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Events, Featurable
The 2017 IdeasXChange Writing Contest (our first ever!) wrapped up in April 2017, where the IdeasXChange team and I worked together to materialize, promote and wrap-up this extremely rewarding initiative. With the help of the Global Fund allocated to promotion and the post-contest videography, the 2017 IdeasXChange Writing Contest had received a total of 10 submissions, in which a winner and two runner-ups were selected through a rigorous reviewing session. Our goal in launching this writing contest stems from three main thoughts: to (i) give students the opportunity to publish high quality essays written for their courses onto our online platform, with full credit and recognition; (ii) an inclusive and interdisciplinary environment where students can gain and build journalism and editorial experience, and; (iii) promote an online think tank with multifaceted perspectives from students in tackling questions and issues in sustainability, innovation, and development around the world. With the help of the Global Fund, our videographer friends Blake Sebastian and Amanda Siebert, all of the students and writers that have submitted this year, and last but not least, the IdeasXChange team, we had materialized this long-term project of facilitating an innovative and interdisciplinary discussion on global issues. We hope that this initiative can encourage more students to write and document their thought-provoking and innovative solutions, as well as become open-minded towards the ideas of others, so that the learning process can continue on.  
The prize winners of the 2017 IdeasXChange Writing Contest are as follows:


Patrick Wilkie Ecological Take-Away Coffee: Resource-Efficiency by Design
Patrick’s submission proposed the idea of implementing a “Vancouver-wide mug share”, with numerous benefits such as saving money, staying environmentally friendly while enjoying a daily cup of coffee, and generating a sustainable system that creates profit for local communities.


Sean Celi Finding a New Business Model for Digital Journalism in the Modern Era
Sean’s submission dives into evaluating the effectiveness of digital journalism from the point of view of an Economics’ major. He points out the difficulties of media agencies and companies to balance profit and delivery, and provides five innovative solutions in tackling these challenges.


Matthew Gaiser To Protect the Environment in Developing Countries, Conservationists Should Think Like Capitalists
Matthew’s submission looks at conservation and activism around the world, exploring how habits and human behavior dictate activism and the ways in which conscious business practices can largely influence the outcomes of efforts in environmental conservation. His witty and striking arguments were memorable and praiseworthy.


Nick Li The Effects of Sugar on Your Body, Your Economy, and Your Planet
Carmen Cao A Senior’s Guide To Youth

Thank you very much for all those who have submitted your extremely innovative and thought-provoking pieces to the IdeasXChange Writing Contest. Please look forward to all of the submissions being published on our online hub in the upcoming school year.  
Priscilla Ng, ex Editor-in-Chief

When living in Vancouver, one can’t help but notice an obsession with being green and environmentally friendly. There is an insistence that, for example, food should be locally grown to reduce car emissions, as well as be grown organically to reduce the use of pesticides. Yet another example is the strict recycling and garbage sorting for households and institutions like UBC. Sometimes it feels like a riddle placing my garbage into the right container, though I know it’s for a good cause. In other words, what I’ve observed since moving to Vancouver is that it seems like the city wants to make sustainability a part of its residents’ everyday life. It certainly makes an effort for it, as seen in the strict sorting rules. This then brings the following question to mind: how can we make sustainability a part of everyday life? How can we make being sustainable a habit and the norm rather than the exception? Why don’t we take a look at Moana? Coconuts and insights from Moana   Using a Disney movie for an argument may seem weird, but I would argue that Moana has some vital lessons to teach us. Consider this part of the song Where You Are: Consider the coconut Consider its tree We use each part of the coconut That’s all we need We make our nets from the fibers The water is sweet inside We use the leaves to build fires We cook up the meat inside Here we can see that no part of the coconut is wasted – every single aspect of the fruit has an intended purpose. We can also see that the people are content with the island’s resources, and have no want of anything more. Now compare this with modern capitalist, consumerist societies in North America like Vancouver. It’s quite the contrast. Instead of being content, we want more – whether it is coffee, or electronics, or food, we want endlessly more of it. Being wealthy and well of in this type of society means having an abundance of everything you can possibly want. Certainly, we have all heard this before – the excess we have in this part of the world being compared to poorer societies and the few they have, and as contributing to the strain on the earth, manifesting as climate change. Perhaps it is a rhetoric that we are getting tired of as well. However, if Vancouver and all of us want sustainability to be an integral part of our society, as a habit rather than the exception, than this is something we need to consider. We must rethink our relationship with our planet to be successful in this goal. Rethinking our relationship with the Earth So the argument I’ve posed to you here is that one of the main lessons to be gained from Moana is that we must rethink our relationship with the earth. I would also extend this argument to include Indigenous peoples, first because Moana is a story portraying the ancestors of the peoples in Polynesia today, but also that Indigenous societies can be an example for the type of relationship we want with the earth. We have much to learn from Indigenous peoples like Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh on whose lands Vancouver sits on, who have had this knowledge for thousands of years. Overall, it’s grand to say that we must make sustainability a part of everyday. However, when being green is still the ‘good alternative’ or exceptional task, it’s hard to do that. We must therefore rethink how we interact and engage with the earth and our environment. We must fundamentally change how we think of the environment, ideally moving from a thing from which we can extract resources and wealth, to a provider of these resources and our needs that thrives when we respect and take care of it. What can we do? Work is being done to this end already, such as with IC-Kindness, whose president I interviewed a couple of weeks ago. Their message is that just as we must be kind to each other and ourselves, we must also be kind to the earth, forming this triangle of kindness that will hopefully lead to a better world. But of course, more needs to be done. We must carry the sentiment we have here in Vancouver of wanting organically grown food and strict garbage sorting rules into our everyday interactions and how we think about the earth, whatever position in life, in work, or generally that we’re in. Let’s take some guidance from Moana, a story about a girl who loves to sail, and respects the water and environment around her.

Sustainability, Features, Featurable

Campus Innovator The IdeasXChange Campus Innovator is a forward-thinking, proactive individual who has kickstarted their own sustainable initiative on the UBC Vancouver campus. Their involvement surrounds the core values of a sustainable, innovative and interdisciplinary mindset, which they are eager to share with the rest of the UBC student body. If you would like to nominate yourself as a Campus Innovator, or would like to interview another Campus Innovator you know, please send your pitch to:

(Interview by Priscilla Ng) Recently, IdeasXChange had the opportunity to talk to Mohammad Asadi Lari, a third-year Honours Physiology student who is involved primarily in research and youth engagement. His passion in facilitating an innovative, sustainable, and paradigm-shifting discussion in STEM research and data education prompted him to be involved in various organizations in research and scholarly publishing that are well-known within Canada and beyond.

Please describe yourself and your passion in 3 words!
Two of these words can actually be integrated into one word – ‘social’ and ‘innovation’. I like the social aspect and the innovation aspect of the fields that I am engaged in. I first learned about this term at the National Youth Leadership and Innovation Summit in Toronto. Before that, I was never engaged with people who were involved in start-ups, but this was a buzzword that kept coming up during the conference. I would also want to choose the word ‘compassion’ too, because I care about the people who I work with. Compassion is required in social innovation and the work that I do in that area. I think that my own growth is intertwined with the growth of my peers – they grow, I grow, and I hope that when I grow, I am able to share it with others, so that they also grow as individuals. That’s actually why I think ‘compassion’ is the most important word out of the three.

You had mentioned your interest in educational innovation and working with UBC students to cultivate young leaders. What inspired you to be a part of STEM Fellowship, and what would you like UBC students to be able to take away from getting involved with the organization?
STEM Fellowship started when Dr. Sacha Noukhovich, a highly seasoned teacher from Toronto, invited me to work with two students currently at UCalgary and UofT on a new organization. It kick-started in April 2015, and from that point onwards, it became my most important involvement! My immediate social circle was in UBC, so we had recruited a lot of people here initially, which was followed by establishing our first club here in March 2016, and expanding our presence into a total of twelve campuses (and counting!). Our primary focus is on data science and scholarly communication, but we want students to see these as tools where they could both get engaged with STEM leadership, innovation and research, as well as getting to share their work. There is a lot of good work out there by students, but they are unaware of how they can share them, and this is not just limited to writing. We are also working closely with a company called Digital Science, probably one of the largest innovation companies in the scholarly publishing field, and they push for a number of tools used for analyzing research around the world. In doing this, we are also aiming to connect major non-profit organizations and companies in the scholarly publishing field to campuses all across Canada, and this is where our scholarly communication, ‘Editing 101’ and peer review workshops come in. We hope to create an international network, that is brought together by the collective action of local clusters of STEM Fellows, and given the strong presence we have in UBC, we hope to see this campus as a leading element of the broader project!

The Big Data Challenge and the STEM Fellowship Journal seem to be two of the major projects at work by the organization (along with many others). Please tell us more about what lies behind this year’s theme, ‘Using impact data to understand and predict the future directions of science’, why Data Science is important, and some of the challenges faced in pushing for this initiative.
The Big Data Challenge in Toronto is an initiative where we provide data sets to students, and they will use a total of 3 months using the tools and options to analyze data in order to come up with their own projects. Eight projects will be selected to enter the finale in Toronto, and our ultimate goal is to make this initiative nation-wide. We are also, of course, looking to bring this into UBC. Our Big Data events are currently sponsored by IBM-Big Data University, Microsoft, SAS and SciNet (Canada’s largest super computer centre). What was interesting about this year is that our students were working on open-access data and the data from the city of Toronto last year, and this year, students are working with Alternative Metrics (AltMetrics). They ended up becoming our sponsors for the Big Data Challenge, and the source of research data that our students to work with. A lot of very interesting projects emerged from this collaboration which were extremely impressive for high school students, and we will be publishing three of them in our next issue. Over the past year, I also had the opportunity to talk to a number of indigenous student leaders, and they were interested in the idea of the Big Data Challenge because they saw potential in working with data that were relevant to their respective communities, especially the environmental issues regarding the construction of the pipeline. I think STEM is very empowering; giving students the tools they need to solidify their projects, as well as mentorship with data and coming up with trends, and finding things that they would be able to share. Our ultimate goal is to be a platform that would give students tools to do things themselves, which is why we want to bring data education online. This will also become an important component of our STEMpowerment initiative.

As the Managing Director at the STEM Fellowship and the co-director of the STEM Fellowship Journal Editorial Board, what is your definition of a successful research project, and what are some of your tips for students who are interested in research and learning more about getting their work published?
The STEM Fellowship Journal is actually the only Canadian science publishing journal that is dedicated only to publishing high school and undergraduate work. The idea is that we want to be a national platform journal to show student research, and promote interdisciplinary research. We are arranging the publication of research with institutions across Canada, such as the undergraduate engineering research in the University of Toronto, inter-disciplinary research from McGill University, the top project from the Science One program at UBC, and the Sanofi Biogenius Challenge. These institutions work with students and research fairs, and are able to produce high-quality student research from a mix of different fields, disciplines, and year groups. Recently, we have also been able to secure with two major granting agencies, NSERC and CIHR, to promote SFJ and allow for a select number of publications coming from publicly funded research by undergraduate students.  We also published works from our High School Scholarly Writing challenge, where students had submitted their IB extended essays, for example, and had gotten feedback on it. Four of them were chosen and could publish their work in the journal. We are also getting in touch with the Harvard Undergraduate Research Society, and the Stanford Undergraduate Research Society, to publish their research work and expand the network as well – it’s a win-win situation. The journal is our flagship scholarly aspect, but what I see happening in the long-term are the workshops, so students can have access to tools to write, to share, and to see themselves as capable to be writing more. The tools are not limited to STEM, as they are as applicable to humanity as they are to science, so we would want to get the interdisciplinary feature as solid as possible.

We are interested in knowing more about your involvement in the Canadian Commission for UNESCO (CCUNESCO)! What are some of the action plans in progress for bringing a more sustainable and internationally connected future for the Canadian and global youth? What are some of the way in which the youth can become more engaged?
UNESCO’s Education Week had focused on education for sustainable development, and global citizenship education. My involvement in the CCUNESCO Youth Advisory Group (YAG) stems from my will to promote more novel educational philosophies, to change paradigms in education, and make them wider so students can avoid perceiving the world in a narrow way. A big part of what we are aiming to do is to connect students from different countries, and because of my personal connections, we did publish some works by students from Iran. These students from Central Iran were working on projects that were quite basic, but they were incredibly impressive for those students, as they were in grade nine and I had doubted that they had written the work themselves! But after talking to them, I was convinced that it was their work indeed. A lot of these initiatives are catered towards North America and Western Europe, but the world is so much bigger, and I see a lot of arrogance sometimes that a shifting in education paradigms can help us break. We are currently seeing interest from university students from outside North America, including Iran, Russia and South Africa!

What are some of the biggest challenges and setbacks in establishing Gene Researching for A Week, and how did you go about tackling it? Were your larger visions in starting this initiative carried through to your current endeavours in STEM Fellowship? The Gene Researching for A Week was established twelve years ago, and it helped me a lot with the initiatives and project that I am working on in STEM Fellowship today. The reason that this project has been so successful is because we have been getting applications from throughout Canada. 40-50 high school students are paired up with a supervisor during the spring break, and these students get to shadow their supervisors in their labs for a week, full time, to observe and also to get involved one way or another. Even though the organization that was originally running the Gene Research for A Week project was dissolved, the project still carried on under CIHR’s leadership because it was so effective and executed in high-quality. For me, I would love to see STEM Fellowship’s STEMpowerment program getting the amount of recognition that Gene Research for A Week did, gaining that representation and being able to garner people’s interest from all over Canada, so we can further this paradigm and be a part in changing people’s lives.

Tell us about an inspiring figure who you have always looked up to. How and why did they inspire you?
It’s cliché – but my mom! I have to persist on naming her, and actually also my grandmothers, because they have incredible impact on my life. They have inspired me in different ways, by being resilient and patient, while strengthening my resolve to try harder and harder. I share with my grandmothers the details of the work that I am involved in, and they give me advice…the whole compassion aspect has its roots in these discussions, and from listening to my elders.

Lastly, are there any major plans for 2017 and beyond that you’d like us to look out for?
For STEM Fellowship, there are a lot of things that we would like to see happen. Our biggest strive at the moment is to establish a strong membership base, and actually have STEM fellows. We do not have a membership program as of now, so that is something for us to look into, and it would be geared both to high school students and university students on different aspects. Our ongoing goal is centered on expansion, but aside from this, I am exploring the global health ecosystem in the hope of starting a health startup with one of my close friends from the physiology program, Geoffrey Ching. We are at a very baseline phase, but the process is very exciting!  

Learn more about STEM Fellowship at:


Profile Recently, IdeasXchange published an editorial about food security that broke down the concept of food security and made linkages not only between agriculture and climate change, but also between developing countries and wealthy countries like Canada. Today, I virtually sat down with Dr. Elizabeth Vibert, an Associate Professor in the University of Victoria’s History Department with whom I had the great honour of traveling to South Africa in 2014 as part of UVic’s Colonial Legacies Field School in South Africa. The field school, a senior undergraduate course open to all students who wish to apply, focused on the legacies of colonialism and apartheid on South African development in urban and rural settings. Elizabeth’s most recent research focuses on food security, household microeconomies, and alternative economies in rural South Africa. She is collecting women’s life histories in rural Limpopo Province, examining gender and inter-generational politics and relations to the state among smallholder farmers. Dr. Vibert recently published an article in The Journal of Contemporary African Studies about a women’s community food sovereignty project in Limpopo, and this year (2017) she released a documentary film about this farm, The Thinking Garden. Dr. Vibert co-wrote and produced the film with director Christine Welsh, editor/cinematographer Mo Simpson, and assistant director Basani Ngobeni. The film won a Matrix Award at the Vancouver International Women in Film Festival in March and is currently touring festivals and screenings in Canada and South Africa, including a stop in Vancouver at the Vancouver South African Film Festival on April 2 – details on tickets and showtime at the end of this interview! (Interview by Tori Wong)   TW: Allow me to virtually greet you and tell you how happy I am to finally be interviewing you, despite the approximately 4,400 kilometers between us right now! I’ve already explained a little bit about your background and your current research, but can you elaborate a little more on your current project? When did you start this work? How did you decide to focus on South Africa and, more specifically, rural Limpopo? EV: It’s lovely to ‘see’ you again, Tori. I’m a social historian of the regions that were formerly the British empire. I was trained in my doctorate at Oxford by Southern African specialists – particularly Terence Ranger, a social historian of Zimbabwe. I was hired at UVic as a Canadian historian, although I made clear that I’m really a colonial historian. Over the years I’ve always taught courses that included Southern African content and questions, but it was only in 2012 that I was able to focus my research attention there again. I met the women whose food sovereignty project captured my imagination while I was volunteering at another vegetable farm in rural Limpopo Province. I found the women’s project really inspiring – not least the fact that this group of older women farmers, for twenty years, had been feeding their community and their households from their collaborative vegetable farm. The farm aims to be self-sustaining through vegetable sales, but the women have a strong social justice ethic: they donate vegetables to people on treatment for HIV, to people hosting funerals, to other people in need.  Community support, including supporting one another as farmers and as women, is their first priority, not commercial profit. TW: Your work zeroes in on food security, politics, and gender dimensions. Have there been any surprising discoveries over the course of your research or any relationships between themes/concepts that aren’t very obvious on the surface? EV: When I started doing oral history research with the women I was thinking of the life stories of the individual farmers, and I was thinking of the farm as an economic enterprise. It took me a while to recognize that the women don’t narrate individual life histories in the way we might expect: they don’t narrate the life of the autonomous Western liberal subject. They tell their stories as women in kin and community networks, in customary communities, and as heads or members of households.  Xilo xinwe is a xiTsonga phrase that comes up often in their depiction of their farm. It means ‘being one thing,’ a little like the phrase Ubuntu. It means people become people in relation to other people – by working together, cooperating, finding common ground. That’s very much the story of the women’s farm.     TW: Tell me a little bit about the women whose stories you are collecting (How many are there that work on the farm, what stands out about them?). EV: There are currently seventeen women actively working at the farm, although there are twenty-seven women who are formal members. Some of those are now too old and unwell to work, while some of the younger women have gone off to wage labour. The women aren’t paid wages for their work at the farm, but they’re well aware of the value of payment in vegetables a couple of times a week. The women are ‘older’ – many of them are pensioners whose pensions are key to the support of multi-generational families in a region where unemployment rates are astronomically high, and even the employed are very often precariously employed. TW: This past year you traveled back to Limpopo with a small production team to capture a snippet of the lives of the women on the farm. How did this idea come about? EV: We went to the farm in May 2015 to make a film about the story of this inspiring women’s farm. I was keen to capture on film both the uplifting story of the farm, and the way this farm has been afflicted by many of the challenges of small-scale farmers across the Global South. Among these challenges are mechanization of large-scale agriculture throwing people out of rural work; cheap (and mostly unhealthy) food washing into the local shops from Western agribusiness companies, at prices local farmers can’t compete with; lack of accessible government support for small-scale and community farms; and the sharpening demands of climate change – more frequent droughts, hotter winters, more intense pest pressures, more extreme weather events like floods and heatwaves. The idea to make a film about the women’s farm came from the women themselves. They can’t read the academic journal articles I write (nor would they want to!), so from the start they were asking ‘aren’t you going to make a film about us?’ At first my collaborator, Basani Ngobeni, and I laughed at this idea. I’m not a filmmaker. But they asked the question each time we came to do research. In 2014 the idea took hold in my mind, and I approached Metis Canadian filmmaker Christine Welsh to see if the story would interest her. She makes wonderful films about, as she puts it, ‘ordinary women doing extraordinary things.’ To my delight, Christine was very taken with the story and jumped at the chance to direct the film. TW: How do you envision the film’s impact on Canadians and South Africans alike? EV: I hope the film informs people about the central role of small-scale, community-based, sustainable food production in community wellbeing. The tagline at the end of our film is ‘Local farmers build healthy communities.’ We mean all local farmers who are farming food sustainably, around the world. That’s the big message. More specifically, the film conveys the message that small-scale farmers in the Global South are doing amazing things – making healthy, affordable, culturally appropriate food available to their communities; creating local opportunities – despite really daunting challenges. These small farmers, many of whom are women who get much less material support than male farmers, deserve government support; they deserve ngo support; they deserve our support. They’re farming in ways that respect the land, water, and atmosphere. What can we do? Buy food produced locally and sustainably as much as you can. With respect to the Global South, lobby your MP to support small-scale farmers as a key element of the agendas to support women and families and to turn the tide on climate change. Support organizations that explicitly support women and small-scale farmers. To see the film for yourself… “The Thinking Garden” is currently making its way through festival circuits and screening events across Canada and South Africa. Book your calendars to attend the Vancouver South African Film Festival, taking place at SFU Woodward’s from March 31st to April 2nd. The Thinking Garden will be showing on April 2nd, followed by a Q&A session with Basani Ngobeni and Elizabeth Vibert.

According to a study led by the University of British Columbia and Vancouver Coastal Health, opening up narrowed veins from the brain and spinal cord is not effective in treating multiple sclerosis. The conclusions derived from the so-called “liberation therapy,” which thousands of MS patients have undergone since 2009, debunk the claim that MS patients could achieve huge improvements from a one-time medical procedure. “We hope these findings, coming from a carefully controlled, ‘gold standard’ study, will persuade people with MS not to pursue liberation therapy, an invasive procedure that carries the risk of complications, as well as significant financial cost,” said Dr. Anthony Traboulsee, a UBC associate professor of neurology and director of the MS Clinic at the Djavad Mowafaghian Centre for Brain Health. Traboulsee pointed out that luckily there is a wide range of drug treatments available for MS patients. He also added that these treatments have been proven to be safe and effective at slowing disease progression through extensive studies. The findings from the $5.4-million study was jointly funded by the Canadian Institutes of health Research, the MS Society of Canada, and the provinces of British Columbia, Manitoba and Quebec. The findings were presented at the Society for Interventional Radiology’s annual scientific meeting in Washington, DC. Dr. Paolo Zamboni of Italy introduced the use of venoplasty to treat MS. Zamboni demonstrated that narrowing of the veins in the neck could result in iron accumulating in the brain and spinal chord, triggering an autoimmune response. He named his theory chronic cerebrospinal venous insufficiency (CCSVI). He cited several dozen patients who improved after undergoing venoplasty performed by him. Upon learning of those anecdotal results through the news media, many patients in canada and Europe asked for imaging of their veins and subsequent venoplasty. However, almost all Canadian physicians declined performing the treatment, due to the lack of supporting evidence. As a result, some patients sought treatment in the US, Latin America and Eatern Europe. This is the second study led by UBC and Vancouver Coastal health team along with other researchers from across Canada. The goal of the study was to find more evidence on the CCSVI theory. The first study was supported by the MS Society of Canada, and was aimed at finding whether narrowed veins were a distinct feature of MS. The study found that the narrowing was just as common in people without the disease. “Despite the negative findings of that diagnostic study, many patients wanted to know if the venous dilation procedure could help,” said Dr. Lindsay Machan, a UBC associate professor of radiology who presented the findings at today’s interventional radiology conference. “We were committed to meticulously evaluating this treatment with robust methods and patient-focused outcomes.” MS is an autoimmune disease, leading to the body’s own defences attacking the protective coating of brain cells, or neurons. The attack degrades the insulation of the cells slowing the neurons’ ability to conduct electrical signals causing problems with movement, sensation and cognitive function. The causes of the disease are unknown, however, scientists have implicated genetic variation and environmental factors, including a lack of Vitamin D.  

Tokyo 2020 on Sustainability As Japan passes the halfway mark of their 7 years of preparation for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, they are beginning to move from planning to execution. The Olympic Agenda 2020, a “strategic roadmap” intended to be a guide for the future Olympic games, was agreed upon by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) in December 2014, and has a particular focus on environmental and social sustainability. In accordance, the Japanese Olympic Committee (JOC) has included a similar focus on sustainability in their plans. Of the many suggestions included in the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Sustainability Plan Version 1, one of the most notable is the concept of creating “greener medals” through urban mining and recycling. As the gold, silver, and bronze medals awarded to the winning athletes are some of the most essential symbols of the Olympic games, it contributes to a powerful message of prioritizing sustainability. Typically, host countries obtain the necessary precious metals by petitioning mining corporations to donate, but Japan has instead decided to make their medals out of entirely recycled elements salvaged from small consumer electronics. Japan has few natural resources, but they make up for that lack in sheer quantity of e-waste. However, it is only useful if it can be collected and extracted. In recent years, Japan has taken it upon themselves to develop a national system for e-waste recycling, and it is this process that the Olympics committee plans to utilize. What is Urban Mining? Urban mining is the process of recovering plastics, glass, and precious metals such as gold, silver, and copper from discarded electronic devices and recycling them. Electronic waste is one of the fastest growing categories of waste in the world as we continue to move into a digital age. The method by which minerals are extracted from small e-waste products is still being developed, as new research provides insight into the best practices for low-cost and low-impact extraction. Most of the valuable material is found in the printed circuit board (PCB), and studies such as Design of a Proper Recycling Process for Small-sized E-waste have suggested that separating the PCB from other parts of these devices improves the quality of e-waste recycling by allowing more accurate machine pulverization and sorting. Japan has few natural resources, but consumer electronics are ubiquitous, so urban mining provides both economic and environmental benefits. The material contained inside small consumer electronics in Japan, particularly mobile phones which tend to have the highest concentration of valuable metals, accounts for 16% of the gold and 22% of the silver reserves worldwide – that’s higher than any other nation, including countries using conventional methods of mining. Despite the obvious benefits of urban mining, there have been stumbling blocks in the process of introducing the concept to the public. The Environment Ministry attempted to implement a system whereby municipalities were encouraged to collect 1kg from every person, but most fell far short. While there are already two laws in Japan which detail the proper methods for disposing of e-waste – the Law for the Promotion of Effective Utilization of Resources (LPUR) and the Law for the Recycling of Specified Kinds of Home Appliances (LRHA) – neither adequately addresses the issue of small-sized electronics. Due to the lack of clear legislation and policy regarding how to dispose of these types of products, many consumers simply include them with their regular garbage, resulting in a large quantity of mobile phones and other electronic devices being incinerated or dumped in landfills. In both cases, valuable materials are wasted, and in the later stages, toxins can often seep into the soil and water supply. While the JOC thinks that Japan’s urban mine produces enough recycled material to use in making the medals (Japan recovered far more through urban mining in 2014 than was used to make all of the medals for the London 2012 Olympics), they ambitiously plan to collect 40kg gold, 4.920kg silver, and 2,944kg bronze for the approximately 5000 metals needed, which is significantly more than the amount of both silver and bronze than was recovered in 2014. Typically, Olympic gold and silver medals are both about 92% silver, while bronze medals are a combination of bronze, copper, and tin. One stumbling block that the JOC has run into with their plan is that the metals salvaged from existing e-waste recycling programs are typically immediately fed back into the system and used to make new products, so there is not much surplus remaining for making Olympic medals. Silver, which is most in demand material for this project, has the least availability through existing recycling programs. It is with the intention of solving this problem that the JOC began a massive nationwide campaign on February 1st, 2017, encouraging citizens to donate their outdated and obsolete electronic devices specifically for use in making sustainable medals for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics Games.
Chung, Sung-Woo, and Rie Murakami-Suzuki. “A comparative study of e-waste recycling systems in Japan, South Korea and Taiwan from the EPR perspective: implications for developing countries.” Promoting 3Rs in Developing Countries: Lessons from the Japanese Experience. Michikazu Kojima Ed., Chiba, Japan (2008). 03 Mar. 2017.
Halada, Kohmei, Kiyoshi Ijima, Masanori Shimada, and Nozomu Katagiri. “A Possibility of Urban Mining in Japan.” Journal of the Japan Institute of Metals and Materials 73.3 (2009): 151-60. J-Stage. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.
Helmenstine, Anne Marie, Ph.D. “What Are Olympic Medals Made Of? The 2016 Medals Are Eco-Friendly.” Education. N.p., 17 Aug. 2016. Web. 03 Mar. 2017.
Shiratori, T., Nakamura, T. “Concept of “Artificial Deposit” 2 — Transition of the metal potential of spent electric and electronic appliances.”, Journal of MMIJ, Vol.4, No.5 (2007): 171-78. 03 Mar. 2017.
“Tokyo 2020 engages all of Japan in medal initiative.” International Olympic Committee. N.p., 02 Feb. 2017. Web. 26 Feb. 2017.
“Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games Sustainability Plan Version 1.” The Tokyo Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games.  Tokyo 2020. N.p., 30 Jan. 2017. PDF. 26 Feb. 2017.
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By publicly funding essential medicines and covering the cost of nearly half of all prescriptions in Canada, $3 billion per year will be saved while removing financial barriers for Canadians. “Universal pharmacare has been long-promised but undelivered in Canada, in part because of concerns about where to start,” said Steve Morgan, a professor in the school of population and public health. “We show that adding universal public coverage of essential medicines to the existing system of drug coverage in Canada is a significant and feasible step in the right direction.” A list of 117 essential medicines were identified by researchers including, antibiotics, insulin, heart medication, anti-depressants, oral contraceptives and more. They found that the list accounted for 44 percent of all prescriptions written in 2015 and up to 77 per cent of all prescriptions when therapeutically similar medications were considered. According to The World Health Organization (WHO) these essential medicines should be provided to everyone who needs them. Dr. Persaud, a family physician, leading the team developing the essential medicines list, said the WHO’s list has been adapted based on clinical practice in Canada. Currently, Canadians depend on a mix of private and public coverage leaving millions facing high out-of-pocket costs for drugs. Research shows that due to the high out-of-pocket costs which many Canadians cannot afford, many do not take medication as prescribed. “Access to medicines can be the difference between life and death,” said Dr. Nav  Persaud. “There are treatments for HIV and heart disease that save lives but only when they are in the hands of people who need them.” Morgan and Dr. Persaud propose governments purchase these essential medicines in bulk for all of Canada. They believe this approach will save patients and private drug plans $4.3 billion per year while costing government only an additional $1.2 billion per year. This would lead to a total net savings of $3.1 billion per year for Canadians. “A program of this kind is a feasible way of improving the overall health of Canadians while dramatically lowering drug costs,” said Morgan. “Other countries that do similar things pay 40 to 80 per cent less for these essential medicines.” Dr. Persaud is leading a clinical trial with patients in four Family health Teams in Ontario. Through these trials he will compare the health outcomes and health-care use of people receiving the free essential medicines and those who did not.