“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
“Don’t judge each day by the harvest you reap but by the seeds that you plant.”
Robert Louis Stevenson
You’re invited to Dal Alumni Days!
Dal Alumni Days offers an exciting mix of new initiatives and events curated for our alumni community. From thought-provoking and engaging lectures to fun and inspiring celebrations, don’t miss the inaugural Dal Alumni Days. Receptions, reunions, tours – these four days will be filled with exciting events and great conversations. Check out the the Alumni Page for more information.
With the death of the young female orca calf known as J50 in the Pacific Northwest in September 2018, the population of southern resident killer whales has fallen to 74.
At the time, Ken Balcomb, the founder of the Center for Whale Research in Friday Harbor, Wash., said the world was “witnessing a slow motion extinction” of this population of killer whales.
These incredibly low numbers paint an alarming picture for the future of the endangered southern resident killer whales. Experts predict that two more southern resident killer whales will die by this summer due to starvation. Only 40 of the calves born to the southern resident killer whale population have survived since 1998, and 73 have gone missing or found dead. No newborn whales have survived since 2015.
Why are they in such dire straits? The three main stressors for this dwindling population are noise pollution from increased vessel traffic, ocean contaminants and declines in Chinook salmon — the whales’ main source of food.
Research shows that a quieter ocean may help save the southern resident killer whale population, but without regulations yet in place, it may be too little, too late.
Three groups of orcas — the transient, offshore and resident — live along the Pacific coast. The resident group is further classified into northern and southern populations that have some distribution overlap but do not interbreed. The southern resident population, typically found from southwestern Alaska to central California, is the only orca population in Canada listed as “endangered.”
Underwater ocean ambient noise has increased by approximately 15 decibels in the past 50 years due to increased marine transportation and other anthropogenic (human-made) sources.
Noise travels approximately five times faster in water than air and has a wide range of detrimental effects on whales. With increasing numbers of vessels plying the world’s oceans, their engine noise is making it hard for many whale species to communicate.
The documentary “Sonic Sea” likens anthropogenic ambient noise, such as that from vessel engines and drilling for oil or gas, to being trapped in a loud, dark nightclub, unable to see or hear the people right next you. While a human can leave a noisy night club, whales cannot escape these underwater noises.
According to a recent study, the frequency of ship noise overlaps with that of orca communication. It masks noises the orcas make and can interfere with echolocation, which orcas use for navigation and to hunt prey. For the southern resident killer whale population, the limited availability of Chinook salmon combined with vessel noise adds to the challenge of finding food.
The Haro Strait, off the coast of Victoria, is the summer feeding habitat of the southern resident killer whale population. It is also one of the loudest areas along the Pacific coast, especially in the frequency range that orcas use for communication.
As noise from vessels has increased in loudness and now covers a larger geographic area, killer whales have adjusted their vocal communication by increasing the amplitude of their calls to compensate for the underwater noise. But this increased vocal output could have energy costs, cause increased stress or further hinder communication.
Unlike other forms of marine contamination, noise levels in the ocean can be reduced with relatively small interventions. A recent study investigated ways to reduce vessel noise, and suggested adopting a “multi-pronged approach” to mitigate ocean noise.
The study found that when fast-moving, large vessels reduced their speed to 11.8 knots, the emitted noise dropped by three decibels. This reduction is consistent with precautionary “Okeanos” targets supported by the International Maritime Organization to reduce shipping ocean noise by three decibels within a decade. Shipbuilding industries are already retrofitting noisy ships with quieter engines and designing even quieter ones.
Scientists studying the Haro Strait have suggested using a convoy approach to manage the increasing amounts of ship traffic. Incoming ships would be grouped based on their time of arrival and enter the strait together. Ship noise may increase during the convoy period, but its duration is dramatically reduced. The same study suggested designating B.C.‘s Salish Sea as a Marine Protected Area (MPA) during the summer months to help the southern resident killer whale population recover.
Both Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO) and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have implemented regulations to mitigate the stress on the orca population. DFO is working with U.S. agencies to coordinate measures to reduce underwater noise impacts on the southern resident killer whales.
In 2017, DFO published an action plan to aid in the recovery of the southern resident killer whales, including reduction of underwater noise, limiting disturbance from humans, monitoring whales from a safe distance, ensuring accessible food supply and protecting critical habitat. Recovery plans are legally required for endangered species listed under the Species at Risk Act (SARA), but have been criticized by conservationists for delays in implementation.
In 2018, the government of Canada imposed restrictions on Chinook salmon harvesting with the hope of increasing their availability for the southern resident killer whales.
Washington state Gov. Jay Inslee also launched a task force to create a long-term plan for the recovery and future sustainability of the southern resident killer whales. The recommendations ranged from increasing Chinook salmon availability to a temporary whale-watching moratorium, but they remain a long way from being implemented.
Whale-watching boats and commercial ships are facing an increased number of regulations on how close they can get to orcas in the Salish Sea. As of July 2018, vessels must stay 200 metres away to help limit disturbance of the whales. And in August, Canada’s Federal Court of Appeal rejected the proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion, which could result in a seven-fold increase in tanker traffic in the Salish Sea, to 35 vessels a month.
While addressing noise reductions alone is unlikely to be sufficient, it is a necessary first step. The delay in implementation of measures combined with the uncertainty of the effectiveness of implemented measures can make the prospects seem grim for this declining orca population.
However, it is important not to lose hope. There have been recent reports that three females in the southern resident killer whale population are pregnant.
With increased awareness, further action and a $167.4 million investment towards the protection and recovery of endangered whales by the federal government, maybe it’s not too late to save the southern resident killer whales.
“Nothing puts a greater obstacle in the way of the progress of knowledge than thinking that one knows what one does not yet know.”
Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
“That is one good thing about this world…there are always sure to be more springs.”
L.M. Montgomery, Anne of Avonlea
“Business is about persuasion and negotiation. It is also about identifying customers’ needs and satisfying them. All these objectives cannot be achieved without building trustworthy relationships with business partners and stakeholders, and there is no way to build this trust without being polite according to these people’s cultural expectations.”
Dr. Oksana Shkurska
All the cultures are traditionally divided into collectivistic and individualistic. As research shows, people in individualistic cultures prefer a low-context communication style and are more concerned with their own ‘face’. It means that they value direct and straightforward communication without being afraid to offend others. This low-context communication style is opposed to a high-context style in collectivistic cultures, where people are concerned with another people’s face more than with their own public self-image. As a result, they avoid direct confrontation and value indirectness in communication. In these societies, what is not said is more important than what is actually said, and nonverbal clues play a crucial role in communication, adding meaning to the conversation.
Are politeness strategies in contrasting cultures different?
The answer to this question is certainly yes. You may be surprised to know that a direct way of expressing your thoughts and feelings may be regarded as impoliteness by the representatives of high-context cultures who may think that you are rude and impatient. On the flip side, if you are from a low-context culture, you may feel uncomfortable while interacting with people from high-context cultures due to their extreme level of politeness. This type of politeness may be perceived as lack of honesty and sincerity, and as a result, instead of contributing to strengthening relationships, it may have the opposite effect.
How does understanding of politeness principles across cultures help us succeed in the business world?
Business is about persuasion and negotiation. It is also about identifying customers’ needs and satisfying them. All these objectives cannot be achieved without building trustworthy relationships with business partners and stakeholders, and there is no way to build this trust without being polite according to these people’s cultural expectations. You cannot get a better deal as a result of negotiations if you are perceived as arrogant, rude, or insincere. It is also impossible to gain new customers if your behaviour makes people think that you either do not care about their feelings (as you are too direct in communication), or they are afraid that you are hiding something because your extreme politeness makes them suspicious. Such misunderstandings due to the differences in perception are not rare, and they may cost companies millions of dollars.
You may wonder how people can reach mutual understanding if their cultural expectations regarding polite communication are different. Here are some tips for effective cross-cultural communication:
Effective communication across cultures is impossible without taking into consideration differences in politeness strategies that are closely related to high-context versus low-context communication styles. Regular reflection on your own communicative behaviour, your preferred communication style, and other individuals’ reaction to your politeness or impoliteness strategies helps to avoid miscommunication as well as promotes mutual understanding and empathy. It certainly contributes to creating trustworthy relationships and allows achieving mutual benefits without significant losses and sacrifices.
“We all want progress, but if you’re on the wrong road, progress means doing an about-turn and walking back to the right road; in that case, the man who turns back soonest is the most progressive.”
It is no secret there are stark differences between the health of Indigenous peoples in Canada and their non-Indigenous counterparts.
First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples fare more poorly than the average Canadian on virtually every measurable health indicator including infant mortality, maternal health, suicide, mental health, addictions, life expectancy, birth rates, infant and child health issues, chronic diseases and the incidence of illness and injury.
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC) Calls to Action appeal to the health sector. They call for the federal government to publish annual progress reports on its attempts to measure and address this unacceptable gap.
They also argue for more cultural competency training for health and medical professionals, as well as greater efforts to attract and retain Indigenous students into the health professions. These suggestions are measurable, achievable and commendable. However, these efforts will do very little, in and of themselves, to close the health gap.
Well, you might say, if addressing issues within the health-care system won’t solve the health crises facing Indigenous communities, then what will?
But before we go there, let’s take a step back.
Let’s imagine for a moment that we all wake up tomorrow and somehow all of the recommendations from the TRC that directly pertain to health have been addressed.
More than one in 100 Nunavut infants have TB
The health and medical professionals in our health-care system have received cultural competency training. We have managed to attract and retain Indigenous health and medical staff within all of our health-care institutions. Students in all health professional programs are receiving mandatory curriculum that educates them specifically about Indigenous history and health. There is a robust progress report released each year that measures steps taken within the health-care system to reduce inequities.
These would be amazing leaps forward and I sincerely hope that we all wake up tomorrow and these changes have happened.
However, the question I keep coming back to is: what measurable improvements could that yearly progress report possibly offer if we continue to restrict our notion of Indigenous health to that which can be addressed and solved by the health-care system?
Now let’s return to the term Indigenous knowledge. I use this term in its broadest, most complete and utterly comprehensive sense. Indigenous knowledge includes, but is not limited to, knowledge about traditional medicines.
Within the boreal forests of Canada, for example, more than 546 diverse plant species have been used by Indigenous peoples to treat over 28 different diseases and disorders, including everything from gastrointestinal disorders to musculoskeletal issues. But Indigenous knowledge does not stop there.
Indigenous knowledge also includes practices that relate to overall health and well-being. One example of this would be the ceremony of smudging, which is performed by many First Nations across the country. Two separate studies have found that the act of using medicinal smoke may have particular health benefits and can act as an air purifier by reducing airborne bacteria that is harmful for human health.
Now let’s imagine for a moment that hospitals and pharmacies decided to start prescribing these different types of plants medicines to their patients beginning tomorrow. Would that address the health gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples? Probably not.
One of the reasons for this is that Indigenous knowledge is (w)holistic — spelled with a “w” to indicate the whole-ness and completeness of the knowledge.
It is intended to exist within a particular context, for a specific purpose and tailored to the intended users and/or listeners of that knowledge.
This is why, in virtually any Indigenous culture, Elders will share their knowledge via stories. Those stories hold infinite lessons — about life, about living, about what are the important things to learn from and focus on.
You may hear the same story more than once. And that is OK because each time you hear it, you may take a little more meaning away it. Until one day that story becomes a part of you, and you can pass it along to others.
Often the stories that get shared might teach you something specific — like, for example, how to use a certain tree root to cure a headache. But the real meaning behind the stories isn’t simply the intellectual knowledge that you have gained about the medicinal use of a plant.
The story itself will tell you much more than that — it will teach about our relationships to one another as human beings, and about the relationship between us and our four-legged, winged, finned, rooted and non-rooted relations that live alongside us on this shared space we call home, or Mother Earth.
And as we learn these important stories, we learn to understand that it is in our best interest, as human beings, to protect and preserve the air, water and soil around us so that the plants and animals upon which we rely for our own well-being will continue to be there for us when we need them.
It is the richness of language, culture and rootedness in place that gives rise to this particular knowledge. It is this knowledge that we all require, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous, to heal ourselves.
So what is required for us to lessen the gap in health outcomes between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples? It requires relationships — listening and learning about how to respect one another and the world around us.
So yes, the TRC is right — we do need more Indigenous health professionals, more culturally competent health-care providers, and we do need to measure our progress.
But we need to do so within the context of the TRC Calls to Action, addressing not just those that pertain to health.
In his last Facebook post before his death, acclaimed Indigenous writer Richard Wagamese captured this sentiment very well. He stated:
“I’ve been considering the phrase ‘all my relations’ for some time now. It’s hugely important. It’s our saving grace in the end. It points to the truth that we are related, we are all connected, we all belong to each other. The most important word is all. Not just those who look like me, sing like me, dance like me, speak like me, pray like me or behave like me. ALL my relations. It means every person just as it means every blade of grass, rock, mineral and creature. We live because everything else does. If we were to collectively choose to live that teaching the energy of that change of consciousness would heal all of us — and heal the planet. We do it one person, one heart at a time… we are connected, we are the answer.” Richard Wagamese, Facebook, Feb. 23, 2015.
All my relations. Inogiamit nunattinit ikKasugiaKavugut (Inutittut). Msit No’kmaq (Mi’kmaq). Nii’kinaaganaa (Ojibwe). Mitakuye-Oyasin (Lakota). Kakina ni Dodem (Algonquin). Niw_hk_m_kanak (Cree).
“The mind is powerful, and I would argue that everybody can benefit from truly disconnecting (i.e. do yourself a favour and toss the technology aside once in awhile). The world appears to be getting more complex and stressful, with people dealing with increased pressures.”
Stephen J. Boyd, MBA(FS) Class of 2018
Recently, I was loading my winter surfing gear into the car, with the intention of catching waves at one of my favorite local spots. Someone walking by asked me why I was loading a surfboard into my car this time of year; she truly seemed confused. I went on to explain that proper equipment allows those with a sense of adventure to access the ocean all year, and that winter surfing is completely normal (at least in my mind). The passerby insisted that there must be something compelling about surfing, to justify voluntarily entering water that hovers around zero degrees Celsius. Without putting too much thought into it, I stated the typical reasons as to why surfing is fascinating; the adrenaline rush of riding a wave, being out in the sea, the salt air, the smell of fresh surfboard wax (the brand I use is coconut scented), interpreting surf reports etc. With the car packed, I set off to the ocean.
When I finally entered the water, I put more thought into the passerby’s earlier question; namely, the reason(s) as to why I am so passionate about surfing. Despite the fact that I have surfed for a number of years, I never really considered why I was so drawn to it. However, I do know that while living out-of-province, surfing is one of things I missed the most about Nova Scotia. About an hour into my surf session, with a clear mind and a relaxed disposition, the answer to the passerby’s question finally came to me. For me personally, surfing is more than a sport; it is one of the few ways that I truly disconnect from the real world. It is me, my surfboard, the sea (and occasionally a friend), with my smart phone turned off and buried in the dash of my car.
This is not a sales pitch on surfing; besides, we don’t want the beaches to get too crowded, after all. However, I am advocating the importance of regularly or occasionally disconnecting from our regular lives/routines and the world that surrounds us. The mind is powerful, and I would argue that everybody can benefit from truly disconnecting (i.e. do yourself a favour and toss the technology aside once in awhile). The world appears to be getting more complex and stressful, with people dealing with increased pressures. These may include (but not limited to): constant negative news (e.g., stock markets, global political issues, etc.), professional vs. personal commitments, health problems and social media. Those who take the time to disconnect benefit in so many ways; time away is truly worth it in the long run. Consider it an investment in yourself.
Stephen J. Boyd, MBA(FS) Class of 2018, was the recipient of the prestigious Rowe School of Business Award for Highest Academic Achievement. Stephen is a repeat contributor on CEGE Connection. We invite you to read Stephen’s first post, Beyond Limits.
“We live in this world in order always to learn industriously and to enlighten each other by means of discussion and to strive vigorously to promote the progress of science and the fine arts.”
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart