Thesis Journey

Exploring links paper.

Conflict and conflict management
I chose the blog format for this paper assignment.
I had started this blog 3 years ago for my RRU journal, with the same picture of my mom (at bottom), in a post. She was already so vulnerable and often lost by then. Perhaps this paper does not encounter the expected reflective qualities of master level writing, but I will try to express my choice. It holds a little bit of an intuitive angle, since that is also what I gathered from the assignment proposal which inspired me  :  « this paper is intended to deepen and further energize the work around completing thesis journey and learning from it ». It invites us to trust this can be seen as a work in progress / process of our « journey poster » both visual and written. (Robert ad Peter, EECO 680, 2014). The timeline angle of the first few paragraphs presented next will not all be part of the thesis journey presentation or poster, but felt they could help me focus on the origin of the various pitfalls and conflicts encountered along the journey afterwards.

My whole thesis journey or Master enrolment decision -to start from the beginning-, launched a multilevel or multilayer inner conflict I could say. It began with previous education orientation shortcoming obstacles, which felt they interfered with my desire to pursue my environmental education and communication reflection, in the form of a Master’s degree, due to my lack of a scientific background. I don’t feel that I have a particular inclination for regrets, I suppose I have avoided some form of nostalgia now and then, by reflecting enough on my decisions along the way. On the other hand, spontaneous decisions always tend to attract me. In any case, previous choices seem to diminish my master’s options, until I found the MAEEC RRU program. The timing was perfect between family and work opportunities. Our 3 children were old enough, my job fulfilling and supportive enough, and my determination was strong enough to consider everything at once.

The purpose of this brief incursion in the MAEEC’s pre enrolment journey is to share a timeline of the journey’s story, which could seem related to inner conflict decisions. It aims to put the emotional engagement share of my options, in this perspective. Life’s uncertainties had a strong impact on my initial « plans ». Nevertheless, the outcome for me was clear. Conflict was quickly resolved, if it could be named that way.

« To each progressive gain elicits a corresponding loss »  (p.573)

Brutally summarized or reduced to a few sentences, as a caregiver to my mother caught in a psychological distress, which took the form of an Alzheimer diagnosis, changed plans. On a daily basis, it created overall organizational difficulties and by ricochet, postponed my education intents. Much more significantly, not only would my mother fear memorial degeneration and dread the total loss of her identity, but the painful prospect of her own slow psychological degradation and eventual death had already begun, before she could even truly visualize she would perhaps forget who were her cherished family. Such uncertain outcomes (but were they..) expressed themselves by a « very high level of anxiety » for both of us, particularly for my mother. We we're not taking risk here, although « known probabilities » were more likely to happen in the course of the disease's evolution, and although it felt there were no « benchmarks » that could « provide consistency » (Swenson, Rigoni, p.577). in terms of « controlling the situation », in face of the unknown on a psychological level, we could expect medical evolution to resemble other people's suffering in similar conditions. Perhaps it all didn’t exactly bring« peace into the room » (Bowling, Hoffman, 2000, title), but the conflict was not in the decision-taking. I integrated the only satisfying option -or so I felt -, and it is the love and emotional bond I had for my mother which decided for me.

« The complexity Connection ».
In trying to link the Ethical Problem Solving and Systems Theory paper readings to my mother’s inner conflict and my journey, various contributions the paper surprisingly offers the possibility to look at this problem from multiple angles, in regards with systems, interrelationships, and « feedback loops ». My mothers emotional journey and her physical « brain » would both soon experience « chaos ». Could hers and my situation combined be examined under the deontological view and the «inherent morality of the act» of caring for my mother itself? Unless considered under a subjective lens, the « concept of duty and of moral obligation » did not seem to correspond to my emotional or philosophical state of mind and hearth.  And a teleological view, looking « at the amount of good produced by the act» felt very egocentric, and could not offer any genuine foundations, unless one would examine objectively how was my mother taken care of under my hospices, or those of others, we could posit.  Words, almost taken outside of their initial context, still seem to make much sense in this setting. The « ‘space-between’ events » and « the process of change » also felt they were completely in focus with my mother's situation. « The step-by-step view of the problem, with a focus on the present rather then the future »  (p.576) she seemed to adopt at first, was a defensive protection, which delayed the day where she would let the « big picture »in spite of herself.

Ethical dimension and the principle of utility. (p.575)
The complexity and uncertainty, - themes we are presently pondering on- , had challenged both our presents, particularly my mother’s, one could legitimately observe. Our presence to one another had never felt so precious, so fragile and strong, simultaneously. Time was a precarious space and span we could not let interfere with our possibly brief moments of « conscious » life together. She experienced despair, feared loss and there was no such thing as hope in her mind (blink at ecopsychology.) Everything else could wait, and certainly could courses and a degree. As a paradox and a « reductionist view » (Swenson, Rigoni, p.575), of the « best » action in the short term, perhaps, in the end, it is also thanks to my mother’s legacy, that I could attend RRU courses. She was my adoptive mother, but we adopted each other.
(872 words. To be continued).

Bowling, D. & Hoffman, D. (2000). Bringing Peace into the Room: The Personal Qualities of the Mediator and Their Impact on the Mediation. Negotiation Journal, 16(1), 5-28.

Swenson, D. X. & Rigoni, D. (1999). Ethical problem solving and systems theory: The complexity connection. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 12(6), 573-584. 

photo : Taken by André / Baskatong 


Very interesting metaphors between conflict resolution and Aikido were brought to us by Robert, this morning. The quick motions examples Robert shared, embodied physically, demonstrated what can be experienced inwardly, certainly more profoundly by experts. Sort of an introduction to an attacking/receiving/defensive ballet.



This post is just to set me up trying to build the habit of daily little entries.
Next ones should start trying to be my assignment 1.

Being woken by the geese, greated by peacocks, seeing a rabit outside the Muse during morning writing minutes, meeting and presenting ourselves briefly, - wanted to quote « Vive le Québec libre»  (Général de Gaulles), but figured it would not set a nice -all across Canada- spirit), courses and general guidelines to start dealing with peace, conflict and leadership with Peter and Robert, first lentil burger at habitat, meeting new people through Legacy box team Charter and brainstorm (we are the CC me Street & the creative constraints), greetings with other cohorts, food, meeting triad, seeing -Ricky- Kool and Liza, beeing introduced to Veronica, a Montreal colleague who happens to work with one of my closest girl friend Dominique, made this first day on Campus feel like the real jumping in, reconnecting some dots has started

Actually my favorite song sentence which accompanied me in a boucle (Möbius strip) during thesis and I even think I blogged about once along the way, was Ray Lamontagne's (a New Hampshire born singer) « War is not the answer, the answer lies within you ». Il love his lyrics and voice. Here it is.



photos : Lyne Lefebvre Edmonton Airport and & BC skies, 2014
I wanted to start this last residency journey by a short -arrival- entry although I am a little tired to journal.  I woke up at 5 am in Montreal to catch an 8 am plane to Edmonton, before a transit to Victoria. I arrived starving at 12h30 which was 15h30 home time for my stomach & brain. I also realized I had forgotten my computer battery on the morning table beside my coffee, since I made sure I was packed ready to leave the night before, only having the computer to throw in its pocket...

This panel intended as part of a touristic informational/educational statistics design/concept, greeted me and other Westjet travellers - who paid more attention to white boarding passes then blue airport boards- as we were walking down the corridor to board on the transit plane in Edmonton. I had just seen a beautiful green garden wall covering 2 floors and regretted not taking a picture for my first RRU/Victoria blog, when this -aren't they proud- sign strongly reminded me how jet lag isn't just a metaphor in environmental education. It's feels like a reality, a «certainty», «not a proof of truth» Maturana and Varela might say.  (p.18 from a pre-res Bowling and Hoffman - Bringing Peace into the room paper, I am too tired to reference properly cite).

It also felt in perfect harmony with Swenson and Rigoni's introduction sentence that each « progressive gain (we understand we can perhaps disagree here on the use of the word -gain- or see it as a cynical approach to acknowledgement) elicits a corresponding loss » (p.573). I taught to myself that the «revenge effect » (not here meaning a reaction to a feedback loop) could take place right there, in the airport's corridor, that I thought I knew.

Time for sleep, as I can see in my lack of imagination. Sleep is catching up with me.

Bowling, D. & Hoffman, D. (2000). Bringing Peace into the Room: The Personal Qualities of the
Mediator and Their Impact on the Mediation. Negotiation Journal, 16(1), 5-28.

Swenson, D. X. & Rigoni, D. (1999). Ethical problem solving and systems theory: The complexity
connection. Systemic Practice and Action Research, 12(6), 573-584.




photo : Lyne Lefebvre
I have been wanting to do to many things at once and end up not focusing. Giving myself objectives of doing things one after the other, finishing one before starting another, I often fail...phone rings, job matters to take care of, get back to course/thesis for a short period, dog needs a run, I need to eat...Not often time to dive back into Findings, so start reading a course participant, expected in a reunion, not enough time left to answer, and time again flies too fast.

> I wanted to get chapter 4 finished, so I can have a better over all glance at findings..won't get there.
> I wished to send it to Lucie my supervisor before leaving for RRU...won't make it.
> I was hoping to journal a little post everyday. I haven't done it for the past week.
> Here is one (check)
> I had in mind to keep track of all the entrees in the 8 groups. Not quite there yet.
> I was hoping to get the readings done ahead. The plane will have to do.
> I intended to start choosing and translating my future board content. On res will have to do as well...
> I wanted to start preparing my pres for residency, just looking at which photos could suit my purposes takes me too long. I was hoping not to feel overwhelmed...
> Aside that, I don't have to run with my dog, he's in the country, swimming with friends (check)

So...Here is one thing done. A brief journal of the day, no matter how depressing it sounds to visualize things you -want- to do as -checking- them out. I am not really, but I am just observing. It may help me focus on one thing a day, each one a little bit, until I leave for residency. I did promise myself a year of peaceful and calm attitude towards multiple tasks needed, as opposed to always feeling I am running after time, which I hate, ca be a source of stress instead of a relief, and have put myself into more then often during the past 3 years I find.

I also wanted to make sure I responded Robert, one of our instructors, as he said he was « interested to hear more about how it takes you deeper and the kinds of insights it reveals. » This might be answered more clearly as chapter four takes form. Robert also commented he «sense(d) that the paradox between "positive" and "emergency" approaches is a key tension driving your thesis work.» I can at least say he's right that understanding this tension was my initial intent - although it came out that effective strategies for mobilizing and the strengths of citizen collective solidarity feel they came out to be central -, and that my findings so far have not helped me feel that my gut feelings, re/actions and personal subjectivity were the best approach to effective environmental communication... although I do share much of my interviewees impressions, and although I believe I have sort of - matured - or learned differently along the way, I remain with the similar feeling of dissonance I experience all the time when faced with awareness of our responsibility as opposed to our actions in terms of ecocide so far. Anyhow, what those 2 words inspired me in a glance, as a picture, was the one chosen for this little post. Positive and Emergency combined. Sounds like a Band-Aid won't be a good enough cure for the crisis though.


photo et montage : Lyne Lefebvre
I forgot to say I woke up to 2 bad environmental news (aside all the other terrible ones), which perhaps put me in a bad mood for the day (?). Well, at least I woke up informed. I usually wake up to the radio as my alarm. Radio-Canada.

One new was for you guys in BC, and the other for a little village here in Quebec. Yours stated that a Chinese petroleum company had come up with a deal for fracking with great financial compensation proposal for an indigenous group. It was stated as being a -good news- for BC and BC's First nation community (I had read it had many opponents). Then, the issue was over a little hamlet/village (168 people) in Gaspésie, called Restigouche, who adopted regulations to impose a minimal distance (2km) between fracking and drinking water sources to protect their drinking water, but only AFTER Quebec had authorized the exploration/exploitation (French article).The actual so-called Quebec law is 500 m. The company is suing the little hamlet for 1,5 billion, and the village's defense will cost them 200 000 to start with. They asked for help, but our Quebec government decided not to help. They we're hoping that their case could lead to a premiere positive initiative, in favour of water, against petroleum...

Instead, the PDG of Gastem (the fracking guys), had earlier said, when the little community and their mayor we're against the project, that «ecologists we're fascists»....well tough luck for them was decided last week since they voted a law prohibiting fracking close to their water. (The law is called le règlement dit de Saint-Bonaventure and 75 municipalities in Quebec, from citizen solidarity, have adopted it BEFORE the -enemy- came along, and 23 are working at it (source). It asks for 2km distance between a water source well and fracking.

The article states Mr. Savoie, Gastem's PDG words saying : «C'est un peu farfelu, ça, frivole, ridicule, étant donné qu'ils [les élus] n'ont pas d'expérience. Ils imaginent le pire. Et là, les «chemises vertes» arrivent, avec leur attitude fasciste. Il se fore 15 000 puits par année en Alberta et personne ne s'en plaint».

Which means in quick free translation « It's a little wacky, it frivolous, ridiculous, since they [Mayor and his politicians] do not have the experience. They imagine the worst. And then the "green shirts" come with their fascist attitude. They drill 15,000 wells per year in Alberta and nobody complains » said Mr. Savoie.

How not to feel sick, be outraged, remain positive and peaceful is not always as simple as it seems. Among some of my findings roughly and very briefly put part says : (in order to mobilize) people don't want to see tragic or aggressive images, catastrophism is not a winner, we need solutions, the limy little duckling stuck in petroleum is too depressing, encouraging guilt is not the way. We need to touch the emotions. We need to encourage the sense of responsibility, without the guilt feeling of being responsible...not easy. I am sort of resuming and translating partially some of my interviewees/activists observations very very freely here, with my warmest thanks for everything they have accepted sharing with me.

I will at least name them for now (they authorized me to do so). Patrick Bonin (Greenpeace), Martine Châtelain (EauSecours), Kim Cornelissen (AQLPA), Bruno Massé (RQGE), Maude Prud'homme (RQGE/Tache D'huile), and Jean-Philippe Vermette (Agriurbain).


Gregg Segal's «7 days of Garbage»

Alfie, Kirsten, Miles, Elly   © Gregg Segal

Michael, Jason, Annie and Olivia   © Gregg Segal

Marsha and Steven © Gregg Segal

Dana © Gregg Segal

Just thought I would share this really interesting California photographer Gregg Segal's environmental lense  “7 Days of Garbage”  project. As Jordan Teicher's article on Slate (more photos), I saw from the Grist newsletter says : « the average American produces more than 4 pounds of garbage per day. That’s more than double the amount produced in 1960, and it’s 50 percent more than the amount produced by Western Europeans ». I asked the artist for his permission to publish it here. Should he decline, I will remove it.

I appreciate his work, and some findings from my research so far converge saying art is an effective trigger to reach a wide public from its ability to « talk about environment, without saying it » (free translation from my 2014 Kim Cornelissen interview), which had me ponder as I felt this was perhaps not a transparent or awareness trigger I would have hoped for, as if -people don't want to hear about it so, let's -hide it- but hope or trust it will touch them anyhow ...It also came through the interviews that art/creative happenings etc... also allowed one's own critical thninking to take place, which could encourage the desire to mobilize.  Although clear and understood scientific information had a potential to reach people, touching one's emotions was vital for most my interviewees in order to decide to engage in pro environmental activism and they all felt it was similar for other audiences. And art, as we can also imagine, came as one of the efficient ways to do touch one's emotions. Well here, I love the idea, find it creative and feel touched or challenged somehow.

 I also wondered if people's decisions to participate changed their personal view, and as to how much they were influenced in their consumption choices that week, knowing they we're taking part in the project. Were they -self-conscious-? We're they concerned with their habits? Did they experience guilt? Did they -control- themselves on fast foods or useless spontaneous buys? We're they frustrated feeling they had to buy specific products that particular week? Did they discuss the need to buy particular stuff between them? Did they -play the game with transparency? Or even, we're they influenced by the looks of packaging, we're they tempted to read the label contents?  Should that have had any effect on their choices, then, we can think that even simply asking them to participate brought some -positive- behavioral changes, or at least critical thoughts to some extent, being confronted to their own consumerism?

Really fascinating to think of what went through their heads as consumers, as subjects submitted to outside eyes, and how they related to the environment through this experience. A good thesis subject just right there I thought! Then, how do we, the reader receive all this material to ponder upon...
(back with more on art's potential...)