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The Corbett Exchange during the COVID-19 pandemic — Corbett scholar Anna Everett

A favorite spot along the Salish Sea. Photo credit: Anna Everett

April 15, 2021

It goes without saying that this is a strange year to be a Corbett scholar. Amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve often felt that my world has become ‘smaller’, with nearly every area of my life being conducted from my bedroom desk. Yet, despite the fellowship being entirely online, I have been immensely grateful for the program, as connecting with fellow students at UBC, UVIC and Washington University has been a wonderful source of connection and collaboration over the last few months. The connections we’ve formed and continue to form demonstrate how important cross-border relationships are, and how we are already more connected than we may have thought living on different coastlines of the Salish Sea.

One of my favourite aspects of the program so far has been the variety in what we are all studying and in the workshop topics we’ve had thus far. For the most part we are all in different programs studying wildly different subjects, and hearing my fellow scholars talk about various topics has expanded my own understanding of the Pacific Northwest. Our first workshop was largely about the economic relationship between Canada and the United States, a topic I admittedly knew little about. Not only was the workshop incredibly interesting and informative, the questions my fellow scholars asked were questions that likely never would have crossed my mind. I’ve often wished I had more experiences at UBC to learn and work with people outside my program, and feel as though the fellowship has been the perfect opportunity for that.

Reflection on energy production along the west coast

On March 31st, I attended a presentation run through the University of Victoria which examined two potential energy sources, hydro power and renewable natural gas, for the Metro Vancouver area. The presenter, Kevin Palmer-Wilson, was engaging in presenting his research, going into the relative costs, benefits and drawbacks of both options. I had originally decided to attend this particular presentation as I am an environmental student and was curious to see his results for the area I currently live in. While listening, a feeling that has been quietly percolating through the workshops and meetings we’ve has as part of the fellowship became more cemented in my mind; as we face issues in our own communities, whether that be climate change, COVID-19 response policies, or various other problems, forming connections outside of our own region is vital. The presentation, and the research conducted prior, was specifically focused on energy use in heating and cooling buildings, a large source of CO2 emissions in Vancouver. A week before attending the presentation, I had completed a project on carbon emissions produced by transportation in Vancouver, and wondered if Kevin’s findings could be used in building climate change policy regarding transportation in Vancouver. In a conversation with Kevin following his presentation, it became clear how collaboration between universities cannot end at sharing new findings, but rather, should be active collaboration in what to do with said results in the future.

As the event drew to a close, a fellow participant asked whether Kevin had considered the amount of nuclear power Washington state produces, and if he could see further economic environmental partnerships between Washington and B.C. in the future. It was a great question, and it reflected a larger idea I’ve heard many times in environmental classes and activist spaces. Climate change requires us all to work together; if carbon emitted in B.C. is having direct impacts on sea level rise projections in the Marshall Islands for example, addressing the issue on a localized level alone is counterintuitive. One of the thing’s I’ve loved about the Corbett Exchange thus far is how it’s shown that our communities exist beyond colonial boundaries. In creating our city tours, a common theme across all three cities was the love we all had for beaches within the Salish Sea. So, in hearing this question about nuclear and hydropower being ‘shared’ across the federal border, it seemed so natural to me. We are closer and more similar than we think, and continuing to strengthen and grow these connections may be the way forward for the different crises we currently contend with.

The Corbett British Columbia-Washington International Exchange Program Fund provides an opportunity for undergraduate students at the University of Washington to spend two semesters at the University of British Columbia or University of Victoria; and for students from the University of British Columbia and University of Victoria to spend three quarters at the University of Washington.