Stuart Schoenfeld: Exploring global environmental change and his own backyard
Stuart Schoenfeld, a sociologist and researcher with an appreciation for the global complexities of a changing environment and an interest in the local dynamics of the immediate environment a lot closer to home or rather work - the Glendon campus. Professor Schoenfield explores his interdisciplinary interests in a changing environment at home and abroad in CC-RAI’s new researcher guest blog.
Living here and having research interests in the Eastern Mediterranean, I’ve wondered how these different dimensions of my environmentalism come together. The differences are apparent. The Eastern Mediterranean is one of the world’s high profile, protracted conflict zones and Ontario is one of the world’s most peaceful places. The Eastern Mediterranean is geographically compact, with limited natural resources while Ontario is favored with large territory rich in resources.
Yet while these differences matter, the similarities are there too when we compare what is happening with climate change in both places. I co-manage a blog, “Environment and Climate in the Middle East,” which posts two to three times a week a review of environmental news, publications and conferences on environmentalism in the Eastern Mediterranean.
In the news reports, academic research and policy papers about environmental challenges in this
region, there is continual concern over water and energy management. Water and energy policy are
similarly high profile in Ontario. In the Eastern Mediterranean these high profile issues interact with
other environmental issues such as biodiversity, pollution, land use planning, transportation policy,
agricultural policy, sustainable development, and environmental justice, just as they interact in Ontario.
As well, in both settings, there is a similar challenge of making environmental issues public priorities. Other concerns, economic and political, crowd off the public agenda the urgent need to mitigate climate change and to adapt to what is already happening. In both settings, the impulse to deny or downplay the severe impacts of climate change and the retreat of news into infotainment are also barriers to effective action.
My research has focused on projects that work to build regional environmental cooperation as a response to a shared severe environmental challenge. Groups like the Friends of the Earth Middle East and the Arava Institute for Environmental Studies have taken on the politically difficult task of fostering Palestinian-Israeli-Jordanian environmental cooperation. I’ve been interested in how these initiatives persevere despite the hostile climate of regional politics. The Eastern Mediterranean is also included in other projects of regional environmental cooperation. The EU sponsored Mediterranean Union has put the shared environmental challenge on its agenda; the Arab Forum for Environment and Development develops an environmental perspective on the broad region from Iraq to Morocco. Here too are similarities (but obviously not equivalencies) to the agenda for Ontario, as researching and responding to the threat of climate change necessitates cross-border coordination of multiple government, business and civil society stakeholders.
How do we work with other provinces and the federal government? With the U.S. borders states below us and the U.S. federal government? What kinds of joint research are possible? What are the venues for joint environmental policy? In the Eastern Mediterranean, regional environmentalists say, “Nature knows no borders.” The same holds true here.
This past year, I’ve also developed a small project on my immediate work environment – the Glendon campus with support from IRIS. A bit over a year ago, I helped the Toronto Field Naturalists prepare a walking tour of Glendon. Through that experience I learned to see the campus I had enjoyed but taken for granted with new eyes. With York alumnus John Court and two research assistants, we’ve built a detailed website on how the Glendon campus came to be a unique botanical garden, the historical significance of the Wood family estate on which the campus resides, and the role of the Glendon forest in the Don Valley ravine system. The website is a contribution to seeing the global in the local, and to cultivating the awareness of the role universities campuses can play in the important agenda of urban environmentalism.
This entry was posted on Thursday, August 4th, 2011 at 10:02 am and is filed under Climate News, Guest Blog, News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.
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