Canadian scientist shot in Thailand is a York graduate

A Canadian scientist and York alumnus whose work helped map ozone depletion over the Arctic was shot and wounded while travelling with his wife in a popular tourist area of Thailand yesterday, wrote the National Post Feb. 14.

Erik Griffioen (PhD ’93), 49, of Hamilton, Ont., is recovering in a hospital in Chiang Mai, the northern Thai city where he was shot while riding with his wife in the back of an open-air taxi on their way for a three-day trip of elephant riding and mountain hiking.

Griffioen was with his wife, Elizabeth Ling, an anaesthetist at the Henderson General Hospital in Hamilton, at the time.

Griffioen was in stable but serious condition, yesterday. Thai police said the shooting appeared to be random, perhaps a shot taken from a nearby apartment building. Griffioen specialized in atmospheric physics at York University and worked at the university’s Centre for Research in Earth & Space Science for several years before moving to Hamilton and switching his interest to radiation treatment and taking a position at a Mississauga cancer clinic.

  • Now working at a cancer clinic in Mississauga, Griffioen graduated from York University in 1993, wrote The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) Feb. 14.
  • Global TV reported Feb. 13 that Griffioen was riding in a car with his wife, when he suddenly slumped forward in his seat. Thai police said the shooting was not intentional, according to the report.
  • Griffioen was mistakenly identified as a York professor in a number of early media reports of the incident Feb. 13.

Environmental researchers take aim at a wide variety of targets

A big area of campus environmental research is alternative energy, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 14 in a special section on careers in the environmental sector. Wind and solar generation fluctuate wildly, making them difficult to integrate into power grids. So, Jose Etcheverry, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies, is working with governments and industry to find solutions to the problem of bringing alternative energy online.

Creating a steady flow of electricity from wind or solar demands energy storage systems, such as batteries or using excess electricity to pump water uphill into reservoirs so it can be released to generate electricity when weather is cloudy or calm.

But Etcheverry, who is also a policy analyst with the David Suzuki Foundation, isn’t working on new storage systems: he’s researching policies that will encourage them to be built. Last week, he presented those policy ideas to grid operators from across Canada and California at a meeting in Toronto.

Canada could take a leading role in developing the technology and policies that will help the rest of the world meet its green energy needs, he says. "If Canada embraces this idea in full, this is what will power our economy into the 21st century," he says, adding "our situation is quite privileged because of our small population and big land mass."

  • Most people working in eco-careers shrug off narrow definitions of what constitutes environmental work, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 14. "The environment is everyone – and it’s our home," explains Jonathan Cheszes, a 30-year-old York student in the Master of Environmental Studies Program.

Cheszes’s story exemplifies the circuitous path many environmental careers take. He graduated eight years ago from McGill University with a business degree and went to work in the jewellery business. Finding it lacked a sense of fulfilment, he began attending a social networking group called Green Drinks (its members meet in pubs) that attracts an eclectic group of environmental enthusiasts, from amateurs to experts.

Kate Holloway was one of those enthusiasts. At 39 she heads a small non-profit organization that is working with Cheszes and other students from the York Sustainable Enterprise Consultancy (a hybrid of graduate students in environmental studies and the MBA program at York’s Schulich School of Business).

  • Canadian schools offer dozens of hybrid and specialty environmental degrees, wrote The Globe and Mail Feb. 14 in a special section on niche programs in Canadian business studies. York University [offers] a bachelor of environmental studies, offering four majors: environmental management, urban and regional environments, environmental politics, or environment and culture.

Taxi drivers getting dinged

Many hacks and [taxi] industry watchers…crowded a City Hall committee room for the release of the first major report in 10 years, wrote The Toronto Sun Feb. 14. Authored by University of Toronto Prof. Sara Abraham, Ryerson Prof. Aparna Sundar and Dale Whitmore, a student at York’s Osgoode Hall Law School, the study calls for the formation of a drivers’ association to give cabbies a collective voice in their dealings with City Hall, the plate-holders and cab companies.

  • The report was also featured in a news story on CFRB radio (Toronto) Feb. 13.

Forum to survey military history

Susan Mann, former president of York University, will be among the speakers at the third annual University of Windsor Military Studies Conference this weekend, wrote the Windsor Star Feb. 14.

Mine tailings a problem

It is a pleasure to see New Brunswickers are going to get greener by building atomic power plants, reducing our reliance on the expensive and overwhelmingly more polluting thermal plants, wrote Stuart Mills in a letter to The Daily Gleaner (Fredericton, NB) Feb. 14. The next stage is to get the benefit to problem ratio of uranium mining in perspective.

Mark Winfield, York University professor of environmental studies, says uranium mine tailings are difficult wastes to manage. Mine tailings are always toxic. So are garbage dumps. Dumps differ only in size and degree of toxicity. If NB uses a lower grade of uranium ore, the tailings must be less toxic since the worst byproducts are in proportion to the uranium produced.

Teaching in the shadow of Genghis Khan

The American Center for Mongolian Studies helps set up contacts, transportation and accommodation for universities wanting to send students to support Mongolian students in any field, including the revival of Buddhism or the history of the Mongol empire. Co-founder Charles Krusekopf pointed out that the ACMS now has 300 individual members and 30 institutional members including York University, wrote BC’s Goldstream News Gazette Feb. 13.

Dance inspired by Emily Carr

The latest innovation in the worlds of dance and performance takes place Feb. 21 and 22 at The Market Hall, wrote the Peterborough Examiner Feb. 14. York alumna Jennifer Mascall (BA ’74), of the Canadian dance scene for more than three decades, will bring her company’s multi-media performance, "Traces of E. Carr."

Mascall is described as "a maverick pioneer of contemporary dance in Canada since the late ’70s" by Max Wyman in the Canadian Encyclopedia. One of the earliest graduates from York University’s dance program, Mascall broke away from the mainstream dance community in Toronto and Montreal and joined Vancouver collective Experimental Dance and Music, then established her own company, Mascall Dance.

After 18 years in Czech Republic, theatre alumnus is now directing in BC

York theatre alumnus Ewan McLaren (BFA ’90), a master of fine arts student at the University of Victoria, BC, is directing Lionel: The Miracle Man to help fulfil degree requirements, wrote BC’s Times Colonist (Victoria) Feb. 14. The 39-year-old came to the university after working in Prague for 18 years as a freelance director, following theatre studies in York’s Faculty of Fine Arts.

Most of his work in Prague was done in Czech, a language in which he is fluent. "It’s only since coming back here that I’ve been working in English again," he says. "I thought I was going to be there [in Prague] for a couple of years. But I met my wife there and I also met such a circle of theatre workers and great opportunities and ideas. It was just too exciting to leave."

Hanover‘s top citizens honoured

York alumnus Margaret Poste (BA ’75), with her tireless work as an educator and volunteer in local theatre and sports, is the recipient of the Hanover Chamber of Commerce’s 2007 Lifetime Achievement Award, wrote The Post (Hanover, ON) in its Feb. 15 issue.

Poste’s community involvement stretches back more than 25 years as a teacher, coach and volunteer. She taught full-time physical education and English at John Diefenbaker Secondary School until she retired in 2002. Poste, originally of Toronto, moved to Hanover in 1977 to work as a teacher after attending York University’s Faculty of Arts.

York graduate tells a good tale, in between songs by his band

About 10 years ago, York alumnus Brad Woods (BA ‘97), made up his mind: he was going to give professional storytelling a whirl, wrote The Record (Kitchener, Cambridge and Waterloo) Feb. 14. The abnormal idea dawned on him when his wife, Sylvia, showed him an article in Canadian Living magazine about a storytelling festival in the Yukon.

Until that moment, Woods, a special education teacher by trade, had no idea such things as storytelling festivals even existed. Ever since that moment, Woods has been telling stories at such festivals – including the Yukon one – every chance he gets.

The encouragement came from Dan Yashinsky, founder of the Toronto School of Storytelling, whom Woods interviewed for a class project when working on a sociology degree in York’s Faculty of Arts. Woods then started attending storytelling workshops and coffee houses around Toronto, learning what he could about the ancient art.

On air

  • Graham Orpwood, professor emeritus in York’s Faculty of Education, and a researcher at the York-Seneca Institute for Mathematics, Science & Technology Education, spoke about a study he and colleagues did about Ontario college students’ math skills on CBC Radio’s “Ontario Today” program Feb. 13. Reports about the study were also carried on radio and television stations from around the province.
  • Steven Bailey, humanities professor in York’s Faculty of Arts, debated the validity of conspiracy theories in society with Ian Dowbiggin, a professor at the University of Prince Edward Island, on TVO’s “The Agenda” Feb. 13.