HOT TOWN, WINTER IN THE CITY

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By Seema Persaud

Shorts-clad students playing soccer in the quad. Skaters doing figure eights on Lake Devo’s mushy ice. Plants sprouting through the soil in the gardens. These scenes are supposed to describe springtime at Ryerson, not the second week of January.

This warm weather has meant more work for Ryerson’s custodians, but without valuable overtime hours. Moving snow during the winter months is when most workers look forward to overtime pay.

Adrian Williams, manager of custodial services at Ryerson, says custodians are doing work similar to what they’d do in spring — which is a busier season for campus maintenance.

“There’s a lot more work for the groundskeepers. They’re picking up a lot more garbage,” he said. Meanwhile, construction workers are eating their lunches outside, basking in the warm weather.

Rolly Beaulieu is a worker on the Metropolis construction site. “This is heaven – we’re not used to this.” Beaulieu says the balmy days have put construction ahead of schedule.

He said crews are usually “freezing their asses off” this far into the winter, especially on the higher floors of the building. “The cold, it really slows you down, especially the higher up you go.”

Winter haters can thank the combination of global warming and El Niño, for the abnormally high January temperatures says Dan Harvey, a geography professor at the University of Toronto.

And while some may enjoy the warm weather, experts, like Harvey, caution that there’s reason to be concerned. “Well, for one thing, there’s the melting sea ice, which is devastating for polar animals,” he said. “The coral reefs are pretty much doomed, but there’s still a lot left to save.”

Andrew Millward, assistant professor of geography at Ryerson worries that if global warming continues, there will be dire consequences for civilization as we know it.

“A warming climate will have profound impacts on global food security which will lead to famine. Geographic centres of culture, history and commerce stand to be partially or wholly submerged under rising seas.”

On Ryerson’s campus, some students are hearing experts’warnings. “It’s really too late to be talking about global warming, people need to do something about it,” says Catherine Dawson, a second-year social work student.

Dawson, an environmentalist, started a group on Facebook called “Ryerson Environment Lovers”. She notes that to her knowledge, there’s no existing environmental club for students at Ryerson.

Group or no group, students can still do something to cut down on pollution.

“(Students) don’t have to change their lives, just make small changes, like say, walk if a place is nearby rather than drive (or) use reusable grocery bags.” said Rochelle Williams, a first-year radio and television arts student.

In recent years, Ryerson has been making its own efforts to stay green. The George Vari Engineering and Computing Centre boasts a green roof, and Ryerson prepared a cost-benefit study on green roofs for the City of Toronto in 2005.

However earnest, current efforts to be greener aren’t enough to send snow falling from the skies. The lack of snow could put some of the Ryerson Students’ Union (RSU) Winter Week of Welcome festivities in jeopardy.

A planned ski trip to Blue Mountain, a Collingwood ski resort that laid off 1,300 workers last week due to lack of snow, be cancelled. “The ski trip is up in the air. If anyone were to buy a ticket and it got cancelled they’d obviously get their money back,” said RSU vice-president education Nora Loreto.

If there isn’t enough snow for tobogganing, Loreto predicts that activity might be cut too.

— with files from Patrick Szpak

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