Fulbright Alumna Launches National Capital History Day in Canada

Far right: Ruth Dunley 2004-2005 Fulbright Student

Far left: Ruth Dunley, 2004-2005 Fulbright Student; Middle: Diane Sovereign Cultural Affairs Officer at the U.S. Embassy; Far Right: Kim Forney, Deputy Director of National History Day in the U.S.

Without my Fulbright Scholarship, I would have struggled to finish my doctorate.  With it, I was able to take a sabbatical from my fulltime job as a journalist, travel extensively to conduct research, benefit from the support of renowned academics and, best of all, come away from it with new ideas — some of which have come to slow fruition nearly a decade after I was a Fulbright Scholar at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

While studying at William & Mary, a professor invited me to be a judge for the Virginia state championship of National History Day. I was honoured to take part and captivated by what I saw at the contest. High school history students entered projects in five categories: essay, exhibit, documentary, website or dramatic performance. The projects were outstanding, but even more rewarding was to see the support the students had from their community — teachers, parents and community leaders were brought together for one day to celebrate the accomplishments of these young historians, who were piped into an award ceremony with a fife and drum band (this was Williamsburg, after all) and awarded trophies and medals for their contributions to the study of the social sciences.

Why, I thought, can’t we have something like this in Canada?

Now, thanks to a Fulbright Community Leadership Award, we do — complete with bagpipe instead of fife and drum.


Working as a team with fellow Fulbrighter Ruby Heap and volunteers Kathy Scheepers, Ruth Bouttell, Kristin Riddell, Alison Peters and Erin Gurski, we have created National Capital History Day and our inaugural competition was held on April 4, 2014.

steering committee

The steering committee of National Capital History Day: From left, Kathy Scheepers, Kristin Riddell, Ruth Bouttell, Alison Peters, Ruth Dunley and Erin Gurski. (Absent: Ruby Heap)

Modeled after, and with support from, National History Day in the U.S., our contest took place in Ottawa. And, while National Capital History Day is an Eastern Ontario pilot project, we are working hard to make it a national program in just a few more years.

The success of our initiative can be attributed to the positive response it has received from everyone we’ve reached out to in our efforts to build a strong program — it is endorsed by key community partners (it is supported by both local school boards and a media partner, the Ottawa Citizen), and on a truly grassroots level, we had no trouble recruiting nearly 80 volunteers in education, history, journalism and various social sciences and professions to act as judges.



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Participating students not only got a chance to have an interview with and receive written feedback from these judges, but they were also able to take part in nine history-based workshops on everything from augmented reality and video games in the context of history to fashion in the 19th century and sword-fighting in the Middle Ages.


Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip

We also had two high-profile speakers. Jowi Taylor presented Six String Nation, a history lecture as told through the story of Voyageur, a guitar made up of incredible pieces of Canadiana (from Pierre Trudeau’s canoe paddle to gold from a Stanley Cup ring), and Canadian rock star Rob Baker of the Tragically Hip. The Hip, of course, are known for lyrics that reference Canadian geography and historical events and Baker spoke passionately about history as a “coral reef,” a living thing upon which each generation sets down its own stories, one on top of another, to create the textured layers that tell the story of our country.

And though he could not attend in person, Commander Chris Hadfield sent a special video greeting to student and teacher participants — a man of the future speaking about the importance of the past.

“Everything you do is based on the events that have gone before,” the celebrated astronaut said. “If you want to make an informed decision, and if you want to do things that make sense for the future, it is so much more helpful if you understand the past.”

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In the end, nearly 300 students took part in a day that celebrated their accomplishments in the classroom all year long. It was their day to shine.

But none of this would have been possible without the CLP grant or the support of National History Day in the United States, which permitted us to adapt their materials for a Canadian classroom. This spirit of collaboration and exchange is at the heart of Fulbright, and certainly was a part of my own experience as a Fulbright Scholar.

I completed my Fulbright tenure in Virginia in 2005 and finished my doctorate three years later. But, as I discovered, the Fulbright experience lasts much longer than the year a student spends abroad. For me, it has informed all my academic work, sparked new ideas and resulted in creative and collaborative work in my own community and beyond.

For more information, please see www.ottawacitizen.com/history or email ottawahistoryday@gmail.com

Post by Ruth Dunley, 2004-2005 Fulbright Student, and co-organizer of National Capital History Day.

Photographs Jana Chytilova. View the rest of the pictures on Facebook.

Egyptian Human Rights Oral History: A Team Approach

FirstPicTeam Human Rights

I enjoyed watching the Olympics, and seeing the solidarity and spirit of “Team Canada”, “Team USA” and other countries.  One Olympic commercial noted the number of people behind every athlete: family members, coaches, sponsors, teachers, friends, and their home town.  It seems many things that are worth doing require a dedicated team.  My Fulbright project is the same.   I am working on transcribing 100+ hours of oral history interviews, building a database of these interviews and turning this oral history into a book about one of Egypt’s leading human rights organizations.  I am very fortunate to have 52 interns (some from last fall and many more this semester) helping with this project.  It is our own “Team Human Rights”.

I began this oral history project while I was living in Egypt after the 2011 revolution.  After travelling to Egypt as a Rotary International Ambassadorial Scholar in 2010, I stayed through the revolution, completing a diploma program in International Human Rights Law at American University in Cairo.  I applied for and received a “Revolution Grant” from American University in Cairo to do an oral history of the human rights organization where I was volunteering.

 Tharir Square 2

Tharir SquarePhotos taken in Tahrir Square by Carol Gray on February 11, 2011, the day Hosni Mubarak resigned.

Egyptian Human Rights Advocates:  A story that needs telling

As a former public defender in the United States, it was inspiring for me to interview fellow lawyers who were courageously representing Egyptian victims of human rights violations:  protesters, professors, student activists, women, farmers at risk of losing their land, gay people, whistle-blowers, victims of environmental pollution, victims of torture, and relatives of those who had been tortured to death.  This organization housed the Front to Defend Egyptian Protesters which provided a 24 hour hotline and free legal representation to protesters who were arrested during the revolution. The staff of the organization was also very active in the revolution.

Who are these Egyptian voices?  Here are a few examples:

Seif and Carol        Seif [and me] in Tahrir Square, spring 2011

MustafaMustafa, human rights lawyer, April 2011

Seif is an attorney, a founder of the organization and a human rights visionary.  Incarcerated for years as a political prisoner during the Mubarak era, Seif became a lawyer while in prison.   His organization represents torture victims and Seif, himself, knows what it means to be tortured because he was during his years of detention.

Along with Sief, Mustafa was one of the 37 people arrested when the organization was raided in the middle of the revolution.  The organization had been open around the clock during the revolution, offering free legal representation to any protesters who phoned in or came to the office seeking their help.

Mona Mona describing the Nile Bridge during the Egyptian Revolution.

Mona, a researcher with the organization who focused on issues affecting the poor, was very active in Egypt’s 2011 revolution.  She described being on the Nile Bridge with thousands of other protesters trying to get to Tahrir Square while thousands of security forces tried to stop the protesters.  She was in the back of the crowd initially and said her role was that when protesters had been shot by the police and their injured bodies were being passed back in the crowd, she would flag down cars going by to ask them to take the injured to the hospital.

N. Interview with Nadeem, human rights researcher.

Nadeem, another researcher, was in Tahrir Square on a day when protesters were being shot.  He called doctors he knew  and helped set up a “field hospital” in the Square.  He also called people he knew who owned cars to ask them to come to the Square to drive critically injured people to the hospital, as ambulances were not available.

These are just a few of the unsung heroes working for this human rights group.  I met many as I interviewed more than 50 people for a total of 100+ hours of interviews.  One of the most striking things about the people working with this organization was the unwavering commitment to the cause of human rights.  Even when the small budget of the organization is not enough to pay all staff members, staff will work for months on end for free.  For them, human rights are much more than a job; it’s their lives.

Setting up a human rights internship program:

InternsI never dreamed that I would have a small human rights army of 52 interns helping with this project.  People volunteered little by little, often a few joining after each presentation I gave:  at the Montreal Institute for Genocide Studies; guest teaching at Loyola College; presenting at a forum hosted by students from Journalists for Human Rights; as a panelist at a conference I organized called the Symposium for Sustainability and Human Rights; at a forum of Oral Historians at Work sponsored by the Center for Oral History and Digital Storytelling, as well as a couple radio shows.  I sent announcements to many student organizations and tracked down the procedure for students to get academic credit for doing internships at Concordia’s Loyola College and the Political Science Department.  One guest lecture I gave for a large class at McGill University lead to 32 students signing up for more information about becoming interns.  Many joined the team.   For those doing the internship for academic credit, they will do independent research as well as the oral history project and will then be part of an evening of presentations for the university and the public entitled “Perspectives on Human Rights in Egypt” (this event will be taking place April 14, 2014 at 7 P.M. at Concordia University, see poster below for more information).

Prespective on Human Rights in Egypt

As part of this internship, I offer a weekly seminar at Concordia University’s Centre for Oral History and Digital Storytelling about the political context for this project and current events in Egypt related to human rights.  Students also present each interview they transcribe as I project a photo of the interviewee on the big screen.  In this way, students who are spending many hours transcribing each interview hear many voices from this human rights organization and their clients.

Our human rights team is as diverse as it is committed, including people from 15 different countries:  Canada, United States, China, Turkey, Burkina Faso, Columbia, Afghanistan, Rwanda, Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, the Philippines, Spain, Mauritius, and France.  Most are students at Concordia or McGill, some undergraduate, some graduate, and some recent graduates or other people from the community.  All share a passion for human rights and an eagerness to be part of something real … a way to combine their studies with their values.  All are keento know the stories of the people on the front lines in Egypt working fearlessly for human rights.

We will complete the transcriptions this semester.  About half the interviews were conducted with Arabic speakers through a translator.  My Arabic speaking interns are working on transcribing all Arabic sections into Arabic characters so that future Arabic researchers can read the interviews in their native language.  I plan to have a book proposal submitted by the summer.   The database with all the transcripts and audio/visual tapes will also be completed by that time with the plan to eventually have a permanent archive at Concordia’s Center for Oral History and Digital Storytelling as well as the Alexandria Library’s Center for Peace and Democracy Studies in Alexandria, Egypt.

It is unclear what the future will be for human rights in Egypt.  What is clear to me is that there are many bright, committed, courageous Egyptians who are determined to create a future that is based on respect for human rights and accountability for victims of human rights violations.  I am happy to share the inspiration of these human rights advocates’ accounts with my internship team, whose help has been, and is, invaluable for my Fulbright project.

 Post by Carol Gray, Fulbright Scholar 2013-2014. Read about her experiences in Montreal and her time in Cairo


Announcement The Eco-Leadership Grant Recipients (2013-2014)

City farm school

The Fulbright Canada-R.B.C. Eco-Leadership Program

Fulbright Canada and the RBC Foundation are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2013-14 Eco-Leadership Program (ELP).  The ELP supports current grantees and alumni, helping them complete a volunteer-based project that will make a significant positive environmental impact in their community. The ELP provides small grants (in the range of $4 000) on a competitive basis, the funds cover program expenses, publicity and promotional materials, as well as transportation and travel expenses for volunteers and participants.

Chris Christopher Barrett (Fulbright Visiting Research Chair, 2013-2014)
Project Location: Berkeley, California
Project Title: Transplanting a Culture of Campus Sustainability from Berkeley to McGill

The University of California Berkeley is the acknowledged world leader in integrating ‘Sustainability’ and ‘Green’ ideas into Campus Classrooms, Research Labs, and Community Culture and Outreach. This Project will embed a Green Chemistry Professor from McGill on Campus at Berkeley for 4 weeks of intensive immersion in these varied volunteer programs, to share campus ideas from McGill and Canada, and to bring new ideas back for integration into McGill’s Classrooms, Research Labs, Field Work, and Campus Culture.

Patrick  Patrick Belanger (Canadian Fulbright Student, 2007-2008)
Project Location : Marina, California
Project Title : Pueblo Del Mar Garden

This local food project aims to enhance a volunteer-led community garden in Marina, California, promote low-income residents’ consumption of locally grown organic produce, and restore a sandy lot by establishing a community composting system, mulching the site, and planting coastal natives. Through this dovetailed approach, the project anticipates both immediate and long-term environmental and community health benefits.

Lanyan Lanyan Chen (Fulbright Scholar, 2008-2009)
Project Location : North Bay, Ontario
Project Title: Grow-A-Row Allotment Garden Project

In partnership with the Greening Nipissing, the North Bay Crisis Centre, and the North Bay Food Bank, this project will use grant funds and community partners to build a community allotment garden. The benefits are: fresh produce, physical activity, social interaction, gardening for mental therapy, opportunities to participate in workshops and talks. Local residents will have the option to pay for an allotment plot and in exchange, they tend the community garden. The public and in particular, youth, will also benefit from gardening education about pollinator decline awareness, composting and seed saving techniques.

Shannon Shannon Chiles(Fulbright Student, 2012-2013)
Project Location: Prince George’s County Maryland
Project Title: Promoting recycling and waste reduction in primary schools

Shannon Chiles plans to work with elementary schools in the District Heights and Capitol Heights area in Prince George’s County Maryland, Shannon’s hometown, to promote and support recycling and waste reduction. Working with the teachers, principals and directors, Shannon and members of the Green team will give presentations to students about the importance of recycling and how to recycle. Also, she will be working with local waste management companies to make sure that there are new recycle receptacles available at each site, which is desperately needed for many of the schools in the area. Some schools have taken it upon themselves to make makeshift containers to recycle paper and plastic bottles. Through her partnerships, Shannon will ensure that these schools and centers receive the resources they need to take care of their community in a more Eco-friendly and sufficient way.

Victoria Victoria Chraibi (Fulbright Student, 2009–2010)
Project Location: Lincoln, Nebraska
Project Title: Wind and Wings: sustainable wind energy development and bat conservation

Nebraska is ranked fourth in the United States for potential wind power generation. By 2014, the installed capacity of wind energy in the state will have more than doubled. Wind turbine mortality among birds and bats is recognized, but bats remain under-studied compared to birds. In particular, understanding the habitat of bats and their migration patterns between Canada and the United States can aid in placing wind turbines in locations that would cause the least harm. We aim to make information and new research on bats available to the public in order to encourage the conservation of imperiled bat species and promote the responsible, sustainable development and operation of alternative energy resources.

Carol!  Carol Gray(Fulbright Scholar, 2013-2014)
Project Location: Amherst, Massachusetts
Project Title: Interpretative Trail with Blue Bird Houses and Butterfly Trail

This project aims to create a combination Interpretative Trail, Blue Bird House Trail and Butterfly Trail on land just purchased for conservation through a multi-organization coalition in Amherst, Massachusetts.This trail will serve many purposes:  a classroom for environmental education; a destination point for birders, naturalists and nature lovers; and a space to help preserve the monarch butterfly population. Carol Gray has led the South Amherst Conservation Association for the past 9 years which was instrumental in preserving a 5 acre parcel of land which contains wetlands, a certified vernal pool and beautiful scenic views. The closing on this conservation purchase happened on December 23, 2013.  There will be a land dedication ceremony in the spring with environmental groups and community members.

Leigh Leigh M. O’Brien( (Fulbright Specialist Award, 2011-2012)
Project Location: Mount Morriss, NY
Project Title: Developing a sense of wonder in low-income rural children

Soaring Stars at Geneseo is a summer enrichment program for rural, low-income children in western New York inspired by the Reggio-Emilia approach and grounded in the surrounding community. Children learn to better understand their world by investigating the environment and people around them.  The proposed project would be an extension of the existing program; providing transportation to local sites will allow children who may not otherwise have the opportunity to explore and better appreciate the wonders of the natural world.

Karen  Karen Proudford (Senior Specialist Award, 2010-2011)
Project Location: Baltimore, Maryland
Project Title: Morgan State University Sesquicentennial Park Design Project

The Morgan State University Sesquicentennial Park Design Project will utilize a service-learning model to engage students, faculty and community partners in a cross-disciplinary initiative to develop a detailed design for this historic park using environmentally-sustainable site principles.  The design will include the park entrance, multiple pathways, and added features which encourage visitors to enjoy the surroundings.  Current plans call for the park to open in 2017, in celebration of the University’s 150th Anniversary, and in acknowledgement of our unique geographical placement as a “university within a park.”

Ladyyy Deborah Stiles (Fulbright Student, 1994-1995)
Project Location: Pictou County, Nova Scotia
Project Title: Changing Littering’s Unkind Behaviour in the East River Valley (CLUB ERV)

The East River Valley (ERV) of Pictou County, Nova Scotia, is a picturesque farming and lumbering community made up of several communities, from Hopewell to Plymouth to Sunnybrae. Unfortunately, like many rural communities in North America, roadside littering is a real and serious problem.  The CLUB ERV project, however, will engage youth of the ERV, and rural studies students at Dalhousie’s Agricultural Campus, in a unique education, research and action effort. The aim is to help change adult littering behavior and provide a model for future anti-littering campaigns.


To learn more about the Eco-Leadership Program and read about past projects check out: http://bit.ly/1hjWrLH

Announcement: The Community Leadership Grant Recipients (2013-2014)

KaitFulbright Canada and the US Embassy in Canada are pleased to announce the recipients of the 2013-14 Community Leadership Program (CLP). The CLP supports Canadian alumni of US government exchange programs who would like to make a contribution in their community. The CLP provides up to $8,000 on a competitive basis to groups of three or more alumni who identify a need in their community and a strategy for addressing that need. The recipients of this year’s CLP grants are:



Marcia Ostashewski (Canadian Fulbright Visiting Chair, 2010-2011)
Project Location: Vancouver, B.C. and Sydney N.S.
Project Title: Music is My Life: An Exhibit of Art by Homeless Young People
Fulbright Alumni Partners:
Jill Palzkill Woelfer (Fulbright Student, 2011-2012)
Cheryl Krasnick Warsh (Fulbright Scholar, 1992-1993)

The stories of homeless youth often go unheard. Music is My Life gives a voice to these young people through an exhibit of drawings and stories by 129 homeless people, aged 15-25, from Vancouver, British Columbia and Seattle, Washington. The drawings and stories were created as part of Jill Woelfer’s 2011-2012 Fulbright research. She investigated the role of music in the lives of homeless youth. The goal of the exhibit is to bring the voices of these homeless young people directly to the community in order to create a an opportunity for community action and discourse.


Ian McGrath (Canadian Fulbright Student, 2010-2011)
Project Location: Ottawa, Ontario
Project Title: Level the Ice
Fulbright Alumni Partners:
Robin McLay (Fulbright Student, 1998-1999)
Scott Delaney (Fulbright Student, 2011-2012)

Disadvantaged youth may face restrictions that make it difficult for them to participate in community activities, including team sports. Fulbright alumni, Ian, Robin and Scott will address this problem by inducting 20 disadvantaged and promising hockey players aged 13-14 years to “Level the Ice”, a program that will deliver elite hockey coaching and training. The on-ice program will be donated by Next Generation Hockey and will be comparable to the elite training and development this organization provides to players at a significant expense.  Next Generation Hockey will also provide qualified coaches. The conditioning and off-ice program will also be professionally developed and run by experienced trainers. Finally, the mentorship program will bring in community leaders (business, hockey, academic, amongst others) to provide participants with a broader view of how to succeed in life with an emphasis on educational attainment.

James McNiven (Fulbright Visiting Research Chair, 2010-2011)
Project Location: Halifax, Nova Scotia
Project Title: Beyond the Veil of the Sorrow Songs
Fulbright Alumni Partners:
Quanda Johnson (Fulbright Student, 2013-2014)
Cambria Findley-Grubb (Fulbright Student, 2013-2014)

Beyond the Veil of The Sorrow Songs – A Multimedia Production Workshop is a two-week community event exploring the rich, untold history of the Underground Railroad as it relates to Atlantic Canada. The Underground Railroad describes the secret routes and safe houses used by 19th century slaves of African descent to escape to Free states and Canada. Students from Dalhousie University and Nova Scotia College of Art and Design will participate with local talent, through an innovative combination of performance art and media. The first week will consist of master classes by local experts and scholars on various components of the production: fugitive slave narratives, African drumming, Scotch-Irish fiddling, liturgical dance, spoken word art, sorrow songs, media and visual art. The second week will “workshop” a 90-minute concert weaving in components examined in week one. The performance will be a living tribute to escaped slaves, finding their way to, or through Nova Scotia via the Underground Railroad. Beyond the Veil will stimulate community dialogue on historical, contemporary race, and culture issues.



Magdalena Muir (Fulbright Scholar, 2013-2014)
Project Location: Yellowknife and Iqualuit
Project Title: Fulbright Engagement in Arctic Council for 2014

Economic, environmental, and societal changes have taken place in the Canadian North. These issues, amongst others, are discussed in the working groups in the Arctic Council meetings. Currently, Canada holds the Arctic Council’s Chairmanship. Fulbright scholars from Canada will support the Arctic Council and the Canadian Chair through their participation in these meetings and its working groups. This project will also support the participation of northern Canadian communities, Inuit and First Nations based in the Yukon, Nunavut and Northwest Territories.


To learn more about the Community Leadership Program and read about past projects check out: http://bit.ly/1m3vlyo

Renewable Energy and the Role of Academic and Private Partnerships for Energy and Water Nexus in Arid Regions


Energy and Water Nexus for Arid regions: Sustainable energy development and water linkages were recognised at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development, Rio+20, with recognition continuing across a broad variety of UN and international initiatives.

For example, the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs is very engaged in exploring the energy and water nexus, particularly in the context to alleviate water scarcity and poverty both globally and in arid regions such as northern Africa and the Middle East.

Renewable energy helps address water security and scarcity by integrating energy and water systems, and combining renewable energy with desalination. International policy developments are also underway, such as the Global Dry Land Alliance, initially proposed by Qatar at the 66th Session of UN General Assembly in 2011, and launched at COP18 in Doha. The Global Dry Land Alliance aims to increase food security in arid regions through joint research and the adoption of energy and water systems and technologies.

More generally, renewable energy, combined with desalination and aquifer management, could address water security, quality and quantity, through innovative integrations of energy and water systems, and integration of renewable energy with desalination and aquifer replenishment and management. Arid regions including coasts, islands and peninsulas have common needs to integrate energy and water systems, energy and water uses and efficiencies in order to achieve sustainable energy development and poverty alleviation, and to assist in adapting to climate change. Arid regions may have extensive geothermal, ocean, solar, and wind resources, but despite that often rely on imported hydrocarbons to generate electricity.

Reliance on imported hydrocarbons in arid regions results in environmental and oil spill risks to land and seas from the transport of hydrocarbons from ships to the generation facilities, as well as issues with water quality and water scarcity that  renewable energy, desalination, ground water and aquifer management and replenishment, and innovative approaches to water treatment can address. The intermittent nature of renewable energy can be addressed by energy and water storage options (including hydrogen storage and aquifer re-injection and management) or by retaining hydrocarbon generation as backup, emergency or peak energy source. Transmission lines between islands can integrate renewable resources and markets for adjacent islands.

It is generally recognized that arid regions are at the forefront of impacts to climate change and adapting to these impacts including higher temperatures, changing seasonal and annual precipitation, depletion of aquifers and groundwater, saline intrusion of coastal and island aquifers, and increased water quality  issues and incidences of waterborne illnesses. However, these regions have rich sources of customary, local and traditional knowledge and technologies in managing energy and water resources and needs (i.e., water harvesting, storage and irrigation; traditional architecture and buildings), which can augment and complement renewable energy knowledge and technology, and the integration of energy and water systems.

Private and public partnerships can support energy and water projects in arid regions. There are parallel issues of external investment, and technology transfer and capacity development for renewable energy and water technologies and projects. As knowledge, technologies and projects evolve, knowledge and technology transfer and capacity development can occur between arid regions globally. Additionally, there could be opportunities for building synergies (including knowledge and technology exchanges and capacity development) between those arid regions which are currently leading in the use of renewable energy technologies and projects to address water security and scarcity. Last, renewable energy projects that are not integrated in electricity grids may also be eligible for carbon credit as small scale renewable energy projects under the Clean Development Mechanism.

Energy and Water Nexus and Coasts, Small Islands and Peninsulas in the Mediterranean, Northern Africa and Baja Region of Mexico

The Small Island Developing States (SIDS) – as well as coastal arid regions such as northern Africa and the Middle East – need to incorporate energy with water for sustainable energy development, economic development and poverty alleviation in order to mitigate and adapt to climate change. For example, although SIDS have geothermal, ocean, solar, and wind resources, they mainly rely on hydrocarbons to generate electricity. Both SIDS and arid regions share similar issues relating to energy and water security, which renewable energy, desalination, and aquifer management can address.

The Renewable Energy-Desalination-Water Treatment Pilot Project for Small Islands and Coasts in the Americas is currently being implemented with the support of a Fulbright Scholarship and in partnership with municipalities, academic institutions, civil society, and international agencies. For example, this project explores an island and coastal locations, identifies commercial or government client, and develop a project plan for approvals and finance to construct a renewable energy, desalination and water treatment facility. Integrated facilities such as this will displace the imported hydrocarbons, provide energy and address water scarcity, and allow local mitigation and adaptation to climate change.

For example, the arid Baja coasts and peninsula of Mexico shares numerous characteristics with islands, the Mediterranean and northern Africa, being all beset by high seasonal temperatures, limited precipitation and declining aquifers. Though solar and wind resources are available, municipalities and national governments may use diesel generators to provide electricity. If water scarcity and high energy costs are not addressed they could limit economic sectors, such as agriculture and tourism, which supports the local economy and populations. Additionally, renewable energy and desalination could improve sustainability and thus attract more residents and tourists to the peninsula.

There has been significant knowledge in the Baja region of Mexico on existing water resources including aquifers, and regional and municipal water needs now and into the future. Research and analysis has been conducted by Mexico’s Centro Mario Molina in partnership with municipal governments and water departments including water scenario planning, economic analysis and modelling. This includes economic and public policy analysis for aquifer management, and impact of electricity rates for agriculture on aquifer depletion. Municipal entities such as IMPLAN Los Cabos’ Municipal Planning Institute (IMPLAN Los Cabos) have information and knowledge of energy and water at the local level.

Technologies and facilities design and any required operational and technical equipment, renewable energy-desalination projects, aquifer management approaches could meet the intertwined energy and water objectives and needs of the Baja region. Innovative financing, public/private partnerships for projects for renewable energy, desalination and aquifer management and replenishment would be very useful. The Centro Mario Molina has  water data and information and a water gap methodology that consider sectors in the Baja region with significant water uses, being the agriculture, household and tourism sectors. Economic, energy and technical implications of changes to water include population growth and climate change scenarios.

In Mexico, government typically own and operate desalination plants in Ensenada and other regions of the Baja, though this is gradually changing. For example, private parties built a large desalination plant in Los Cabos, with water being supplied under a concession arrangement with the municipality. Desalination plants that may be owned by government or the private sector have been proposed in Playas de Rosarito (along with water exports to US), La Paz, San Quentin, near Loreto to support a resort and for the three fishing villages of Puerticitos, Bahia de Los Angeles, and El Barril. One of the proposed desalination plant in Rosarito and another proposed plant in the Gulf of California (Sea of Cortez) are bi-national initiatives where some of the treated water may be exported to the United States. Aquifers and existing and proposed desalination plants in the Baja region in Mexico – along with best practices, technologies and municipal water systems, are important to meet regional, municipal and sectorial water needs.Waterflashlight

Additional Consideration of Aquifers and Aquifer Management
The aquifers that are the main water sources in many arid regions are being depleted, and also contaminated by saline intrusions. These aquifers are affected by changing mean and seasonal precipitation and temperatures and sea level rise, but can assist in buffering and mitigating the risk of these changes. Many of these aquifers will be transboundary engaging two or more countries.

Aquifers have increased dramatically in importance in recent years. Aquifers are essential to human life and agriculture, providing vital sources of water for drinking and agriculture. Some transboundary aquifers, such as the Nubian Sandstone Aquifer System, contain non-renewable fossil water. Aquifers sustain streams, wetlands, and ecosystems; and resist land subsidence and salt water intrusion.

Aquifers in arid and semi-arid regions, such as the Mediterranean, Middle East and northern Africa, and Baja region of  Mexico are affected by high temperatures, low precipitation and water scarcity, as well as water uses. Links between groundwater depletion and sea level need to also be considered here. Considering the Baja region of Mexico, aquifers are managed at the state level, while municipalities provide local water services. These municipalities do not have access to sufficient water to meet current or future needs. Water efficiency and pricing approaches have been proposed to address water shortfalls at a municipal level. However, it is also useful to examine the role of renewable energy and desalination to create additional safe clean drinking and replenish depleted aquifers.

Climate change may increase aquifer uses and rates of depletion, thus increasing complexity and challenges of aquifers and their management. Key climate impacts for aquifers are changes in recharge and discharge zones and volumes, contamination and saline infiltration. Changes in seasonal and annual precipitation, flooding, temperature and extreme weather events could modify the recharge and discharge of renewable aquifers. Flooding and extreme weather events could contaminate all types of aquifers. Coastal aquifers will increasingly vulnerable to saline intrusion as sea levels rise and aquifers are depleted.

Aquifers in arid and semi-arid regions, such as the Mediterranean, Middle East and northern Africa, and Baja region of  Mexico are likely to be affected by higher temperatures, decreased precipitation and increasing water scarcity, as well as greater water uses. Links between groundwater depletion and sea level rise need to also be considered here. Considering the Baja region of Mexico, aquifers are managed at the state level, while municipalities provide local water services. These municipalities do not have access to sufficient water to meet current or future needs. Water efficiency and pricing approaches have been proposed to address water shortfalls at a municipal level. However, it is also useful to examine the role of renewable energy and desalination to create additional safe clean drinking and replenish depleted aquifers.

Appropriate management of aquifers can minimize adverse implications of climate change, and  assist in adaptation to that change. Aquifer management could alleviate surface water scarcity and contamination, reduce seasonal, annual and inter-jurisdictional flood risks, and sustain the aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems dependent on the aquifers. For example, water could be abstracted from aquifers, and re-injected when beneficial, so the aquifer functions as a managed water storage system for all aquifer states. Linkages between aquifers and surface, coastal and marine waters necessitate integrated approaches. Aquifers could also have a beneficial role for climate mitigation. Countries could sequester greenhouse gases in deep saline aquifers, which provide the greatest global potential for the storage of greenhouse gases. Further, aquifers could facilitate hydrocarbon development, whether traditional or non-conventional sources such as natural gas or shale gas, where, if appropriately done, this development may not adversely affect freshwater aquifers, and could result in the development of lower carbon energy.

References and Weblinks

Sustainable Energy Development project at www.eucc.net/en/climate_change/index.htm and http://www.arctic.ucalgary.ca/research/sustainable_energy_development.

Global Dry Land Alliance, http://www.qnfsp.gov.qa/home

Mexico’s Centro Mario Molina, http://centromariomolina.org/

Author: Dr. Magdalena A K Muir is Research  Associate at the Arctic Institute of North America at the University of Calgary; Adjunct Professor at Johns Hopkins University in Washington DC, and Associate Professor with Aarhus University where affiliated with the Energy Technology Centre. She has extensive experiences in renewable energy and desalination research and projects. Dr. Muir was awarded a Fulbright Scholarship for 2014 to examine and develop replicable pilot projects for renewable energy and desalination in the Americas. The Fulbright research is being implemented as a Visiting Scholar with Columbia University and the University of Delaware, and as Associate Professor with Aarhus University.

Dr. Muir’s research occurs under the Sustainable Energy Development project and is implemented under the Arctic Institute at the University of Calgary; and as a visiting scholar with Columbia University and the University of Delaware. Institutions such as the Department of Sustainable Development of the Organization of American States, United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs, the Coastal and Marine Union (EUCC), and the Sustainable Cities International Energy Lab are involved in the Fulbright Scholarship and will contribute to the scholarship research.

 Editors note: This article first appeared on UN-Water Annual International Conference website and is reprinted here with permission.

Field Notes from a Fulbright Scholar: H.P. Lovecraft’s Québec

Fulbright Scholar

Don’t let the Fulbright program know, but I keep getting sidetracked by research that has nothing to do with my project. Mostly, I’m writing a novel set in the mid-1700’s, following a doctor who travels with a band of Iroquois natives through the Adirondacks and up to Montréal. But with so much rich history in the province of Québec, it’s hard not to get swept away by tangents.

My favorite pet project is compiling a list of famous American visitors who came before me. John Wilkes Booth frequented the province and planned to escape here once he killed Abe Lincoln. Willa Cather was inspired to write her Québec-themed novel, Shadows on the Rock, after a stopover of just a few days. And Frederick Law Olmstead, designer of central park, engineered the precipitous landscape of Parc du Mont-Royal, at the center of Montréal. Yet lately I’ve been wondering about someone else, a creepier American sojourner to Québec. Maybe it’s because autumn is here and the shadows are crawling over the old row houses on my street a little earlier every night, but I keep thinking of Québec’s encounter with H.P. Lovecraft, the pulp horror writer from the early 20th century.

lovecroftEven if you haven’t read Lovecraft you probably know his bizarre handiwork. Famous for stories from the magazine Weird Tales, his work runs the gamut from a familiar Poe-like macabre to what he dubbed “Cosmic Horror,” a genre focused on insanity-inducing God-Monsters from other dimensions. These horrific creatures—such as the “squid-dragon” Cthulhu—hide in the most ancient places on earth, no surprise since Lovecraft himself tended to fixate on cities with a strong sense of history. He loved colonial New England, and the decaying towns around his home in Providence often furnished the setting for his stories. Given these predilections, Lovecraft’s pilgrimage to the mecca of North American antiquity, Québec City, was inevitable. A walled settlement dating to 1608, the town was a perfect match for a man who fetishized the past. Stonework. Cathedrals. Sweeping views of the Saint Lawrence valley from atop a cliff-lined plateau. For Lovecraft, the place was nothing less than high-octane narcotic.

Lovecraft’s three visits to Québec City actually inspired his longest published work, “A Description of the Town of Quebeck in New France, Lately Added to His Britannick Majesty’s Dominions.”  It’s a 130 page travel essay about a city overflowing with “the beauty inherent in all ancient and wonder-making things.” In short, this essay is as weird as Lovecraft himself.

The first half is an amateur history of New France, narrated in a bombastic style that unabashedly flings out baseless Anglo-Saxon value judgments. For example, Lovecraft repeatedly condemns the province as “priest ridden,” and when describing the exploits of Samuel de Champlain, he remarks “’tis a pity he could not have been an Englishman and a Protestant.” Still, despite these laughable barbs, the underlying tone of Lovecraft’s work is swooning, a fact that grows obvious in the second half of the essay: a guidebook for Americans visiting Québec.

In hyperventilating prose, Lovecraft’s guide describes every block of the city in fastidious detail—every cottage, every row house, every terrace, every silver church spire, every “dog drawn cart used to deliver milk.” (Uh… yeah. Dog drawn carts.). Lovecraft’s description is nearly photographic and his obsession with the visual is only underscored by the fact that he constantly recommends certain neighborhoods purely for their “vistas.” Lovecraft extols one such vista in the lower town for being particularly spooky, a crumbling neighborhood overshadowed by Québec’s Citadel, creating a “malign and terrifying aspect” that leads Lovecraft to believe it must be haunted by the ghosts of fallen soldiers.

Reading all this is fun for a while. I can get down with petticoats and stone fortifications more than most. Still, by the end, even I felt exhausted. After Lovecraft’s lengthy “General Orientation Tour,” he then describes 12 more “Pedestrian Expeditions” in similarly exhaustive detail. It all starts to feel like a Lonely Planet where the writer intends to take every step of the way with you, forcing you to ruminate on the provenance of every brick in the city.

Yet Lovecraft’s obsession with antiquity runs even deeper than this. Not only was he obsessed with witnessing old places, he wanted to literally return to the past. As he writes in many of his letters, Lovecraft felt an intense displacement in the contemporary world

Lovecraft felt an intense displacement in the contemporary world. In one of these, he writes:

I think I am probably the only living person to whom the ancient 18th century idiom is actually a prose & poetic mother-tongue. . . . I would actually feel more at home in a silver-button’d coat, velvet small-cloaths, [and a] three-corner’d hat. . . . I’ve always had [the] subconscious feeling that everything since the 18th century is unreal and illusory. . . .

As a result, throughout his essay, he insists on archaic spelling (scientifick, phantasy, antient). He also bemoans the American Revolution (or “rebellion” as he calls it), longing to restore the good old days of monarchy—even shouting out “GOD SAVE THE KING” every time he mentions a British military victory. For somebody that was a contemporary of the modernists, Lovecraft was flagrantly—almost subversively—un-modern. I suppose being in Québec, surrounded by the century he yearned for, he must have at last felt some sense of peace. In a way, he’d come home.

 Map of Quebec

 A sketch of Québec City, drawn by H.P. Lovecraft

Last summer, I traveled to Québec City to do some preliminary Fulbright research and it’s stunning how much Lovecraft’s 1933 description matches what’s there today. This preservation might have something to do with the old town’s enshrinement as a National Historic Site of Canada in 1948 (and a United Nations World Heritage Site in 1985). Of course, even before this, there was an overwhelming monetary incentive to keep the atmosphere “antient,” since the city only draws tourists because of its historic authenticity. This economic truth is something that would have driven Lovecraft crazy if he paused to think about it. One of the things he hated about the 20th century was its overweening insistence on commerce.

Even in Lovecraft’s essay, it’s clear that the tourism industry had already rooted itself in the city by the 1930’s. He describes places to find the best guides, the best English-speaking hotels, and even a phalanx of old fashioned horse drawn carriages waiting to take foreigners around the city. For all his swooning about antiquity, it’s hardly as though Lovecraft discovered a civilization in a time capsule.

For all his swooning about antiquity, it’s hardly as though Lovecraft discovered a civilization in a time capsule.

 And so, once I finished his essay, I started to wonder if Québec City was really as antique as Lovecraft asserted, or whether he was simply seeing what he wanted to see (or being sold what he wanted to buy). After all, Québec City was one of Canada’s most industrialized cities in the 1930’s, manufacturing an endless supply of shoes, corsets, furniture, and even boasting a new paper mill. But apparently Lovecraft wasn’t shown these things. Or if he was, he ignored them.

The city’s emphasis on tourism would grow still more intense in the last half of the 20th century, as industrial and financial power moved elsewhere in Canada. An object lesson is the reconstruction of the city’s lower town, the neighborhood at the foot of Québec City’s cliff. Ever since the fur trade collapsed in the mid-1800s, the lower town had been a slum filled with whorehouses, frequented by no one but gamblers, sailors, and lumberjacks. However, in the 1960’s millions were spent to demolish and rebuild the neighborhood, the new version made to resemble its ancient 1700’s self, the same era preserved within the ramparts of the city. Naturally, this reconstruction doesn’t house fur merchants as it once did. Instead it contains a shopping area filled with chic cafes, boutiques, and art galleries. If you didn’t think about it, you might assume the reconstructed buildings were centuries old—like everything else. But no. These buildings were designed explicitly for tourism. They are a sanitization of the city’s true past—the crumpled pages of history smoothed flat.

It’s impossible to deny that the reconstruction is an improvement—even if it destroyed that spooky lower town vista Lovecraft admired. What sane person wouldn’t want cheery visitors over a seedy red-light district? Yet the artist in me wonders how to navigate situations like this. As a historical novelist, how does one separate authentic history from manufactured history?

As a historical novelist, how does one separate authentic history from manufactured history?

I don’t have any satisfying answers. But, unlike Lovecraft, I feel suspicious of everything. I’ve been to enough reenactments, historical tours, and museums to realize the quality of these things varies tremendously. I recall visiting one Seven Years War reenactment in upstate New York where it seemed that the reenactors knew surprisingly little about the conflict—most unable to relate more than a few romantic anecdotes.

Still, like Lovecraft, I can’t help but long for some magic door to the past, a way to experience history as it was. This is one reason I feel primary sources are so important. They are the closest you can get to literally reliving the past. For my project, the most useful by far have been the so-called “captivity narratives”—true tales written by colonists taken captive by natives. These narratives render the past in vivid detail, in the very words of those who lived through it. However, as much as I love them, even captivity narratives can be polluted by commerce. Since they were popular entertainment in their day, the stories are often sensationalized, a disingenuous effort to sell as many copies as possible. It seems there’s no way around it. Money will always bend the truth.

So, though Lovecraft felt everything after the 18th century was “unreal and illusory,” I’m left feeling just the opposite. To me, the past is what is illusory, a pastiche of traces we do our best to understand, a story each generation has to remake from a new vantage point. And even though I eschew the manufactured history of tourist traps, my novel is—in the end—just another manufactured version of the past. Even if I strive for accuracy, it will be shaped by my own perspectives. Even if I am skeptical of sources, it will carry forward the assumptions of those I rely on. No matter what: the full truth of the past is lost. The best we can do is a leap of the imagination.

Cam-Terwilliger-1Article by Cam Terwilliger, Fulbright Scholar 2013-2014

Editor’s note: This article first appeared on The Outlet the blog of Electric Literature and is reprinted here with permission.