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.

How one professor is engaging community to shrink York’s carbon footprint

York Professor Burkard Eberlein, from the Schulich School of Business, set out to reduce the University’s carbon emissions in his 2021-23 Provostial Fellowship.

Burkard Eberlein
Burkard Eberlein

Through the program, Fellows have traditionally engaged the community to take action on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Challenge – a key commitment of the University Academic Plan.

Eberlein’s project, “Advancing Carbon Neutrality at York: Reimagining Mobility,” took aim at reducing emissions from commuting and travel to studying, research and carrying out University business activities.

In 2022, Eberlein surveyed York community members about their travel and commuting routines, and this year he released a video highlighting the University’s current carbon footprint with a call to action suggesting how community members can help reduce it.

Here’s a look at the inspiration behind his work.

Q: What was the thinking behind creating this video and what did you hope to achieve?
A: I was looking for engaging and fun ways to communicate my findings to the wider community. I wanted this to be something we could all relate to and that would work as a call to action.

I worked with Alexandre Magnin, a francophone illustrator, who produced this animated video (available in English and French). Alex has a YouTube channel called “Sustainability illustrated” and he does excellent videos on sustainability that I have used before in my teaching. I provided the script and Alex produced this fantastic work to engage the community in thinking about ways they can help York achieve its net zero before 2040 target.

Q: What are some concrete ways community members can make an impact?
A: First thing, just be more mindful of the choices that you make when it comes to commuting and travel. Many of us have habits and routines that we can examine more closely. For example, if you’re driving to campus regularly, are there ways you can set up a car pool with colleagues or classmates? This would be a small but meaningful, positive change.

Bike share station on York University's Keele campus
A bike share station on York University’s Keele Campus.

Below are some concrete steps that people can take, along with advocating to get more community members involved:

  • Taking the bus or the subway can reduce emissions by around six (bus) and 30 (subway) times compared to driving alone. 
  • Walking and biking generate virtually no emissions and York is investing in bike share programs
  • Driving an electric car typically generates a third of the emissions compared to fossil fuel vehicles. 
  • When driving a car, the more people in it the more efficient it becomes. 
  • Make your business travel count and consider whether you can deliver a presentation remotely or think about conference travel sustainably. 

Q: What is your biggest takeaway or lesson learned from this project?
A: Change is hard and it requires both passion and perseverance. Begin with small steps and make sure to involve all of your fellow community members and partners. By coming together, we can show what is possible to right the future.


Eberlein is co-chair of the Transportation Working Group that will develop proposals in this area (e.g. York business travel policy), in the context of York’s new sustainability framework. He is also looking forward to sharing his comprehensive slide deck and report on how York can reduce carbon emissions from commuting and business travel when it is officially released.

Learn more about Eberlein’s work as a curricular champion to support the UN SDGs and his work to engage students in reducing York’s carbon footprint. 

Watch the video here:

Student documentary explores climate migration, urban development crises

Dhaka, Bangladesh skyline

Members of the York University community are invited to attend a documentary screening of Climate Migration and the Urban Environment: Dhaka’s Story of Development and Disaster on Friday, Nov. 24 from 6 to 9 p.m. in 140 Health, Nursing and Environmental Studies Building on York’s Keele Campus.

Mara Mahmud
Mara Mahmud

To culminate the research for her master of environmental studies in York’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change, York student Mara Mahmud along with photographer and videographer Emily Bruno embarked on 30 days of fieldwork in Dhaka, Bangladesh. There, they filmed and conducted interviews with academics and development practitioners focused on answering the following research question: what does Bangladesh have to teach about modelling effective adaptation strategies to respond to the climate-induced migration and rapid urban development in the Global South?

The resulting investigative documentary explores the relationship between climate change and migration within urban development and planning practices in Bangladesh, a country experiencing severe consequences of anthropogenic climate change (climate change caused by human activity). The film tells stories about the complex field of resistance and resilience in Dhaka, and Bangladesh more generally, in response to the climate crisis.

Through the examination of ongoing efforts to resolve the urban development crises in Dhaka, the film identifies innovative approaches to the environmental challenges brought on by the effects of climate change. Though this film uses Dhaka as a case study, opportunity exists for application in countries that will be facing similar crises in the near future.

Join the community for an evening filled with curiosity, knowledge sharing and an inquiry into the capacity of human resilience in the wake of climatic disaster.

For more information and to register for the film screening, visit the Eventbrite page.

York Circle Lecture Series presents experts on topical subjects

York Circle Lecture series

In collaboration with Jennifer Steeves, the York Circle Chair and associate vice-president research, the Office of Alumni Engagement invites the community to York University’s Keele campus for a new instalment of the York Circle Lecture series.

Beginning Nov. 25 from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Life Sciences Building, prominent faculty members will delve into a diverse array of compelling subjects, reflecting the defining themes of York University.

The York Circle Lecture Series is held four times a year and is open to York’s community, including alumni and friends. Tickets are $5 and include coffee, light snacks and lunch.

Sessions will feature the guest speakers, and attendees will be asked to select one lecture from each session during registration.

10 a.m. sessions

Maxim Voronov
Maxim Voronov

Maxim Voronov, professor, organizational behaviour and industrial relations, Schulich School of Business, presenting “The good, the bad, and the ugly of authenticity.”

Authenticity seems ever-present in today’s society, and it has become an important research topic among organizational scholars. Much of the time, both scholars and practitioners see authenticity as unambiguously good. But we need to acknowledge the darker side of authenticity and explore its implications. The purpose of this talk is to explore “the good, the bad and the ugly” of authenticity, shifting the focus away from authenticity as an attribute of people and things and toward unpacking the process by which people and things are cast as authentic. A particular focus will be on unpacking the contribution of authenticity to both social good and social harm.

Emilie Roudier
Emilie Roudier

Emilie Roudier, assistant professor, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, presenting “Wildland fires: studying our blood vessels to better understand the impact on health.”

Over the past decade, the intensity and size of wildland fires have increased. Wildland fire seasons have lengthened, and these fires contribute to global air pollution. This presentation will highlight how wildland fire-related air pollution can impact our heart and blood vessels.

11:20 a.m. sessions

Usman Khan
Usman Khan

Usman Khan, associate professor and department Chair, Department of Civil Engineering, Lassonde School of Engineering, presenting “Harnessing the power of AI for flood forecasting.”

Floods are the most frequent weather-related natural disasters, affecting the largest number of people globally, with economic damages in excess of $900 billion (between 1994 and 2013). Globally, climate change and urbanization have led to an increase in floods in recent decades and this trend is projected to continue in the coming years, including in Canada. Despite this, Canada is the only G7 country without nationwide flood forecasting systems, which are key to saving lives and reducing the damages associated with floods. Hydroinformatics, the study of complex hydrological systems by combining water science, data science and computer science, attempts to improve traditional flood forecasting through the use of advanced techniques such as artificial intelligence (AI). This talk will outline recent research in this area and plans to build a Canada-wide, open-source, real-time, operational flood forecasting system that harnesses the power of AI to improves our ability to predict and prepare for floods.

Antony Chum
Antony Chum

Antony Chum, assistant professor, Canada Research Chair, School of Kinesiology & Health Science, Faculty of Health, presenting “The impact of recreational cannabis legalization on cannabis-related acute care in Ontario.”

This presentation will discuss the effects of cannabis legalization on cannabis-related acute care (emergency department visits and hospitalizations). The research conducted discovered specific impact patterns among different demographic groups. Additionally, the talk will delve into regional disparities and analyze the policy implications arising from the legalization process.

Since 2009, York Circle has showcased the ideas and research being generated by York University’s community. Topics come from every Faculty and have included discussions around gender issues, brain function, mental health, international aid, sports injuries, financial policy and many more evolving subjects.

Research day to highlight environmental studies PhD students

Panoramic photo a hand clasping miniature globe with view of arid mountain range behind in the distance

On Nov. 14, the PhD Environmental Studies Association (PhESSA), with the support of the Environmental Studies (ES) PhD Program and the Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC), is curating an in-person research day that will engage the exciting and provocative work of ES PhD students.

The event, titled “On Fire,” will take place in N120 of the Ross Building from 9 a.m to 4 p.m, with the aim to celebrate the work of ES PhD students working for social and environmental justice, while bringing them together with faculty members and larger communities of scholarship, activism and practice.

The event’s theme – “On Fire” – is drawn from how the day’s event will focus attention on the many fires involved in the students’ work: material, political, inspirational. As the event’s description explains: “On Fire because the world is burning, literally and politically. On Fire because inspirational people and movements are working for social and environmental justice.”

Following arrival and coffee, attendees will be welcomed to the days-worth of panels by Melvin Chan, a graduate teaching assistant representing PhESSA, and Philip Kelly, associate dean of EUC.

Each panel – all chaired by Phyllis Novack, director of Maloca Living Labs, and made up of three to four speakers – is organized by theme.

  • Panel I: Multispecies Research “On Fire”;
  • Panel II: No Extraction Between the Branches: Epistolary in the Ruins of Fossil Capitalism;
  • Panel III: Burning Political Questions; and
  • Panel IV: Setting Creative Fires.

At noon, a special keynote presentation will also be given by Camille Turner, an artist who recently completed her PhD in environmental studies at York, titled “UnMapping: An Afronautic Journey.”

Closing thoughts will be provided by Alice Hovorka, dean of EUC.

The event is open to all York community members. For further information contact Novak at phyllisnovak4@gmail.com.

Join dialogues on degrowth at upcoming webinar series

Aerial Of Colorful Autumn Rivers & Lakes Though Mountains In Northern Ontario Canada

Beginning Nov. 22, York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) will present “Aim high, degrow: dialogues on degrowth,” a series of six lunchtime webinars addressing the many sides of degrowth, which argues we cannot maintain infinite economic growth on a finite planet.

The series will introduce key degrowth concepts and some of the major issues, debates and possibilities emerging from the field. It will be held virtually and all are welcome to attend.

Degrowth is a growing global movement of activists and researchers that prioritizes social and ecological well-being ahead of corporate profits, over-production and excess consumption. This requires radical redistribution, reduction in the material size of the global economy and a shift in common values towards care, solidarity and autonomy for people and their communities.

The webinar series aims to provide a space for deeper dialogues on degrowth, involving scholars and audiences from within and outside the degrowth world to explore key debates and how they connect to other issues like urbanization, decolonization, technology and the role of the state. Each discussion will run for an hour and is programmed around lunch hours. Guest panellists come from around the world and the moderators will be drawn from EUC.

The first event of the series, “Degrowth: a slogan, a movement, or a concept?,” takes place Wednesday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m. It will provide an overview of the economic and ecological premises of degrowth and its main arguments. The speakers are York University Professor Emeritus Peter Victor and Elena Hofferberth, a researcher at the University of Lausanne in Switzerland.

The other webinars in the series are:

  • “Decolonization and feminism: does degrowth cut it?” on Thursday, Dec. 14 at 11:30 a.m.;
  • “Degrowth and the city: urbanization and planning for degrowth” on Wednesday, Jan. 31 at 11 a.m.;
  • “Degrowth and systems: back to the caves or back to the future?” on Monday, Feb. 12 at 11:30 a.m.;
  • “Degrowth and the State” on Friday, March 22 at 12:30 p.m.; and
  • “Transitioning to a degrowth future: naïve or revolutionary?” on Thursday, April 18 at 12:30 p.m.

For more information and to register, visit the webinar series website.

Researcher’s report considers farmers’ mental health

harvester in field

Zsofia Mendly-Zambo, a researcher and PhD candidate at the School of Health Policy & Management at York University, has released a report looking at a mental health crisis among Canadian farmers.

The report, titled “Field Notes: Looking upstream at the farmer mental health crisis in Canada” and commissioned by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the National Farmers Union, considers the source of high rates of stress, depression and anxiety experienced by farmers.

Zsofia Mendly-Zambo

The report identifies economic uncertainty as a primary factor behind the ongoing mental health crisis, as market fluctuations and farmland consolidation has made it more difficult for farmers to remain competitive. Similarly, the climate crisis – and its impact on their crops and work – continues to cause anxiety for farmers.

The report also provides six recommendations to address farmers’ mental health, including proposals to pursue policies to improve economic stability, exploring more support of sustainable farming practices and food systems, investing in rural infrastructure that can provide more mental health-care access, and community support, to name some.

Mendly-Zambo’s report builds upon ongoing interdisciplinary researchdrawing on health sciences, policy, agriculture and food systems – to explore health equity and farmer mental health, as well as food security and sovereignty. Furthermore, it reflects her drive to identify areas where policy can improve the ongoing crises, as “Field Notes” will form the foundation for future postdoctoral research seeking to help push policymakers to further prioritize the economic and social well-being of farmers instead of financial growth.

“The importance of mental health resources for farmers and the need to improve them cannot be understated,” Mendly-Zambo emphasizes in the conclusion of the report. “It is critical, however, that governments address structural factors to improve the living and working conditions of farmers.”

Libraries presents symposium as part of International Open Access Week

Scott Library Learning Commons on the Keele Campus

A unique symposium organized by York University Libraries (YUL) as part of International Open Access Week will bring together leaders in the fields of open educational resources (OER), archives and special collections.

Hilary Barlow
Hilary Barlow

York’s W.P. Scott Chair for Research in E-Librarianship, Hilary Barlow, will lead the online event on Thursday, Oct. 26 from 1 to 2:30 p.m. via Zoom. The event features two guest presenters – Danielle Manning, outreach officer at the Archives of Ontario, and Carrie Schwier, outreach and public services archivist at Indiana University – with a concluding presentation by Barlow on her current research. 

“This event brings together Archives, Special Collections and open education (OE) in a way that is rarely explored and under-documented,” says Barlow. “While much has been studied and written about making archives and special collections available online, connections to OE and OER are scant. This symposium bridges that connection.”

This year’s Open Access Week theme, “Community vs. Commercialization,” looks at advocating for unrestricted access to knowledge while prioritizing community needs over profit. Archives can play a key role in empowering communities by providing free and open access to a number of resources, which promotes inclusivity and can help democratize information. 

Archives and special collections in academic libraries are a valuable resource for faculty and students and often contain hidden gems such as university records, private papers, rare books, maps and other primary source material that support an array of academic fields.

By enabling these resources to be properly described and in some cases digitized, YUL, like other academic libraries, has been able to engage a broader audience in their use,” says Sarah Coysh, YUL’s associate dean, digital engagement and strategy. “YUL has been looking into how these resources can be accessed globally and has taken inspiration from the open education movement.”

“I began my research by asking if archives and special collections materials could be shared as open educational resources and wondering if anyone in the field was actually doing this,” says Barlow.

The OE movement, and OER specifically, contribute to advancing the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 4: Quality Education. By providing free, reusable and remixable digital resources, OE initiatives contribute to removing barriers to education, as they can be accessed by anyone with an internet connection.

GLAM institutions (galleries, libraries, archives and museums), and archives and special collections organizations in particular, also contribute to advancing SDG 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities, notably the sub-goal 11.4, to “strengthen efforts to protect and safeguard the world’s cultural and natural heritage.”

Manning will present her work with the Archives of Ontario (AO) and share how her team is building community through GLAM-Wiki. Manning will share case studies on AO’s Wikimedia Commons uploads and how it has impacted community engagement. A second presentation, by Schwier, will examine concrete examples of implementation from an active primary source instruction program that serves over 30 academic departments, ranging from art to science. 

“These presentations by Danielle Manning and Carrie Schwier show that there are practitioners in the field using innovative OE methods to make their collections more accessible online,” says Barlow.

Barlow will conclude the event with a presentation from her research, “Open Archives: The Intersection Between Open Education, Archives, and Special Collections.” This includes the results of 22 case study interviews with archivists and librarians on the subject of open education, and details of an upcoming larger survey. Earlier in her term as W.P. Scott Chair in E-Librarianship, Barlow worked with other members of YUL’s Open Education Steering Committee to survey York faculty on their familiarity with and use of OER

Register for the symposium here: yorku.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_u-o8pw54TzuW7L7QNMhcTw.

Experience urban ecosystem through new lens at Keele Campus

Bird perched on a human hand, eating seeds

The Bentway, a not-for-profit organization and public space nestled beneath Toronto’s Gardiner Expressway, recently donated an art installation called the Multispecies Lounge to York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC). ​

Multispecies Lounge public art donation from The Bentway
Photo by Andrea Marie Abello, digital and multimedia specialist, Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change

The art piece, which was on display at the Bentway from May to September of this year, is currently installed near EUC’s Native Plant Garden in front of the Health, Nursing & Environmental Studies (HNES) Building on York’s Keele Campus. It will serve as a site of experiential education and research opportunities related to urban ecology, human-animal relations and public art.

“I hope that Multispecies Lounge will become a site of learning, engagement and place-making for our EUC community,” said EUC Dean Alice J. Hovorka. “It extends our Native Plant Garden ‘living lab’ through artistic expression. And it welcomes all beings in our midst – human and non-human – as we shape a more just and sustainable future.”

The installation consists of specially designed furniture composed of locally upcycled materials for birds, insects and humans alike to enjoy. Created by two artists who are also architects and educators, Joyce Hwang and Nerea Feliz, known collectively as “Double Happiness,” the Multispecies Lounge invites interspecies encounters with urban wildlife. Based out of Buffalo, N.Y. and Austin, Texas respectively, the artists’ work seeks to make visible the under-acknowledged world of the non-human as active participants of urban life, by attracting and magnifying their presence in shared urban spaces.

Through UV-painted details, the Multispecies Lounge offers glimpses of how birds and insects see beyond the human eye and provides a new lens through which to experience the urban ecosystem. Community members are invited to sit back and relax against red cedar chairs and watch swallows nest and sparrows perch above, while small terrestrial beings relax below.

“The Multispecies Lounge offers a welcome opportunity, in the midst of our many comings and goings, to sit in and amongst the home-making of birds, insects and pollinators,” said Phyllis Novak, director of the EUC’s Native Plant Garden. “Quieting our minds and bodies to listen, to tune into our more-than-human relatives, the trees and the elements, is critical to our well-being.”

The art piece also includes a web component that will remain live. For more information about the Multispecies Lounge, visit Multispecies Lounge – The Bentway.

Join discussion on nuclear energy’s role in a net-zero future

Late afternoon scene with view on riverbank with nuclear reactor Doel, Port of Antwerp, Belgium

As part of the Globe and Mail‘s East-West Energy Series of events, Professor Mark Winfield of York University’s Faculty of Environmental & Urban Change (EUC) will present a talk titled “New Nuclear: Where does it fit in a net-zero nation?” on Friday, Oct. 20 from 1 to 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to all, and can be attended either virtually or in person at the Globe and Mail Centre at 351 King St. E. in Toronto.

Mark Winfield
Mark Winfield

As urgency around climate action continues to build, Canada and other nations are becoming more attuned to the role of nuclear energy in curbing emissions. The push is on to transition away from coal and fossil fuels, while at the same time meet rising demand for energy in the era of electrification. Provinces such as Ontario are investing in new nuclear development and interest is growing in small modular reactors for industry and to shift remote communities off diesel.

Join the Globe and Mail and Winfield for a discussion on nuclear energy in view of net-zero emissions goals, electrification and the shift away from fossil fuels.

Winfield is a professor and the co-chair of the EUC’s Sustainable Energy Initiative and co-ordinator of the Joint Master of Environmental Studies/Juris Doctor program offered in conjunction with Osgoode Hall Law School. He has published articles, book chapters and reports on a wide range of climate change, environment, and energy law and policy topics. Winfield has acted as an advisor to the environmental commissioner of Ontario and federal commissioner for environment and development. He is a member of the Conseil d’administration (board of directors) of Transitions energetique Quebec, a Crown corporation established in 2017 to implement a low-carbon energy transition strategy for Quebec.

For more information about the event series and to register, visit globeandmailevents.com/newnuclearlive/speaker. Event registration will close at 9 a.m. on Oct. 20.