Solutions to sustainability challenges must consider the cultural, social, and economic realities that shape our beliefs and behaviours. This is why the annual MSSI Social Sciences and Humanities Ideas Fund supports McGill faculty members who are undertaking sustainability research that brings these perspectives to the forefront.
This year’s fund will distribute a total of $40,000 to four projects led by researchers from the faculties of law, management, medicine, and science. Here is an overview of what they hope to achieve:
Measuring heat islands in Accra, Ghana, to inform climate resilience strategies
Jill Baumgartner (Equity, Ethics and Policy; Epidemiology and Biostatistics)
Higher temperatures, longer heat waves, and heat islands pose major challenges to urban ecosystems and population health, and these issues are expected to worsen with climate change and urbanization. Cities in the Global South are starting to implement policies and practices to mitigate urban heat and strengthen heat resilience and adaptation, especially among vulnerable residents. However, most lack the fine-scale intra-urban environmental data needed to inform evidence-based decisions.
This project’s team will measure indoor and outdoor temperatures in more than 150 locations throughout Accra, the capital and largest city in Ghana. They will also combine these temperature measurements with satellite images and census data to develop a model for estimating indoor temperature for residential locations throughout the city. The study’s findings will contribute to a citywide monitoring system that will identify neighbourhoods and people at the highest risk of heat stressors, and enable more cost-effective decision-making on heat resilience and adaption in Accra.
Investigating the role of post-decision messages in promoting sustainable investment choices
Laurette Dubé (Marketing)
Retail investors – individuals who invest their own money – are scattered and often inexperienced, but as a whole they have the potential to pressure public equity firms into adopting more sustainable practices. Most research on sustainable investment marketing has focused on pre-decision evaluation tools available to investors as they make choices about their assets. However, little has been done to explore the role of post-decision nudges to shift individuals toward sustainable investments.
This project will investigate the effects of text message reminders that encourage retail investors to make more sustainable investment choices. Specifically, this research will test the theory that nudging investors after a successful and profitable sustainable equity acquision, through mobile trading apps, can promote more sustainable investing through positive reinforcement. Researchers will explore the role of these nudges in controlled and real investing settings for different investor profiles, and the findings will be used to draw up recommendations for brokers, trading platforms, and public equity firms.
Assessing the accessibility of urban sustainability initiatives in Montreal
Sébastien Jodoin (Law)
Cities are currently faced with the large-scale challenges of rapidly decarbonizing their economies and infrastructure, increasing their accessibility to persons with disabilities, and meeting the complex needs of an ageing population. However, little is known about the intersection of these efforts. To address this gap, researchers will complete a case study of the accessibility of urban sustainability initiatives in Montreal. Their analysis will focus on capturing the lived experience of disabled and elderly people interacting with the concrete outcomes of four pivotal climate mitigation policies in Montreal related to transportation, housing, green spaces, and phasing out carbon-intensive products.
The project’s findings will help identify opportunities to increase the accessibility of the transition to a low-carbon economy in urban environments, as well as improve the ways in which the needs and perspectives of disabled and elderly persons are considered in efforts to reduce carbon emissions in Montreal and beyond.
Understanding the effects of conservation efforts on ethnic minority farmers in Vietnam
Sarah Turner (Geography)
Faced with a growing threat to global biodiversity, the desire to create more “green sanctuaries” has become an increasingly powerful rhetoric in many countries. However, this vision of intact and uninhabited natural spaces is fraught with human consequences. This project focuses on the recent creation of the Bat Xat Nature Reserve in northern Vietnam, which is being developed in an area where ethnic minority farmers cultivate black cardamon under the forest canopy to gain cash income for their semi-subsistence livelihoods. Such activities will be banned in the reserve.
Researchers will investigate the immediate and potential long-term impacts of this ban and other livelihood restrictions on surrounding ethnic minority communities, and how these farmers are responding. The project aims to better understand the complex relationships between local ethnic minority communities in the Vietnamese borderlands, the conservation policies of the highly centralized Vietnamese state, and the officials who work to implement these policies at the local level.