Missing birdsong in the morning? Think twice about that cup of coffee

The morning serenades of nature in New Brunswick have quieted down over the years and a declining songbird population is to blame, according to a conservation biologist, wrote the New Brunswick Telegraph-Journal May 14.

“Both at the provincial level, and even at the national level, you have dozens of species of songbirds that are in serious decline,” says Bridget Stutchbury, author of Silence of the Songbirds and The Bird Detective: Investigating the Secret Lives of Birds.

Stutchbury, Canada Research Chair in Ecology & Conservation Biology in York’s Faculty of Science & Engineering, was scheduled to be in Fredericton on Thursday to deliver a public lecture on the severity and the impact of the province’s songbird decline.

Stutchbury said the causes for the decline are plentiful. Pesticide use and deforestation are two. Coffee is one of the biggest culprits in the case of migratory birds, she said, because forests are cleared to make way for the coffee plantations, pushing the birds out of their refuges. “The sun-grown coffee is grown the way we would grow corn, completely out in the open in these massive fields. Row after row after row of coffee plants and not a tree in sight,” Stutchbury said.

Switching from sun-grown coffee to shade-grown coffee that’s grown in the forest would be a step in the right direction, she said. Reducing pesticide use and encouraging sustainable logging practices are other ways to stop the decline.

Mobile upstart keeps it simple

In a marketing landscape thick with specifics on deals and pricing plans, Canada’s newest entrant to the mobile phone market is taking a decidedly softer approach to rolling out its campaign, wrote the Toronto Star May 14.

Alan Middleton, a professor of marketing in the Schulich School of Business at York University, said Mobilicity will know if its marketing strategy pays off in about six to nine months. “The real test and where the real money is spent, is getting (consumers) to add it (Mobilicity) to their regular product list,” he said.

Mobile offerings are so numerous the key is breaking through the chatter and getting people to change their routines, which is not a simple task, he said. “What they should be doing is really listening intensively through research to the people they get to buy and the people they don’t get to buy,” close to launch and integrating that info into their strategy and budget, Middleton said.

A second round to grab the attention of their target group who didn’t buy into the first round or reinforce the purchasing decision of existing customers, should happen in the first three to six months, he said. Additional strategies will likely be in place to deal with the incumbent reaction once prices are made public, he said. “Rogers and Telus and Bell are not just going to sit there. They are going to respond.”

Poor services and rough justice in urban borderland

Last week was not a good one to be living in the “in-between city”, the term urbanists use to describe areas wedged between the outer suburbs – with their sprawling residential neighbourhoods – and the downtown core of office towers, condos and cultural institutions, wrote Simon Black, a graduate student in the City Institute at York University (CITY), in an opinion piece for the Toronto Star May 14 that referred to several current news stories about the Jane-Finch community.

In Toronto, the in-between city roughly corresponds to the postwar suburbs, or inner suburbs, that grew with the booming economy of the 1950s and ’60s. As urban researchers have observed, their highrises, diverse immigrant populations and lower-than-average incomes are the stuff of the inner city; but their bungalows, strip malls and wide roads are quintessentially suburban.

But all is not despair: the in-between city is a city of activists, concerned parents, urban entrepreneurs and young leaders. Independent media outlets like www.jane-finch.com cover community issues and give young people a voice that they don’t have in the mainstream media.

Groups such as the Black Action Defence Committee are engaged in gang exit, youth employment and leadership development programs. Jane-Finch Action Against Poverty, the St. Alban’s Boys & Girls Club, and youth drop-in SPOTEND are all working around issues of social justice, effectively mitigating the marginalization experienced by their community.

Across Toronto, in neighbourhoods like Jane-Finch, hundreds of community organizations work tirelessly on issues of transit justice, tenant rights and food security, sometimes with the help of the city through initiatives like the Neighbourhood Action Plan and Youth Challenge Fund, and often on shoestring budgets.

Such efforts give residents of the in-between city hope. Hope that one day their lives will not include the drama of police raids, struggling schools, low wages and long commutes. Hope that governments at all levels will recognize the need for a comprehensive urban agenda that combats social exclusion and addresses the needs of the in-between city.

More nurses today for a healthy tomorrow

Ontario is training more nurses to ensure all patients have access to quality health care, wrote South Asian Focus May 13 in a story about National Nursing Week.

An official release this week said Ontario has invested more than $17 million in York University’s undergraduate nursing programs in 2009-2010, $12.5 million of which is shared with their partners at Seneca and Georgian colleges. The province is also committed to having 25 new nurse practitioner-led clinics in operation by 2012. Ontario also invested $85 million in 2009-2010 to extend the Nursing Graduate Guarantee.

Natives bore brunt of job losses, study shows

Aboriginals have long struggled with higher unemployment than the rest of Canadians, but the recent economic downturn saw the trouble mount, widening the gap between natives and non-natives, wrote The Globe and Mail May 14.

That’s the conclusion of a new report from Statistics Canada, and it is evident in such cities as Prince George, BC, heavily reliant on the forestry industry, where the faltering economy wiped out jobs – and most frequently the jobs of aboriginals.

Lisa Charleyboy (BA Hons. ’10) is trying to become an exception to that trend. Originally from Williams Lake, BC, Charleyboy grew up in the suburbs of Vancouver but has just graduated from York University. While a major portion of the jobs back in Williams Lake are in forestry or manual labour, Charleyboy said she aspires to write for a magazine, which is why she chose to move to Ontario. “It was a natural move that I would have to go to Toronto, whereas both of my siblings are in forestry,” she said.

Backlash against multiculturalism gaining strength

There is an increasing backlash against multiculturalism by some of the very people who earlier held it dear – the "Third Force" comprising Ukrainians, Poles and others from the Prairies – even as immigrants who’ve been here 15 to 20 years turn unsympathetic to the very real problems of newer immigrants, wrote South Asian Focus May 13 in a story about a panel discussion on multiculturalism and racism being held at Osgoode Hall in celebration of Asian and South Asian Heritage Month.

Professor Sonia Lawrence of York’s Osgoode Hall Law School felt cultural prejudice was among the issues that need to be tackled, wrote Focus.

I Do. Do I? strikes gold for student actor

The short film, I Do. Do I? has struck gold in Houston, wrote Brampton’s South Asian Focus May 13. About Time Productions was delighted to receive news the 30-minute romantic comedy had won the prestigious Gold Remi Award in the category Independent Short Subjects, Film & Video: Comedy & Romantic at the 43rd WorldFest-Houston Independent International Film & Video Festival. Playing the lead are Siddhant (Sid) Sawant, currently pursuing a degree in philosophy at York University, and Uppekha Jain, the 2008 Miss India Worldwide.

Grand new home for vintage piano

A vintage cabinet grand piano has a new home in the Castleton Town Hall, thanks to the efforts of a local musician [and former York instructor], wrote the Northumberland News May 13.

Cecilia Ignatieff found the piano in a neighbour’s garage and knew the existing one in the hall was more than feeling its age. She approached Daniel Wiersma, a recent graduate from the University of Western Ontario’s Piano Technology Program, who thought the instrument was repairable.

Ignatieff, who taught Wiersma piano lessons as a child, said she was delighted at the thought of her former music pupil resurrecting the piano. “He has a craftsman-like attitude – and you need someone who believes in acoustical sound – Dan tunes with his ear.”

In the area since 2000, Ignatieff was a faculty member of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and, from 2000 to 2007, a professor of piano pedagogy & piano literature in York University’s Faculty of Fine Arts. She has performed as a chamber musician for the past 30 years.

On air

  • Ian Greene, professor of political science in York’s School of Public Policy & Administration in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the new coalition government in the United Kingdom, on CBC Radio May 13.
  • Susan Dimock, professor of moral philosophy in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, spoke about the dangers of moral certainty, on CBC Radio’s “Ideas” May 13.
  • Joe Baker, professor in York’s School of Kinesiology & Health Science in the Faculty of Health, spoke about a study into how size of community affects athletes’ success at becoming elite players, on CBC Radio May 13.