Ontario Tech professor educates students about climate change

Mary Olaveson, professor at Ontario Tech University, presented on climate change Oct. 17 at the Oshawa Regent Theatre. Photo credit: Courtney Mcclure

“There’s so much misinformation out there about climate change.”

That’s the position of Ontario Tech University environmental science professor Mary Olaveson, who gave a presentation about trees and climate change Oct. 17 at the Regent Theatre.

She referenced the recent federal election and said politicians throw the term ‘climate change’ around but never get around to defining it.

Climate and weather are not the same, she said.

Weather is the state of the current atmosphere. For example, if it’s really humid in one specific city one day, and then cold the next, that’s weather. Climate is long-lasting weather conditions over an extended period of time.

Olaveson is concerned about the spread of misinformation surrounding climate change. For that reason, she provides her students with definitions of weather and climate, and explains how they’re different. She advocates for climate change awareness and defines often misused terms because she believes students and young people are the future.

Originally, the Regent Theatre presentation was supposed to feature Diana Beresford-Kroeger, a botanist from Ottawa area, as the speaker. But she couldn’t attend the event, so Olaveson took her place.

Olaveson’s educational background focuses on ecology. Ecology is studying how the environment and organisms impact each other. According to Olaveson, there was an increase in scientific documentation surrounding climate change, which piqued her interest on the topic.

The purpose of the event was to educate people about climate change and explain how it’s negatively effecting local trees in Canada. There was also a screening of a documentary created by Beresford-Kroeger titled Call of the Forest: the Forgotten Wisdom of Trees.

Olaveson spoke about Beresford-Kroeger’s research and listed her various degrees, including her recent PhD in studying chemicals that impact heart disease. Aside from her research in the medical field, Beresford-Kroeger has been growing various types of trees on her property to keep species of trees that are native to Ontario going. She uses them for medicinal research as well.

“Once they’re gone, we’re going to lose those resources,” said Olaveson, referring to the trees.

Olaveson teaches environmental science and talks about climate change during her lectures. It’s the only topic she provides two lectures on within her introductory course, she said.

“Even though the course is about the marks; for me it’s about the awareness,” she said. “Regardless of what marks you get, these are the things that impact our current lives and future.”

Educating others about climate change and having an understanding of it for herself is important to Olaveson because she is a grandparent.

“It’s not about me,” she said. “Once you have grandchildren, it adds a whole other layer.”

She talked about her youngest grandchild and said that she was unsure how to prepare kids for their senior years and how to teach them ways to deal with climate change in coming years.

She also spoke about arising health conditions like asthma and other respiratory conditions that are affected by changes in the weather and climate.