming the Duluth Avenue community into a green neighbourhood. To achieve this goal, we developed three tools: (1) an interactive map of the study area, (2) how-to guides for the six types of greening projects, and (3) a comprehensive blueprint for the implementation of one specific greening project.

Waste as a Resource

(Prof. Fréderic Fabry, McGill School of Environment & Department of Atmospheric & Oceanic Sciences)

This report compares five waste processing technologies—incineration, gasification, plasma arc gasification, mechanical-biological treatment (MBT), and anaerobic digestion of source-separated organic waste—in order to identify the most sustainable treatment option(s) available to the City of Montreal to further reduce the amount of municipal solid waste (MSW) requiring disposal in landfills, while maximizing the utility of the resources MSW contains. Of these technologies, we hypothesized MBT to be the most sustainable way to utilize the resources contained in MSW and minimize the amount of waste to be landfilled. In order to compare the technologies considered, we created a weighted-point system and evaluated and graded each process according to environmental, social, and techno-economic criteria.

Development of an Energy Consumption Model for Rotisserie St-Hubert

(Mr. George McCourt, McGill School of Environment)

In recent years, growing awareness of environmental and social issues has encouraged many enterprises to broaden their business philosophies to incorporate the notion of environmentally sustainable business practices (Crawford 2002; Norman & MacDonald 2004). When a business, such as Les rôtisseries St-Hubert, envisions becoming the greenest company in its sector, there exist a multitude of facets where improvements can be made. Restaurants are massive consumers of both direct energy used in everyday operations (e.g. lighting, cooling, refrigeration, etc.; Marbek Resource Consultants 1984), and embodied energy, which comprises the total energy used throughout the life of a product through resource extraction, manufacturing, use, and disposal (Bullard & Herendeen 1975; Costanza 1980; Green Restaurant Association 2002). Further, the predominant reliance of restaurants on industrial food production indirectly contributes to water resource depletion (Zehnder et al. 2003) and to ecosystem impoverishment (Pollan 2006). Restaurants are also substantial producers of waste (Green Restaurant Association 2002) and therefore face increased pressure to achieve the provincial government’s preliminary goal of a 65% waste diversion rate by 2008 (MDDEP 2002).

In order for Les rôtisseries St-Hubert (St-Hubert) to become leaders in environmental sustainability in the Québec restaurant industry, they must be aware of their increasing ecological responsibility, which necessitates that they better understand their resource use and consumption patterns (Willard 2002). To help St-Hubert achieve this goal, three main issues have been identified: water management, waste disposal and energy consumption. The current project is intended to (1) assist the restaurant chain in re-thinking their approach towards their own energy consumption and production patterns; and (2) provide a dynamic energy model to evaluate the environmental performance of two types of St-Hubert restaurants; a Full-service and an Express located in Châteauguay and Longueuil, respectively. The development of an energy model for St-Hubert was achieved through several methodological steps and aimed at providing meaningful results and concrete recommendations to the client in accordance with the first objective.

Getting to a Net Zero Energy Lifestyle: Integrating efficient food production methods within the context of a single-family house

(Mr. George McCourt, McGill School of Environment)

Through in depth research, this project provides a manual to sustainable home gardening. Specifically designed for the Alstonvale family in an effort to integrate food production into the home setting and reach a net-zero lifestyle, the guidelines are clear and can easily be applied to any home garden. Building on the insight into the basic sustainable agriculture concepts and methods that the manual describes, it then goes on to explain sustainable plot design, biological methods of pest control and soil enhancing techniques such as crop rotation. Finally, this project demonstrates that gardening provides you an opportunity to enrich your day-to-day life with a productive and rewarding way to obtain the food you need, while contributing to create a better environment for you, your family and the world.