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An overlooked era

Professor Robert Morrison’s The Regency Years is feted with prestigious book honours at home and abroad.

Queen’s University Professor Robert Morrison’s latest book The Regency Years was recently named to the RBC Taylor Prize Longlist and was picked by The Economist as a Book of the Year. The Gazette contacted Dr. Morrison to talk about the book and what the future holds.

Q: Tell us a bit about this book and what inspired you to write it.

A: This book is about a period in British history known as the Regency. It began in 1811 when the king, George III, went permanently insane, and his debauched son, George, Prince of Wales, became the sovereign de facto, or Prince Regent. It ended in 1820 when George III died, and the Prince Regent became George IV. There were many reasons why I wanted to write the book. But I think the biggest one was that I wanted to show why literature and the arts matter, and how what happened then still shapes what happens now. The book concerns novelists like Jane Austen and Mary Shelley, poets like Lord Byron and John Keats, military men like the Duke of Wellington, painters like J. M. W. Turner and John Constable, and scientists like Michael Faraday and Sir Humphry Davy. Their achievements defined the Regency, but they also shape the world we live in now.

Q: The regency years are often called the overlooked era. Why do you think a book about this era is resonating so much today?

A: I’m not sure. I would like to think it is because I try in the book to take a fresh and much more wide-ranging approach to the Regency. On one level, I explore the elegance and poise that we typically associate with the period, in the architecture of John Nash, the portraits of Thomas Lawrence and Henry Raeburn, and the novels of Austen. But on another level, I try to bring into view people who have been left out of previous accounts of the period, including the Indigenous leader Tecumseh, the arctic explorer John Franklin, the prison reformer Elizabeth Fry, the comedian Dorothy Jordan, and the diarist Anne Lister, who wrote at length of her experiences of same-sex love.

Q: Your book has been named to the RBC Taylor Prize Longlist and picked by The Economist as a Book of the Year. Are you surprised by the accolades and media attention it has received?

A: Very surprised. I just sit in my library and work as hard as I can at reading and thinking and writing. But then it all goes out into the world and different readers react in different ways. Having it recognized by The Economist and the RBC Taylor jury is a big thrill.

Did you know that the university recently launched a new central website for Queen’s research? From in-depth features to the latest information on the university’s researchers, the site is a destination showcasing the impact of Queen’s research. Discover Research at Queen’s.

Q: Talk about some of your other research interests. How do they intersect with the Regency years?

A: Many of the people I have studied and taught for the past 20 years were active during the Regency, and writing the book was a way of bringing highly diverse interests together. For example, Jane Austen published Pride and Prejudice, her most famous novel, in 1813. That same year, after nearly a decade of experimentation, Thomas De Quincey became addicted to opium. 1813 was also the year that Robert Owen published his New View of Society, the Duke of Wellington won the battle of Vitoria, Turner and Constable dined together at the Royal Academy, Lady Hester Stanhope became the first European woman to reach Palmyra in Syria, and so on. The book seeks to highlight events such as these, but also – and I think more interestingly – to try and bring them into collision.

Q: Regarding your writing, what can we expect next?

A: Right now I’m working on the Oxford Handbook of Romantic Prose, which brings together 52 different scholars, each of whom is contributing a chapter on a specific topic in early 19th-century British prose, ranging from Africa and Antiquarianism through Magazines and Metropolitanism to War and Welsh regionalism. I’m also editing the Collected Letters of Thomas De Quincey, and writing a book on the literature of addiction, beginning with De Quincey and moving up to Carlyn Zwarenstein, a Toronto writer who recently published a fascinating book called The New Confessions in which she engages very consciously with De Quincey’s many accounts of his opium addiction.

Will Kymlicka receives SSHRC Gold Medal

Queen’s professor and researcher is awarded one of the highest honours for the social sciences in Canada.

Will Kymlicka receives Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Gold Medal
Queen's University researcher and professor Will Kymlicka receives Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Gold Medal from Ted Hewitt, President of SSHRC, left, and Charles Taylor, Canadian philosopher and professor emeritus, McGill University. (Supplied Photo)

Queen’s University professor and researcher Will Kymlicka recently received the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Gold Medal.

The award, one of the highest honours for the social sciences in Canada, is given to an individual whose sustained leadership and dedication have inspired students and colleagues alike. Dr Kymlicka was recognized for his groundbreaking work on the link between democracy and diversity which has advanced knowledge on models of citizenship and social justice within multicultural societies.

In October, when the award was first announced, Dr. Kymlicka, Canada Research Chair in Political Philosophy at Queen's, sat down and spoke about the importance of this latest honour and about his ongoing research.

Q: In a nutshell, tell me about your research on multiculturalism and minority rights? How are we viewing these issues differently as a result of your work?

A: Like other Western democracies, Canada is a “liberal democracy,” which means that we put a strong focus on the rights of individual citizens. The Canadian constitution also recognizes some group rights, but these have often been seen as anomalous, and perhaps even dangerous to liberal values. My work has tried to understand how we can make room in liberal philosophy for the rights of groups, and in particular the rights of minorities because they are the ones that need certain kinds of protections. 

When I started my work in the mid-1980s this topic was surprisingly neglected: there was barely any discussion in the literature about how a liberal democracy can recognize group rights. Today, there is a now a flourishing debate, in Canada and internationally, about what is sometimes called “liberal multiculturalism”.

The SSHRC Impact Award winners, including Queen’s University’s  Will Kymlicka are congratulated by Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Industry. (Supplied Photo)

I think this is a particularly important issue for Canada. Indeed, the very survival and success of Canada has depended on recognizing some group rights – for the Québécois, for Indigenous peoples, and for immigrant-origin ethnic groups. I have always thought of Canada as a kind of evolving experiment in how a liberal democracy can deal with issues of group rights, and I’ve tried to identify some of the important lessons we’ve learned over the years.

Q: In your career you’ve received more than 25 honours, fellowships and prizes. You’ve been called one of the world’s most influential philosophers. What does this award from SSHRC mean to you?

A:  It’s a special award, for several reasons. For one thing, it’s a Canadian award, and that means a lot to me. I’ve always wanted the work I do to be useful to my fellow Canadians, to help us better understand our collective experience and our future possibilities. I’d like to think that this award is a reflection of that.

Secondly, this award is interdisciplinary. This also matters a great deal to me. I want to do the kind of philosophy that is intelligible and useful to people in other disciplines as well, whether in political science, law, sociology or the humanities. I think philosophy has a lot to contribute to wider fields of research, but figuring out how to articulate philosophical ideas in a way that is both rigorous and accessible is a challenge. And here too I’d like to think the award is a sign that I’ve reached out beyond narrow disciplinary boundaries.

Q: Tell me about your early career. What started you on this path? What inspired you to look into these research areas?

A: Yes there was a very specific inspiration. I had planned to work on other issues in my graduate work at Oxford, but in 1985 I went to a talk given by Charles Taylor, the great Canadian philosopher (and, as it happens, the first winner of the SSHRC Gold Medal!). Taylor said that Canada’s existence depends on the recognition of group rights, but he also argued that there was no way to reconcile the recognition of group rights with the kind of liberal political philosophy that was dominant in the field. So he basically said we need to choose: do we endorse group rights or do we endorse liberal political philosophy? We can’t have both.

I thought that this was a powerful challenge, and I was taken aback that all the philosophers on the panel essentially agreed with him. Even the liberals on the panel agreed that there is no room for group rights in liberal theory. This didn’t make sense to me. After all, if we think about Canadian society over the past 50 years, it has become much more liberal, yet has also strengthened the protection of group rights, and in my naïve view, the recognition of group rights was part and parcel of this broader liberalization. So I didn’t see the inherent conflict or contradiction. So then and there, I changed my intended research topic, and took up the challenge of exploring how group rights fit into liberal theory.

Q: Your work has been translated into several languages and read around the world. What do you think your research legacy will be?

A: My work is part of a much broader debate about how we understand the liberal-democratic tradition. The liberalization and democratization of society has brought enormous benefits, I believe, but the liberal tradition of philosophy has often been narrowly individualistic. (Taylor calls it “atomistic”). I’m one of several people that are trying to develop a more “social” conception of liberalism, one that highlights how liberal values fit into complex and diverse social realities.

Q: Do you have any advice for young researchers and academics starting their own journey? Do you have any insights that could start them on the path to success?

A: I typically give my graduate students two pieces of advice. The first is to work on issues you care passionately about. Academia can be draining and frustrating, and you need to have a real commitment to an issue in order to get up every day and do the work.

The other piece of advice, particularly for young political philosophers, is that we need to get outside of disciplinary silos. If our work is to be useful, we need to be in conversation with other disciplines. In my work, I’ve drawn extensively on law, political science, history and social psychology. When political philosophers just talk to each other, the conversations quickly become arcane and disconnected from the real-world issues that require philosophical analysis. So that requires intellectual curiosity and open-mindedness.

Q: You have recently moved into a new area of research, on animal rights. Can you say a bit about that?

A: For the past 10 years or so, together with my partner Sue Donaldson, I’ve been working on how to bring “the animal question” into political philosophy. The lives of animals are often minutely governed by humans, but political philosophers have rarely discussed how we distinguish legitimate from illegitimate forms of governing animals, or how we can include animals in our conceptions of democracy or representation or citizenship. Animals are part of the “diverse social realities” I mentioned earlier, but they are invisible in political philosophy. So Sue and I are working to encourage research on how we relate to and govern the lives of animals in our society, including establishing an animal politics research group here at Queen’s. I think this will be a central issue for the future of political philosophy, and indeed for the fate of the world as a whole.

For more information visit the SSHRC website.

A star among the stars

Queen’s University Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald is the special guest at the next Observatory Open House.

[Queen's Observatory]
The Queen's Observatory is hosting its next monthly open house on Saturday, Dec. 14, with special guest speaker Queen’s Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald. 

The Queen’s Observatory is offering the public a unique opportunity to hear from someone who has helped push the boundaries of our understanding of how the universe works. Queen’s Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald will be on hand at this month’s observatory open house to share the story of how he travelled deep underground to study the sun.

Observatory coordinator Connor Stone says Dr. McDonald will also speak about the exciting research that is now flowing from his Nobel Prize-winning work.

“Seeing a Nobel Laureate speak is a rare opportunity to share in their wonder as they explain some amazing research,” says Stone, who was nominated by Dr. McDonald earlier this year to attend the Lindau Nobel Laureate Meeting. “Dr. McDonald’s research is especially interesting as it comes from a Canadian collaboration and has opened the door to new questions in physics that we are still trying to answer to this day.”

Joining Queen’s in 1989 as a professor in the physics department, Dr. McDonald worked as the director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), the world’s deepest underground laboratory. The SNO team discovered that neutrinos – sub-atomic particles considered one of the basic building blocks of the universe – change from one type to another on their journey to Earth from the sun.

Dr. McDonald is the co-winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics for his research into neutrinos, one of the fundamental particles that make up the universe. He was also recently named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

After the presentation by the Nobel Laureate, guests will have an opportunity to look through various telescopes and participate in physics experiments.

“The Queen's Observatory monthly events provide a wonderful opportunity for the public to look at the heavens through an actual telescope on campus and learn about astronomy,” says Dr. McDonald. “I will be talking about how we use unusual particles called neutrinos with a detector two kilometres underground at SNOLAB near Sudbury to study the sun in unique ways. It is part of the new wave of measurements called multi-messenger astronomy and it will be a pleasure to share our work with the public at this event.”

The event is scheduled to start at 7:30 pm on Saturday, Dec. 14 at the Biosciences Complex, 116 Barrie St.

For information visit the website or the Facebook page.

Digital economy’s environmental footprint is threatening the planet

Circuit board
The world’s data centres produce about the same amount of carbon dioxide as global air travel. (Photo by Malachi Brooks / Unsplash)

Modern society has given significant attention to the promises of the digital economy over the past decade. But it has given little attention to its negative environmental footprint.

Our smartphones rely on rare earth metals, and cloud computing, data centres, artificial intelligence and cryptocurrencies consume large amounts of electricity, often sourced from coal-fired power plants.

These are crucial blind spots we must address if we hope to capture the full potential of the digital economy. Without urgent system-wide actions, the digital economy and green economy will be incompatible with each other and could lead to more greenhouse gas emissions, accelerate climate change and pose great threats to humanity.

The digital economy lacks a universal definition, but it entails the economic activities that result from billions of everyday online connections among people, businesses, devices, data and processes, from online banking to car sharing to social media.

It’s often referred to as the knowledge economy, information society or the internet economy. It relies on data as its fuel and it is already benefiting society in many ways, such as with medical diagnoses.

Coal is still king for the internet

Rare earth elements form the backbone of our modern digital technologies, from tablets and smartphones to televisions and electric cars.

Preliminary data (p) on the global production of rare earth elements, 1988-2018.  (Natural Resources Canada, 2019)

China is the world’s largest producer of rare earth minerals, accounting for close to 70 per cent of global annual production. The large-scale production of rare earth elements in China has raised grave concerns about the release of heavy metals and radioactive materials into water bodies, soil and air near mine sites.

Research on the life-cycle assessments of rare earth minerals has found the production of these metals is far from environmentally sustainable, consuming large amounts of energy and generating radioactive emissions.

It’s sometimes said that the cloud (and the digital universe) begins with coal because digital traffic requires a vast and distributed physical infrastructure that consumes electricity.

Coal is one of the world’s largest sources of electricity and a key contributor to climate change. China and the United States are the top producers of coal.

Energy hogs

The world’s data centres — the storehouses for enormous quantities of information — consume about three per cent of the global electricity supply (more than the entire United Kingdom), and produce two per cent of global greenhouse gas emissions — roughly the same as global air travel.

A report by Greenpeace East Asia and the North China Electric Power University found that China’s data centres produced 99 million tonnes of carbon dioxide in 2018, the equivalent of about 21 million cars driven for one year.

Satellite image of the Bayan Obo mine in China, taken on June 30, 2006. Vegetation appears in red, grassland is light brown, rocks are black and the water surfaces are green. (NASA Earth Observatory)

Greenhouse gases aren’t the only type of pollution to be concerned about. Electronic waste (e-waste), which is a byproduct of data centre activities, accounts for two per cent of solid waste and 70 per cent of toxic waste in the United States.

Globally, the world produces as much as 50 million tonnes of electronic e-waste a year, worth over US$62.5 billion and more than the GDP of most countries. Only 20 per cent of this e-waste is recycled.

When it comes to AI, recent research found that training a large AI model — feeding large amounts of data into the computer system and asking for predictions — can emit more than 284 tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent — nearly five times the lifetime emissions of the average American car. The results of this work show that there is a growing problem with AI’s digital footprint.

Another area of concern is Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies, which rely on blockchain, a digital ledger with no central authority that continually records transactions among multiple computers. The amount of energy required to produce one dollar’s worth of Bitcoin is more than twice that required to mine the same value of copper, gold or platinum. A 2014 study found Bitcoin consumed as much energy as Ireland.

Blockchain technologies such as Bitcoin are energy inefficient and unless their potential applications are developed sustainably they will pose a serious threat to the environment.

Thinking differently

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

The digital economy is accelerating faster than the actions being taken in the green economy movement to counter negative environmental impacts. To move forward fast, we must first start thinking differently.

The world and its intractable challenges are not linear — everything connects to everything else. We must raise awareness about these major blind spots, embrace systems leadership (leading across boundaries), boost circular economy ideas (decoupling economic activity from the consumption of finite resources), leverage an eco-economics approach (an environmentally sustainable economy) and encourage policy-makers to explore the interrelationships between government-wide, system-wide and societal results.

We must also consider collective problem-solving by bringing together diverse perspectives from both the Global North and the Global South. We should take an inventory of the global and local damages caused by electronic devices, platforms and data systems, and frame issues about the digital economy and its environmental impact in broad societal terms.

Perhaps, the way to move the current discussion forward is to ask: What needs to be done to set the world on a sustainable human trajectory?

We must not only ask what the digital economy can do for us, but what we can collectively do for both the digital economy and the environment.


Raynold Wonder Alorse is a PhD Candidate in International Relations (International Political Economy of Mining) at Queen's University.

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This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Wildlife exposed to more pollution than previously thought

Scientists have a new approach to understanding how pollution threatens species-at-risk in Canada.

Air, water, land and wildlife are tainted with thousands of chemicals that we cannot see, smell or touch — and may not be considered a threat to wildlife. (Photo by Andrew Ridley / Unsplash)

Sometimes, pollution is blatantly obvious: the iridescent slick of an oil spill, goopy algae washing up on a beach or black smoke belching from a smokestack. But, more often than not, pollution is more inconspicuous.

Our air, water, land and wildlife are tainted with thousands of chemicals that we cannot see, smell or touch. It may not come as a surprise then, that this unnoticed pollution isn’t considered the important threat to wildlife that it should be.

The planet has entered the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals, according to scientists, and Canada is not immune. More than half of Canada’s grassland birds and aerial insectivores have been lost in only 50 years, and between 1970 and 2014, the more than 500 mammal populations monitored in Canada shrank by an average of 43 per cent.

But the assessments that evaluate species to determine those that are at risk of extinction are underestimating the importance of pollution. The good news is that my colleagues and I think we have come up with a potential solution to this problem.

So many chemicals, so much pollution

The prothonotary warbler was one of the species that had a highly polluted habitat. (Judy Gallagher/flickr), CC BY

Globally, tens of thousands of chemicals exist in commerce today. The global chemical industry exceeded US$5 trillion in 2017, and is projected to double by 2030. These chemicals are used in all facets of our daily lives, from pharmaceuticals and fertilizers to pesticides and flame retardants.

Here in Canada, about five million tonnes of pollutants are produced each year by more than 7,000 industrial facilities. More than 150 billion litres of sewage is discharged yearly into Canadian waters.

Close to 700 pipeline spills over the past decade have led to the release of natural gas, crude oil and other substances into the air, soil and water. More than 23,000 federal contaminated sites — such as abandoned mines, airports, and military bases — are known or suspected to be contaminated with petroleum hydrocarbons, heavy metals and other pollutants.

In a nutshell: The current process

Expert opinion is an essential and invaluable part of the assessment process to list wildlife species at risk for extinction in Canada.

The Conversation is seeking new academic contributors. Researchers wishing to write articles should contact Melinda Knox, Associate Director, Research Profile and Initiatives, at knoxm@queensu.ca.

This process relies on scientists to estimate the proportion of a species’ population that may potentially be affected by a pollution source — this is called scope. A small team of scientists with expertise on the species considers scope along with the potential severity of the impact to determine the threat from pollution, along with 10 other potential threats.

However, the breadth of expertise of the team assessing a particular species may not necessarily cover all categories of threats, and based on our experience, ecotoxicologists — the scientists who study the fate and effects of environmental contaminants — are often underrepresented on these committees.

My colleagues and I suspected the committees might be underestimating pollution as a threat to species, and so we set out to find out if this was the case — or not.

What did we do and what did we find out?

We began by mapping all the point sources of pollution in Canada we could find from existing, publicly accessible databases. This included household sewage and urban waste water, industrial and military effluents, agricultural and forestry effluents, among others. We used the same pollution categories as COSEWIC, but we compiled a large database of geospatial information on all known pollution sources.

The phantom orchid is endemic to the Pacific Northwest. There are eight known populations in Canada.(Wikimedia/sramey)CC BY-SA

Next, we secured information on locations of almost 500 terrestrial and freshwater species — including everything from mosses and lichens to birds and mammals — from NatureServe, a non-profit organization that compiles data on species occurrence across North America.

We put these two sources of information — that is, pollution sources and species occurrence — together onto one map, so we could calculate the percentage of the species’ habitat that was covered by pollution. Then, we compared our calculations to those determined by expert opinion in the COSEWIC process.

We found two important things.

First, we found that, on average, more than half of every species’ habitat is polluted in some way. The species that had pollution in most, if not all, of the places they live include the prothonotary warbler, gypsy cuckoo bumblebee, copper redhorse fish, a freshwater mussel called the round hickorynut and several perennial plants, including the American columbo, green dragon and phantom orchid.

Second, we found a very weak relationship between the scope of pollution for a species that we calculated and the scope of pollution scored by expert opinion in the COSEWIC process.

In other words, scientists scoring threats were not particularly good at identifying sources of pollution that may be having negative effects on the species at risk they are trying to protect. Scientists sometimes identified exposure to pollution as negligible even for species whose entire ranges overlapped with pollution sources. This was especially true for vascular plants and terrestrial mammals.

We haven’t yet assessed whether the type of pollution found within the species’ habitat was a known threat to that species. But that is a logical next step for future research.

The path forward

Our work represents a major first step toward a more objective and rigorous assessment of the role of pollution in the decline of species-at-risk in Canada — one that we hope will be adopted.

More broadly, it points to the need for a more holistic approach to protecting wildlife species and their habitats.

The Trudeau government has pledged to prevent wildlife species from becoming extinct by securing the necessary actions for their recovery, under its 2020 Biodiversity Goals and Targets for Canada. Yet the high prevalence of pollution we found in the homes of many wildlife species in Canada is a reminder that the government must take a much more proactive approach to the regulation of chemicals in the environment if we are to truly protect Canada’s biodiversity.


Diane Orihel is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Biology and the School of Environmental Studies, and the Queen’s National Scholar in Aquatic Ecotoxicology.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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Nobel Laureate earns international honour

Queen’s Professor Emeritus Arthur McDonald named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

Queen’s University Professor Emeritus and Nobel Laureate Arthur McDonald has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He joins only 15 other Queen’s academics, starting with Alfred Lothrop in 1915, who have earned this honour since the Association was formed in 1848.

Arthur McDonald has been named a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. (Photo by Bernard Clark / University Communications)

The world’s largest multidisciplinary scientific society, the AAAS has members in more than 91 countries around the globe. This year 443 members have been awarded this honor by AAAS because of their scientifically or socially distinguished efforts to advance science or its applications.

Dr. McDonald is being honoured “For leading the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory scientific collaboration in the discovery of neutrino oscillations” and his role in establishing the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), now SNOLAB, located in Vale’s Creighton Mine near Sudbury.

“It is indeed an honour to receive this award for our scientific work from this respected organization,” Dr. McDonald says. “I hope that our success will inspire future scientists in understanding our world at a very fundamental level.”  

Joining Queen’s in 1989 as a professor in the physics department, Dr. McDonald worked as the director of the Sudbury Neutrino Observatory (SNO), the world’s deepest underground laboratory. The SNO team discovered that neutrinos – sub-atomic particles considered the basic building blocks of the universe – change from one type to another on their journey to Earth from the sun. This finding confirmed that these fundamental particles have a finite mass and that the current models for energy generation in the sun are very accurate.

For his research efforts, Dr. McDonald was named the co-winner of the 2015 Nobel Prize in physics for SNO’s research into neutrinos, one of the fundamental particles that make up the universe.  In 2016, he and the SNO Collaboration members were awarded the Breakthrough Prize in Fundamental Physics, an award that recognizes profound contributions to human knowledge.

After being awarded $63.7 million through the Canada First Research Excellence Fund, Queen’s University unveiled the new Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute in May 2018. The institute is a partnership of eight universities and five affiliated research organizations headquartered at Queen’s. In total, 100 people, including faculty, staff, and students across the country are members of the institute, all working to advance its research and outreach goals, carrying on the legacy of Dr. McDonald.

Nobel Journey
Interested in discovering more about Arthur B. McDonald’s path to the Nobel? Take the journey into the world of astroparticle physics by visiting Research @ Queen’s.

“Dr. McDonald has created a lasting legacy at Queen’s and inspired a generation of young scientists,” says Principal and Vice-Chancellor Patrick Deane. “He has also contributed significantly to our knowledge of the world around us and opened up exciting new possibilities in the study of astrophysics.”

New Fellows will be presented and an official certificate and a gold and blue rosette pin on Saturday, Feb. 15 during the AAAS annual meeting in Seattle. AAAS is the publisher of the high-impact journal, Science, established in 1848.

For more information about the AAAS Fellows, visit the website.

John Smol appointed president of the Academy of Science, Royal Society of Canada

Queen’s professor and Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change John Smol (Biology) assumed the role of president of the Academy of Science, Royal Society of Canada, for a three-year term, on Sunday, Nov. 24. 

Dr. Smol was elected in 2018 (and has since been serving as president-elect) on a platform focused on concerns of a developing crisis in science literacy and communication and, by extension, how science is used to formulate evidence-based policy.

In his inaugural speech to the Academy on Saturday, he said: “It is easy not to engage… (but) I strongly believe this is our fight … If the RSC is not ready to lead the way, then who is?” 

Since 1882, the Royal Society of Canada, as the country’s national academy, has had a mission to serve Canada and Canadians, in part, by mobilizing Canada’s leading intellectuals in open discussion and debate, advancing knowledge, and addressing issues critical to Canadians. Queen’s has long been engaged with the RSC, and currently has 91 affiliated Fellows and Members of the College of New Scholars.

For more information on the Royal Society of Canada, please visit the website.

Showcasing stories of research and discovery

IGnite series logo

The successful IGnite series continues in its second year at Queen’s. Featuring topics from climate change to gender diversity, the events highlight the breadth of research happening at Queen’s to a public audience.

The series is a collaboration between the Arthur B. McDonald Canadian Astroparticle Physics Research Institute and Queen’s University Relations portfolio. Each event features two researchers from different fields discussing their projects and what ignites their curiosity, while also including interactive demonstrations and poster presentations from students and additional researchers.

The next installment of IGnite will take place on Wednesday, Nov. 27 at the Kingston Frontenac Public Library’s Central Branch, and will feature Queen’s researchers Lindsay Morcom and Aaron Vincent.

Dr. Lindsay Morcom (Education) holds the Canada Research Chair in Language Revitalization and Decolonizing Education and will present “Niinwi-Giinwaa-Giinwi: Moving from We and You to Us” which focuses on ally-building in teacher education. Dr. Aaron Vincent (Physics, Engineering Physics & Astronomy) will ask “What is the flavour of a cosmic neutrino?” and take the audience on a journey to understand some of the most energetic particles ever seen in the universe.

At this event, attendees will also hear from two students working in the same areas as Dr. Morcom and Dr. Vincent. The talks will be followed by a reception featuring demonstrations from Queen’s Hyperloop Design Team, Global Physics Photowalk exhibit, Queen’s Art of Research photo exhibit, Queen’s Observatory, the Kingston club of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, and dark matter projects affiliated with the McDonald Institute such as NEWS-G and the particle cloud chamber.

Doors open at the Central Branch (130 Johnson St.) at 6 pm with the reception ending at 9 pm.

Registration is free on Eventbrite.

For more information on the series, visit the McDonald Institute’s website

Highlighting interdisciplinary graduate research

[Keynote Speaker, Dr. Matt Hipsey presenting to Beaty Water Research Centre students and faculty]
[Keynote Speaker, Dr. Matt Hipsey of University of Western Australia, presents to Beaty Water Research Centre students and faculty. (Supplied photo)

The Beaty Water Research Centre recently hosted its second annual Research Symposium which provided students the opportunity to highlight their interdisciplinary graduate research and to build research collaborations.

This year’s event was attended by more than 100 participants and showcased 27 student research posters and four oral student research presentations from a variety of disciplines. The keynote speaker was Matt Hipsey, a professor from the University of Western Australia, who provided an international perspective to water research and innovation.

The Beaty Water Research Centre is an interdisciplinary research, education and outreach centre focused on water quality, access, sustainability, resources and governance. Researchers include faculty members from a variety of disciplines in the Faculty of Engineering and Applied Science, Faculty of Arts and Science, and Faculty of Health Sciences at Queen’s and the Royal Military College of Canada (RMC).

Creating LEADERS

Earlier in the year, the centre hosted the first LEaders in wAter anD watERshed Sustainability (LEADERS) Symposium. The LEADERS program is led by Stephen Brown, professor in the departments of Chemistry and Environmental Studies at Queen’s. The program is funded – $1.65 million over six years – through the NSERC Collaborative Research and Training Experience (CREATE) and was launched in 2018.

The first cohort of highly-qualified personnel to the program was recruited earlier this year through a competitive application process and in July these students participated in the first LEADERS Research Symposium and training workshop. This two-day event not only allowed students to present their research, it also provided them with the opportunity to receive feedback from leading researchers in disciplines such as engineering, environmental studies, chemistry, biology, policy studies, business, and public health, and provided a field method workshop at the Kennedy Station, a 200-acre scientific station located on the Salmon River Watershed near Tamworth.

[Beaty Water Research Centre symposium award winners]
A number of awards were handed out during the research symposium. Poster winners include Alexandria Cushing, first place  (third from left); Nada Sadeq, second place (not pictured); and Eden Hataley (left) and Katrina Paudyn, third place (second from left). Oral presentation winner David Patch is at right. (Supplied photo)

“The LEADERS symposium broadened my understanding of how my research project has broader implications across disciplines. The field methods workshop provided me with greater understanding of some of the challenges with field research which will help not only with my research, but also in my career post graduation,” says Madeleine Kelly a Master’s of Environmental Studies student in Dr. Brown’s research group at Queen’s.

The centre’s research symposiums and workshops allow students to broaden their understanding of their research through facilitated interdisciplinary networking sessions. 

“The Beaty Water Research Centre encourages collaborative interdisciplinary research, education and outreach, and the research symposium and the LEADERS program truly embodies our vision,” says Beaty Director Pascale Champagne, Canada Research Chair in Bioresource Engineering.

This year’s top poster awards went to Alexandria Cushing (first), Nada Sadeq (second), and Katrina Paudyn and Eden Hataley (third). The top oral presentation award went to David Patch.

Symposium sponsors included Kingston Economic Development Corporation, SHOWA, and Queen’s School of Graduate Studies. 

Gentrified real estate puts squeeze on indie bookstores


Aerial view in a bookstre
Independent bookstores are places where culture is collected and disseminated. The gentrification of city centres makes their existence increasingly precarious. (Photo by Kevin Langlais / Unsplash) 

The story is all too familiar – yet it should command more attention from Canadians.

Recently, the Globe and Mail reported the Ben McNally bookstore, located on Bay Street a stone’s throw from Union Station, would close in 2020. Two days later, Rupert McNally, the founder’s son, confirmed the news on the store’s website. It had been open since 2007.

The reason for the closure is simple: the store will be replaced by an alleyway linking Bay Street to the alley behind it. This redevelopment is part of a project that the owner calls (ironically?) “The Bay Street Village.”

It is therefore a stupid example of gentrification that pits a modest shopkeeper against a greedy landowner.

The increase in the value of Toronto’s real estate is not exactly new. But we can see here an example of a paradigm that is not reassuring for the future of large cities: the profitability of businesses devoted to cultural property is hardly compatible with the overbidding in real estate.

Montréal is facing the same problem, and it affects all independent businesses. In August, the City gave the Commission on Economic and Urban Development and Housing the mandate to conduct public consultations on vacant space on commercial arteries. Several of these areas have rates ranging from 10 to 15 per cent.

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A ‘hygienization’ of urban centres

It has already been demonstrated that gentrification is largely based on a city’s ability to offer an interesting and diversified cultural life. Some, such as Richard Florida, have linked this phenomenon to the emergence of a “creative class.”

Geographer Oli Mould, in his excellent book, Against Creativity, published in 2018, attacks the very notion of creativity. He criticizes Richard Florida with virulence by brilliantly showing how “creative” gentrification can also act as a form of hygienization in urban centres that, ironically, hinders spontaneous citizen initiatives. To put it bluntly, once gentrification is completed, culture is more or less eliminated from the central districts.

We are interested in the case of the closure of the Ben McNally bookstore because it shows the consequences of real estate speculation on the vitality of a city and, ultimately, on culture on a national scale. Very quickly, after the announcement by the owners of the bookstore, many players in the Canadian publishing ecosystem expressed serious concerns.

That is because independent bookshops, Ben McNally in particular, do not belong to a large group or chain and aren’t limited to the sole function of selling books. They are truly a place of cultural mediation.

The purpose of booksellers is to introduce readers to more complex works that have received less media attention. In Kingston, Ont., the city where I live, the Novel Idea bookstore is part of the community life. It organizes meetings with local authors and federates a community of readers. In Montréal, bookstores such as Le port de tête, L'Écume des jours and Gallimard also have a clearly established cultural function.

Independent bookstores are places where demanding literature or radical essays can find readers. In short, the exact opposite of a virtual library where algorithms – certainly effective – guide readers’ tastes. There is no doubt that these algorithms favour books that are already selling well, regardless of the careful work of smaller publishers.

For a ‘bibliodiversity’

Why defend the independence of Canadian literature? Out of pure nationalism? Not exactly.

Rather, it is a question of how the bookstore can, in an era of advanced globalization, be a place of defence for the diversity of cultures, what some have referred to as bibliodiversity: a diversity of languages (in the case of Canada, English, French and Aboriginal literatures), but also socially equitable modes of production and dissemination. In this case, it ensures that cultural property produced with our public funds finds takers.

To put it simply, a book in Canada will sometimes be subsidized at the time of writing through creation grants, in its production through operating grants to publishers, and then sold by Amazon or, in the worst case, unsold due to a lack of suitable distribution locations. The Canadian book system provides a relatively good framework for its authors and publishers to deal with the horrors of the free market, in a spirit of cultural and economic protectionism. But in the current configuration, booksellers seem to be abandoned.

Make the less visible visible

But it is not simply a matter of defending a blurred Canadian identity. It is also a matter of making a diversity of identities visible. Think of the Racines bookstore in Montréal North, which highlights the culture and history of racialized authors. Or, the bookstore L'Euguélionne, which, by settling in the gay village in Montréal and adopting a cooperative structure, has made it its mission to offer a wide selection of literature on women and LGBPT2QIA groups.

An independent bookstore is therefore a meeting place for people from the neighbourhood but also, possibly, for affinity groups. Bookstores can be, in some contexts, sources of resistance. André Schiffrin states in L'argent et les mots – the third volume of a trilogy essential to understanding the effects of cultural globalization – that the number of New York bookstores has been divided by 10 since the post-war period.

Capitalism has its own rhythm, but also its own specific geography. Urban space is profoundly transformed by financial capitalism. Urban spaces are becoming expensive, and the closure of cultural spaces is, metaphorically and by extension, a reduction in the space for ideas and expression.

Julien Lefort-Favreau is an assistant professor of French Studies at Queen's University.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

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