Pre-Identified Themed Sessions

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Paper abstract for a pre-identified themed session

We have pre-identified some themed sessions, but these are just some examples. All presenters for these sessions will be selected from the abstracts submitted for the sessions. Click on a title below to learn more about the session themes.

Organizer: Professor Lisa Kramer, Department of Management, University of Toronto Mississauga

Animal agriculture is resource-intensive, using a substantial fraction of the world’s available water and energy resources and producing perhaps as much greenhouse gas emissions as the transportation sector. There are also health concerns associated with animal agriculture, with purported links to antibiotic resistance, seasonal influenza, cardiovascular disease, and other plights. While the consumption of animal products such as meat, dairy, and eggs, have reached global all-time highs, the plant-based foods sector is growing rapidly, with promises that plant-based meat simulants (and plants in general) are less resource-intensive than conventional animal agriculture. Additionally, technology is in development to generate lab-grown meat by culturing small samples of animal cells or genetically engineered plant cells, sidestepping some concerns associated with animal agriculture. While so-called clean meat (also known as cellular agriculture) is not yet commercially viable, some forecasters estimate its availability on store shelves within one to five years. The session invites abstracts from researchers exploring related topics, including experiments examining factors that influence consumer uptake of plant-based or cellular agriculture products, studies quantifying the local or global impact of animal agriculture, studies of challenges facing these novel technologies, matters related to government policy, and a wide range of other possibilities.

Organizer: Professor Josée Johnston, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto Mississauga

The industrialized food system is widely recognized as being a major contributor to environmental problems like greenhouse gas emissions, soil degradation, water contamination, genetic pollution, and eutrophication. While these problems are exceptionally serious, there is a powerful energy and activism amongst food system activists and entrepreneurs to create a greener, more sustainable food system. Papers in this session are tasked with evaluating and assessing some of these food system sustainability challenges – and challengers (e.g., CSAs, eat-local schemes, organic food, sustainable seafood). Authors are encouraged to showcase examples of green-eating at multiple scales, and also explore food system dilemmas like the following: 1) how can the energy of food system activism be reconciled with the severity of agricultural sustainability issues at hand? 2) how can green marketplace initiatives adequately address food system issues that seem endemic to ecologically destructive capitalist dynamics? 3) where do possibilities for meaningful change lie, and how do we locate evidence of corporate greenwashing in the foodscape? 

Organizer: Dr. Alexandra Rahr, Centre for the Study of the United States, University of Toronto

Both promising and vexed, the concept of sustainability has been energetically interrogated by recent scholarship – which highlights the neoliberal appropriation of sustainability discourses, as well as the often conservative politics attached to this influential ideology. Yet sustainability remains the dominant environmental paradigm in both institutions like universities and in public policy making bodies.  And sustainability initiatives are increasingly articulated in humanist terms, such as ‘cultures’ and ‘narratives’ of sustainability.  How then might environmental humanities engage anew with this framework?  What critiques, collaborations and even hijackings are possible when sustainability is imagined as a cultural project?  And what can humanities thinking bring to sustainability decision making? This session will both examine humanist theories of sustainability and explore models for humanities engagement with sustainability initiatives.

Organizer: Professor Xiaoyong Xu, Department and Chemical and Physical Sciences, University of Toronto Mississauga

Water is an essential need for all life on Earth. Sustainable water resources management is one of the greatest challenges the world faces. This session focuses on a better understanding of variability in the water cycle behavior and water resources, which will lead to a better decision-making for the sustainable development of water resources. Topics can be related (but not limited) to monitoring and prediction of the water cycle behavior, variability in regional and global water resources as influenced by climate change and/or human activities, remote sensing applications for water resources assessment, data assimilation, hydroclimatic extreme events, and water-climate-human interactions.

Organizer: Professor Ingo Ensminger, Department of Biology, University of Toronto Mississauga

Climate change occurs at an unprecedented rate with rapid increases in temperature and increases in the frequency of extreme events such as droughts and heat waves. These changes will have notable impacts on forests and their ability to provide ecosystem services, contribute to climate regulation and the maintenance of a healthy planet. New strategies are needed for growing forests that can cope with the projected future climate conditions. This symposium will focus on the impact of human and natural disturbances on tree functioning and forest health, and emphasize new science based approaches and strategies to sustain tree and forest health in future climates.

Organizer: Professor Yuhong He, Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga

he health of terrestrial ecosystems has diminished because of human activities and climate change in the past few decades. Yet, detecting and documenting trends in ecosystem health has proven to be challenging. The increased availability in geospatial data has improved the scale, depth, and fidelity at which ecosystem traits can be quantified. More algorithms or tools have become available for processing geospatial data and extracting various information, such as machine learning, deep learning, artificial intelligence (AI), and Google Earth Engine, which have provided new opportunities for the further investigation of terrestrial ecosystems. This section welcomes original research focusing on the recent advances in spatial data science, and the presentations could focus on, but are not limited to investigating interactions between human and physical environment.

Organizer: Professor Robert H. Morris, Department of Chemistry, University of Toronto

This session will examine many aspects of green chemistry.  Current and future applications of innovative technologies to established industrial procedures for the production of safer materials with reduced environmental impact  will be presented.  The careful utilization of bio-derived products for cleaner chemical processes will be considered.    Major contributions to mitigating the climate change problem will come from chemical catalysis.  Catalysts are needed for the efficient conversion of carbon dioxide to fuels and water to hydrogen  and the interconversion of chemical and electrical energy for storage applications.  These catalysts, to be employed on a large scale, must be based on abundant chemical elements such as manganese, iron, cobalt, nickel and copper as opposed to the precious metals like platinum, palladium, rhodium and ruthenium that are commonly employed.  This replacement process must also happen in the pharmaceutical industry where these precious metals which are not essential to life are employed in building up drug molecules.

Organizer: Professor Heather MacLean, Department of Civil Engineering, University of Toronto

UN projections of two-thirds of the world’s population living in cities and increased numbers of megacities by 2050 make addressing the tremendous challenge of moving toward more sustainable cities of immediate concern. This session’s objective is to engage a broad set of stakeholders in a dialogue on research and initiatives aimed at improving sustainability of cities. Specific aims are to understand similarities/distinctions among approaches relevant to global north and south cities and to identify state-of-the-art research/initiatives, as well as key gaps in knowledge. Topics include: understanding impacts of sustainability initiatives at different scales (e.g., city, neighbourhood, transportation system); (ii) exploring the synergies/tradeoffs between more sustainable cities and improved resident’ well-being; (iii) understanding and exploring synergies of scientific and engineering perspectives with social science perspectives related to sustainable cities; (iv) case studies of sustainability initiatives in global north and south cities, and (v) identifying and addressing primary challenges to cities becoming more sustainable.

Co-Organizers: Professor Stephen Bede Scharper, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto Mississauga & Professor Hilary Cunningham, Department of Anthropology, University of Toronto

While much has been written on “the sacred,” and literature on “sustainability” is ever-increasing, noticeably absent is a direct focus on sustainability and the sacred. Models of sustainability have traditionally integrated social, ecological and economic/policy categories. How might including “the sacred” contribute to theories and practices of sustainability? What existing models of sustainability give a legible or prominent place to the sacred? This session aims to explore existing practical and theoretical connections between “the sacred” and “sustainability;” probe the interplay between conceptions of “the sacred” and “sustainability” in terms of both constructive and negative effects; and assemble relevant case studies in key categories of sustainability research (such as food, infrastructure, resilience, behavioral transformation, mental health, interspecies communities, to name a few). Potential topics include: sacred space and sustainability; interspecies communities; personal sustainability, spirituality and mindfulness; sentient landscapes and ecological activism; and Indigenous perspectives on “the sacred” and sustainability.

Organizer: Professor Jacob B. Hirsh, Department of Management, University of Toronto Mississauga

Researchers and policy makers are increasingly interested in applying insights from the behavioral sciences to address collective challenges. These insights are based on advances in our understanding of human cognitive, emotional, and behavioral dynamics, and have proven useful in many domains, including healthcare, education, financial well-being, and civic engagement. This symposium introduces new and innovative research on the application of these ideas to the challenge of sustainability, showcasing how interventions informed by the behavioral sciences can help us to achieve a more sustainable world.

Organizer: Professor Soo Min Toh, Institute for Management & Innovation, University of Toronto Mississauga

Society and organizations can only sustain and thrive when all members are accepted and respected equally. With greater rates of migration and growing diversity, governments and organizations should be more concerned and informed by research about creating inclusive environments and processes that enable migrant, minority, and traditionally disadvantaged groups realize their full potential and contribute to society meaningfully. Papers of interest to this theme include those that evaluate current governmental and organizational policies and practices; examine migrant integration (economic and social) from migrant, host and other relevant perspectives; ethnicity, race, gender, religion, and other social categories in the workplace; and papers that provide insights into the inclusion, exclusion, bias, and fair treatment of individuals and groups with a view towards building sustainable organizations.

Organizer: Professor Yue Li, Department of Management, University of Toronto Mississauga

There is a growing trend that companies issue sustainability reports voluntarily to align their operations and business strategy with a sustainable global economy, to communicate with their key stakeholders, and to supplement their financial reports. Increasingly, companies also seek external assurance on their sustainability reports to enhance credibility. Anecdotal evidence suggests that investors and financial analysts incorporate sustainability information in investment decisions and stock recommendations. This session calls for research papers that examine social, political, organizational, and economic factors that affect firms’ decisions to issue and assure sustainability reports voluntarily, and the informativeness of sustainability reports to capital market participants and other stakeholders. We welcome research papers using different research methodologies.  

Organizer: Professor Brett Caraway, ICCIT, University of Toronto Mississauga

The circular economy asks us to consider how natural resources should be managed in order to support economic activity. However, this outlook is largely anthropocentric with respect to the significance of natural resources for larger ecological communities. The ecological multifunctionality of natural resources transcends the human domain of individual and collective preferences. Accordingly, this session explores the advantages and limitations of economic analyses of the environment premised on notions of relative utility. What links between economic and ecological equilibria does the circular economy provide? What are the prospects of raising standards of living for a growing population while ensuring continued ecological viability? What recent innovations or policy decisions shed light on these questions?

Organizer: Professor David Price, Department of Economics, University of Toronto Mississauga

As the worldwide economy grows, there is an increasing awareness that—even within richer countries—some people have not shared in the prosperity. With this awareness, attention has additionally turned to polices that might sustainably address disparities, such as a universal basic income, tax credits tied to work, and universal health care. However, there is much we don’t know about these issues. This session will examine the causes and consequences of poverty and inequality in developed countries, and what can be done to address those problems.

Organizer: Professor Laurel Besco, Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga

Around the world, decision-makers are grappling with how to address climate change and innovative law and policy ideas are critical in order to achieve the Paris Agreement goals. From new perspectives on traditional regulatory approaches to unique policy proposals, this session will highlight research in the fields of law and policy that could move us towards a more low-carbon world. We welcome submissions related to climate change mitigation and adaptation generally, as well as research presenting sector specific solutions.

Organizer: Professor Harvey Shear, Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga

Sustainability is developed and practiced globally at many levels- by government, the private sector, academia, not-for profits and by individuals. One of the more advanced sectors in terms of implementing sustainability plans and programs in Canada is the municipal sector. In this themed session, we will examine the approaches taken by several Canadian municipalities towards aspects of sustainability including, but not limited to, sustainable urban development, reduction in greenhouse emissions, reduction in solid waste, reduction in water and energy consumption, brownfield redevelopment, poverty reduction and green economic development.

Organizer: Frances Edmonds, Head of Sustainable Impact HP Canada

Based on the premise that we “purchase the future we want’, we believe that public and private sector procurement in Canada is a missed opportunity to tackle the most pressing environmental and social issues of our time. In this session we look forward to exploring strategies and solutions that can advance sustainable procurement. From applied and solutions oriented research, we anticipate discussing concrete and collaborative opportunities that leverage procurement to advance a low carbon and socially just economy. As Canada’s fledgling collaboration – “Catalysing the Advancement of Sustainable Procurement” group begins the task of delivering on its name, identifying and leveraging research will assist us on this journey.

Organizer: Professor Ellen Berrey, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto Mississauga

Conservative and populist movements around the world have organized against environmental regulations. Many have questioned the very notion that humans cause environmental devastation. Their methods and arguments vary, from denial campaigns representing corporate interests to conspiracy theories about the totalitarian threat of sustainability planning. This session examines this political opposition and policymakers’ and bureaucrats’ responses. 

Organizer: Professor Steve G. Hoffman, Department of Sociology, University of Toronto Mississauga

Extreme weather events and environmental hazards are a new normal across the globe. The impacts range from the inconvenient (e.g. campus closures) to the catastrophic (e.g. ice storms, flooding, wildfires, unpredictable hurricanes, etc.). As this proceeds, sustainable planning and disaster resilience are converging. This themed session invites papers that can draw out theoretic and empirical linkages between sustainability and critical disaster studies, where the ties are not without tension. The scholarship on sustainability has largely developed from strategic planning frameworks that promote economic growth and development aimed at the preservation of bio-physical resources for future generations. Critical disaster studies, in contrast, has drawn from critical perspectives rooted in political economy, the unequal distribution of disaster vulnerability, theories of entrenched institutional interest and regulatory capture, and denunciations of neoliberal governance and global capitalism. Where, then, might the programmatic orientation of sustainability strategies locate a constructive engagement with critical disaster studies? Papers that address this thematic are welcomed from a broad spectrum of perspectives, including case studies of disaster events and disaster-related phenomena drawing from the social sciences, humanities, science and technology studies, management, and other humanistic and post-humanistic perspectives.

Organizer:  Professor Virginia Maclaren, Department of Geography, University of Toronto 

Managing waste encompasses a hierarchy of waste practices, including avoidance, reduction, reuse, composting, recycling, recovery and disposal. We welcome papers dealing with topics related to any of these stages in the waste hierarchy, including: waste and policy, household and industrial/commercial/institutional waste practices, waste infrastructure, waste and climate change, waste history, plastic waste, waste in the Global South, zero waste, waste and culture, waste metabolism, waste and reverse supply chains, waste and justice, waste and corporate social responsibility, measuring waste, waste and the circular economy, waste and sustainable consumption, and waste governance.

Organizer: Professor Brett Caraway, ICCIT, University of Toronto Mississauga

Ideology plays a critical role in the propagation of particular views of the relationship between society and the natural world. Much of our understanding of environmental issues is cultivated through our engagement with motion pictures, television programming, children’s literature, video games, and a variety of other media. Consequently, there is an emerging body of research investigating environmental representations across media. This panel explores the emerging role of media representations for raising awareness of environmental issues, advancing the agenda of special interests, and in promoting sustainability.

Organizer: Professor Monika Havelka, Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga & Professor Barbara Murck, Department of Geography, University of Toronto Mississauga

Transformative learning can be defined as “a process of effecting change in a frame of reference” — learning that leads to a change in identity and attitude through critical reflection, raising of conscience, individuation, or personal development (e.g. Mezirow 1997). Transformative learning occurs when students are profoundly affected by an experience they have had, thus leading them to experience a change in their values or outlook on the world.  Sustainability education seeks to effect this type of learning.  This session explores the various pedagogies, methods and philosophies that lead to transformative learning in the context of sustainability.