Orion Lecture: The Day The World Stops Shopping

We can’t stop shopping. And yet we must. This is the consumer dilemma that noted author J.B. MacKinnon is addressing in this special Department of Writing Orion Lecture.

Join us at 2:30pm Tuesday, Oct 19, as MacKinnon speaks to Writing students and the general public. You can watch online via Zoom webinar or attend in-person by registering here.

To consume or not to consume

The economy says we must always consume more: even the slightest drop in spending leads to widespread unemployment, bankruptcy and home foreclosure.

The planet says we consume too much: in North America, we burn the earth’s resources at a rate five times faster than it can regenerate. And despite efforts to “green” our consumption—by recycling, increasing energy efficiency, or using solar power—we have yet to see a decline in global carbon emissions.

These are the core issues at work in MacKinnon’s latest book, The Day the World Stops Shopping. A thought experiment that imagines what would happen—to our economies, our products, our planet, our selves—if we committed to consuming far fewer of the Earth’s resources.

Can we really stop shopping?

“What would really happen if we simply stopped shopping?” MacKinnon asks. “Is there a way to reduce our consumption to earth-saving levels without triggering economic collapse?”

The answers to this apparently simple question took him around the world, seeking answers from America’s big-box stores to the hunter-gatherer cultures of Namibia to communities in Ecuador that consume at an exactly sustainable rate.

Then the thought experiment came shockingly true: the coronavirus brought shopping to a halt, and MacKinnon’s ideas were tested in real time.

An award-winning author

The author of five books of nonfiction, MacKinnon is also an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in The New Yorker, National Geographic and Atlantic, as well as the Best American Science and Nature Writing.

His previous works are The Once and Future World, a bestseller about rewilding the natural world; The 100-Mile Diet(with Alisa Smith), widely recognized as a catalyst of the local foods movement; I Live Here (with Mia Kirshner and artists Michael Simons and Paul Shoebridge), about displaced people; and Dead Man in Paradise, the story of a priest assassinated in the Dominican Republic, which won Canada’s highest prize for literary nonfiction.

Drawing from experts in fields ranging from climate change to economics, MacKinnon investigates how living with less would change our planet, our society, and ourselves. Along the way, he reveals just how much we stand to gain: An investment in our physical and emotional wellness. The pleasure of caring for our possessions. Closer relationships with our natural world and one another.

Imaginative and inspiring, The Day the World Stops Shopping will embolden you to envision another way.


Sandra Meigs returns – Don’t miss it!

The Visual Arts department is please to welcome Sandra Meigs back to VIA for the launch of her new book and exhibition. Meigs has deep ties at the university having mentored hundred of art students during her +20 years at UVic. Be sure to check out these upcoming events!

Visiting Artist Lecture: Sandra Meigs

Celebrated Visual Arts professor emeritus Sandra Meigs returns to campus for the launch of her new career-retrospective book, The Way Between Things: The Art of Sandra Meigs (ECW Press). Primarily a painter, Meigs derives the content of her work from her own personal experiences and develops these to create visual metaphors related to the psyche: her work is dedicated to the possibilities of enchantment that painting presents both through colour and form.

Meigs—winner of both the Governor General’s Award in Visual & Media Arts and the prestigious Gershon-Iskowitz Prize—will offer both a book launch (7pm) and artist’s talk (7:30pm, also livestreamed) on Wednesday, October 20, in the Visual Arts building.

Follow the link to register for a seat at the in-person talk or join in on Zoom: https://events.uvic.ca/event/59702-visiting-artist-lecture-sandra-meigs

*Space is limited, so be sure to register early!


The Warblers, Sandra Meigs and Christopher Butterfield, 2021

October 18-23 in the Audain Gallery, visitors can experience ten new paintings with soundworks created in collaboration with School of Music professor Christopher Butterfield.

About The Warblers:

What a painting wants. The paintings desperately want a relationship with you. There are ten. In attractive colours. Sedately poised. Flirty eyes. Broad, flat faces. They speak. There are little jingles and words. PLEASE, Hold Me, STAY, etc. They never give up. Nor do the jingles.

The gap between their cries for a touch and your gaze is filled with tangible delicacy. The Warblers were born in a pandemic, when we were all in our little cocoons full of mournful yearning for contact with others. The bells are ringing. Do stay and take the call.

For over 35 years Sandra Meigs has created vivid, immersive, and enigmatic paintings that combine complex narratives with comic elements. She derives the content of her work from her own personal experiences, and develops these to create visual metaphors related to the psyche.

2021 Student Community Impact Award winners

The Faculty of Fine Arts is proud to announce the three recipients of our inaugural Fine Arts Student Community Impact Awards, presented as part of the annual Greater Victoria Regional Arts Awards on Oct 1 at a live event held at Sidney’s Winspear Centre.

Each recipient—(from left) Kyla Fradette (Music), Alison Roberts (Theatre) and Dani Neira (AHVS)—received $1,000 plus a beautiful crystal glass award for their community efforts this past year.

“For over 50 years, Fine Arts has been an incubator for young artists, technicians, arts administrators, volunteers and audience members,” noted Acting Dean Allana Lindgren at the awards ceremony.

“And while our alumni and faculty members continue to make a vital impact on Victoria’s arts community, we felt it was time to recognize the work and contributions our students make to the local arts community . . . and the time the community itself spends fostering and mentoring our students.”

About the awards

The Fine Arts Student Community Impact Award was created by the Dean’s External Advisory Committee to recognize the individual achievements or outstanding effort made by a full-time Fine Arts undergraduate student for a local arts organization.

Kyla Fradette was honoured for her participation with Pacific Opera Victoria’s “Pop Up Opera” pandemic project that brought live musical performances to the streets and outside the windows of care homes throughout Greater Victoria.

Alison Roberts was recognized for her continuing volunteer work with the Victoria On Stage Musical Theatre Society—where, for the past 10 years, she has taken on duties ranging from performer and choreographer to director, fundraiser and now board member.

Dani Neira was selected for her work as both the gallery intern at the Open Space Artist-Run Centre and the creator of Open Space’s printzine project, (un)productive—which helped connect artists and creatives during last year’s lockdown.

More awards

Congratulations also to our alumni who received awards, including local artist Sarah Jim—an emerging artist of mixed ancestry and a member of the W̱SÁNEĆ nation from the Tseycum village—the team at Theatre SKAM and our colleagues at Puente Theatre & Intrepid Theatre for their conVERGE IBPoC residency.

Kudos also go out to our behind-the-scenes alumni who helped make the whole event possible—including Ian Case, Matthew Payne, Doug Jarvis & Justin Lee.

We also gratefully acknowledge our donors—who made it possible to offer three separate $1,000 awards this year—as well as our colleagues on the awards selection committee. 

Click here for a full list of the 2021 GVRAA winners. 

Theatre SKAM receives their award

Fine Arts contest raises awareness

How much do you know about the Indigenous presence at UVic?

A new Fine Arts Orange Shirt Day contest is designed to help you learn more while having fun exploring the campus—and possibly win a fantastic prize!

Created by Karla PointIndigenous Resurgence Coordinator for the Faculty of Fine Arts—the Orange Shirt Day scavenger hunt will encourage us all to learn more about the Indigenous presence on campus.

Awareness & activities

The contest runs September 27-October 8 and is part of UVic’s overall observance of the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation on September 30: a day set aside to commemorate the history and the ongoing tragic legacy of the Indian Residential Schools in Canada.

“The truth is that these institutions were set up to acculturate, assimilate and near annihilate the Indigenous Peoples,” says Point. “To move towards true reconciliation, more about the truth needs to be known.”

Karla Point

How to play

Point hopes the contest will help everyone in Fine Arts be more aware of UVic’s Indigenous connections. “This scavenger hunt is intended to create more awareness of the presence of Indigenous people on campus,” she says, “and to tweak your interest so that you will want to know more.”

You can pick up the scavenger hunt contest from the entry box in the Fine Arts lobby or download a PDF of it here. You’ve got until October 8 to answer the 20 questions and drop the completed form back in the box.

All completed contest forms will be entered into a draw for a traditional cedar hat—handmade by Karla Point herself.

Note: this contest is only open to students, faculty and staff of the Faculty of Fine Arts.

Win this woven cedar hat, handmade by Karla Point

About Karla Point

Point—whose traditional Nuu chah nulth name is Hii nulth tsa kaa—attended the Christie Indian Residential School on Meares Island for 15 months in the 1960s, before being withdrawn from the school by her parents.

Previously the cultural support liaison with UVic’s Faculty of Law, Point has also been a reconciliation agreement coordinator with the Sts’ailes Nation, a First Nations program coordinator with Parks Canada, and a treaty negotiator and elected councillor for the Hesquiaht First Nation.

Want to reach out to Karla Point in her role as the Indigenous Resurgence Coordinator for Fine Arts? Contact her at kpoint@uvic.ca.

Enter to win in the Fine Arts lobby

Climate-crisis sparks new journalism position

Wildfires, droughts, floods, extreme storms: we are living in a time when climate change should be the biggest story of our time—yet, as the recent federal election proved, all too often it doesn’t even make the headlines. As the new Wayne Crookes Professor in Environmental and Climate Journalism with UVic’s Department of Writing, Sean Holman hopes to bring a more human dimension to the climate crisis.

An award-winning journalist whose appointment began September 1, Holman brings his research expertise in the areas of freedom of information, institutional accountability and climate journalism. Previously an award-winning public affairs and legislative journalist, Holman—a UVic alumnus—comes to UVic from Mount Royal University, where he was a journalism professor.

In addition to his teaching duties as the Crookes Professor, he is co-leading the first-ever survey of journalists and scientists regarding climate change media coverage, as well as working with at least nine other different Canadian journalism programs to launch a “climate disaster survivor” memory vault.

In this Q&A, Holman discusses his concerns and goals, as well as his intention with the climate disaster survivor memory vault.

What is the media doing wrong—and right—when it comes to reporting the climate crisis?

The news media has extensively reported on the environmental, economic and political dimensions of climate change. But journalists have struggled to humanize that phenomenon—something Greta Thunberg pointed out in a recent interview with the New York Times. She said the news media hasn’t been telling the stories of “people whose lives are being lost and whose livelihoods are being taken away” by climate change.

As a result, global warming can often seem like it’s a remote phenomenon that’s happening elsewhere or in the future, rather than something close at hand and already harming people and families around the world. That dampens the urgency to act on climate change. And it means those who have been harmed can feel alone in their experiences, rather than being supported as part of a shared community of climate disaster survivors—a community we are all part of.

How do you propose to solve that problem as the Crookes Professor?

I’m working with a consortium of journalism programs and talented colleagues at post-secondary institutions across the country to create the climate disaster project. This project will amplify the stories of those who have experienced such disasters.

With their permission, those stories will be shared with news media partners, as well as preserved in a climate disaster memory vault, similar to other important oral history projects that have humanized the impact of natural disasters and humanitarian crises around the world. In doing so, we hope to better understand the commonalities in those experiences, launching investigative journalism projects that can surface these shared problems, and solutions to them.  

Donor Wayne Crookes (right) speaks with Sean Holman at UVic

Why wasn’t the climate crisis a bigger issue in the federal election?

I think a large portion of the blame for that rests on the problems my colleagues and I hoping to help solve: the need to humanize the costs of climate change, the need to create a community around the shared experience of climate change, and the need for journalists and scientists to work together to improve coverage of that phenomenon.

In this new age of disaster, climate change should be the biggest story of our time: it should be the biggest political issue of our time—and what to do about it should be the top ballot-box question. Because if we answer that question wrong, everything that we have built together as a society and everything we could build together will be put at risk.

Are there any other ways climate change coverage can be improved?

I think there are. But this is also a question I think scientists and other journalists should be talking to one another about too. Both professions have a lot in common: we are part of a shared community that contributes to evidence-based decision-making by the public and policymakers—but its members need to be speaking with one another about climate change communication more than we are right now.

So my colleagues and I will be starting more of those conversations by surveying journalists and climate scientists and asking them what they think about environmental coverage and how it can be improved. And the first phase of that survey project is scheduled to launch in advance of the November global climate change negotiations in Glasgow.

How will your background as a freedom of information researcher factor into researching and teaching environmental and climate teaching journalism?

As a freedom of information researcher, one of my focuses has been on better understanding why we have historically valued information in democracies. And one of the conclusions I’ve reached is that we do so for two reasons: control and certainty.

With information, we can better understand the past and present, as well as anticipate the future. And we can then use that understanding to make wiser decisions in our personal and political lives, thereby exerting some measure of control over the world around us.

But, in the current post-truth era, that process has broken down. Instead, people have sought other kinds of control and certainty in the form of denialism, authoritarianism and conspiracy theories.

As a result, many governments have failed to effectively respond to the pandemic, just as they have failed to effectively respond to climate change. In other words, climate change isn’t just the result of greenhouse gases, in the same way the pandemic isn’t just the result of a virus—it’s the result of a failure to use information in the way we would expect to in a democracy.

So, if we want to address the climate crisis, we need to figure out how to reinforce the value of information while finding other means of affecting change.

The Crookes Professorship in Environmental and Climate Journalism was created in January 2021 through a gift of $1.875 million to the University of Victoria by Vancouver business leader and political activist Wayne Crookes.