HomeStudent LifeUNBC's Green Day: Students Leading the Charge Towards Sustainability

UNBC’s Green Day: Students Leading the Charge Towards Sustainability

By Bruce Danesh

UNBC Green Day was kicked off on Monday, March 11th with dozens of events over the month of March focused on how UNBC can lead a sustainable future. I as one of the OTE writers joined only one of the many Green seminars and events titled “Climate Change and Environmental Justice” to provide a report for you guys.


About Canada’s Green University

As Canada’s Green University™, the University of Northern British Columbia has a long-standing commitment to minimizing its environmental impact and operating costs through various initiatives such as energy efficiency projects, student and staff engagement, and energy awareness campaigns. This commitment stems not only from a sense of social responsibility but also from the university’s strategic priorities. In recognition of these efforts, UNBC has consistently been named one of ‘Canada’s Greenest Employers’ in the past.

One notable green initiative implemented by UNBC was the installation of three electric vehicle charging stations in June 2021. These Siemens high-end residential-style units were designed to be user-friendly and were made available for free use (beyond regular parking fees on campus). As of the installation date, two charging stalls were located in parking lot B, and one charging spot was placed beside the entrance to Hospitality Services. However, please note that this information may not reflect the most current status of the charging stations. 

As a UNBC graduate who has been on campus for 6 years, I can note that I had not seen many major green initiatives until this year, which made me curious about the reason behind this change. That’s when I met two familiar faces (Ann and Olga) and learned that these students were the main force behind the Green Day initiative, which is awesome! Their dedication and hard work have truly brought sustainability to the forefront of UNBC’s priorities.

As of January 2024, Ann Duong, a UNBC alumna (BSc Hons) and current PhD student, serves as the Sustainability Manager. You can contact her at [email protected]. Additionally, Olga Pickard, a UNBC student, is the Green Day coordinator and can be reached at [email protected]. These two were the main driving force behind the Green Day Initiative at UNBC and Im hoping to do an interview with them to highlight in our next edition so stay tuned! If you have any questions or are interested in getting involved with sustainability initiatives at UNBC, these are the dedicated individuals who you can connect with and learn more!  

Delving into Climate Change and Environmental Justice: UNBC Seminar Summary – March 11, 2024

The summary below outlines the key points discussed at the Climate Change and Environmental Justice seminar, featuring presentations from the following keynote speakers:


Dr. Daniel Sims (Associate Professor at UNBC)

Dr. Gabrielle Daoust (Assistant Professor at UNBC)

Dr. June Garcia-Becerra (Assistant Professor at UNBC)


Environmental Justice presented by Dr. Daniel Sims 


Dr. Daniel Sims is an Associate Professor at UNBC, teaching in the Education and First Nations Studies programs within the Faculty of Indigenous Studies, Social Sciences and Humanities. A member of the Tsay Keh Dene First Nation, his research focuses on northern British Columbia, working extensively with his own community and the related communities of Kwadacha and McLeod Lake. He is currently working on two books examining the impacts of the W.A.C. Bennett Dam and Williston Lake reservoir on these communities, as well as a research project on the history of development in the Finlay-Parsnip watershed. Dr. Sims’ areas of expertise include Indigenous identity, knowledge systems, treaty and land claims, history, reconciliation, and Indigenization.


Dr. Sims highlighted that land and the resources it contains have been central to the colonial process. He pointed out that this is reflected in several historical documents and policies, such as the Royal Proclamation of 1763, treaties, and the establishment of reserves.


According to Dr. Sims, treaties and reserves were often used as tools to limit Indigenous land rights, which has contributed to environmental injustice. By restricting access to traditional territories and resources, these colonial instruments have had long-lasting impacts on Indigenous communities.


Dr. Sims emphasized that understanding the historical context of how land and resources have been used in the colonial process is crucial for addressing contemporary issues of environmental justice and Indigenous rights.


Challenging Climate Conflict Narratives: Dr. Gabrielle Daoust on Environmental Justice in Affected Regions”


Dr. Gabrielle Daoust is an Assistant Professor at UNBC, focusing on the political economy of conflict, peace-building, and development, with a particular interest in the relationships between environmental and climate change, water, and insecurity. Her research centers on the Lake Chad region and Sudan and South Sudan.


Dr. Gabrielle Daoust, shared about the complex relationships between environmental change, climate change, and various forms of insecurity and conflict, with a focus on the Lake Chad region.


Dr. Daoust’s research challenges narratives that link climate change to violent conflict, arguing that these claims are often not supported by evidence and are underpinned by racist and colonial logics. Instead, she suggests that many conflicts in these regions are rooted in long-standing colonial histories, dispossession, and deeply rooted forms of insecurity.


In her speech, Dr. Daoust emphasized several key points related to environmental justice in the context of climate change and conflict-affected regions:


  • Dynamics of vulnerability to climate change impacts are actively produced by systems such as colonialism, capitalism, and international development.
  • “Green” solutions to climate change often involve dispossession and displacement, intensifying insecurities for those already vulnerable.
  • It is crucial to center the experiences and knowledge of those most directly affected by climate change and insecurity.
  • Environmental justice approaches should focus on the agency, adaptation, and resistance of those most impacted, rather than portraying them solely as victims.
  • Discussions should consider forms of care, solidarity, and hope that people mobilize in the face of climate-related insecurities.


Dr. Daoust’s insights contribute to a more nuanced understanding of the complex interactions between climate change, conflict, and environmental justice, emphasizing the importance of recognizing affected regions as spaces of expertise, solidarity, and care.


“Dr. June Garcia-Becerra Discusses Climate Change Adaptation in Peri-Urban Areas”


Dr. June Garcia-Becerra is an Assistant Professor at UNBC in the Engineering program. She has a background in chemical engineering and biotechnology, with a focus on ecological engineering. Dr. Garcia-Becerra leads the Water and Sanitation Holistic Technologies (WASH-T) research group, which develops sustainable and resilient decentralized water and sanitation solutions.


Dr. June Garcia-Becerra, at Climate Change and Environmental Justice seminar, shared her insights on climate change adaptation in peri-urban areas, focusing on her research in Mexico. As the head of the Water and Sanitation Holistic Technologies (WASH-T) research group, Dr. Garcia-Becerra is dedicated to developing sustainable and resilient decentralized water and sanitation solutions.


In her speech, Dr. Garcia-Becerra highlighted the unique challenges faced by peri-urban areas, which serve as an interface between cities and rural spaces. These areas provide essential ecosystemic functions and services to cities but are highly vulnerable to urban growth and climate change impacts, such as heat islands and temperature increases.


Dr. Garcia-Becerra’s research in the city of Salida, located in the state of Sonora, Mexico, aimed to address knowledge gaps by understanding climate change processes from an adaptation perspective. The study focused on a self-governing community that has experienced the drying up of the nearby river and the onset of a mega-drought.


The research team conducted site-to-site diagnoses to understand the community’s current reality and their desired solutions. They found that the community faced problems such as rising temperatures, heat waves, and increased drought, which affected their daily lives and agricultural practices.


Using an interdisciplinary approach, the team developed adaptation and vulnerability reduction strategies, proposing participatory and sustainable actions to build resilience. They identified three distinct groups within the community, each with different preferences for solutions ranging from independent and pragmatic to collective and conventional, or collective and open to nature-based solutions.


Despite their differences, the community members agreed on certain solutions, such as building local green infrastructure through reforestation and installing household solar panels for food storage. Importantly, all groups rejected the idea of selling their land as a solution, highlighting their resilience and attachment to their ecosystem.


Dr. Garcia-Becerra emphasized the need for change while maintaining function and learning from the changes. She suggested incorporating flexibility in risk management operations and moving towards sustainable resilience management of goods and services.


“The Q&A Session: Experts Discuss Climate Change Adaptation and Environmental Justice”


In the panel, presenters discussed the complex issues surrounding climate change adaptation and environmental justice. Dr. Daniel Sims shed light on the evolving forestry practices in northern British Columbia, where First Nations are gaining more influence in resource management decisions. The idea of co-management between licensees and First Nations is promising, but its effectiveness remains to be seen.


Dr. June Garcia-Becerra challenged the notion of high-tech versus low-tech solutions, arguing that seemingly simple solutions can be intricate. She shared insights from her research in Mexico, where a community adapted to climate change by shifting from traditional activities to tourism. The researchers proposed solutions that complemented the community’s existing adaptive processes, such as planting fruit trees and promoting local food sources, demonstrating the importance of working with communities to find context-specific solutions.


Dr. Gabrielle Daoust highlighted the IPCC’s recognition of colonialism as a contributor to the climate crisis and global climate-related injustices. However, she cautioned that the focus on large-scale, green transitions may inadvertently exacerbate vulnerabilities in communities. Governments often resort to technocratic, technology-driven solutions for climate change adaptation, which may prove unsustainable in the long run. The experts emphasized the need for a balanced approach that addresses both adaptation and mitigation strategies.


The discussion also touched on the complex relationship between climate change and migration. Contrary to popular belief, most climate change-related migration occurs internally or within regions, driven by structural, systemic, and political-economic factors. Research reveals that people often have a strong desire to remain in their ancestral lands, despite the impacts of climate change.


On a positive note, province of BC and the federal government are taking steps to incorporate the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) into legislation. This move recognizes the right of First Nations communities to self-governance and empowers them to tackle issues like climate change on their own terms. 


As students, it is crucial to stay informed about these developments and consider how we can contribute to creating a more sustainable and equitable future. If you are into sustainability, I hope you have enjoyed this article. Stay tuned for the next edition where I sit with Olga and Ann to know them better and ask them about how the Green Day Events went!



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