September 19, 2005
Source: Mount Allison University:
SACKVILLE, NB — Events of this past year, especially recent disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the Tsunami in the Indian Ocean, have emphasized the fragility of our natural environment and highlighted how reliant we are on energy sources such as oil, gas, and electricity. While these dramatic events have drawn immediate attention and action, Dr. Carla VanBeselaere of the economics department at Mount Allison University believes that they should also give pause for thoughts about our consumption patterns and the impacts we have on the environment.
With this in mind, Dr. VanBeselaere decided to undertake an interdisciplinary environmental teaching project this summer. She says, “this project is intended to encourage Mount Allison University students to think and talk about how what they consume impacts the environment and what they can do to change these behaviours.” Initial emphasis is being placed on transportation decisions because these are easily monitored behaviours. They also contribute to greenhouse gases, which Canada is committed to reducing as a part of the Kyoto Protocol.
With financial support from the Purdy Crawford Teaching Centre, Dr. VanBeselaere hired Marco Perico a third-year commerce student, and John Kamau, a third-year international relations student to develop teaching materials. Helped by professors from across the university, these students have spent the summer developing teaching modules on the environment that will be incorporated into existing courses offered at Mount Allison. They are currently being used in math, music, fine arts, philosophy, physics, biology, geography, environmental studies, Canadian studies, economics, and commerce.
As part of this project, Perico worked with assistance from MASSIE (Mount Allison Sophomore Semester in English, a Japanese exchange program) volunteers to develop a web site that will be used to share information about “conscientious consumption.” A very important component of this web site is a carpool web site for Mount Allison commuters to help them connect with fellow commuters. This was set up with carpool tool.com, a company started through the University of Waterloo.
A research grant from Mount Allison’s Marjorie Young Bell Foundation provided further support for Jeff Spencer, a fourth-year economics student to undertake some preliminary analysis of alternative energy and the state of environmental research.
These projects represent the first phase of an on-going effort. Dr. VanBeselaere hopes that, once students are exposed to the teaching materials, they will come together to explore different means of reducing our environmental footprint. In particular, students are being encouraged to develop entrepreneurial plans that will help people to offset pollution generated when they drive their cars. Efforts by groups such as the Suzuki Foundation and a new company, TerraPass — out of the Wharton Business School at University of Pennsylvania — have been offered as interesting models to study.
Dr. Rosemary Polegato, head of the commerce department and one of the faculty members for whom a teaching module was developed, is very pleased by the results. She points out, “The timing is perfect for this. It is similar to the changes that have occurred with people’s views on smoking and the issue of private and public choice. People now are realizing that their choices in transport will affect other people. It is very Canadian to think of the common good.”
Dr. VanBeselaere emphasizes, “The objective of this project is not to get people to give up their cars or stop consuming but to make people think of the side effects when they do consume. Obviously not everyone can afford a new fuel efficient vehicle and not everyone can use alternative means of transportation such as walking or riding a bicycle. Instead, we need alternatives that are accessible and that allow us to lessen our environmental impact while continuing to do the things we want and need to do.” And Dr. VanBeselaere is confident students will figure out new ways of addressing these concerns.
To find out more about this environmental project and the carpool service, visit the web site at http://www.mta.ca/eco-cdn or go directly to http://mta.carpooltool.com
For further information please contact: Dr. Carla VanBeselaere, department of economics, Mount Allison University, tel: 364-2278 (firstname.lastname@example.org).