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Examining COVID-19’s economic impact on Ontario

New modelling tool shows a loss exceeding $40 billion across the province through May.

In the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, Queen’s University economists are helping policymakers build a roadmap for economic recovery efforts. The focus is on providing local and provincial leaders with the best available high-frequency economic projections to use alongside health projections when making decisions.  

Through Limestone Analytics, a Kingston-based research and analytics firm, the group of Queen’s researchers has developed a COVID-19 policy analysis tool. Already adapted for Ontario the preliminary  estimates imply that COVID-19 led to a loss in Ontario’s GDP of 9.4 per cent in March, 23.7 per cent in April, and 26 per cent in May compared to what would have been expected. This implies a loss of over $40 billion across the province or $7,500 per household. 

“These are huge numbers, and that is just where we are after May,” said Huw Lloyd-Ellis (Economics). “Losses will accumulate going forward. How big they end up being depends on how quickly the province can relax restrictions on various industries, and how the behavior of firms and consumers change going forward.” 

The team refers to their framework as the STUDIO model, a flexible framework that can be adapted for a wide variety of scenarios. The acronym stands for “Short-Term Under-capacity Dynamic Input-Output” model, reflecting its intended use for month-to-month scenario building during economic disasters. 

“We don’t pretend that we can predict the future in terms of how the disease will spread, or how government policy, and consumer and firm behavior will change in the coming months,” says Christopher Cotton (Economics), the Jarislowsky-Deutsch Chair in Economic & Financial Policy at Queen’s. “The strength of STUDIO is in its flexibility, and its ability to provide economic projections for any number of alternative scenarios that we may throw at it.”  

The model produces an array of projections to show what will happen to the economy in different situations, depending on how the disease spreads, and how governments, consumers and firms respond to it. Understanding how economic outcomes respond to policy choices under alternative scenarios will help governments plan their response to COVID-19 over the coming months.  

Even under a very optimistic scenario, where the economy reopens rapidly and largely recovers by the end of the year, the preliminary estimates are that Ontario will experience a 9.9 per cent loss in its annual GDP, which amounts to over $83 billion in total or almost $15,000 per household. While, as always, these estimates are subject to considerable uncertainty, they are consistent with several other private and public sector forecasts.  

Potential jumps in the transmission of the disease or delays in reopening the economy could easily increase these numbers. The model’s projections under a more pessimistic schedule for reopening the economy shows an average GDP loss exceeding $20,000 per Ontario household.  

The researchers are also extending their analysis to the local level and breaking down the results by industrial sectorFor Kingston and Frontenac County, for example, the projected GDP losses are slightly less than the Ontario average, but certain industries such as those related to travel and healthcare, are taking a big hit. Such insights can help policymakers direct support to the places and the people that need it most. 

The team has made some of their projections available through an interactive dashboard on the Limestone Analytics website 

“The dashboard provides just a taste of what the model can do,” says Bahman Kashi (Economics), President of Limestone Analytics. “We are expanding our analysis across regions, provinces and states in North America, and we are adapting our models for use in developing countries. We are also partnering with several organizations and other groups at Queen’s to build a comprehensive policymaking dashboard that will bring together both economic and health projections in one place for all of Canada.” 

The team has worked closely with members of the Eastern Ontario Leadership Council to understand the data needs of local leaders, and Mitacs to help support graduate student participation on the project. 

Pandemic highlights the need for a surveillance debate beyond ‘privacy’

Privacy regulation can’t keep pace with the supersystems collecting, analyzing and using personal data.

A silhouetted man stands in front of a digital display.
Governments are implementing surveillance technologies to monitor and control the spread of COVID-19. (Unsplash / Chris Yang)

The coronavirus pandemic has stirred up a surveillance storm. Researchers rush to develop new forms of public health monitoring and tracking, but releasing personal data to private companies and governments carries risks to our individual and collective rights. COVID-19 opens the lid on a much-needed debate.

For example, Google and Apple teamed up to offer privacy-preserving contact-tracing help. The scramble for data solutions is well-meaning, but whether they work or not, they generate risks beyond narrowly-defined privacy.

Everyone has extensive digital records — health, education, employment, police contact, consumer behaviour — indeed, on our whole life. Privacy is much more than shielding something we’d rather not share; surveillance also affects our chances and choices in life, often in critical ways.

Early computerization obliged governments to see that regulation was needed as personal data was collected for more and more purposes. At first the data came from credit cards, driver’s licences and social insurance; today it’s constant device-use. But privacy regulation alone can’t keep pace with today’s supersystems for data collection, analysis and use that generate the kind of negative discrimination that demands data justice.

Surveillance and profit

Shoshana Zuboff’s book The Age of Surveillance Capitalism is making headlines for its close analysis of how Google achieves its surveillance, why and with what consequences. Zuboff insists that a new mode of economic accumulation has been rapidly emerging ever since internet-based platforms — led by Google — discovered how to monetize the so-called “data exhaust” exuded by everyday online communications: searches, posts, tweets, texts. Beyond the loss of privacy, she sees the destruction of democracy and behavioural modification, citing a former Facebook product manager who says the “fundamental purpose” of data workers is to influence and alter people’s moods and behaviour.

One cannot miss Zuboff’s cri de coeur and its scathing rebuke to the “radical indifference” of these platforms. But what will it take to persuade us that today’s surveillance has become a basic dimension of our societies that threatens more than personal privacy? Surveillance is complicated, arcane and apparently out-of-control but those don’t excuse our complacency. Rather, they’re reasons for digging into some of the main dimensions of surveillance, prying open black boxes and reasserting human agency.

Let’s disturb some common assumptions that surveillance is about video cameras, state intelligence and policing, producing suspects and challenging privacy. Google assuredly does surveillance, which is commonly defined as “any focused, routine, systematic attention to personal details, for the purpose of control, influence or management.”

Two survellance cameras on a white wall.
Personal devices — mainly smartphones — provide a way to constantly track and monitor our movements, habits and consumption patterns. (Unsplash / Pawel Czerwinski)

It’s not just CCTV cameras, it’s also smart devices

Yes, it’s our laptops, phones and tablets. Surveillance is now digital and data-driven.

For too long, the stereotypical icon of surveillance has been the video camera. The French roots of the word surveillance means to “watch over,” which is what cameras do. And these are becoming smarter, when enhanced by facial recognition technology.

Clearview AI, for instance, scrapes billions of images from platforms such as Facebook or Google, selling services to major police departments in the United States and, until recently, Canada.

But today, what deserves to be the stereotypical icon is the smartphone. This, above all, connects the individual with corporations that not only collect but analyze, sort, categorize, trade and use the data we each produce. Without our permission, our data are examined and used by others to influence, manage or govern us. Data analysis enables prediction — and then “nudging” — of specific population groups to buy, behave or vote in hoped-for ways.

It’s not just the state, it’s the market

While the state and its agencies often overreach through intelligence and policing strategies, it is the market and not the state that holds the cards in the surveillance game.

Few noticed in the early 20th century that department stores, like Syndicat St-Henri in Montréal, kept detailed customer records, giving or withholding credit according to their status.

A pivotal moment was 9/11 when high-tech companies, craving customers after the dot-com bust, offered their services to government.

Today, our massively augmented data profiles indicate value to businesses. Those data are valuable to others too, like election consultants.

Surveillance is for sorting

Surveillance and suspects once belonged neatly together — those who were thought to be miscreants were watched. But in this big data era, all personal details are up for grabs.

What French sociologist Jacques Ellul worried about in 1954 has transpired: the police quest for unlimited information makes everyone a suspect. But Ellul never guessed how this could morph into a global network of systems, far beyond policing, in which everyone becomes a target.

But everyone is not targeted in the same way. Surveillance — whether for welfare, commerce or policing — sorts populations into categories for different treatment. This social sorting works in marketing to organize consumers. In China today, social credit systems are used by the government and commerce to monitor and rank citizens’ behaviour and social capital.

This is not only about privacy, it’s also about data justice.

Surveillance is a challenge to digital rights, because it is based on fundamental inequalities and unfair practices. Vulnerable groups discover their disadvantages are deepened.

Privacy laws rightly protect an individual’s right to privacy of movement, home and communication in a democratic society. But we need a radical new direction, prompted by our knowing how data analytics, algorithms, machine learning and artificial intelligence are reshaping our social environment. The analysis and uses of the data have to be addressed, invoking new categories such as digital rights and data justice.

Surveillance challenges

Just scratching the surface of 21st-century surveillance reveals how vastly things have changed. The landscape of surveillance has shifted tectonically from following suspects, watching workers and classifying consumers to monitoring and tracking everyone — now for public health — on an unprecedented scale.

Privacy is undoubtedly a casualty, and so are basic freedoms of democracy, expectations of justice and hopes for social solidarity and public trust. These demand serious attention, not just from policy-makers and politicians, but from computer scientists, software engineers and everyone who uses a device.

The stakes are high, but the future is not foreclosed.The Conversation

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David Lyon, Director, Surveillance Studies Centre, Professor of Sociology, Queen's University.

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

Kerry Rowe honoured for leadership in geotechnical engineering

Kerry Rowe (Civil Engineering) was recently recognized by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), the world largest civil engineering professional society, for his leadership in geotechnical engineering research and practices. His ground-breaking work studying contaminants and waste containment is addressing some of the most complex challenges facing our world today, including how we manage the increasing amount of technological waste and chemicals that threaten our planet’s fragile ecosystem.

Geotechnical engineering involves the application of soil mechanics and hydrogeology to understand and solve problems involving the ground and the water within it. For Dr. Rowe, a major area of interest is the design of landfills and the containment of the materials within them. He notes that the 1978 state of emergency in Niagara Falls, where toxic materials were found near the city’s Love Canal neighbourhood, had a major impact on his research focus.

“I knew we had to find a better way to do this, and I wanted to be part of that,” he says.

As use of technology increases, so does the quantity of hazardous materials that are thrown away. Traditional waste types continue to need disposal but electronic waste such as smart phones and computers, as well as increasingly sophisticated children’s toys, Teflon cooking utensils, fire resistant fabrics, modern odourless socks, scratchproof eyeglasses, crack-resistant paints, transparent sunscreens, and stain-repellent fabric are now routinely discarded, resulting in a precarious mix of toxic elements in our landfills. Dr. Rowe’s research includes the design of landfills that can mitigate the effects of this waste.

Dr. Rowe notes that it’s critical to think about the long-term effects of products and the chemicals that are contained within them, such as elements found in fire-retardant or plastic products.

“Sometimes chemicals originally designed to solve one problem end up causing another,” he says. “We can’t just design products without looking at the potential long-term, unintended consequences.” 

His research focusing on the long-term performance of contaminants reflects his commitment to this approach, with one currently published paper revealing the results of a 17 year-long study.

“That’s three generations of PhD students,” he laughs.

Dr. Rowe has contributed to projects around the world, and cites work in both the Arctic and Antarctica as being some of most interesting. There, they are looking at how to remediate soil using new materials under extreme weather conditions, which could then be replicated in other cold-weather regions.

Dr. Rowe’s ASCE honour adds to over 120 other awards received over his long and illustrious career.

Read more about his research on the Research@Queen’s website.

Innovative research advancing understanding of COVID-19

The Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization funds six new projects to help fight the global pandemic.

Modifying existing antiviral drugs for better outcomes and revealing the mechanisms of a mysterious blood clotting syndrome are among six new COVID-19 research projects being pursued by researchers and clinician scientists at Kingston Health Sciences Centre (KHSC), Kingston General Health Research Institute (KGHRI), and Queen’s University. The research is supported by funding totalling $670,000 from the Southeastern Ontario Academic Medical Organization (SEAMO).  

“These researchers are recognized as leaders and innovators in their respective fields, and their work has the potential to significantly advance global understanding of this complex and perplexing disease,” says Dr. Steve Smith, Vice-Dean Research, Faculty of Heath Sciences, Queen’s, Vice President, Health Sciences Research, KHSC, and President & CEO, KGHRI. 

The list of funded projects is below: 

Stephen Archer and Victor Snieckus - Synthesis and preclinical testing of novel small molecule therapies for COVID-19 

Currently no drugs have been proven effective in randomized clinical trials for treating the severe respiratory effects of COVID-19. Drs. Archer (Medicine) and Snieckus (Chemistry) are confronting this challenge on two fronts. Firstly, they will modify existing antiviral drugs to improve their metabolism and efficiency and reduce their toxic side effects. On a second front they have identified that SARS-CoV-2 kills cells and may impair oxygen sensing by damaging mitochondria in lung cells. They will explore a novel mitochondrial pathway to combat the “happy hypoxemia (low oxygen without appropriate shortness of breath), which characterizes COVID-19 pneumonia, and to prevent cell death by protecting mitochondria from SARS-CoV-2. Sussex Research Inc. (Ottawa) is collaborating in the antiviral drug synthetic work and dissemination of the results.   

Paula James and David Lillicrap - Coagulopathy: Understanding and Treating a Novel Entity  

Drs. James (Medicine) and Lillicrap (Pathology and Molecular Medicine), leading researchers in clinical and molecular hemostasis, are studying the links between COVID-19 coagulopathy, an unexplained and potentially fatal blood-clotting syndrome associated with SARS-CoV-2, and von Willebrand Factor (VWF), a blood clotting protein. They are collaborating with researchers at St. Michael’s Hospital (Toronto) and Vermont Medical Center who are studying the effects of the blood thinner heparin on COVID-19, which has been shown in preliminary research to help these patients. The role of VWF in this disorder has not yet been studied, and the KHSC and KGHRI researchers aim to gain better understanding of the mechanisms of VWF in COVID-19 coagulopathy, potentially leading to the development of new treatments.    

David Maslove and Michael Rauh - COVID-19 and the Genetics of Mortality in Critical Care  

Drs. Maslove (Medicine) and Rauh (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) are part of an international genetics study examining why some patients are affected more severely by COVID-19 than others. They will be looking at the genomes of patients admitted to intensive care units across Ontario and then comparing them to those of a healthy control population. Using advanced computing techniques, they will be able to look at hundreds of thousands of subtle genetic variations across the population, to determine which of these are associated with outcomes. Knowing more about these variations will lead to new strategies for fighting the virus.  

Martin Petkovich, Jacob Rullo and Martin tenHove - Coronavirus infection of the ocular mucosa to model infection and systemic immunity 

Drs. ten Hove (Ophthalmology), Rullo (Ophthalmology), and Petkovich (Biomedical & Molecular Sciences) are studying local and systemic immune responses to SARS-CoV-2 infection using a physiological model that will examine how the virus infects the mucosal layer of the eyes. They will also determine the efficacy of administering a vaccination via this route to see if it generates systemic immunity against coronaviruses, and then use these results to study how the disease progresses in vaccinated and non-vaccinated models.    

Robert Siemens and Charles Graham - The Role of BCG-induced innate immune memory in the protection against coronavirus   

Countries that use the vaccine Bacillus Calmette Guerin (BCG) to prevent tuberculosis show lower rates of coronavirus infection than those who do not. Intriguingly, this vaccine has also been used to successfully treat bladder cancer. Drs. Siemens (Urology) and Graham (Biomedical & Molecular Sciences) believe that BCG enhances the body’s innate immune system. Their research aims to understand the immune-system mechanisms that lead to these protective benefits, and whether this vaccine could be used to protect against SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes COVID-19.    

Stephen Vanner and Prameet Sheth - The application of metabolomics to enhance detection of COVID-19 and predict disease severity: A proof-of-principle study   

Drs. Vanner (Gastrointestinal Diseases Research Unit) and Sheth (Pathology and Molecular Medicine) will use specialized mass spectrometry to study the metabolites found in nasopharyngeal (upper throat) samples of COVID-19.  Their aim is to identify the unique signature of these tiny molecules, compared to other causes of respiratory infections such as the common cold. This metabolomic signature holds promise as a more sensitive, rapid and accurate identifier and predictor of the severity of the disease than current methods. It will also enable future studies on COVID-19 detection, prediction of disease severity, and virus identification in asymptomatic individuals. 

These projects are examples of research confronting COVID-19 being undertaken within the Kingston and Queen’s community. The Vice-Principal (Research) also recently announced the first round of results for the Rapid Response competitionfund and support research projects that will contribute to the development, testing, and implementation of medical or social countermeasures to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19 

Research community town hall scheduled for June 4

The Vice-Principal (Research) will host a Zoom town hall meeting on Thursday, June 4 at 11 am for members of the Queen’s research community. This forum will allow researchers to ask questions, and importantly, stay connected to the wider research community during a time of remote work. While there will be an opportunity to actively ask questions during the town hall, for efficiency we encourage researchers to send questions and concerns in advance to research@queensu.ca with the subject line Town Hall Question.

Please register in advance for this meeting no later than 10 am on June 4, using your Queen’s or KHSC email address. After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about how to join the meeting. Please note that the event will be recorded to confirm that appropriate follow up can be made with participants, if necessary. 

Small businesses must focus on easing employee, customer fears

Small businesses will need to engage the hearts and minds of employees and customers by recognizing that they feel emotions differently than they did before COVID-19.

A Post-It note on glass door announces a business is closed due to COVID-19.
Businesses across Canada are preparing to reopen following lengthy closures due to COVID-19. (Unsplash / Anastasiia Chepinska)

A small business has been given the green light to reopen amid the COVID-19 pandemic. What does it need to consider for employees and customers?

The Conversation CanadaSmall business owners are reorganizing physical space to account for continued distancing requirements and rethinking supply chains to deliver products and services in new ways to meet changing demand patterns.

But they must not forget the hearts and minds of employees and customers.

That doesn’t mean replacing a focus on the bottom line, but it helps address the need for a new set of expectations and ways of communicating in terms of product or service offerings, delivery methods and real-time feedback.

Based on our expertise in organizational behaviour and past research we’ve conducted, we provide a set of recommendations to help small businesses thrive in our new COVID-19 economy by looking after the hearts and minds of the people most important to businesses — employees and customers.

Fear, anxiety

One of the biggest outcomes of living amid the COVID pandemic is the fear, anger, sadness and vulnerability many people are feeling. Even very loyal customers may have suddenly short fuses when a favourite product or service is delayed.

Both old and new customers may feel hesitant to enter shops or restaurants, unsure of how to engage with employees safely and afraid of unknowingly getting infected or infecting others.

Employees, although likely relieved to be able to earn a pay cheque, may have similar fears, and wonder how to control potentially unsafe situations or customers who aren’t adhering to social distancing protocols.

Overall, engaging the hearts and mind of both employees and customers means recognizing that they’re probably feeling emotions differently than they were before COVID-19. In particular, they may experience more ambivalence — a mix of emotions that can feel uncomfortable or even alien — as they grapple with discovering, experimenting and understanding what a “new normal” means.

Research shows this kind of emotional complexity can lead to a host of outcomes, including vacillation, disengagement and even paralysis — at least partly explaining why employees and customers may seem like deer in headlights during the first days of a business reopening.

Yet our previous research shows that ambivalence can actually be helpful, increasing people’s problem-solving abilities by opening their thinking to alternative perspectives.

People line up with shopping carts at a grocery store.
People line up with shopping carts at a grocery store. (Unsplash / Adrien Delforge)

Redirecting emotions

That means rather than avoiding ambivalence because it feels uncomfortable, small businesses must help their employees redirect these feelings into brainstorming creative solutions for engaging customers, updating websites and soliciting and incorporating customer feedback.

Doing so will have the added benefit of helping employees and customers feel more in control over the situation — a basic human need that has been drastically reduced during the pandemic.

Coupled with emotional complexity is the loss of beloved everyday rituals, from shaking hands to being able to stand close to help a customer decide on a haircut, new clothes or specific menu items.

As businesses reopen, addressing this loss of tradition and predictability in employees’ and customers’ minds will be crucial.

Our research on the role of rituals in institutional maintenance shows that common rituals bind people together, anchoring our sense of identity and structuring our lives in comfortable and predictable ways.

In short, rituals create the sense of normalcy that is now lost.

But to form new rituals and traditions, businesses must first re-establish trust. When trust is fragile and old rituals must be abandoned to make way for new practices, business leaders need to consider multiple approaches in how to work and interact with employees and customers.

Start a dialogue

The first approach is to engage in dialogue.

Reopening costs do not solely pertain to sanitizing workplaces and providing personal protection equipment, but also to the amount of time it takes to discuss and address concerns.

Important questions to employees and customers include:

  • What are your concerns about being here? What can we do to make things safer?

  • What do I need to know about you that could help me work with and serve you better?

Companies should use this feedback to create new rituals and workplace norms together with employees and customers.

Customization, in fact, will be increasingly important as both employees and customers have unique needs and circumstances.

According to local small business owner Lisa Arbo of Salon 296 in Kingston, Ont.: “A large part of success going forward will be about being sensitive to everyone’s reality.” This type of empathetic co-creation is likely to reduce uncertainty and give everyone a healthier sense of emotional and physical comfort and control.

A woman with a facemask, and riding a bike, looks out over a bridge.
Managing perceptions will be an important step for small business owners as they restart operations. (Unsplash / Thomas De Luz)

Manage perceptions

The second approach is to manage perceptions. Small business owners are the custodians of the trusted relationships between their companies, employees and customers.

Even as business owners adapt to this new, emotionally complex and less predictable world, their employees and customers are looking for them to communicate clearly, succinctly and often about what is both possible and not possible, and what the new expectations are at all levels of the social contract. That includes everything from physical distancing rules to standards for customer satisfaction.

By recognizing and finding ways to incorporate employees’ and customers’ emotional complexity and sense of loss for beloved traditions, small businesses can actually make this challenging time an unexpected opportunity to thrive.

Uncertainty, change and customization are key elements of the new business reality and embracing them, while difficult, will yield success. Businesses that excel will be the ones that effectively learn to engage the hearts and minds of their employees and customers.

_______________________________________________________________________The Conversation

M. Tina Dacin, Stephen J.R. Smith Chaired Professor of Strategy & Organizational Behavior, Queen's University, and Laura Rees, Assistant Professor of Organizational Behaviour, Queen's University

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

Biden, Keystone XL, and a Green New Deal could shake up Canada’s energy industry

The Conversation: Canadian companies depend on the international marketplace, which is demanding cleaner energy products.

A pipeline is seen in the Midwest United States
The Keystone XL oil pipeline would be scrapped once again if Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden wins this year's election in the U.S.

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden recently reiterated his desire to stop the Keystone XL oil pipeline project. “I’ve been against Keystone from the beginning. It is tarsands that we don’t need — that in fact is a very, very high pollutant,” he said.

This is just the latest move in a long political game with respect to Keystone XL. In 2015, Vice-President Biden supported President Barack Obama’s decision to block the pipeline. After the 2017 election, President Donald Trump restored the project. If completed, the 1,900-kilometre pipeline would carry crude oil from Alberta to Nebraska, ultimately feeding refineries on the Gulf Coast.

Now Biden says he would shut it down again if he’s elected president in November. Canadians need to know that he is really making three arguments against the project, which may require Canada to re-examine its energy sector strategy.

‘High pollutant’

Biden points to Canada’s oilsands as having “… very, very high pollutant” levels. There is some truth to this perception.

In the United States, the production of conventional oil and its transport to refinery gates produce about 7.1 grams of carbon dioxide equivalents of greenhouse gases for each megajoule of energy (CO2e/MJ). Shale oil compares favourably at 3.5-14 g CO2e/MJ, for production, but these figures do not include upgrading and transport, or refining. Long-term studies of Canadian oilsands surface mining suggest greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions range from 8.7 g CO2e/MJ to 15-23 g CO2e/MJ (the latter figures include upgrading).

The transport of the oil product to refineries in the U.S. increases the GHG emissions of Canadian oil to between 16-33 g CO2e/MJ, depending on the distance covered and whether the product is moved through pipelines (smaller footprint) or by rail (large footprint). When taken together, this shows that greenhouse gas emissions of oilsands production, upgrading and transport are at least four times greater than U.S. conventional oil.

Alberta and the oil industry have fought back against these negative perceptions. The Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers report that GHG emissions per unit of GDP have declined by 20 per cent since 2005, although total emissions from oilsands have more than doubled between 2000 and 2017. Alberta Premier Jason Kenney has invested $30 million into a “war room,” echoing past campaigns labelling oil from overseas as “conflict oil.”

The scientific literature has provided Canadian producers with some arguments to support oilsands production. For example, the relatively low GHG emissions of shale oil are counterbalanced by a host of negative impacts on water supply and quality, issues of geological instability and earthquakes, and growing concern about the longevity of shale operations.

Yet the Canadian energy sector is still perceived as a poor environmental performer. Earlier this month, Norway’s Sovereign Wealth Fund excluded key oilsands producers from its portfolio, and BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, also pulled out of oilsands companies in early 2020. Recent research found oilsands emissions may be up to 30 per cent higher than what the industry reports.

‘We don’t need’ that oil

Biden also suggested that the U.S. doesn’t need Canadian oilsands resources, a reflection of the dramatic shifts in U.S. oil production over the past decade. In 2010, the U.S. produced about five million barrels of oil per day, but it now has the capacity to produce 17.9 million barrels a day.

A big part of this growth has been due to shale production, which grew to about 12.2 million barrels per day in 2019 from just over 0.5 million barrels per day in 2010. Canadian oil, which amounts to about 4.55 million barrels per day, was once critical to U.S. energy security but has become less relevant.

The current COVID-19 situation has further decreased the U.S. need for oil. As 2020 unfolds, investors are predicting oil production drops of up to 2.9 million barrels per day across the U.S. Much of produced oil is being stored, and oil storage capacity is rapidly filling up (or, perhaps not). Regardless, demand for gasoline and other oil products has reached its lowest point since 1971.

What will happen to oil demand as we exit the pandemic and the economy restarts? Some speculate that more and more people will work from home on a semi-permanent basis, giving governments licence to redesign roadways and increase active transit options.

Others warn that car travel may increase, sparking a resurgence in demand for gasoline and other refined oil products, and leading to declines in public transit use.

‘We’re gonna transition … to a clean economy’

Biden’s comments emphasized the need to transition away from fossil fuels, echoing calls for a Green New Deal, championed by key Democrats such as congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

The Green New Deal combines a series of goals including 100 per cent renewable energy, along with full access to health care and guaranteed wages. As one of the most senior Democrats to endorse the Green New Deal, Biden could be expected to support this movement should he win the White House.

But the Green New Deal may be a difficult sell in the post-COVID world. While renewable energy generation costs are increasingly cheaper, it is hard to compete against extremely low oil prices, and upgrading the grid to deliver renewable energy may result in higher electricity costs for consumers — something that may not be easy to manage during a major recession.

Very real concerns about energy poverty and inequality must be also be addressed within a Green New Deal — and it will take time to do this right. These concerns and challenges will buy countries like Canada time to adapt their own energy sector to better serve a rapidly changing market south of the border.

Biden’s words should lead Canadians to pause and reflect on the direction that the energy sector is going. Canadian companies depend on the international marketplace, and that marketplace is demanding cleaner energy products.

The U.S. has already become a major oil producer, and it’s left Canadian companies struggling. A Green New Deal will simply serve to accelerate these trends. Without significant change, Canada’s energy sector risks being left behind.The Conversation

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Warren Mabee is the Executive Director of the School of Policy Studies, Associate Dean of the Faculty of Arts and Science, and Director of the Queen's Institute for Energy and Environmental Policy. He is a professor in the Department of Geography and Planning with a cross-appointment to the School of Environmental Studies.

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

Vote in the Art of Research photo contest

The Queen’s community has until June 3 to vote for the People’s Choice winner as the Art of Research celebrates its fifth year.

[Photo of a Renaissance statute - Art of Research Photo Contest]
Art of Research Winner 2016: Santa Fina – Submitted by Una D'Elia (Faculty, Art History and Art Conservation)

Have your say in promoting the beauty and creativity of research happening at Queen’s. Voting is now open for the People’s Choice category in the fifth annual Art of Research photo contest.

Hosted by the Office of the Vice-Principal (University Relations), the contest is an opportunity for researchers to mobilize their research and spark curiosity. By looking at research from a different perspective, it is possible to find the beauty and art in any project. More than 100 submissions were received this year from faculty, staff, students, and alumni representing multiple disciplines and research happening at all career stages.

Contest Prizes

The People’s Choice is one of the annual contest’s category prizes celebrating Community Collaborations, Invisible Discoveries, Out in the Field, Art in Action, and Best Caption. For the fifth anniversary of the contest, four special prizes were sponsored by Partnerships and Innovation, the School of Graduate Studies, the Faculty of Health Sciences, and Kingston General Hospital Research Institute. Images selected for the People’s Choice vote are entries that generated discussion and were shortlisted by the adjudication committee. All prizes come with a monetary prize of $500.

Cast Your Vote

The survey closes on June 3 at midnight. To learn more about past contest winners, visit the Research@Queen’s website.

2020 Art of Research Adjudication Committee

Amanda Gilbert, Communications Coordinator, Partnerships and Innovation

Amir Fam, Associate Dean (Research), Engineering and Applied Sciences

Betsy Donald, Associate Dean, Graduate Studies

Brenda Paul, Associate Vice-Principal (Integrated Communications)

Dave Rideout, Senior Communications Officer, Integrated Communications

Efkan Oguz, PhD Candidate, Department of Cultural Studies

Elizabeth Cooper, Communications Coordinator, Faculty of Health Sciences

Elliot Ferguson, Multimedia Journalist, The Kingston Whig Standard

Laila Haidarali, Associate Professor and Graduate Chair, Department of Gender Studies

Lavie Williams, Inclusion and Anti-Racism Advisor, Human Rights and Equity Office

Mary Anne Beaudette, Research Knowledge Mobilization Officer, KGH Research Institute

Mary Beth Gauthier, Communications Manager, Office of the Principal

Mona Rahman, Communications and Research Activities, Office of the VP (Research)

Tina Fisher, Director, Brand and Insights, Integrated Communications

Sandra den Otter, Associate Vice-Principal (Research and International)

Yolande Chan, Associate Dean (Research), Smith School of Business

[Photo of UV light train - Art of Research Photo Contest]
Art of Research Winner 2019: A New Light – Submitted by Robert Cichocki (PhD Student, Civil Engineering)

Rapid Response funding awarded to help confront COVID-19

The Vice-Principal (Research) announces first round of internal funding for projects supporting medical and social coronavirus related solutions.

In late March, the Queen’s University Vice-Principal (Research) launched the Rapid Response competition to fund and support research projects that will contribute to the development, testing, and implementation of medical or social countermeasures to mitigate the rapid spread of COVID-19. Thirteen applicants have received funding in the first round. 

The successful projects range from the development of a biosensor tool to psychotherapy programs for addressing mental health issues. Queen’s researchers are also examining the government response on household finances and planning for more effective physical distancing measures. 

Congratulations to the first round of Rapid Response funding recipients, says Kimberly Woodhouse, Interim Vice-Principal (Research). These are outstanding projects that span the key research areas important to both managing the virus itself and understanding its social and economic impacts. I will follow these projects with great interest.” 

The successful projects include: 

  • Stephen Archer (Medicine)  Synthesis and preclinical testing of novel small molecule therapies for COVID-19. 

  • Aristides Docoslis (Chemical Engineering)  Developing, validating, and implementing a portable diagnostic prototype (COVID-19 Scanner) for rapid, point-of-care detection of severe acute respiratory syndrome coronavirus 2 (SARS-CoV-2) from nasopharyngeal swabs. 

  • Nazanin Alavi (Psychiatry)  Online delivery of psychotherapy, tailored to patients' suffering from mental health problems due to COVID-19 pandemic. 

  • Xiaolong Yang (Pathology and Molecular Medicine)  Developing of a biosensor tool using an ultra-bright bioluminescent enzyme purified from glowing deep-sea shrimp to "visualize" and quantify the interaction between viruses and cells. 

  • Amy Wu (Mechanical and Materials Engineering)  Designing, testing, and evaluating low-cost, medical grade face shields that can be easily produced by the rapid prototyping resources within our community. 

  • Tom Hollenstein (Psychology) – Examining the use of digital technology to inform universities, clinicians, and policymakers as they make recommendations for coping with the emotional fall-out of social distancing. 

  • Nicole Myers (Sociology) – The project will use official data, review government policy and legal decisions, observe virtual courts and conduct interviews to understand the changes in bail practices and discretionary release decision making in response to the pandemic. 

  • Setareh Ghahari (Rehabilitation Therapy)  Identifying the challenges that Kingston refugee youth are likely to face when attempting to reorient themselves to online learning during this unprecedented time. The goal is to provide solutions/recommendations that could help mitigate those challenges and improve the students’ online learning experience. 

  • Robert Clark (Economics)  Providing policymakers with the information necessary to adopt new measures, or to fine tune existing ones, in order to minimize COVID-19’s detrimental effects on the financial situation of Canadian households and to limit the risks to the stability of the financial sector. 

  • John Meligrana (Geography and Planning)  Developing a set of comprehensive physical distancing guidelines tailored to the gradual reopening of our cities, communities and country as well as more being more sensitive to the impacts on vulnerable communities. 

  • Warren Mabee (Policy Studies)  Creating an integrated policy response to facilitate Canadian recovery from COVID-19. 

  • Imaan Bayoumi (Family Medicine)  Exploring the hidden social, emotional and mental health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and public health countermeasures on residents of Kingston and area, with a focus on marginalized groups such as those using substances, living in poverty, single parents, children or people suffering from mental health conditions, chronic health conditions and family conflict. 

  • Oded Haklai (Political Studies) Tracking and comparing the measures taken by governments around the world, examining check-and-balances on executive power that remain, and assessing the extent to which democracy can be resumed in the aftermath of the pandemic. 

For more information on the Rapid Response competition, visit the Office of the Vice-Principal (Research). 

Why ‘The Scream’ is going viral again

In these coronavirus times, artist Edvard Munch's iconic image speaks to our anxieties about illness and societal collapse.
‘The Scream,’ by Edvard Munch, hand-coloured lithograph version from 1895. (Munchmuseet)CC BY

Few works of art are as iconic as The Scream, by the Norwegian artist Edvard Munch (1863–1944). The combination of an open mouth, eyes wide open and two hands raised to cheeks has become a near-universal signifier of shock and existential fear, helped along by 1990s movie franchises such as Scream and Home Alone. Not to mention the scream emoji.

The ConversationIn these “coronatimes,” The Scream has taken on new significance, summoned once again to represent our anxieties of illness and death, of economic recession and of societal collapse.

Versions of The Scream have proliferated online. There are Screams with face masks or even as face masks. There are Screams anxious about handwashing and face touching, and Screams with eyes drawn in the now recognizable shape of the coronavirus. Screaming figures are fleeing cities and financial institutions. They are hoarding toilet paper and hand sanitizer.

Poignant images

Most of these coronavirus Scream images tap into our collective fears and transform them through humour. But there are more poignant images as well. Consider a “social distancing” Scream created by Hrag Vartanian, editor-in-chief of the art site Hyperallergic.

Vartanian digitally altered the image so that only a single lone individual remains in the background.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

#EdvardMunch in the age of social distancing.

A post shared by Hrag Vartanian (@hragv) on

Vartanian said:

“I wanted to create something jarring that reminds us to look at familiar things in new ways, just like we’re doing with our lives in the era of social distancing.”

And then there’s 2020 Plague Expulsion Rite, a photo collage by Shenzhen-based photographer Wu Guoyong. After collaborating with Luo Dawei, who runs the photo platform Fengmian, to curate a series of family portraits of Chinese New Year in quarantine, Wu gathered together 3,500 images of lockdown to create a collective Scream.

2020 Plague Expulsion Rite poses profound questions: if we are all screaming, and if we imagine everyone else screaming, is it possible to feel less alone? And if we are all screaming together, how else might we act collectively in these times?

Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ pastel version, 1895. (Wikimedia), CC BY

‘Quaking with angst’

After numerous sketches and some false starts, Munch completed a first version of The Scream in 1893 while living in Berlin, where his avant-garde circle enthusiastically received it as an embodiment of modern angst bordering on mental illness.

Carefully conceived for maximum emotional effect, Munch intended the work to be a powerful image that would represent an intense emotional experience that he had while walking along a fjord in his native Norway. He also tried to put that experience into words:

“I was walking along the road with two friends — the sun was setting — I felt a wave of sadness — the sky suddenly turned blood-red. I stopped, leaned against the fence tired to death … My friends walked on — stood there quaking with angst — and I felt as though a vast, endless scream passed through nature.”

Munch created three more versions of The Scream, a lithograph and a pastel in 1895, and another painting, probably in 1910.

The Scream has a dramatic history. The 1893 version was stolen and then recovered in 1994. Ten years later, the 1910 version was also stolen and recovered, albeit damaged. In 2012, the pastel version was auctioned for the record sum of nearly US$120 million. Now, as reported by the Guardian, conservators recommend that the 1910 painting practise its own physical distancing to avoid further damage from human breath.

Staring, open-mouthed figures

Throughout his long career, Munch often represented the despair and fear provoked by deadly diseases not yet well understood by modern medicine, including tuberculosis, syphilis and influenza. A staring, open-mouthed figure, often alienated from its body, recurred in those representations.

Before The Scream, Munch produced a drawing in one of his early sketchbooks, probably a self-portrait, and captioned it “Influenca.” A figure doubled, frightened and frightening, looks back at us from a mirror. His eyes are wide open and his tongue is sticking out. Perhaps he is saying “aaahhh” and waiting for a diagnosis.

Munch suffered from lung and bronchial problems throughout his life, possibly related to the tuberculosis that killed his mother and sister when he was a child. In 1919, he was one of the few artists to respond to the worldwide flu pandemic. In a large self-portrait simply titled Spanish Flu, the artist turns his head to the viewer, eyes strangely vacant, and opens his mouth to … what? Speak? Cough? Gasp for breath? Scream?

Munch Self-Portrait
Self-Portrait with the Spanish Flu, by Edvard Munch. (National Museum of Art, Architecture and Design, Oslo, The Fine Art Collections)

Rise in cult status

The Scream gained its cult status only after the artist’s death in 1944.

While the full story of its emergence into popular culture remains to be told, key early moments are probably a Time magazine cover from 1961 with the banner “Guilt & Anxiety,” and a 1973 book by Reinhold Heller about Munch’s iconic painting.

In recent years, The Scream has been used to raise awareness of climate change, to critique and protest Brexit as well as the presidency of Donald Trump in the United States.

Anxiety about nuclear proliferation also speaks through The Scream. In 2009, graphic designer Małgorzata Będowska transformed the instantly recognizable nuclear hazard sign into an iconic mashup for the poster Nuclear Emergency. The striking design has since become commonplace at anti-nuclear events.

A common visual language

We might turn to the arts to soothe ourselves in times of crisis and stress. But in those same times, history has shown that art can help us to express or deal with difficult emotions, including those stemming from our experiences of illness.

The internet-enabled global circulation of The Scream is intensifying in an age of political instability and a pandemic enabled by globalization. The increasing virality of The Scream demonstrates the ongoing need for a common visual language to communicate and to cope with what many fear the most: the shared vulnerability of having a body that might become ill, suffer and die.The Conversation

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Allison Morehead, Associate Professor of Art History and in the Graduate Program in Cultural Studies, Queen's University, Ontario

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

 

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