David Trifunov

Email: dtrifuno@mail.ubc.ca


A photo of a woman from Togo cutting fabric

UBC Okanagan’s Department of History and Sociology is hosting Dr. Marius Kothor from the University of Wisconsin-Madison discussing West African women merchants and the economics of decolonization.

What: Department of History and Sociology Speakers’ Series—West African Women Merchants and the Economics of Decolonization
Who: Dr. Marius Kothor, University of Wisconsin-Madison
When: Thursday, January 11, 2024, 6-7:30 pm
Where: Okanagan Regional Library, Downtown Kelowna branch, 1380 Ellis St.

Women in Togo became such influential and successful textile traders that locals called them “Nana Benz” for the luxury cars they drove, and you can learn more about their story at the Okanagan Regional Library on Thursday.

UBC Okanagan’s Department of History and Sociology presents Dr. Marius Kothor in the second installment of its ongoing speakers’ series. Dr. Kothor is an emerging scholar of West African history who offers a distinctive interpretation of the role of women in business and politics in independent Togo in the 20th century.

She received her PhD from Yale University in May 2023 and is an incoming Assistant Professor of History at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Dr. Kothor will share the story of how a group of Togolese women textile traders built an empire making and selling wax print fabrics, establishing a monopoly over pattern and distribution rights.

The women used the wealth and influence they gained to shape the political landscape of 20th-century West Africa. By leveraging their social networks and deep knowledge of regional markets, they were able to expand consumer economies during colonialism, finance the decolonization movement in Togo, and smooth the turbulent transition from independence to the military dictatorship of former president Gnassingbé Eyadéma.

The Department of History and Sociology speakers’ series at UBC Okanagan began in 2017 in collaboration with the Okanagan Regional Library, with the goal of inviting scholars and members of the public to engage with each other.

This community event is free and open to the public.

The post Nana drives a Benz: An African success story appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of the Columbia River

UBC Okanagan faculty and community partners are hosting a two-day virtual symposium about the ongoing Columbia River Basin Treaty.

As the clock ticks on the existing Columbia River Treaty, UBC Okanagan faculty members are preparing to discuss the river, its environmental effects, treaty operations and how climate change has affected the waterway throughout BC, Washington State and Oregon at a two-day virtual symposium scheduled for Nov. 29 and 30.

The symposium will cover many aspects of the Columbia River including the long and storied history of the 60-year Columbia River Transboundary Treaty between Canada and the US, governance, vitality and the future of this 2,000-kilometre-long body of water that stretches across the 49th parallel.

The Tribes and First Nations Advisory Committee, which includes members such as Pauline Terbasket of the Okanagan Nation Alliance and DR Michel from the Upper Columbia United Tribes, among others, has been pivotal in shaping the symposium’s topics and speaker selection. They’re drawing from extensive knowledge and experience in the Columbia River Basin and their guidance reflects over a decade of trusted and reciprocal relationships, which are fundamental to the ongoing dialogues and gatherings organized in the Basin.

Dr. Joanne Taylor, a Postdoctoral researcher in UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, is the lead event organizer. She says a new treaty is imperative for First Nations, Tribes, Basin residents and the environment.

Can you explain what is at stake for residents of the Columbia River Basin?

Residents have numerous concerns including flood control and flexibility in how the river is operated. Sixty years ago, when the treaty was first put into action, the First Nations and public were not consulted or included in negotiations as the treaty was designed solely for flood control and hydropower between the two countries.

Controlling the Columbia River caused irreparable damage to the environment, decimated First Nations’ and Tribes’ fisheries and cultures, and displaced more than 2,000 people while submersing viable farmland in the Arrow Lakes area that was flooded when one of three Columbia treaty dams—the Hugh Keenleyside—was built in 1968 under the treaty.

This speaks to the heart of my research into food and water security for both colonial settlers and First Nations. Although the Grand Coulee Dam built prior to the treaty killed fish passage, we cannot ignore the unfair operations of dams in the area.

Many residents are calling for the removal of dams as has been done on the Klamath River along the Oregon-California border and the Elwa River in Washington State where anadromous (migrating) fish species returned naturally and almost immediately.

What is concerning about the current state of the basin?

Along the 230-kilometer-long Arrow Lakes reservoir, we are seeing some of the lowest water levels ever which are exposing First Nations’ archeological sites, relics of lost homes and farmland on dried river beds, and thousands of fish that are dying due to a lack of normal flow and water levels. Basin residents are deeply saddened and want to see flexibility in how the river is operated which would include consulting Sovereigns—a call that is consistent with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

How Canada and the US proceed in creating a revised treaty is an opportunity for reconciliation between Canada and Indigenous Peoples. We need to think about the salmon, the river and what legacy we are leaving to our children, seven generations into the future.

When is a new treaty expected to be announced?

After 19 rounds of negotiations that began in 2018, both US President Joe Biden and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau have encouraged treaty negotiators to work hard to create a newly revised transboundary agreement by Sept. 16, 2024. This date is when the guaranteed flood control component of the current treaty expires and reverts to on-call; something that neither country necessarily wants to see as they wade into unknown waters, literally. Hydropower generation continues indefinitely until the treaty is renewed or expires. Negotiators are now meeting on a weekly basis.

What is being organized by researchers and partners of the Columbia Basin?

We have organized a two-day virtual event where Indigenous voices will join academics, community and government leaders, and residents of the Columbia River Basin in a non-partisan forum that will discuss the future of the river and its resources.

Who will be speaking and what will be discussed at this event?

This event is organized by UBCO, the Universities Consortium on Columbia River Governance, the One River Ethics Matter Project and the North American Youth Parliament for Water.

We will also have presentations from people across the basin and the globe, including those from Tribes and First Nations, concerned youth, not-for-profit representatives and individuals from private and public sector businesses.

Some of the topics that will be discussed are Indigenous-led salmon revitalization initiatives in the basin, water quality in the Elk and Kootenai/y watersheds, global perspectives on governance models, ethical and intergenerational aspects of public engagement in water governance and other pressing issues facing the third largest watershed in North America.

Through open invitations to not only basin residents but to participants globally, this symposium is designed to engage a broader public through synthesis, exchange, networking and facilitated dialogues between and beyond the Columbia River Treaty, and will act as a catalyst for an in-person gathering that organizers are currently considering for next year.

How can people learn more?

For more information and to register, visit columbiabasingovernance.org.

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A photo of Wendy Wong speaking to an audience.

Wendy Wong, UBC Okanagan Professor of Political Science.

It’s critical to understand how Big Tech is mining, storing and profiting from your data, says UBC Okanagan Professor Dr. Wendy H. Wong, because human experiences are becoming data.

Wong is a Principal’s Research Chair and Political Science Professor interested in human rights, global governance, international relations and, especially, data rights.

“We face losses on both individual and societal levels,” she says. “Our identity and humanity are at risk. When companies gather data and build profiles about us, they steer us toward particular outcomes. This challenges our autonomy and how we’re perceived and treated by others. This isn’t just about respect but dignity and equality.”

Dr. Wong attempts to unravel many of these sticky issues in her new book, We the Data: Human Rights in the Digital Age.

Can you shed light on the role of Big Tech companies in creating data?

Data about us is co-created. Every piece of data is a collaboration between the individual’s actions or thoughts and the entity collecting it. This mutual creation complicates our ability to claim complete control. While we might want rights to “our data,” we have to recognize that this data, in its current form, didn’t even exist before the 2000s when companies began actively collecting it. Big Tech shapes our world through data collection. The pathway to empowerment is through data literacy and becoming a data stakeholder.

How does becoming a stakeholder help us?

Being a data stakeholder means understanding how data affects us and our communities. It’s realizing that we have power over AI and data technologies. We don’t have to let machines dictate our lives. By understanding data better, we can make informed decisions and have more control.

How does data affect human rights?

From an individual perspective, data collection can strip us of our identity and humanity. Algorithms categorize all of us, based on our past actions and the actions of those “like us.” They nudge us, but they assume our pasts predict our futures. But often they don’t. It’s a loss of autonomy, and in a sense, dignity. We’ve seen the effects of this in social media. People can adopt toxic behaviours when exposed to toxic content, leading to real-world harm that prevents others from acting or treating others as lesser, in simple black-and-white terms

How do you respond to the idea that AI’s emergence is unavoidable?

I’m not saying we should stop AI’s development. It’s important to know that conceding control to machines is a choice, not a conclusion. Our current challenge is that we’re attributing too much power to these machines. Consider cars: they’re faster and stronger than humans, but we never envisioned them taking over. We control them. With AI and algorithms, there’s this disconnect. These machines are human-made tools, not entities that magically appeared. It’s vital we remember that and take back control.

Why do you write that data, and not algorithms, are the larger problem?

An AI is only as good as the information it’s fed. The rise of machine learning took off once companies began hoarding data. Let’s shift our focus from algorithms and hone in on data. If we handle data correctly, we can avoid harmful outcomes. Instead of tweaking algorithms, let’s evaluate and manage the data they’re using. That way, we can preserve our human identity and uphold our values.

Isn’t the genie out of the bottle? How can we expect corporations to stop something so profitable?

I genuinely question if these major technology companies, with all their smart, highly trained personnel, can’t find a new business model if data collection becomes more stringent or costly, both financially and socio-politically. Would companies adapt if suddenly accessing loads of data came with more friction or costs? I believe so. Some suggest paying individuals for their data. I’m not a fan—it feels wrong, like selling parts of yourself. Instead, why not have users pay for services? If apps became pricier, maybe users would prioritize and only use what truly benefits them. It could naturally sift out unnecessary data-hungry apps.

How does government play a role?

It can create policies that safeguard individuals and groups while putting checks on technology companies. What gets to me is when I see efforts, like Parliament, trying to regulate AI by only consulting those who profit financially from AI development. By doing that, we’re getting their wish list of regulations rather than what might be best for society. If we don’t want machines to dominate, we have to actively make that choice. And, if AI companies are the only voices shaping the policies, it’s unlikely those regulations will truly reflect the society’s broader wishes.

Is the onus on individuals to protect their data?

Handing someone a lengthy terms and conditions document, filled with complex jargon, is like passing the buck. If everyone just agrees, why would companies change? Even if you decide to switch off all your apps, you’re one person. Imagine trying to navigate modern urban life, especially a professional one, without online tools. Our capitalist system pushes this idea of individual control, even when the broader system isn’t really in an individual’s hands. I might sound critical of capitalism, and that’s a broader issue, but when technology giants claim they can’t adjust because of profits, given their historic wealth, I find it hard to believe.

Dr. Wendy H. Wong is a Professor and Principal’s Research Chair in Political Science. In her latest book, We the Data: Human Rights in the Digital Age she explores how technology companies play a pivotal role in governing our lives by leveraging the countless amounts of personal data generated in our everyday interactions online.

The post Take control of your data, UBC Okanagan professor says appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.

A photo of Dr. Melissa Lem.

Dr. Melissa Lem.

What: UBC Okanagan’s Distinguished Speaker Series—PaRx: A Prescription for Personal and Planetary Health
Who: Dr. Melissa Lem, Director of PaRx
When: Thursday, October 12, 7 pm
Where: Kelowna Community Theatre, 1375 Water St.

Two hours is all it takes. According to Dr. Melissa Lem, people who spend two hours per week in nature are not only happier, but healthier. 

Lem is to present the findings on October 12 at the UBC Okanagan Distinguished Speaker Series, presented by the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences.

Dr. Lem is a family physician, widely published writer and serves as CBC Vancouver’s in-house medical columnist as well as a climate change panelist on CBC Radio’s Early Edition

She also serves as the President of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, and Director of PaRx, Canada’s first national, evidence-based nature prescription program to improve mental health. 

In November 2020, the BC Parks Foundation launched PaRx, and in less than two years it has spread to all 10 provinces. 

From improved blood pressure and immune function, to reduced stress and ADHD symptoms, the evidence is growing about the health benefits of green time.

In her talk, Dr. Lem will discuss highlights from the wide-ranging body of knowledge on nature and health, present an overview of PaRx—including its significant national and international influence—and reveal how prescribing nature can improve both patient and planetary health.

The Distinguished Speaker Series brings compelling speakers to the Okanagan to share their unique perspectives on issues that affect our region, our country and our world.

This community event is free and open to the public, but pre-registration is required.  

For more information and to register, please visit: theatre.kelowna.ca/upcoming-events/ubco-distinguished-speaker-series-0

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Justice Malcolm Rowe, with the Supreme Court of Canada, will speak the 2023 UBC Constitutional Lecture at UBC Okanagan this Thursday.

What: Judicial Authority: Institutional Capacity Checks and Balances and Legitimacy
Who: Justice Malcolm Rowe, Supreme Court of Canada
When: Thursday, September 21 at 5 pm
Where: University Theatre, ADM026, 1138 Alumni Avenue, UBC Okanagan campus

The community is welcome to attend the 2023 UBC Constitutional Lecture by Supreme Court of Canada Justice Malcolm Rowe at UBC Okanagan this Thursday.

During his presentation, Justice Rowe will discuss the nature of judicial authority in Canada’s constitutional system. In particular, he will discuss the separation of powers—who decides what? Why do courts decide certain questions of law as opposed to Parliament or the Government?

“This is one of the most fundamental questions in constitutional law,” explains Dr. Geoffrey Sigalet, an Assistant Professor of Political Science with UBCO’s Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “At a time of heightened political polarization regarding questions of rights and the state’s reach into citizens’ lives, the question of the separation of powers is not merely academic. It is about which institutions should be settling which kinds of questions as they impact the lives of Canadians.”

Justice Rowe is particularly interested in institutional capacity—the ability of different institutions to effectively make different types of decisions within Canada’s constitutional order.

Dr. Sigalet says Justice Rowe is well-suited to address this question. Unlike many lawyers who serve on the judiciary, Justice Rowe has worked in the legislature and government. Early in his career, he worked as a Clerk Assistant offering procedural advice to the Speaker for the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador. After working as a lawyer, he later served as Clerk of the Executive Council and Secretary to the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador. As Clerk of the Executive Council, he was not a “Clerk” in the ordinary sense of the word: he was the head of Newfoundland’s public service.

Justice Rowe has also had an impeccable career as a lawyer and judge, serving first on the Newfoundland and Labrador’s Supreme Court, then its Court of Appeal, and finally on the Supreme Court of Canada. He knows about the institutional capacities of the legislature, the government and the courts. He knows what they’re good at doing and their weak spots, not only in theory but also in practice.

Justice Rowe’s lecture will be followed by a Q&A session moderated by Dr. Sigalet. However, Justice Rowe will not answer questions about specific cases decided by or which could be decided by the Supreme Court of Canada.

Last year, Supreme Court Justice Suzanne Côté spoke at the inaugural UBC Constitutional Lecture. Justice Rowe’s lecture will help make this event an annual tradition that connects UBCO students, faculty and the wider Okanagan community to fundamental questions about constitutionalism.

The event is free and takes place in the University Theatre starting at 5 pm. No registration is required.

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A photo of students walking towards orientation activities.

Student orientation programs will be in full swing Monday as UBCO’s Create takes place as part of a welcome for students new to campus. Classes for the academic year begin Tuesday.

Next week, after an extraordinary few days in August, classes will resume for the fall at UBC Okanagan.

Students, faculty and staff are gearing up for a busy back-to-school period. More than 12,035 students are registered for classes this September and almost 3,200 are new to UBCO. Move-in day will continue as planned on Sunday, September 3 with more than 1,400 students arriving to move into their on-campus residences.

Create, the new-to-UBCO student orientation, takes place Monday, September 4 and all classes will begin as scheduled and in-person on Tuesday, September 5.

“This summer, more than ever, we have seen the strength, professionalism and values of the UBC Okanagan community on full display,” says Dr. Lesley Cormack, UBCO Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor. “When our campus was placed on evacuation order just two weeks ago, the campus rallied together to ensure everyone was able to leave the area quickly and safely. Through this adversity, we saw UBCO’s values as a compassionate community shine through once again—it’s something our incoming students can take pride and comfort in.”

As UBCO looks toward the beginning of a new term, Dr. Cormack also recognizes it has been a trying time for many people. The health and safety of all students, faculty and staff is paramount and UBCO’s Campus Operations and Risk Management team continues to communicate directly with the Central Okanagan Emergency Operations team.

“While classes will begin as planned and it’s clear that campus is safe to welcome students from across Canada and the world, we also acknowledge there are many people within our community still not able to return home. And we’ve all seen the devasting images of homes and properties lost to the wildfire,” she adds. “The arrival of our students to the region has always brought a renewed sense of vibrancy and of the limitless possibilities created by education. I know this will be true this year perhaps more than ever.”

She notes, that the UBCO community bonded as never before with many people reaching out to offer help and support for those who were placed on an evacuation order or alert.

“I continue to be impressed by the calibre and character of the people on this campus,” she adds. “When faced with adversity, we reached out and supported each other in ways that have truly amazed me.”

As the campus begins to get busy as students move in and classes begin, Dale Mullings, Associate Vice-President, Students says the university has many resources for students and help is available for those who may need it.

“We continue to prioritize the wellbeing of our students, whether they live on or off campus,” adds Mullings. “For example, we have a number of initiatives specific to our students and this year, due to the wildfire emergency, we initiated the student emergency fund to help those immediately affected by the wildfires, and an airport welcome booth with a complimentary shuttle Friday, September 1 through Monday, September 4.”

Wellness and Accessibility Services has expanded to provide a health clinic, counselling services, wellness education, disability services and a new multifaith Chaplaincy. Many other services that support the wellbeing of our students such as our on-campus and in-community recreation programs, safe walk program, security phones across campus, a student-led Emergency First Response Team and the 24-hour campus security patrols are also gearing up for the year ahead.

While classes begin next week, Dr. Cormack notes there will be accommodations for those who remain under evacuation orders and alerts and cancelled travel plans.

“We will continue to work closely with those affected by the Kelowna-area wildfires to ensure they have the flexibility they require to start the school year successfully.”

A valuable resource for people returning to the community is the UBCO Campus Alerts page and FAQ which can be found at: ok.ubc.ca/wildfire-response

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A photo of Kathleen Michel and Rose Caldwell outside UBC Okanagan’s Engineering Management and Education Building

From left, Kathleen Michel of Upper Nicola Indian Band and Westbank First Nation’s Rose Caldwell pose outside UBC Okanagan’s Engineering, Management and Education Building. They are part of UBCO’s first-ever cohort from the Bachelor of Nsyilxcn Language Fluency (BNLF) program.

For the first time in history, eight Syilx Okanagan students are set to graduate with a degree taught in their language and delivered on their land when they are conferred their Bachelor of Nsyilxcn Language Fluency (BNLF) degrees on Thursday at UBC Okanagan.

UBCO delivered the degree program in Nsyilxcn—the language of the Syilx Okanagan Nation—through an innovative partnership between Nicola Valley Institute of Technology (NVIT) in Merritt and the En’owkin Centre in Penticton.

The program is based on a framework developed by the First Nations Education Steering Committee (FNESC) and the Indigenous Adult and Higher Learning Association (IAHLA), working with a consortium of First Nations, First Nations institutes and public post-secondary institutions.

Dr. Jeannette Armstrong, Associate Professor of Indigenous Studies at UBC Okanagan and academic lead of the BNLF, says years of collaboration made this day possible.

“We are grateful for NVIT. We are grateful for the En’owkin Centre, and we acknowledge the work of UBC Okanagan,” she says. “A great willingness was necessary to make this happen. There isn’t enough money in a public institution for all the extra work needed to create a program like BNLF.

“We’re very fortunate for the willingness, care and love that’s been shown to us here in our territory.”

Chiefs of the seven Okanagan Nation Alliance members began laying the groundwork for BNLF roughly 20 years ago, Dr. Armstrong says. They insisted on a memorandum of understanding that an Indigenous studies degree program would be specific to the Okanagan Nation.

UBCO Principal and Deputy Vice-Chancellor Dr. Lesley Cormack says the university was honoured to play a role in language preservation.

“Language is fundamental to culture,” she says. “Preserving and revitalizing the precious Indigenous languages in BC is a crucial aspect of the process of reconciliation and reversing the damage brought by colonialism. I am absolutely thrilled to see the inaugural BNLF graduates at this year’s UBCO convocation ceremony. I am grateful to them for their role in helping establish a path for future students to follow.

“My hope is that the BNLF graduates will go on to share the knowledge they’ve gained to help ensure that the Nsyilxcn language has a permanent, thriving place throughout Syilx territory.”

Tracey Kim Bonneau, the Arts, Culture and Adult Higher Learning manager at En’owkin Centre, said BNLF is an example of how Indigenous and western partners can create meaningful results in times of climate change and social, class and political division.

“That’s how we are healing our nations, through speaking our languages again and healing the planet,” Bonneau says. “It’s happening through the language program, and it’s going to ripple across Turtle Island (North America) and around the world. We can see positive change if we listen to and work with one another.”

The program, however, isn’t just about learning to speak a language. BNLF uses a robust academic framework. Courses included numeracy, the arts and sciences. Students can complete a two-year diploma program through NVIT, and then transfer to UBCO for the degree portion.

“We raise our hands to the graduates and congratulate En’owkin Centre and their partners, NVIT and UBCO, on this historic achievement,” says Tyrone McNeil, President of the First Nations Education Steering Committee. “This is the realization of a long-term vision that demonstrates the progress that can be made through meaningful partnerships between First Nations and public institutions. We commend the Ministry of Post-Secondary Education and Future Skills for their support of this program and look forward to supporting other First Nations as they launch degrees in their own languages under this framework.”

“We’re honoured to collaborate with the En’owkin Centre and UBCO to support the revitalization of Indigenous Languages by offering language fluency certificates, diplomas and degrees,” reads a statement from NVIT’s Senior Leadership Team. “NVIT congratulates the inaugural UBCO Bachelor of Nsyilxcn Language Fluency graduates and extends our respect to all involved in bringing the vision to creation.”

Dr. Armstrong says that while collaboration between organizations such as FNESC and IAHLA was crucial to BNLF’s success, Indigenous culture is also a shared success.

“It was an Indigenous process,” she says. “We don’t thank one organization or person for doing it all. The achievement of one is the achievement of all.”

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A photo of farmers using a smartphone to sell product

Farmers in Shaanxi, China, are more adept at using social media and technology to mitigate the effects of climate change, whereas farmers in the Okanagan and Cariboo are quicker to try new crops, according to new research from UBC Okanagan.

Technology exists that the BC government could leverage to help small farmers connect directly with consumers and also mitigate climate change impacts, say new findings from UBC Okanagan.

Dr. John Janmaat and Dr. Joanne Taylor co-authored new research that examines how farmers in the Okanagan and Cariboo regions of BC are adapting compared to farmers in China’s Shaanxi province. One of the key differences was how Chinese farmers used technology and social media, an option that’s not as widely used in Canada, Dr. Janmaat says.

“Small agricultural producers in China are able to take advantage of online marketing to connect with consumers and to move their products,” says Janmaat, a Professor of Economics in the Irving K. Barber Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. “When the pandemic happened here, Canadians were pivoting very quickly to try and figure out, ‘Okay, what can we do now that we’re shutting down farmers’ markets, and going to visit a farm is probably not something we want to do?’ The idea of moving online was pursued, but now that these pandemic protections have come off, it’s kind of disappearing again. Whereas in China, it’s central.

“We don’t have in BC a centrally supported system of online, local produce marketing. And that’s something that perhaps the provincial government could support.”

Multiple barriers to adaptation existed in both areas, the researchers say. Limited technical knowledge and doubts about adaptation effectiveness were more serious in BC, while limited support from local government and normative expectations were notable in China. Education, targeted research and public investments in irrigation and marketing may contribute to addressing some of these differences, improving the resilience of agricultural climate adaptation in both countries.

The research was a collaboration with Lan Mu, a visiting scholar from Shaanxi Normal University, and UBCO doctoral student Lauren Arnold. It was Janmaat and Lan who struck upon the idea of comparing how Canadian and Chinese farmers are confronting climate change. They realized they were doing similar research, and wanted to bring their worlds together.

The researchers weren’t trying to declare a winner, though, they just wanted to learn from each other. It’s a simple idea, one that farmers have been using for time immemorial, says Taylor, a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council Postdoctoral Fellow in the Department of Economics, Philosophy and Political Science at UBCO. When farmers encounter a problem, they walk down the road to ask their neighbours how they’re coping.

“We’re just in the middle of climate change and trying to survive,” Taylor says, “and there are farmers from all different levels of productivity that are trying to survive. For example, technology is certainly going to play a much bigger role in the way that we supply water, and in the way that we use water.

“That’s just one example, but technology is certainly a very, very important tool that we’re going to have to use and implement in the future, and there is a lot of research which has been going on, which will continue to go on into the future.”

Tactics such as crop selection and marketing are not mutually exclusive between the two countries. Given Canada’s more frequent, more extreme weather events caused by climate change, there are real impacts on food production now, Taylor says. From drought to floods to fires, farmers across the world are being forced to change how they grow food.

It’s especially plain in Canada, where a smaller population makes direct marketing a challenge. The private sector may not see much return; however, the provincial government could play a role in making the venture worthwhile through funding.

“We need to draw attention to the ways in which we use water and the ways in which we use land for food production while supporting our agriculturalists and food suppliers,” Taylor says. “But as far as the relationship between here and China, work needs to continue in both countries. We really need to nurture those relationships for the betterment of the global food supply.”

The research was published recently in the journal Mitigation and Adaptation Strategies for Global Change.

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Aerial. Interested crowd of people in one place.

Crowds as large as this may become more common in countries around the world beyond 2022. The United Nations predicts the human population will hit 8 billion people on November 15.

If the United Nations’ prediction is accurate, the world’s 8 billionth baby will be born on Nov. 15.

The UN’s World Population Prospects 2022 says the earth will crest 8 billion just before India surpasses China as the globe’s most populous nation—expected in 2023. Further, the UN predicts the world’s population will peak at 10.4 billion in the 2080s.

Yet, that same United Nations estimates 821 million people are undernourished, many of them being low-income consumers, women and children who are especially vulnerable. How will we feed and house all these people? What will they do for work? Who will teach them and keep the laws?

What is a world to do?

UBC Okanagan professors and researchers are acutely aware of the challenges that population growth presents. They are also keenly aware of the hard work necessary to navigate the planet’s growing population. Here is how their research is intersecting with population growth.

Robert Godin researches sustainable energy with a focus on the development of photocatalysts which can harness solar energy to sustainably produce high-energy chemical fuels such as hydrogen. He says technology has created something of a run-on effect with energy.

Robert Godin, Assistant Professor of Chemistry. Tel: 250 807 8438. Email: robert.godin@ubc.ca

“A transition to sustainable energy in a world with 8 billion people is not only possible, but necessary. Population growth and increases in quality of life have driven the constant increase in energy demand. Yet, improved energetic efficiencies don’t balance the growth and often result in even greater energy consumption by making technology more accessible.”

Ross Hickey teaches management and economics at UBC. His research on charitable giving in Canada considers the distributional consequences of population growth. In particular, he studies how Canadians give to help others overseas.

“Population growth can be a major contributor to economic growth, but there are trade-offs: that growth may not be shared equally and the environmental costs associated with more people, goods and services may be difficult to address.”

Ross Hickey, Associate Professor of Economics. Tel: 250 807 8653. Email: ross.hickey@ubc.ca

Katrina Plamondon’s contributions to a global pandemic treaty are made possible through her research into vaccine equity at UBC Okanagan. A 2020 Michael Smith Health Research Scholar, Plamondon leads national dialogue about equity and Canada’s role in global health research, with a special focus on issues of vaccine equity.

“Our collective, global health, solidarity and obligations to others beyond our own borders in the world matters. This requires us to think very differently about the planet, beyond international health.”

Katrina Plamondon, Assistant Professor of Nursing. Tel: 250 807 8681. Email: katrina.plamondon@ubc.ca

Joanne Taylor is a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow in agricultural climate change adaptation and food security policy. Her work is at the crossroads of sustainable agriculture, climate change and population growth.

“Much of the global population is dependent on an industrialized food system that is currently at capacity and unable to fulfil global food demand due to stressors such as burgeoning population growth, inflation, inequality and catastrophic climate change which is severely impacting food security for the most vulnerable. It is imperative that agricultural adaptation is implemented and practised alongside mitigation policies as a key strategy to becoming more resilient in an increasingly extreme climate. More importantly, humanity must consider alternative food practices such as Indigenous food production and small-scale farming.”

Joanne Taylor, Postdoctoral Fellow. Email: joanne.taylor@ubc.ca.

Lisa Tobber and her team of structural engineering researchers adopt a holistic perspective that considers the social, environmental and economic factors behind the vast engineering problems faced today. Combating natural disasters and the climate crisis takes the ingenuity and creativity of an inclusive group of diverse individuals with a range of expertise and lived experiences.

“Structural engineers will be challenged to build much-needed infrastructure to be safe, sustainable, resilient to climate disasters and earthquakes, quick to construct and economical. We need the construction industry to be innovation leaders, exploring the use of new materials, systems and tools. We also need to think about building for the future, design for the life cycle of the building and design for deconstruction.”

Lisa Tobber, Assistant Professor of Engineering. Email: lisa.tobber@ubc.ca.

Nathan Pelletier is an industrial ecologist and ecological economist whose research addresses the intersection of food system sustainability measurement and management.

“Access to food of sufficient quality and quantity is a fundamental human right that is currently denied to hundreds of millions of people. Food systems are also a key driver of environmental change, as well as particularly susceptible to increasing climate unpredictability. Identifying means to sustainably feed the growing human population constitutes a profound challenge whose resolution requires research to identify and support implementation of a spectrum of technological interventions, dietary changes and redistributive efforts.”

Nathan Pelletier, Associate Professor of Biology. Tel: 250 807 8245. Email: nathan.pelletier@ubc.ca.

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A woman looking at emojis in a smartphone

UBC Okanagan researchers are sharing a new tool for academics hoping to better understand and measure the ever-expanding world of emojis in everyday communication.

How much is really known about those smiley faces staring back at from smartphone screens? Anyone who has ever wondered if the people sending them are really that happy is not alone.

Thanks to a pair of UBC Okanagan colleagues, researchers striving to better understand the ever-expanding world of emojis now have a new tool to keep pace with technology—what they call a multidimensional lexicon of emojis (MLE).

Doctoral student Rebecca Godard and Dr. Susan Holtzman, Associate Professor in Psychology at UBCO, have published their findings in a new paper titled “The Multidimensional Lexicon of Emojis: A New Tool to Assess the Emotional Content of Emojis.” The research appears in the journal Frontiers in Psychology.

“As digital platforms evolve, strategies are also evolving to communicate emotion,” Godard says. “We saw that early on with emoticons (precursors to emojis), but emojis have largely taken over that role of facilitating emotional communication. At the same time, research on emojis has lagged behind actual use. Researchers don’t have enough tools for measuring the way people use emojis and the emotions that they communicate.”

While it may be easy to cast off emojis as simple distractions, they belie a hidden language—especially among young people—Godard says. And any researcher studying digital communication will have to account for the emotional information an emoji contains to get a true accounting of the message.

Godard’s MLE can help researchers crack that coded language and the emotions behind it beyond simple negativity and positivity.

Godard analyzed three million Twitter posts and collected emotion ratings of emojis from 2,230 human raters to develop and validate the MLE.

This new lexicon consists of 359 common emojis rated on eight emotions (anger, anticipation, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, surprise, and trust) and the two broader sentiments (positive and negative).

“A substantial amount of online communication now includes emojis,” says Holtzman, who supervised the findings. “From market to mental health research, we hope this new tool will help everyone better understand the emotions of people communicating online.”

Godard saw the need for the MLE because human communication is changing and growing so rapidly. More people are writing at a higher rate than at any time in history, but often in short bursts through social media, email or text message. When people speak face to face, they see emotional cues that help translate emotions. When people write letters, they have the luxury of letting the words explain the emotions over paragraphs. In tweets, there are 280 characters.

But people tweet a lot, and much of that is in the public domain. It’s a tantalizing opportunity to study communication, and Godard’s lexicon can help translate. Godard is continuing her PhD at UBCO, and will monitor how useful her MLE remains. She understands the research will need to be updated to keep pace with the quickly changing world of digital communication.

“We know that the meanings of emojis change over time,” says Godard. “We also know how subtle teens can be, in their text messages for example, and how they tend to gravitate toward what’s new.”

The post Emo-jional rescue: UBCO researchers create tool to measure the emotion in emojis appeared first on UBC Okanagan News.