What is the spiritual toll of Toronto’s lost summer?

Jody Berland, who teaches environmental cultural studies in York University’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, writes that the weather, like music, mediates between human beings’ physical and social bodies – “its rhythms and irregularities and the rituals we construct around them shape what is meant to be part of the social,” wrote Michael Valpy in The Globe and Mail Aug. 22

As well, she sees what she calls “a sort of lurking thing” about weather: “You’re always just on the edge of something being out of control.”

And what keenly interests her is the role of justice and injustice that human beings invest in weather, with this summer’s weather perceived as having been unjust.

“We think we’re not bad people,” says Berland. “We haven’t done anything wrong, we just want to have a little fun. So we have this idea that somehow weather should perform a kind of justice. That’s why a lot of people think, you know, that lightning is punishment, thunder is punishment, rain is punishment. So there’s ideas of morality and justice tied up with the weather.

“And the weird thing is that from a point of view of modern science, that’s ridiculous. But from the point of view of an environmentalist, it’s very true. Because we’ve messed up. In Toronto, you can’t escape that realization, because a hot day is also a smog day.”

‘Retire your ride’ policy pushes both climate change, stimulus

As the US government prepares to put the brakes on its “Cash for Clunkers” program, Canadians are still wondering if they’ll be able to go for a spin, wrote the Toronto Star Aug. 22. But how green are these programs, really? Experts on climate change say the answer is complicated.

“You’d have to look at what’s actually being retired in ‘Cash for Clunkers’ and then figure out, are you actually ahead when you take into account all the environmental impacts of making the new vehicles,” said Mark Winfield, professor in York’s Faculty of Environmental Studies. “You would actually have to do an analysis that balances that trade-off, which to my knowledge, nobody has done yet. It’s all very new.”

York gets financial injection to train foreign professionals

A provincial government investment in bridge training programs at York University figures to give skilled newcomers to Canada an easier path to success, wrote The North York Mirror Aug. 21.

The announcement to pledge $5.2 million for two new professional training programs was made on Thursday, Aug. 20 inside the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies building at York’s Keele campus. This is the site of the school’s existing bridge program for internationally trained nurses seeking to gain provincial certification.

The additional investment will now allow York to offer more opportunities to skilled professionals who have immigrated to Ontario but are unable to practice in their field of expertise. New information technology and business finance administration bridge programs will be available starting next year, along with bursaries, scholarships, English language assistance and support programs to make the school more accessible.

One example of the impact bridge programs can have on immigrants was expressed by Aronela Benea (BScN ’09), who was employed as a nurse in Romania for 16 years before immigrating to Kitchener in 2006. Despite her experience she was unable to work in her field, so she enrolled at York.

Benea graduated this year and is now has a job working at Toronto General Hospital and has been accepted into a master’s nursing program at York. “It has been a challenge to be a newcomer and find my own way in Canada, so I’m very grateful for everything the ministry has done for me,” said Benea. “There are still many internationally educated nurses like me out there still facing those challenges.”

  • Lilly Lum, professor in York’s School of Nursing and the School of Health Policy & Management in the Faculty of Health, spoke about the recent announcement of funding from the Ontario government to help internationally trained professionals upgrade their qualifications on CBC Radio’s “Metro Morning” Aug. 21.

York pilot project aims at going green 

York University employees working inside Keele campus’s new Research Tower will be disposing their trash in communal tri-bins, doing away with personal office garbage bins, as the University embarks on a new pilot project aimed at going green, wrote The North York Mirror Aug. 21.

The Green Cleaning Project, launched by York’s Campus Services and Business Operations, is expected to take three months to complete. Its success will determine whether a similar program will roll out across the University in 2010.

As part of the project, Research Tower workers will have blue recycling bins in their offices but not garbage bins.

“A couple of years ago we attended seminars and conferences and we started hearing of institutions switching to green cleaning,” said Bob Smith, director of custodial, grounds and Glendon campus. “We decided to move custodial operations to a green clean program. Once we got approval from the University administration, which was in the process of building the new York Research Tower, it was decided to use that building for the pilot project.”

The pilot project is part of the ongoing efforts to secure a silver Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification for the York Research Tower.

Hall, Podstawka win volleyball gold

York students Reid Hall and Adam Podstawka have been playing volleyball together since they first spiked a ball, unique in a sport where switching partners is far from uncommon, wrote The Canadian Press Aug. 21.

The Ontario twosome capped their flawless week with a gold medal Friday in men’s beach volleyball at the Canada Summer Games, a fitting finale for the longtime friends and teammates.

Hall, from Georgetown, and Adam Podstawka, from Ancaster, went undefeated through the tournament at Credit Union Place, en route to beating Quebec duo Emmanuel Andre-Morin of Montreal and Karl De Grandpre of Pierreville, 21-14, 21-18.

Hall and Podstawka started playing beach volleyball together when they were 12, and with the exception of last season, when Podstawka was injured, have played together every season. The two played indoor volleyball together for York – Hall still does, while Podstawka trains solely for the outdoor version.

Hall and Podstawka will now head home to play in next week’s Canadian beach volleyball championships in Toronto where they hope to medal.

Seeking successors to the Queen West gallery scene

Loop Gallery, in the thick of the City-designated “Art+Design” district, had an opening on Thursday, wrote the Toronto Star. But it’s also closing.

After being one of the pioneering galleries on this stretch of Queen Street West in the early part of the decade – pre-Drake Hotel, no less – Loop’s new show, of this year’s crop of MA and PhD graduates from York University’s Fine Arts program, is its last at the current location, where the storefront galleries that helped transform the neighbourhood from down-heeled urban hinterland into a theme park for condo-dwellers have been trickling out and away for several years.

Born to be wild (and civic minded)

In its sixth year, about 300 riders were expected to join the pack of Milton Harley Owners Group (the HOGs) in an effort to raise funds for the independent living program at ErinoakKids Centre for Treatment and Development, a Mississauga facility that offers medical treatment and development services to families with special-needs children, wrote The Mississauga News Aug. 23.

Anu Missar, a participant in this year’s program, said it made her feel more confident about living on campus this year at York University while studying sociology. “I have never taken so much public transportation in my life,” said Missar. “Honestly, it was an eye opener to what’s available to us.”

Missars said she learned how to map out a route to York University via public transit. “I’m moving out in a week and I am very excited.”

Indie writer/director is terrified of 9 to 5 jobs

With Gothic roots and a previous career in the advertising business, North Yorker Park Bench’s latest project is a bit of a blast from the past, wrote The North York Mirror Aug. 21.

Bench (a.k.a. Robert Maynard, former York film student) wrote and directed The Death of Alice Blue. The film centres on a young woman tackling her first job in the advertising industry. The movie’s office setting, however, is far from typical in that the ad agency where Alice Blue works is run by vampires.

The Death of Alice Blue is the latest in a long line of projects Bench has undertaken with Toothin Theatre and Film, a company he founded along with longtime friend and collaborator – and Alice Blue star – Alex Appel.

Judge remembered as ‘fair and firm’

When Judge Barry (Bud) Shapiro (LLB ’41) walked into a courtroom, there was never any doubt about who was in charge, or whether or not the accused would get a fair trial, wrote the Mississauga News and the Brampton Guardian Aug. 21.

Shapiro had a commanding presence on the benches of Peel, where he began his career as a judge in 1971. By the time he retired in 1990 as a senior judge of the Ontario Supreme Court, he held a national reputation as a leader in the judicial community.

Shapiro, a longtime resident of Brampton and chair of the founding Peel Police Services Board in 1974, died Wednesday in Toronto. He was 94.

A graduate of Osgoode Law School, Shapiro became a Queen’s Counsel, esteemed trial lawyer, Bencher of the Law Society and led the Royal Commission into the Don Jail in the mid-1970s. That was one of several commissions he headed. He sat on the Ontario Review Board, was a colonel in the Canadian Army Reserve and served as aide-de-camp to three Ontario Lieutenant-Governors.