One Of The Key Ways To Protect The Oceans Is To Rethink What We Are Doing On Land Interview by David Petrosyan
Interview by: David Petrosyan Dr. Will McConnell, Professor and Chair of Interdisciplinary Studies at Woodbury University. Will McConnell earned his PhD from McMaster University in Hamilton, Ontario and came to the United States on a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada postdoctoral award. His research focuses on global warming and environmental sustainability, and he has presented his findings in numerous international conferences. He has served as the Dean of Faculty and been involved in the redesign of the general education program at Woodbury University.
7500 Magazine:Can you explain your academic research in a nutshell? WM:My project in my postdoctoral award years was to look at theories of social change through democratic forms. I examined democratic practice in the United States as a capitalist system with all of its triumphs and all of its faults.I was interested in finding out how to create a better democracy based on the seeds of what are already here. By way of democratic action, by way of making larger changes in the ways that people think, behave, believe. I have been particularly interested in the way people treat each other through their relationship to the environment.My early research norms of democracy planted the seeds for my research in science-based approaches to solutions for everything from economic stability to transportation to food insecurity to the chemical composition of the oceans.
7500 Magazine:Can you talk briefly about what influenced your research on oceans? WM: I grew up dangling in the ocean. I grew up as comfortable, really, essentially, other than for breathing purposes. I grew up as comfortable in the ocean in some ways, more comfortable sometimes in the ocean than I am on land. And that's an odd experience, probably for most people, but that's the way I grew up. I grew up with a real love of the ocean. I grew up right beside the ocean, for the most part, literally right beside it. And so, I was in it a lot and around it a lot, and developed a deep love, deep affection for it and for those animals and processes.
7500 Magazine:How would you describe sustainability? WM: I'm a researcher here at Woodbury University, and I've been a researcher in sustainability and sustainability issues for 25 years. I've been researching sustainability for a long time, all the way from kind of social sites perspectives in psychology of sustainability and what it means to change socially to the types of relationships that might be more easily obtained in the ways that people treat each other or. Understand each other.
7500 Magazine:Why did you start researching on oceans? WM: I started developing research that would bring other people into a greater awareness of what's happening in the oceans and why it's important to not merely to pay attention to them, but to rethink our fundamental relationship with and to the ocean. And so, I got involved initially in researching coral reefs, coral based systems of life in the ocean, and looking at what we call an ecosystems services approach. This approach mirrors some of the ways that the modeling of terrestrial systems work with some fundamental differences. The way that ocean systems work versus the way that land based living systems work are different with significant parallels. And so,ocean-based research has an awful lot to contribute to what's happening in environmental damage and how we can design ways of preventing this type of damage image in our everyday lives. 7500 Magazine: What solutions have you researched towards being sustainable and what are you currently working on? WM: The most recent research that I've been involved in has been around deoxygenation in the ocean. There are natural spots all across the ocean, systems all across the globe where deoxygenation and oxygen levels fluctuate in particular regions of the ocean. The places that I look at are called eastern boundary upwelling systems, ebus. And these are four of the most highly productive areas in the world's oceans. And so, one of these places occurs along what's called the Humboldt current, and this is the coast between Chile and Peru. Recently, I've been working with the Chilean and the Peruvian government in their ability to create a system that transcends their nationalities or transcends their national interests in order to better protect the ocean systems and the viability of the oceans for all the people along their coastlines in Both, Chile. In Peru. And so, they're looking at different ways to attempt to steward, to protect, to help give back to the ocean system so that they not only stay healthy, but so that they are far more resilient in climate change as climate change is affects the greater prominence in our cultures. I'm but they actually are designing systems that are attempting to give back to the ocean rather than merely be extractive or merely constitute the ocean as an object of resources. But one of the practical solutions that I designed for them, which I believe they're putting into place, was this take all of your most significant rivers up and down that coast, whether you're in Peru or whether you're in Chile.Usually, the pollution that shows up in the ocean is not actually coming directly from the ocean. It's coming from land. So, one of the keywaysparadoxically to protect the oceans is to rethink what we're doing on land, to produce the types of damage we're producing in the oceans. So, I designed a system for them, and a set of policies worked with them on a set of policies that instituted measurement along the major river sources of pollution that empty out into the ocean. If you can catch much of the pollution at those sources right away, you can create an intervention that puts you in a much better place to solve others to eliminate.
7500 Magazine: What books have you written about sustainability? WM: I got involved in editing of an international sustainability journal. I produced a special edition of the journal based on what I then called Global Warming and Approaches to Sustainability. And I found that when I created that special edition of the journal an awful lot of people worldwide and these are people from Chinese researchers, Korean researchers, Indonesian researchers, North American researcher's different parts of Europe, some Italian researchers. All of these people started submitting articles for this special edition all the way around the globe. So, thatcame out as a book. Which was a special edition of the journal. But then that,led to another book because I think that book came out in 2021, but it was really a collection attempting to challenge what sustainability really is by way of a tighter, cleaner definition that is more often than not, being used in the wider discourse of action or sustainable governance it's often called.
7500 Magazine:What would you say is the biggest challenge going to a foreign country? WM: The biggest challenge is not to jump in with a preexisting solution, to come in with a number of ideas and to draw out what kinds of solutions the people who are already there are seeing. Because those are going to tend to be the solutions that work not necessarily your own, not the ones you're bringing in, but the ones that you may be bringing in new ideas, but the actual solutions are going to come from the people who are already there.
7500 Magazine:Can you talk a bit about the filmyou arecreating for the “Solar Future” project and why? WM: I think there's a big story in that project. Congratulations to everybody, students, and thank you, faculty member Kishani de Silva, for bringing the project to us and foreseeing the difficult work through of actualizing the project. So big congratulations to you all for that. The more I thought about it, the more I looked at that project, the more I realized there was a real key Woodbury story there. With the facilitation of a concerned, caring, knowledgeable instructor. A group of students got together and helped design a solution to the problem of how to bring the project to the campus in the first place. I think that that story really needs to be told. So even though I'm not involved in the project directly itself, I do want to be involved in making sure that the story gets captured, that the story gets represented, because it's just a beautiful story.