LA&PS prof publishes three books in one month

colorful book shelf banner

A busy 2023 has led to Hassan Qudrat-Ullah, a professor in York University’s School of Administrative Studies in the Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), publishing three new books in short succession this past November, covering topics as diverse as systems thinking, supply chain management and sustainable development.

Hassan Qudrat-Ullah
Hassan Qudrat-Ullah

The first of the three, Managing Complex Tasks with Systems Thinking (Springer, 2023), is about improving human decision making and performance in complex tasks. Using a systems thinking approach, it presents innovative and insightful solutions to various managerial issues in various domains, including agriculture, education, climate change, digital transformation, health care, supply chains and sustainability.

Qudrat-Ullah’s second recently published work, a co-edited volume with York University Research Fellow Syed Imran Ali called Advanced Technologies and the Management of Disruptive Supply Chains: The Post-COVID Era (Springer, 2023), explores the cost-effective and efficient supply chain management strategies required to achieve resilience in the post-COVID environment.

“The book follows a didactic approach through which it informs global researchers and practitioners to deal with the most significant insights on future supply chains with a more in-depth analysis of post-COVID opportunities and challenges,” said Qudrat-Ullah. “In particular, it provides an in-depth assessment of disruptive supply chain management in certain industrial contexts and explores various industry 4.0 and industry 5.0 technologies to achieve resilience.”

The final book of the bunch, Exploring the Dynamics of Renewable Energy and Sustainable Development in Africa: A Cross-Country and Interdisciplinary Approach (Springer, 2023), explores the potential of renewable energy sources to promote sustainable development in Africa, with a specific focus on Cameroon, Nigeria, Uganda, South Africa and Algeria. It delves into the challenges and opportunities presented by various renewable and clean energy technologies, including nuclear power, liquefied petroleum gas, bamboo biomass gasification and geothermal energy in addressing the energy needs of African nations. Additionally, it assesses the socio-economic and environmental impacts of renewable energy projects and evaluates their alignment with the African Union’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

“The book’s interdisciplinary and cross-country approach, as well as its incorporation of innovative concepts like social innovation and bamboo-based development, makes it a unique resource,” said the author.

Research analyzes Ontario’s sanitation infrastructure

water tap

A recent study by Brazilian scholar Claudio Antonio Klaus Júnior, who conducted part of his research at York University’s Osgoode Hall Law School as an international visiting research trainee, unveils critical insights into the sanitation disparities between Santa Catarina, Brazil, and Ontario, Canada.

Claudio Antonio Klaus Júnior
Claudio Antonio Klaus Júnior

The study, titled “Law, Sanitation, and Sustainability: A Comparative Analysis Between Municipalities in the State of Santa Catarina, Brazil, and the Province of Ontario, Canada in Light of Sustainable Development Goals 6 and 11,” reveals a stark contrast in sanitation access and quality between the two regions, despite over 99 per cent of the population in both areas having access to potable water.

The research highlights that between 2019 and 2020, Brazil saw a slight increase in sewage collection, from 74.5 per cent to 75.7 per cent. According to the study, a significant portion of the population, 47.6 per cent, still lacked sewage collection services, and only 55.8 per cent were connected to the sewage network. This is in sharp contrast to Ontario, where efforts towards improving sanitation infrastructure have been much more consistent and effective.

Klaus’s work emphasizes the urgent need for informed policies and investments in Brazilian sanitation infrastructure. It illustrates that more than half of the municipalities in Santa Catarina, Brazil, lack sewage services, and many still need plans to meet the sanitation universalization goal set by the legal framework. This research serves as a call to action for Brazil to collaborate with Canada to exchange best practices to enhance quality of life and environmental sustainability through improved sanitation services.

This study has garnered attention and praise from the Ministry of Cities ombudsman in Brazil and Canada’s minister of environment, who acknowledged its alignment with Canada’s commitment to environmental sustainability.

With support from the Santa Catarina Research & Innovation Support Foundation (FAPESC) in Brazil, Klaus, who holds a master’s degree in development and society from UNIARP, focuses his research on the intersection between sanitation, law and sustainable development.

QS ImpACT Awards select York members as judges

diversity black hand shake

York University UNESCO Chair Charles Hopkins and Adjunct Professor Mark Terry will represent the University by joining the international team of judges evaluating applications for the annual QS ImpACT Awards, which honour the sustainability efforts of young changemakers from across the globe.

Mark Terry
Mark Terry
Charles Hopkins
Charles Hopkins

The QS ImpACT Awards notably highlight the outstanding contributions of individuals who have served as catalysts for transformative change on a local and global scale through projects, events and initiatives in local communities or institutions that explored solutions to the sustainability challenges of today.

“It is crucial to recognize the engagement of young people with the SDGs [United Nations Sustainable Development Goals] with this award ceremony, as it does not only recognize individual achievement but creates a global community of changemakers for sustainability,” says Hopkins.

Youth activism is also critical for sustainable development because it “can lead to lasting societal change,” adds Terry.

The York members’ selection as judges is not only an acknowledgement of their own impact on global sustainability efforts but a recognition that York is continuing to strengthen its momentum as a global leader in sustainability, which has included participation and appearances in rankings organized by QS, a leading international company in the education sector and a partner of QS ImpACT.

The award ceremony will be held online on Jan. 18. Register to attend:

York researcher traverses tick-infested terrain to beat back insect apocalypse 

PhD student Hadil Elsayed in the field. Photo: Briann Dorin

By Corey Allen, senior manager, research communications 

Academic research is often perceived to involve a lot of books and library visits, but Hadil Elsayed’s PhD work studying insects at York University has involved choppy boat rides, off-road all-terrain vehicle (ATV) adventures and one particularly nasty trek through a swamp.  

Hadil Elsayed headshot
Hadil Elsayed

“I joke that my PhD defence will include a graph that shows the number of cuts and bruises I’ve had to endure for my research,” says the budding entomologist, who is in the fourth year of her PhD in the Department of Biology.  

Jokes aside, Elsayed’s research into the effects of climate change on insects is no laughing matter. In fact, her work is adding to an increasing number of studies that reveal insects are disappearing. It’s a troubling phenomenon dubbed “the insect apocalypse.”  

Current scientific evidence suggests insects across various species and regions are in global decline and are decreasing in terms of population, biomass and diversity. This has serious consequences for the health of our ecosystems, as insects are crucial for pest control, soil quality and pollination, or plant reproduction. Insects travel between different plants, helping them grow by leaving behind pollen grains. These plants can then be harvested as an energy source for humans and other living organisms, including birds that depend on insects for food.

Hadil Elsayed collects a sample from one of her malaise traps. Photo: Briann Dorin
Hadil Elsayed on a boat. Photo: Briann Dorin
Hadil Elsayed on a boat. Photo: Briann Dorin

“Many of these decline studies are coming out of Europe, so my research explores to what extent we are seeing this same trend here in Canada,” says Elsayed, whose work is supervised by leading conservation scientist Sheila Colla, an associate professor in the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change. “As far as I know, research into biodiversity loss within protected areas at this level has not yet taken place in this country or in North America.” 

Elsayed’s research spans 13 sites, primarily in the Long Point Biosphere Reserve three hours southwest from Toronto, off the shores of Lake Erie. It’s an ecologically significant area, made up of several distinct natural habitats including woodlands, marshes, beaches, meadows and sand dunes, among others. Protected by the United Nations Educational, Scientific & Cultural Organization, the area is home to a wide range of plants and animals, including many aquatic birds and species at risk.   

To collect all the insect specimens for study, Elsayed used malaise traps, tent-like structures that are set up in the direction of the wind to catch insects flying upwards into jars of ethanol. Elsayed collected hundreds of samples biweekly, or sometimes weekly, in the summery months of May through August.  

Setting up all the traps in the right places and monitoring them means Elsayed often had to brave the wilderness and all its elements, including tick-infested terrain.   

“I would have to stop every two minutes to pick ticks off me or shoo away all the mosquitoes,” she says. “I complained a lot while I was out there, but it’ll be worth it if it means I can help protect biodiversity and make a meaningful contribution to the field of entomology.”

An example of one of Elsayed’s malaise traps.
An example of one of Elsayed’s malaise traps.

With help from a guide from the Long Point Bird Observatory, Elsayed travelled to some sites that are only accessible by going off-trail – by ATV, by boat or by bushwhacking. The demanding task of collecting samples also entailed a month-long stint living alone in a cabin, where the only visitors Elsayed entertained were some rather unwelcome cockroaches.  

Back at the lab, Elsayed processes her samples and sorts, weighs and analyzes hundreds of insects. Her research specifically focuses on the insects that live in protected areas, like Long Point, which should be safer from environmental stressors than insects found in urban ecosystems or cities – in theory.  

But some of Elsayed’s early findings show these protected areas are also suffering, experiencing a decline of up to 200 grams in biomass. This translates to a loss of hundreds of thousands of insects. These findings are possible because Elsayed can compare data collected from the same sites in the early 1990s by the Canadian Wildlife Service against the data she has gathered 30 years later.  

“Preliminary results indicate that climate change is a factor in insect decline, even in protected areas, and various climate stressors are behind their disappearance,” explains Elsayed. “For one group of insects, the main driver for their decline appears to be a decrease in rainfall. For another, it’s linked to an increase in temperature.”  

Recently, Elsayed presented parts of her work at an annual conference held by the Entomological Society of America, with over 3,600 attendees. She was awarded first place in the Student Competition for the President’s Prize, recognizing her efforts to advance climate change research. 

With her strenuous field work completed, Elsayed is currently working on writing her dissertation, with a projected PhD completion date in early 2025.  

Her work is funded by York University, the Natural Sciences & Engineering Research Council of Canada, and the Entomological Society of Canada.  

York U sociologist travels to COP28 to research Indigenous climate leadership

COP28 flag

The 28th United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) wrapped up on Dec. 12, with more than 50,000 delegates who descended upon Dubai in the United Arab Emirates for the annual international climate summit.  

Among the delegates was York University’s Angele Alook, an assistant professor in the School of Gender, Sexuality & Women’s Studies, and her research team: community-based researcher Lydia Johnson, of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band, with the Centre for Indigenous Knowledges & Languages; and PhD student and graduate associate Ana Cardoso.   

The trio were there to conduct field work for a project called Indigenous Climate Leadership and Self-determined Futures, which aims to highlight and advance the understanding of Indigenous methods to mitigate climate change, derived from traditional knowledge and governance, among Indigenous activists and leaders, knowledge holders, other researchers and policymakers.  

From left to right: Angele Alook, Lydia Johnson, Graeme Reed and Ana Carolina De Almeida Cardoso at the COP28 Indigenous Peoples Pavillion
From left to right: Angele Alook, Lydia Johnson, Graeme Reed and Ana Carolina De Almeida Cardoso at the COP28 Indigenous Peoples Pavillion.

The project’s findings will eventually be shared through both academic publications as well as several arts-based approaches, including photography, video and graphic novels. It is funded by the Catalyzing Interdisciplinary Research Clusters initiative, created by the Office of the Vice-President Research & Innovation at York University.

Alook, who is a member of the Bigstone Cree Nation in Alberta, talks about the Indigenous-led project and her COP28 experience in this Q-and-A below. 

Q: What was your main objective with attending COP28?  

A: My team and I went to Dubai to interview several Indigenous leaders from Turtle Island (North America) and elsewhere in the world. We wanted to talk to them on the ground as they are simultaneously actively engaged in climate discussions with world leaders, government agencies, scientists and organizations. We believe capturing their stories in this moment will provide us with their best insights for our project.   

Much of our questions focus on learning about what motivated them to attend COP28, the challenges they face in a colonial space, their experience in policy talks and negotiations, and their climate actions back home.    

We also presented on several panels at the Indigenous People’s Pavilion and Canada Pavilion. We participated in the Local Communities and Indigenous People’s Platform youth knowledge holders discussions. We also participated alongside our Indigenous kin in several United Nations-sanctioned actions to promote Indigenous rights and human rights.  

Q: Why is Indigenous participation at events like COP28 important? 

A: COP28 represents the biggest international stage for climate change talks, but Indigenous Peoples make up only a small number of attendees. Indigenous Peoples are knowledge keepers and I believe they have real solutions to deal with climate change. We have a relationship to the Earth grounded in land-based practices and sustainability, so Indigenous Peoples’ voices are incredibly valuable if we want to see effective climate policies developed around the world.  

There’s also a lot of advocacy work that happens at these conferences to uphold Indigenous sovereignty, including in international treaties. Certain parts of the Paris Agreement, like article six, which focuses on carbon markets, could have serious implications for Indigenous Peoples and their assertion of rights. Some Indigenous communities have voiced their concerns that article six could lead to their lands or territories being exploited by companies or governments for carbon offsetting. It’s important Indigenous Peoples are fully consulted on these issues, as they often are the ones most impacted by these decisions.   

Q: COP28 marks the fourth time you’ve attended the summit. What progress do you see being made for Indigenous Peoples in climate discussions? What was your overall experience like? 

A: On progress, I think Indigenous people involved in negotiations at COP27 would point to the creation of the climate Loss and Damage Fund, which could benefit smaller nation states with Indigenous communities most affected by climate change. This year, they also announced a Gender-Responsive Just Transitions & Climate Actions Partnership with former United States secretary of state Hillary Clinton in attendance. However, these funds go to nation states that colonize Indigenous Peoples, who are demanding direct access to these funds, instead of those who continue to colonize us. 

I do think it’s one thing to come to COP as a business person or civil servant, but I think it’s a very different thing to come as an Indigenous person. There’s a whole other world taking place here among Indigenous attendees in terms of relationship building. There is an immense amount of Indigenous knowledge from around the world being shared with one another. I think it strengthens our sovereignty and our own Indigeneity to tell these stories to each other and acknowledge our shared experiences.  

Personally, the most hopeful thing I’ve felt at COP28 seems to be this growing solidarity among Indigenous Peoples. More and more Indigenous people are showing up as bold leaders in these spaces, sharing their knowledge and using their voices. It’s been an amazing experience for me and my research assistants to connect and listen to them. 

York advances innovative decarbonization initiative at Glendon 

Glendon outdoors people smiling

By Ashley Goodfellow Craig, editor, YFile

In service of its new target to achieve net zero a decade sooner, York University is exploring a transformative decarbonization solution for the Glendon Campus, along with new research and education opportunities. 

On Dec. 14, the University signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Noventa Energy Partners Inc. to investigate implementing its revolutionary Wastewater Energy Transfer System (WET) at Glendon. The WET technology uses city-owned underground sanitary lines as a heat source, creating thermal energy from wastewater – from sources such as showers, dishwashers and hot tubs. 

This cutting-edge technology could position Glendon as York’s first net-zero campus in advance of the University’s 2040 goal. A feasibility study for this project has been conducted, and the MOU signals the development of a detailed design report as a next step.

Brad Parkes
Brad Parkes

“To reduce the University’s emissions, the facilities department employs a framework to conserve and measure, decarbonize and innovate,” said Brad Parkes, associate vice-president of facilities services. “With sustainable infrastructure already in place to help us conserve and measure, Noventa’s solution enables the University to decarbonize and innovate, moving us closer towards our new target to achieve net zero a decade sooner. Transitioning Glendon to a low to no-carbon environment will lead the way for the rest of York’s campuses.”

This collaboration not only marks a significant leap in sustainable practices, but also brings substantial opportunities to the York University community. 

The innovative approach is projected to not only eliminate scope 1 carbon emissions but also deliver substantial cost savings for the University. Noventa’s solution would create operating cost savings compared to the University’s current fossil fuel system, bring more than $2.5 million in savings compared to the prospect of system electrification – a common solution to reduce emissions – and retire $19 million in deferred maintenance on the Glendon campus over the life cycle of the project

The project is also a springboard for research and academic exploration. The collaboration with Noventa opens doors for a unique Living Lab model, offering unparalleled research and learning opportunities for faculty and students across various disciplines. 

Faculty members from the Lassonde School of Engineering, the Faculty of Science, the Faculty of Health, the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change and the biology program at Glendon could have opportunity to engage in related research and experiential education. For example, ongoing studies in wastewater heat recovery at Lassonde align with this ambitious project.

Mike Layton
Mike Layton

“Sustainability solutions are prime for research, as we’re moving toward technology that leverages what already exists to reduce emissions in a way that is efficient and cost effective,” said Mike Layton, York’s chief sustainability officer. “Water running through heat pipes is essentially wasted energy. This initiative gives us the opportunity to harness that energy for something tangible, while creating opportunities for our students, faculty and researchers to play an active role in expanding our collective understanding of circular energy.” 

This groundbreaking initiative is an example of York University’s commitment to sustainability and to its leadership in driving tangible change. It was made possible by the diligent work of teams in the Department of Facilities Services, including Associate Vice-President Brad Parkes and Director of Utilities and Energy Management Steve Prince.

As the University continues to champion environmental responsibility, it positions itself, its faculty, staff and students as drivers of innovation. 

Work advancing electrical energy systems earns prof award

York University Associate Professor John Lam has earned recognition from an industry-leading organization for his work advancing the development of leading-edge power electronics technologies for renewable and reliable electrical energy systems.

Lam, from the Department of Electrical Engineering & Computer Science at the Lassonde School of Engineering, was honoured with a second-place prize paper award from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Industry Applications Society.

“IEEE journals are top ranked in electrical engineering, particularly in the field of power electronics and power engineering; any prized-journal paper award from IEEE is prestigious,” says Lam. “This award is only given to the top three papers from more than 150 submissions, so I am very happy to receive this recognition.”

John Lam
John Lam

Lam’s awarded paper, titled “Fault-Tolerant Operation of a Multi-Mode Stacked Switch Rectifier Leg through Built-In Circuit Redundancy,” was developed alongside his former PhD student who is now working in the power electronics industry, Reza Emamalipour, and published in the IEEE Transactions on Industry Applications journal.

The paper proposes a method that can improve the resilience and reliability of power electronic converter circuits and, therefore, entire electrical energy systems.

Many electrical energy systems ranging from household devices to industrial equipment require abundant power supply to function. While starting an electric device may seem as simple as flipping a switch, the electrical energy supporting these systems must first be converted to a usable form of power through processes governed by the field of power electronics.

“Many existing electrical circuits don’t have fault-tolerant operation; if one component fails, you have to replace the entire device,” says Lam.

To solve this issue, Lam and Emamalipour tested and developed a multi-mode power electronic circuit with a control scheme that allows electrical circuits to continue adequate function amidst circuit failings. By incorporating built-in circuit redundancy, their proposed system demonstrated the ability to switch between different operating modes, allowing for continuous power supply at high power efficiency without interruption from any cases of circuit failure.

This work has a wide range of pragmatic applications, boasting the potential to improve the longevity and reliability of power electronic circuits that support technologies ranging from electric vehicles to household electronics. Improving the lifetime of electric circuits can also help reduce the need for costly and burdensome system repairs and replacements.

“I am always pleased to see my students’ research receiving recognition and I want to give a lot of credit to my student who was involved in this work,” says Lam. “He helped execute the research very well, even with circuit debugging, different hardware challenges and testing. This project took a lot of work.”

Lam will continue to advance the field of power electronics through ongoing and future projects with the ultimate goal of improving the efficiency, reliability and cost-effectiveness of electrical energy systems.

A guide to navigating the holidays sustainably

assortment of wrapped gifts banner

The holiday season, with traditions rooted in gift giving and big meals, can be a challenge for those looking to consume responsibly, keeping sustainability in mind. Associate Professor Nicole Mead, an expert in consumer behaviour, shares a few tips on how to navigate the season sustainably.

Mead, who is also an expert in sustainable consumption, offers these suggestions for finding ways to shop – whether for gifts or food – with sustainability in mind throughout the holidays.

Research who and where you are buying from

Nicole Mead
Nicole Mead

As sustainable consumption has grown as a priority across the world, resources have become available to provide transparency about which companies are prioritizing sustainability, too.

“Even five years ago, it was hard to know what the provenance was of what you were purchasing,” says Mead. “There’s increasingly consumer-friendly ways to identifying companies that are more sustainable than others.”

Going into holiday season, she encourages searching Google and scanning company-provided QR codes linking to sustainability transparency, among other options, to better understand the sustainability practices of companies you want to buy from. She also points to resources that have done some of the work already.

“There’s a lot of other companies that are doing independent work to make the supply chain a lot more transparent to consumers,” says Mead. For example, she points to B Corp, a non-profit organization that provides businesses with a certification indicating high sustainability standards, as one of many resources now widely available to be help make informed sustainable consumption decisions this holiday.

Consider buying better quality

Inflation has proven a financial challenge for many this year, with hard-earned dollars not going as far as they used to. When considering gifts, that can lead to consider more frugal options. “As we feel the pressure on our bank accounts, there’s perhaps a tendency sometimes to buy cheaper things,” says Mead. She suggests reconsidering.  

“In terms of sustainability, there’s really good evidence that buying higher price or better quality goods is really important for the environment,” she says. “Maybe up front there is a higher ticket price, but you’ll probably save time and money down the road, because what you buy will actually last longer.”

Shop locally

“If you’re going to be planning a holiday gathering – if you’re going to be cooking food – consider local markets, where farmers are selling their products,” says Mead. Beyond the benefits of supporting one’s local community, shopping locally supports sustainability since the shipping and transportation of goods can be a huge source of carbon emissions. Buying locally – not just food, but even handmade goods as gifts – helps people consume more sustainably during the holidays.

Explore alternative modes of giving

There are more ways to shop than through big-name online or box-store retailers. Sustainability options exist that go beyond material goods. Experiences – which can include museum memberships, donations, group outings and more – can be gifted, which consume fewer resources, making them an option that is not only better for the planet but can be good for the soul. “There’s research that suggests that experiences can be actually better for your happiness. You’re going to enjoy them more over time, in part because they can help us connect to other people,” says Mead.

Another means of giving that can minimize resource consumption is repairing and regifting something loved ones already appreciate. “A lot of times we have things around the house that we love that need a little bit of extra attention or to be repaired. We just don’t really get around to actually doing it, but we really would like to use those things again,” says Mead. Someone fixing and regifting something can be a sustainable and appreciated mode of giving.  

By following these tips, it’s possible to join a movement that rights the future through increasingly easier and more rewarding ways of being sustainable. “It’s no longer this environment of ‘I need to sacrifice in order to be sustainable.’ Now it’s ‘I can be sustainable and really enjoy what I’m consuming.’ That’s the way forward for our world,” says Mead.

York experts contribute to action plan on education for a better future

tablet united nations sustainability goals unsdgs

York University’s UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability Charles Hopkins, along with Executive Coordinator to the UNESCO Chair Katrin Kohl, will be among 250 experts presenting concepts toward implementing education for sustainable development (ESD) at a global UNESCO meeting in Japan.

“Transforming education together: ESD-NET Global Meeting” takes place Dec. 18 to 20 and aims to highlight progress on ESD through new country-led initiatives, trends and innovations for the 2030 Agenda – an action plan to encompass the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Charles Hopkins and Katrin Kohl
Charles Hopkins, UNESCO Chair in Reorienting Education towards Sustainability at York University, and Katrin Kohl, executive coordinator to the UNESCO Chair.

The UNESCO Chair at York focuses on developing and strengthening global networks, as well as creating and fostering research that supports responsible and inclusive policymaking in reorienting education toward sustainability in the SDGs and beyond.

In light of the global climate crisis, humans must learn to live together sustainably and change the way they think and act as individuals and societies, says Kohl. “Education has an important role to play and, in turn, must change to create a peaceful and sustainable world for the survival and prosperity of current and future generations.”

ESD has been identified by the United Nations as an empowering concept to address growing sustainability challenges. The global meeting will serve as a forum to understand how educators can enable learners to develop the knowledge and awareness to act for a better future.

Experts from around to world will unlock ideas for concrete, transformative action and identify specific interventions that can be carried out by UNESCO´s member states, says Hopkins, who will contribute perspectives on higher education’s unique roles and how the whole-institution approach, or even a whole-community approach, can come to life. Canada aims to launch its own country initiative on ESD with a pan-Canadian working group in early 2024.

The session “Stepping up ESD agenda in Higher Education: A Call to Action” aims to discuss how to enable higher education institutions to inspire societal change through the lens of education, research and innovation, and how to embed core sustainability competencies within educational programs.

Kohl will co-moderate the “Europe-North America Regional Group Discussion” to create shared projects and research focusing on transformation, technology and governance as future priorities for ESD.

The meeting will take place as a hybrid event at the United Nations University Main Campus in Tokyo. Plenary sessions on the first day will be livestreamed. For more information, visit the UNESCO web page.

Student film exploring community-based sustainability screens at COP28

film camera

A documentary short created by York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi and supported by CIFAL York was competitively accepted to screen on Dec. 11 at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai, as part of COP28’s Canada Pavilion events program.

York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai
York University PhD student Peyman Naeemi at the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28) in Dubai.

In collaboration with CIFAL York and EnviroMuslims, A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability examines an innovative, community-based sustainability program that a group of volunteers at the Jaffari Community Center (JCC) in Vaughan, Ont., undertook during the holy month of Ramadan while hosting and feeding more than 2,000 individuals every night. The film shows how the community was able to significantly minimize food and plastic waste and take major steps towards contributing to sustainability goals at the community level.

“Screening at COP28 is an exciting and exceptional opportunity for me and the film to further spread its message,” says Naeemi, who is currently at the conference in Dubai to take part in events and promote his film. “Considering the focus on the role of culture in climate change action at COP28, this documentary brings an example of such contribution, as faith is rooted in our culture.”

A second-year PhD student in York’s Department of Humanities, Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies (LA&PS), Naeemi – who also puts his skills to use assisting CIFAL York’s multimedia unit – filmed, edited, directed and produced the film himself, with support from his PhD supervisory committee.

Using an interview style, Naeemi says the film seeks to highlight the following: the role of faith in initiating sustainable programs; the impact of family and community engagement in teaching sustainable practices; the role of Muslim women as sustainability leaders; and the advantages of using passionate youth to drive innovative sustainability practices.

“This documentary is very much in line with our focus area in developing learning materials around advancing UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs),” says Ali Asgary, director of CIFAL York, a professor of disaster and emergency management, and one of Naeemi’s PhD supervisors. “Screening this documentary at COP28 is very significant, as it highlights the importance and connections between the SDGs and the climate change.”

Adjunct Professor Mark Terry, another member of Naeemi’s supervisory committee, who helped produce the film through his Youth Climate Report project, calls A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability “a remarkable film.”

“I’m very proud of Peyman for making a film that Canada wanted to showcase at this year’s COP28 climate summit in Dubai,” he says.

At COP28, Naeemi looks forward to receiving expert feedback on the film and learning from peers about how to expand its reach on a global scale. Attending the conference, he hopes, will also enrich the theoretical part of his thesis, giving him exposure to the world’s leading experts on environmental action.

Regarding his future plans, Naeemi says A Faithful Commitment to Sustainability will screen at the JCC, at York and potentially other universities, and at film festivals like the Planet in Focus International Environmental Film Festival. It will then be available for public viewing online, on the CIFAL York and CIFAL Global websites. On the academic side, Naeemi plans to use the documentary as a case study in an upper-level undergraduate course, highlighting the role of digital media in environmental and social movements.