Social and Biophysical Dimensions of Resource and Environmental Sustainability


The transition to a more sustainable economy demands much more of us than simply the development of new technologies. We must look at how these technologies are produced, used, and disposed of; how their use affects our collective behaviour; what policies are needed to promote or limit their potentially harmful use; and the economics of not only the technology and it’s use but of its impacts on society and the environment. Dalhousie researchers are actively engaged in studying how we build our cities, how we develop and implement policiessustainable developmenthow we value the natural environment, as well as logistics and supply chains

 
INFRASTRUCTURE AND THE BUILT ENVIRONMENT

Incorporating sustainable practices in the built environment depends upon a confluence of technology, policy, economics, and acceptance by design professionals and society.

Cristina Verissimo maintains an active professional, interdisciplinary, and collaborative architectural practice, CVDB Arquitectos, that contributes to her academic research. She is also interested in sustainable architecture and is developing a thesis on the architectural use of cork.

Brian Lilley studies ecological, programmatic, and artistic strategies influencing design. His built projects advocate health and well-being of communities through capacity-building, especially through robust facade and garden design. He is involved in cross-disciplinary research into ceramic materials, as well as augmented environments such as computational representation of interior climate and networked knowledge-enhanced forms of circulation.

Richard leBrasseur’s Green Infrastructure Performance Lab (GIPL) engages in research focused on the analysis and strategic planning of landscapes to improve human and ecological wellbeing. He examines the impact of urbanisation and uses the findings in order to integrate knowledge, influence policy, and sustain ecosystem services particularly in per-rural environments to create sustainable rural-urban synergies.

Researchers Pedram Sadeghian , James Forren, Austin Parsons (Architecture, Dalhousie University), and Jennifer Green (Textiles NSCAD University) have initiated a preliminary collaboration around the use of flax shives in building construction. Flax shives are a by-product of flax fiber production, and the goal of the research is to produce regional carbon sequestering building materials and revitalize the regional industry. Flaxcrete is a composite made from flax shives, lime, and cement. While natural alternatives such as hemp-based concrete have shown promise, they are non-native and water intensive. Flaxcrete is a local, post-industrial, natural building material with unique mechanical and thermal properties. Dr. Sadeghian has characterized the mechanical properties of flaxcrete. Professors Forren and Parsons have conducted a literature review of thermal properties; a comparative simulation of embodied energy values with hempcrete; and plan to conduct future hygrothermal modeling and testing. Professor Green has conducted qualitative analysis of flax shives, flax growth, harvesting and provided a business model summary for industry partner Tap Root Farms (Port Williams, NS) for the use of flax shives in building and construction.

Photo credit: Brian Lilley


POLICY AND RESOURCE MANAGEMENT

For any new technology can be considered clean, its sustainability advantages and the potential for environmental and social impact trade-offs relative to existing technology options need to be understood. This requires both technical understanding along with the ability to model potential consequences of deployment at scale before this occurs. Where sustainability benefits exist, successful deployment of new technologies frequently requires supportive policies underpinned by an understanding of the social, cultural and economic context.

Michelle Adams’ work focuses on the policies, strategies and technologies that can improve the sustainability of both industry and the communities they intersect. The emphasis is to support regional sustainability through the integration of green technologies, renewable energy, and sustainability strategies applicable within the specific cultural, economic and social context.

Stanley Asah’s research interests and practices are in the domain of understanding and influencing human and organizational behaviors. He uses social-psychological principles and complex adaptive system approaches to inform efforts (direct action, policies, etc.) to initiate, direct, and sustain (promote) pro-environmental behaviors. Focal areas include the adoption, diffusion, and proper use of cleaner technologies; social impacts, social acceptability, and social license to operate cleaner technologies; social justices in the adoption, diffusion and use of cleaner technologies; and facilitating socio-technical transitions to cleaner technologies.

The sustainability of rural life in Atlantic Canada is the focus of Karen Foster's research, with a particular emphasis on how government policy and everyday life intersect. Her interests in this area include import replacement, youth outmigration, occupational succession in rural family businesses, and rural struggles to protect local public services. She draws upon both qualitative and quantitative methods to study economic issues from a sociological perspective.

Kate Sherren researches multifunctional landscapes; cultural ecosystem services; climate adaptation; environmental education; and the organizational and intellectual challenges of cross-cutting topics like sustainability. She uses and often integrates various social and spatial research methods in her applied resource-focused research, particularly visual approaches like in situ landscape elicitation.

Peter Tyedmers’ research interests include assessing the resource use and environmental impacts of both novel and established technologies. Though Peter’s interests in technology assessment are broad, much of his work has focussed on improving the sustainability of food systems including fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and feed systems. Peter also engages in research to understand the contributions that ecosystem services make to sustain our food systems. He is particularly motivated to critically examine choices that we make in the name of sustainability to help ensure that we are indeed moving in a positive direction.

Tony Walker currently focuses his research efforts on management and remediation of contaminated sites, ecological impacts and mitigation of industrial pollution, ecological risk assessment and environmental effects monitoring, management of aquaculture impacts, management of Arctic and Antarctic natural resources, air pollution impacts on ecosystems. Most of his recent research has been in partnership with industry related to environmental management and monitoring across Canada.

SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT, INDUSTRIAL SUSTAINABILITY AND THE CIRCULAR ECONOMY

Fulfilling the collective wants, needs and desires of humanity locally, nationally and globally has massively transformed the planet, and increasingly in ways that threaten the welfare of humanity and other life on the planet. Finding ways to meet the growing needs of a global population heading to 11 billion while limiting the scale and severity of resulting negative impacts lies at the heart of sustainable development. Increasing deployment of clean technologies and other strategies that lower impacts are essential. This includes wider adoption of waste minimization strategies and improved process system design

Michelle Adams’ work focuses on the policies, strategies and technologies that can improve the sustainability of both industry and the communities they intersect. The emphasis is to support regional sustainability through the integration of green technologies, renewable energy, and sustainability strategies applicable within the specific cultural, economic and social context.

Stanley Asah’s research interests and practices are in the domain of understanding and influencing human and organizational behaviors. He uses social-psychological principles and complex adaptive system approaches to inform efforts (direct action, policies, etc.) to initiate, direct, and sustain (promote) pro-environmental behaviors. Focal areas include the adoption, diffusion, and proper use of cleaner technologies; social impacts, social acceptability, and social license to operate cleaner technologies; social justices in the adoption, diffusion and use of cleaner technologies; and facilitating socio-technical transitions to cleaner technologies.

The sustainability of rural life in Atlantic Canada is the focus of Karen Foster's research, with a particular emphasis on how government policy and everyday life intersect. Her interests in this area include import replacement, youth outmigration, occupational succession in rural family businesses, and rural struggles to protect local public services. She draws upon both qualitative and quantitative methods to study economic issues from a sociological perspective.

Peter Tyedmers’ research interests include assessing the resource use and environmental impacts of both novel and established technologies. Though Peter’s interests in technology assessment are broad, much of his work has focussed on improving the sustainability of food systems including fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and feed systems. Peter also engages in research to understand the contributions that ecosystem services make to sustain our food systems. He is particularly motivated to critically examine choices that we make in the name of sustainability to help ensure that we are indeed moving in a positive direction.

Tony Walker currently focuses his research efforts on management and remediation of contaminated sites, ecological impacts and mitigation of industrial pollution, ecological risk assessment and environmental effects monitoring, management of aquaculture impacts, management of Arctic and Antarctic natural resources, air pollution impacts on ecosystems. Most of his recent research has been in partnership with industry related to environmental management and monitoring across Canada.

LANDSCAPES AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES

Where and how technologies are used, and the sources of resources needed to provide them can have profound impacts on landscapes and their related ecosystem services (the benefits that humans derive from the functioning of ecosystems). Understanding these consequences of technology use involves insight from ecological, and social sciences including economics.

Kate Sherren researches multifunctional landscapes; cultural ecosystem services; climate adaptation; environmental education; and the organizational and intellectual challenges of cross-cutting topics like sustainability. She uses and often integrates various social and spatial research methods in her applied resource-focused research, particularly visual approaches like in situ landscape elicitation.

Performance-based landscapes link humans to nature; Richard leBrasseur’s research focusses on the many open spaces and green structures at multiple scales to maintain ecosystem function in the face of urban development.  Strategic infrastructure planning and design serves an important role in climate change adaption and meeting sustainable development goals. Using both geospatial and qualitative analyses, Rick is able to apply interdisciplinary approaches to value-based environments.

Peter Tyedmers’ research interests include assessing the resource use and environmental impacts of both novel and established technologies. Though Peter’s interests in technology assessment are broad, much of his work has focussed on improving the sustainability of food systems including fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and feed systems. Peter also engages in research to understand the contributions that ecosystem services make to sustain our food systems. He is particularly motivated to critically examine choices that we make in the name of sustainability to help ensure that we are indeed moving in a positive direction.

LOGISTICS AND SUPPLY CHAINS

How we move goods between points of supply and demand are easily overlooked when things work smoothly but they are critical in an increasingly globalized world that needs to achieve deep and wide-ranging improvements in how we fulfill our needs. Finding ways to green and shorten supply chains requires the integration of technical, economic and behavioral sciences.

Targetting logistics and energy problems, Dr. Ahmed Saif's research focuses on developing new approaches to address complex decision problems tractably and realistically The four dimensions of complexity: size, nonlinearity, uncertainty, and dynamic behavior are considered using a combination of tools that include: decomposition and approximation techniques, stochastic and robust optimization, metaheuristics, simulation, machine learning, and time-series analysis.

Dr. M. Ali Ülkü Centre for Research in Sustainable Supply Chain Analytics. His work includes the development of practical logistics policies for green supply chains, the theoretical modeling of service and manufacturing systems, and such interdisciplinary topics as behavioural issues in operations management, sustainable consumption, and the mathematical modeling of societal problems.

Photo by chuttersnap on Unsplash