Head’s Blog: Montreal Smog & COP23

chimney-1705977_1280Returning to Montreal by car recently from a weekend out of town, I was disappointed to hear that our city was cloaked in an official smog warning. Many of us may be inclined to associate smog with summer heat and visible thick, orange haze. However, Montreal actually experiences more smog alerts during late fall and winter than we do during the summer. This is because of a combination of heavy cold air and light winds that trap pollution close to the ground.

The City of Montreal posts a daily Air Quality Index or AQI. It specifically measures levels of carbon and sulphur dioxide, ozone and fine particulate in the air. In recent years, air quality in Montreal has actually improved significantly, especially compared to emissions levels in the mid-1990’s. The two most recent factors leading to improvements occurred in 2014: the closure of a large oil refinery in the east end of Montreal and the shutdown of several coal-powered plants in Ontario and the US Midwest. Experts estimate that air quality in Ontario and the US states that border Canada are actually responsible for 60% of the pollutants in our air. So, we should care about policies and practices outside of Quebec.

Currently, the biggest contributor to smog in Montreal is wood-burning stoves and fireplaces. I was surprised to learn that they represent approximately 40% of the problem when compared to vehicles, which represent just over 20% of local emissions. To address this, new laws have been passed and traditional fireplaces need to be registered and upgraded by October 1, 2018, with most people moving to units that cleanly burn propane or natural gas.

How about the international scene and global warming? The 2015 UN Climate Conference “COP21” received a lot of attention a couple of years ago with the signing of the Paris Accord. It was deemed a significant international achievement because of its objective to significantly reduce emissions globally. The USA, with its massive economy, signed that accord. Yet, the Trump administration supports the coal industry and does not acknowledge global warming as a real threat. Consequently, it has declared it will withdraw from the Paris Agreement, which has alarmed many.

On the positive front, over the past several years the world has actually diminished CO2 emissions levels that contribute to global warming. But, 2017 has been a year where it appears that that trend has stalled and the world has actually slightly increased emissions.

China is a signatory of the Paris Agreement and is also the world’s leader in the development of renewable technologies. However, a drought there last summer diminished levels of rivers and the capacity of renewable hydro facilities to produce enough clean power to satisfy demand. So, the country was forced to turn to coal to meet power needs. India is another large country that has managed to limit the growth of emissions. Yet, forecasters wonder if that can be maintained long-term, given the growing middle class and greater demand for electricity. Given some unforeseen circumstances that have contributed to higher emissions in 2017, will this be a blip or a long-term trend? Nobody is certain about this.

Last week, environment ministers from around the world wrapped up another major UN Environment meeting in Bonn, Germany called COP23, which ended on a positive note. Canada’s Environment Minister, Catherine McKenna, explained that she is part of an alliance of nations determined to completely eliminate coal-powered electricity. Canada has set the year 2030 as the year we aim to achieve this, and we hope to bring several other countries on board.

Eliminating coal-powered electricity will partly be possible due to innovation and falling costs of renewable power. Also, despite US President Trump’s support of coal and denial of climate change science, a lot of important players in the US are actually openly stepping up to combat the president’s position. Mayors of many major cities, state governors and a host of businesses are committed to reducing emissions and the impact of climate change, regardless of what the federal government does.

So, we should all pay attention to the news on climate change. Read about COP23 — there are significant developments afoot with many people and nations striving to find ways to improve the situation. Let’s remember, it’s our collective future we’re talking about here; avoidance and inaction will not solve the problem. – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Head’s Blog: Precious Water

faucet-2895592_1280In October, I had the privilege of being one of over a thousand student and adult delegates at the Round Square International Conference in Cape Town, South Africa.

A significant take-away from that experience relates to H2O or water, something that we have in abundance here in Canada, but an important resource that we all largely take for granted.

This is not the case in Southern Africa. Any visitor to Cape Town is immediately made aware that there is a water crisis that has affected the region because of a severe drought for the past five years. This is a place where baths are no longer permitted (plugs have been removed from all tubs in hotels) and showers are now limited to a maximum of 2 minutes.

The city of Cape Town is taking many steps to manage the crisis, yet officials are not certain that they will work. It has adopted a scenario called the new normal”, declaring the city a permanent drought region and mandating that every citizen change his/her relationship with water by simply consuming less. It has also unveiled a new Critical Water Shortage Disaster Plan in an attempt to avert an even more severe scenario in the future.

As it stands, Cape Town currently only has about 25% of the water that the city requires, and significant changes and reduction levels are being imposed on individuals, families, and institutions such as schools, universities and hospitals.

The city currently uses 618 million litres of water per day, and unless consumption is soon reduced to no more than 500 million litres/day, then the city’s water source could run dry before the end of March, only four months from now.

The municipality is limiting water consumption to 350 litres/day per household in certain cases and strict enforcement measures are being introduced, including fines and other consequences. One option being considered is extreme water pressure reduction across the whole city and to start rationing water with localized temporary shutdowns across different sectors of the city. More recycling of “grey water” will also be mandated. If the city slips into the “disaster stage” or “extreme disaster” stage, the city tap system would be turned off and people will only receive limited amounts of water at designated collection points, primarily for drinking.

Exposure to all of this made me reflect on our relationship to water here in Montreal. As Canadians, we have plenty of this increasingly precious resource. Yet that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be preserving it more. Unfortunately, on a global scale, we are actually water gluttons. On average each Quebecer consumes about 400 litres of water per day. We are the second largest consumers of water per person in the world, and we consume twice as much as the average European. So, perhaps we should start a new relationship with water ourselves.

On our west coast, the city of Vancouver decided to focus on reducing water consumption over a decade ago and has experienced success (reduction of 20+%). Yet, it is Australia that leads the world in conservation practices. These examples reinforce that we can do better here.

This week, I asked all of our high school students to show greater affinity with Round Square schools in South Africa by trying a week of 2-minute showers. I hope this first step goes well and will lead to further conservation initiatives. – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Student Exchange Australia: An Unforgettable Experience

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After spending a great time with my exchange Lachlan’s family in Queensland, I had the chance to start school at Carey Grammar. Although I was a little anxious as I didn’t know what to expect, I was quite excited to finally meet the students and attend classes in a foreign country.

On the first morning of school, I was welcomed by the school’s exchange coordinator and introduced to four other exchange students from New York. We received our school and gym uniforms, which was very much like ours other than the colours, as well as a laptop and a schedule. We were now well equipped to start our first days at Carey Grammar.

One of the first things that I noticed upon arriving at the school was how big the school was. The “Kew” Campus, as the students called it, took up a whole city block and had numerous buildings to accommodate the 2,000 students. The Middle School Area, which holds students from grades 7, 8 and 9, was comprised mainly of a main hall and two outdoor areas with classrooms around the borders. At first, I was a little intimidated by its large size, but after a few days and a lot of help from Lachlan and the other year 9 students, I became more comfortable around the campus and found my way to all my classes.

What I also found interesting at Carey is that their curriculum is quite different than the one at LCC. My schedule and even those of my classmates in Melbourne had less time slots dedicated for core classes, which allowed students to participate in more electives and other classes, which I thought was interesting. I was given some unique courses such as an introduction to coding, an economics class and a unit on CSI and forensic science. I thought that these classes were all awesome and engaging. My personal favorite was the economics class because the teacher, Mr. Warmbrunn, would give very informative lectures and we started a neat project where we pretended to buy stocks to see how well they would do.

The core courses at Carey were like ours in that they taught English, Math, Science and History. The only major difference was the language course that everyone had to take. The students had the choice between French, Chinese, German and Indonesian. This course was taken as a second language and for most of the students, they had started in Grade 7. We also had, once a week, a class called C-Change, where we would discuss how to develop personal qualities that are important to our well-being and how well we interact with others. This class would finish with a chapel session. With all of these different features in the school, Carey was definitely a great place to attend.

As part of the exchange experience, Lachlan and I, together with the other exchanges and their partners, went to Healesville Sanctuary, which was home to many indigenous Australian animals, including koalas, kangaroos and even platypus. It was remarkable that we could get so close to the animals without them even moving. We even saw some of the world’s most dangerous snakes, which I was happy to see through the glass! My favorite animal was the dingo. The animal is only found in Australia and is half-dog, half-wolf. We caught them right before their morning walk and we took pictures right next to them. It is a beautiful animal and was unlike anything I had ever seen.

With all their great athletic facilities, I was really looking forward to playing a sport at the school. At Carey, everyone has to participate in a sport and since Lachlan plays field hockey, I would try out this sport. I didn’t know anything about the sport and figured it would be similar to ice hockey, a sport that I really enjoy playing, but it was completely different. Everything from the field and the number of players to the sticks and balls were different. The game actually bears a closer resemblance to soccer. Although it took some time to get used to, I had lots of fun playing the sport and was even able to play in 3 games, which was an amazing experience. I was also very surprised to learn that field hockey is one of the largest sports in the world and is played almost everywhere, especially in Europe, Asia and Australia.

Speaking of sports, I also had the opportunity to watch an Australian Rules Football game with Lachlan and his family at the MCG. The game was so entertaining and although I didn’t quite understand the rules, the atmosphere in the stands was incredible. Both teams had a passionate fan base that weren’t afraid to share their sometimes-colourful opinions. The game itself was very fast-paced and finished with a very high point total. This sport seems to combine the best of many different sports that are more common in North America, like rugby, handball and soccer. It was loads of fun!

Spending five weeks in Australia was an incredible experience for me that I will never forget. Although it was difficult to leave my family, I was able to visit Australia and discover its incredible natural life and culture. I also had the chance to take part in some unique classes and meet some really nice people at Carey which was lots of fun, even if it is my summer break. I also believe the exchange has helped me become more mature and responsible as a person. Finally, and most of all, I met a really great friend in my exchange Lachlan and I hope that we will stay in touch and see each other soon. – Andrew Fata ’19 Exchange Student at Carey Baptist Grammar School

Student Exchange: The Colours of India

Photo5Imagine this, a display of fluorescent colours, laid on the smooth marble floor, to create fanciful patterns, such as bright fuchsia lotus flowers with forest green backdrops, or candles that burn purple flames, much like in a child’s dream. These picturesque creations are a renowned form of Indian artwork, known as rangoli. They are most often seen during festivals such as Diwali, the festival of luminous decorations, which commemorates the return of Lord Rama, as well as the triumph of light over darkness and during Holi, the festival of colours.

India is a diverse nation, which has multiple states that spread amongst its vast territory, and each state has its own customs and traditions including food which varies greatly within the country. If you visit the city of Bangalore, in the southern region of Karnataka, you will discover a white spongy, circular white cake made from rice, called idli, along with tasty coconut chutney. In the northern state of Punjab your mouth will water at the smell of fried parathas, filled with green peas and potatoes. Finally, In the state of Madhya Pradesh, your taste buds will be delighted to try bhutee ka kees, a corn based dish, served with chick peas.

When I’m not trying these delectable repasts, you will find me dancing in the Daly College dance studio. I have tried the Punjabi dance style, which incorporates sporadic jumping motions, as well as impeccable coordination. There is also a contemporary dance which requires gracefulness and balance. Finally, my favourite dance originates from Rajasthan, however, this one was too arduous for me to try, given the pots that must be placed on your head!

Though every state has minor cultural differences, each part of the country celebrates a month long tradition, celebrating the return of the god Shiva. People walk for days to temples to worship this god, transporting holy water in little pots hanging from each side of their body. Driving down the road, you witness a sea of saffron orange, with fanciful decorations as they pursue their quest to the temple. I take in the moment, not letting time evade me, and observe the wonder which lies in front of me. – Jane Robeck ’19 (Student Exchange, Daly College, Indore India)

Head’s Blog: Innovation Generation

DSC_0009I love Post-it notes! There are always a lot of them stuck on things around my office workspace and they help keep me organized and focused. Post-it Notes are so simple and the story of their creation is also a fantastic symbol of innovation and the impact of innovative thinking.

In 1968, while trying to develop a heavy-duty glue, a chemist at 3M accidentally created a very light adhesive called microspheres. As the development was unintentional, the microsphere adhesive was basically shelved. Several years later in 1974, a different person from 3M took that light adhesive and found a personal practical application for it. He was in a choir and marked important pages in his songbook with folded pieces paper that slipped out every time he held it up. So by using the light adhesive he found he could mark pages with small sheets of paper that didn’t fall out. Essentially, that was the birth and invention of what eventually became a very useful product.

Yet, it wasn’t until six years later that the Post-it Note was fully developed and marketed. In 1980, Post-it Notes went global as a product and spread immediately like a virus. Despite digital Post-it Notes today, the paper versions still remain very popular, with sales of more than $50 billion annually.

The Post-it Note is a classic innovation story. It was the product of active development, lots of iterations, unexpected results and a “eureka moment”.

I mention this because of what I saw last Thursday evening at our second annual LCC Design & Innovation Fair, an impressive event where Middle and Senior School students presented products and services they developed over recent months. The students were creative, courageous and passionate about developing an innovator’s mindset. Commendations to all involved!

I don’t think we’re ready to patent anything yet, but I’m certain that eventually that will happen. Until then, what’s most important is that more and more LCC students embrace an innovator’s mindset and familiarity with a cycle that includes comfort with brainstorming of ideas, endless problem-solving, refinement, marginal improvement and acceptance of incremental change as true achievement.

If you haven’t visited our LCC Fabrication Lab behind the LCC Store, take the time to do so. I urge all of our students to take advantage of this special makerspace and maybe, just maybe, they’ll discover the inventor hiding within!