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Environment
One of the most basic human impulses, to look up and ponder the night sky is becoming compromised for the majority of the world’s population, according to a recent study published in the Journal Science Advances. Using the latest available technology, researchers around the world have collaborated in creating an up-to-date World Atlas illustrating the geographical spread of night sky brightness. Scientists have observed that artificial skyglow is the most visible effects of light pollution – the brightening of the sky cased by street lights, building and other human-made sources. This is inhibiting the naked human eye from observing the Milky Way in highly populated areas. The study shows, “due to light pollution, the Milky Way is not visible to more than one-third of humanity, including 60% of Europeans and nearly 80% of North Americans.” Combining the data collected from the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), Day/Night Band (DNB) new precision charge-coupled device (CCD), brightness measurements and a new database of Sky Quality Meter (SQM) Scientist have managed to create the most accurately up-to-date Atlas on the visible effects of light pollution around the globe. The Atlas demonstrates their findings “found that about 83% of the world’s population and more than 99% of the U.S. and European populations live under light-polluted skies”.   According to their findings, Singapore is the most light polluted country, where the problem is so prevalent ‘the entire population lives under skies so bright that the eye cannot fully dark-adapt to night vision”. These findings are subject to a number of factors, including but not limited to time of night (this study was conducted at 1am), proximity to geographical landscapes (such as volcanoes), tidal patterns and weather conditions (factoring in the reflective capabilities of snow). In addition scientist also highlight the shift from high-pressure sodium (HPS) lighting to white light-emitting diode (LED). The bluer colour temperature of LED lighting is contributing to the problem of light pollution. For those that wish to observe the nights sky unaffected by light pollution there are fewer and fewer land based locations available to contemplate the mysteries of the galaxy.
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Environment
To improve renewable energy generation and power conversion, Martin Ordonez, Fred Kaiser Professor in Power Conversion and Sustainability at UBC is expanding a research and education program. This research is funded by a $ 1-million investment by the Fred Kaiser Foundation and will help store and use renewable energy. Ordonez said as Canadians are trying to reduce greenhouse emissions, the efficiency in generating energy is critical not only to them but also to the future on a global scale. The goal of this project is to derive maximum amounts of energy from sustainable resources in order to compete with hydrocarbon alternatives. To support this objective, at least five top-tier researchers are added, doubling the program’s current size. He said the main challenge is to change existing electrical infrastructure to support the expansion of low carbon energy sources like wind and solar. However, according to Ordonez developing countries have a different challenge to face. With a clean slate they can envision a better system by developing an electrical system with sustainable energy sources in mind The development of sustainable resources would be economically feasible for developing countries after research and testing. Ordonez said as part of the program, they will train graduate students and research professionals who will be skillful engineers  capable of tackling challenges associated with sustainable electrical energy. An outreach program will be planned to draw undergraduates from across the globe in different engineering disciplines. They will join a team of researchers investigating sustainable power solutions for developing countries.
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Society
Ai Wei Wei’s latest installation art has yet again presented a striking and meaningful message, as the grandiose pillars of the Konzerthaus Berlin concert hall were bound and covered with the abandoned, bright orange lifejackets of 14,000 displaced refugees on the shore of Greece’s Lesbos Island. Well-known, especially in the PRC, Taiwan and Hong Kong, for his controversial expression against China’s governmental endeavors, Ai is primarily an artist who, using what he does best, advocates for issues he holds close to heart. Ai’s ongoing stay at the Idomeni refugee camp in northern Greece has been captured closely on his social media account, as he detailed photographs of his surroundings and the people he had encountered. His uploads are unconventional, and provide fresh, ground-level perceptions of the hardships and daily lives of the displaced in Greece. Approximately 14,000 refugees had been barricaded after Macedonia closed off its borders, stranded within a rapidly overflowing camp. “You can’t believe this is happening in Europe in the 21st century,” Ai had stated. The hunger strike of the Iranian refugees situated in Calais camp due to unsuccessful entry into England had also made an appearance on Ai’s social media account, as he records portraits of the tight-sewn lips and blindfolded eyes as demands for non-violation of human rights. The hunger strike and protest was a response to the multiple cases of police violence against refugees and displaced civilians – some of them young children. It was also directed towards the clearance of the migrant encampment, also known as the “Calais Jungle”, threatening to further displace the refugees. Who is Ai Wei Wei? Ai is most famously known for his outspoken and disputed endeavors against the PRC government post-Sichuan earthquake in 2008. He had shown efforts in drawing international attention through the controversial recreation of Alan Kurdi’s photograph, an infant refugee who had perished on the Turkish shore of Bodrum. Ai’s most recent project sends him to the Greek Island of Lesbos, where he engages his art with the refugee crisis, drawing attention to the heated topic. He describes his spontaneous trip to Lesbos Island in order to interact directly with the refugees as a “personal act”, on the behalf of an artist who is “trying not just to watch these events, but to also act” (The Guardian). The 2005 Sina Weibo blog that had brought Ai to the public eye and kick-started his activism journey, was a mixture of political criticism, social commentaries and contemporary art. His blunt and daring commentaries on the events during and post-2008 Sichuan earthquake led to the PRC’s pursuit (they placed him in secret detention), and led to the beginning of his rigorous quest for creative freedom and universal human rights. 2008, the year of the deadly Sichuan earthquake that had seized over 69,000 lives, marked Ai’s most distinguished activism effort. His compilation of over 5,000 names of children who had died during the earthquake due to deficient architectural construction was a direct jab at the central government’s regime. The questions and challenges presented in his works and activism stir controversy in the uptight Chinese social environment that is heavily monitored by the PRC, raising local and international voices that call for a check on freedom of speech and governmental transparency. What is the situation, and how is Ai involved? Pope Francis’ visit to the Greek Island of Lesbos in late April 2016 led to the desperate calling of action for universal aid, as demands for a revision of the Turkey-European Union accord had been undergoing increasing rigor. There are currently 55,000 refugees spread across 40 camps in Greece, living under the daily fear of deportation. Amongst others, Ai and Pope Francis’ visit to Lesbos Island shed light upon the dire living conditions of the refugees that had been stranded in the camps. Riots have broken out in protest against the human rights violations that refugees have suffered. Chants of “freedom, freedom” filled the streets, and violence rose amongst the numerous refugee camps, including ones located in Lesbos, Chios and Idomeni. Ai is an artist who aims to involve as many people as possible into the making of his works – a lifelong collection of socially opinionated and convention-challenging pieces. He stated in an interview with The Guardian, that he would “never separate these situations from my art”, and that “as an artist, [he] has to relate to humanity’s struggles”. By sharing photographs of the daily lives and living conditions of the refugees in Greece, Ai is involving his audience and social media followers in a larger realm that extends contemporary art. Instead, this realm encompasses society and international issues, challenging the world’s presumptions on the meanings behind ‘art’, and why it is created.   Ai Wei Wei’s Instagram account: https://www.instagram.com/aiww/
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Environment
A new research from UBC reveals, rogue fishing vessels including those with an international record of illegal activities are able to attain insurance. Unlawful fishing, responsible for disappearance of tonnes of fish from the oceans, siphons an estimated $10 to 20 billion annually from the global economy. This is a huge problem that destroys habitats and makes fishing challenging for law-abiding fishers. “Restricting access to insurance could play a major role in ending illegal fishing, and right now, it’s a largely overlooked method,” said lead author Dana Miller, who studied illegal fishing and insurance while she was a postdoctoral fellow at UBC. Insurance is financially beneficial for fishers in the case of an accident since it eliminates the risk of large financial loss. In order to prevent illegal fishers from obtaining insurance, researchers suggest insurance companies check lists of illegal vessels before issuing insurances. The lists are as follows: regional fisheries management organizations’ Illegal, Ureported, and Unregulated (IUU) vessel lists, and the list of vessels that INTERPOL has issued Purple Notices for. This approach is a much less expensive way to prevent illegal fishing than traditional methods,” said co-author Rashid Sumaila, the project director of OceanCanada and a professor in the UBC Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries. Traditionally, fighting illegal fishing often  involves monitoring and surveillance, through the use of satellite tracking and inspections. The power of including the insurance companies in the discussion has been underestimated. By refusing insurance to unlawful vessels, insurance companies can have a major impact on the numbers of illegal vessels. Miller and her colleagues at the Institute for the Oceans and Fisheries investigated insurance information for 94 IUU fishing vessels and 837 legal vessels that were required, by international law, to have insurance because of their size. They identified the insurers of 48 per cent of the illegal vessels and 58 per cent of the legal vessels and often the same companies provided insurance to both illegal and legal fishing vessels. Some of the most infamous fishing vessels were found to have insurance coverage. One example is the Bandit 6, a fleet of six fishing vessels, wanted for illegally transporting Patagonian tooth fish from southern waters. Although the vessels were on internationally recognized lists like the European Union’s IUU vessel list for years they were recently caught in different parts of the world. “It was shocking when we found that out,” said Miller. “Insurers should take the simple step of consulting IUU fishing vessel lists to make sure that these notorious and well-known ships are refused insurance.” The authors recommend insurers mandate all vessels over a certain size to be assigned an international Maritime Organization ship identification number, and operate automatic identification vessel tracking technology . They added these these measures would increase transparency and tighten regulations.
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News
UBC has named ten gifted students from around the world as the Centennial Leaders award recipients. These students have risen from challenging circumstances and have given back to the community through volunteering. They will receive full scholarship covering everything from tuition to housing to food. The scholarship covers up to a value of $80,000 over the course of their studies at UBC. “What is unique about our Centennial Leaders is that despite their own struggles, they all give their time volunteering for community causes – from helping feed the homeless to assisting physically challenged people with fitness training,” said Kate Ross, associate vice-president, enrolment services and registrar. Ross also said they are thrilled to help these remarkable young people in realizing their goals at UBC. One of these award winners is Syrian-born, Surrey raised Christian Michel Francis. He graduated from high school this year with an exceptional  average of 97.2 percent. Francis said receiving the award has changed everything for him. “It was unbelievable. I couldn’t speak. I was so in shock. You could tell how relieved my father was and so sure he was I could be successful at UBC.” He works at a part-time fast food job and volunteers at Fraser Health Authority where he assists disabled adults work out in a Surrey gym. His mother died in 2015 due to breast cancer and his father is unable to work  owing to a rapidly advancing disease, Macular Degeneration. As a result Francis spent his education savings to support the family. Another Centennial Leader is, Kara Froese from Cranbrook. Froese is committed to protecting the environment and wilderness. She is a full-time second-year student at the College of the Rockies. Froese plays volleyball on the school’s team, volunteers for Cranbrook Search and Rescue and has a part-time lifeguarding job. During her spare time she is in the mountains chasing her passion for the outdoors. “A lot of the time I’m looking to unwind, shake off the stresses of the city. I’m not looking to “find myself”, but I do find a bit of an anchor point in wild places. It also allows me to notice the flowers, trees, birds etc. and I like the challenge of trying to identify species I’ve never encountered before,” she said. Froese was inspired by the writings of Farley Mowat and David Suzuki leading her to seek her studies and career following a path in the wilderness. “The first question my parents asked was: ‘How are you going to pay for it?’” she recalls. The Centennial Leader Award will allow her to start her bachelor’s degree in forest sciences, in September. “I would like to get an education that will further my understanding of the environment and help to protect the wild spaces around us,” she says. “This is the one world we have and it’s really important we take care of it.” The Centennial Leaders are part of UBC’s Centennial Scholars Entrance Award Program. The program Supports academically qualified  Canadian students who are financially unable to attend UBC. UBC has doubled the  number of awards from previous years. This year it presented 100 one-time and renewable Centennial Scholar Awards. The school provided $70.2 million in financial assistance and awards for over 13,500 students, in 2015/16. 2016 Centennial Leaders: ▪Giuseppe Cagliuso – Burnaby, B.C. ▪Christian Michel Francis – Surrey, B.C. ▪Kara Froese – Cranbrook, B.C. ▪Natasha Donika Jollymour – Savona, B.C. ▪Louisa Xiluva Hill – Maputo, Mozambique ▪Elina Kreuzberg – Ottawa, ON.Kenji Lai – Vancouver, B.C. ▪Regan Sander Oey – Vancouver, B.C. ▪Jared Eugene Sexsmith – Lumby, B.C. ▪Zachary Andrew Whynot – Camperdown, N.S.
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