Brave New Covidworld?

Today’s the day that my first-ever newspaper op-ed is published. I argue that “Canada’s current pandemic response isn’t supported by the facts“. The working title of the op-ed was “Brave New Covidworld?”, inspired by a brilliant paper by British philosophers Ian James Kidd and Matthew Ratcliffe. In “Welcome to Covidworld“, they raise many of the same concerns with the global pandemic response that I reiterate in the op-ed and that many clear-thinking academics, health scientists, professionals, and other citizens have developed since March 2020. For example, I maintain a short list of dissenting Canadian doctors’ voices published in the mainstream media, see MSHFD.ca. These reasonable critics are largely ignored though, and that is a problem.

Source: https://torontosun.com/opinion/columnists/opinion-canadas-current-pandemic-response-isnt-supported-by-the-facts
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Understanding Risk – Ordered Weighted Averaging and Relative vs Absolute Risk Reduction

One of my students has just completed an individual research paper on “Investigating the use of GIS-Based Ordered Weighted Averaging in Wildfire Restoration”. Ordered Weighted Averaging (OWA) is a multi-criteria decision analysis technique that allows the decision-maker to mathematically define their attitude towards risk. The available strategies range from risk-averse to risk-taking approaches, based on a simple parameter setting. That parameter determines whether we emphasize the negative or positive aspects of a possible solution. Under a risk-averse strategy, we focus on the worst aspects and choose the solution that has the “least bad” outcomes. Under a risk-taking strategy, we focus on the best aspects and choose the solution with the “greatest good” outcome. The OWA also allows any number of strategies between these extremes, including an intermediate approach under which emphasis is balanced between the strong and weak outcomes.

Decision strategies defined by the ordered weighted averaging (OWA) technique. Source: Ron Eastman, Directions Magazine 14 Dec 2000, https://www.directionsmag.com/article/4036
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It’s 2009 All Over Again …

A new “killer virus”, global panic, squandered public monies, and a rushed vaccine—déjà vu from the swine flu pandemic

The Council of Europe blasts the World Health Organization and national governments around the globe for the handling of the pandemic. Their report cites “overwhelming evidence that the seriousness of the pandemic was vastly over-rated by WHO, which led to a distortion of public health priorities.” The British Labour politician and author of the report, Paul Flynn, is cited with the comment: “This was a pandemic that never really was.”The pandemic in question is the 2009 swine flu pandemic and the quote is from a 2010 article in the British Medical Journal. The concerns at the time focused on undue influence by big pharma companies on the WHO, which led to poor decision-making and excessive spending by many countries on unnecessary anti-viral drugs and vaccines. By early 2010, Mr. Flynn apparently filed a motion in the UK Parliament to deplete left over Tamiflu pill stockpiles by using them as winter road salt.

Cover page of Council of Europe report on the handling of the 2009 swine flu pandemic. Source: http://www.assembly.coe.int/CommitteeDocs/2010/20100329_MemorandumPandemie_E.pdf
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The Divided States of Coronamerica: How Big is too Big?

For coronaphobics and lockdown believers, the United States serve as the poster child for how not to handle the pandemic. The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard (Fig. 1) shows cumulative “case” counts by US counties using proportional circles – a suitable cartographic choice, although the bright red colour on dark background is questionable, as discussed elsewhere. The ten-and-a-half million cumulative cases and nearly a quarter-million deaths as of November 10th, place the US at the top of the COVID-19 world rankings. But are these numbers actually big? And what can we gather from the spatial pattern of cases?

Figure 1: The Johns Hopkins University COVID-19 dashboard zoomed to the United States. Source: screenshot from https://coronavirus.jhu.edu/map.html.
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Science is Dead – Long Live “The” Science?

This year, politicians, public health officials, journalists, and even our Facebook friends are urging us to listen to “the” data, trust “the” evidence, and follow “the” science with respect to COVID-19. Yet, each of these groups feel entitled to select which data, evidence, and science they elevate to the royal rank of “the” data, evidence, and science. A quick reflection or a look at an encyclopedia (online or otherwise!) will reveal that science is a never-ending process of asking questions, making observations, structuring ideas, hypothesizing explanations, conducting experiments, and drawing preliminary conclusions that inevitably raise more questions to be researched. In complex systems and processes such as infectious disease spread, the data and evidence resulting from the scientific method, and the underlying models and theories, may never be conclusive, and as such it is foolish and misleading to speak of “the” one science guiding us through the corona crisis.

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Faces and Facets of the German-Speaking Corona Opposition

An account of events from March to September 2020

Owing to a set of personal circumstances, I was able to closely follow the first half year of Sars-CoV-2 and COVID-19 in Canada in comparison with Europe. Over there, Germany, and to a lesser extent Austria and German-speaking parts of Switzerland, produced some of the earliest skeptical voices who put the virus’s threat into perspective. Germany also has perhaps the broadest spectrum of critics of the government response measures globally. In the interest of open discourse and exchange of ideas, I offer this subjective overview of key actors and aspects of the corona opposition in the German-speaking world. I am focusing specifically on the different areas of expertise represented among the dissenting views.

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The Saga of False-Positive COVID-19 Tests

[Skip to second paragraph if you are not interested in the German context of the false positives issue.]

On June 5, 2020, OVALMedia’s Robert Cibis interviewed the Austrian microbiologist and infectious disease specialist Dr. Martin Haditsch about laboratory tests and specifically the PCR test that is used globally to detect the Sars-CoV-2 virus in a person. The interview [in German] broached the issue of false-positive test results in the context of a low-prevalence disease and imperfect tests. Two Youtube copies of the one-hour interview have a total of over 100,000 views at the time of writing. The next day, Swiss entrepreneur and Youtuber Samuel Eckert presented a 20-minute summary and explanation of the false-positive issue using an interactive Excel spreadsheet. His video currently boasts over 225,000 views with 15,000 likes. Possibly in response, the German Federal Minister of Health Jens Spahn, a banker by training, said in a brief interview contained in a tweet from public TV channel ARD on June 14 that if the COVID-19 prevalence continued to drop and testing was simultaneously expanded (as has been the case in many Western countries since mid-April) into the millions then you would eventually obtain more false-positive than correct-positive results.

Dr. Yaffe addressing the press, 30 July 2020, see full video at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ed5cZFOrcZQ or view clip at http://gis.blog.ryerson.ca/files/2020/09/Ontario-announces-details_July-30_Trim2.mov
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Book Review: Corona False Alarm?

Karina Reiß, Sucharit Bhakdi: Corona Fehlalarm? Zahlen, Daten und Hintergründe [Corona False Alarm? Numbers, Data and Background]. Goldegg, Vienna Austria. Published 1 June 2020 (eBook, EAN 9783990601907) and 23 June 2020 (paperback, 160 pages, ISBN: 978-3-99060-191-4)

Published in the midst of the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic, „Corona Fehlalarm?“ (German for “Corona False Alarm?”) gives reason for deep reflection on where humanity stands with respect to rational decision-making, public health, and the social contract. In fact, the authors would argue that we are in a panic rather than a pandemic, and that we are not in the midst but at the end of the COVID-19 curve, though we may only be at the beginning of much worse collateral damage inflicted by the global overreaction to the appearance of the novel coronavirus in December 2019.

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2018 Meeting of the American Association of Geographers

This week, geographers from far and wide will converge onto New Orleans, Louisiana, for the 2018 edition of the Annual Meeting of the American Association of Geographers. Ryerson’s geography faculty and graduate students are no exception and there are even two senior undergraduate students presenting. Here are their research topics and presentation details from the conference program at https://aag.secure-abstracts.com/AAG%20Annual%20Meeting%202018/abstracts-gallery, sorted by abstract title:

“Solidarity” in the Migration Literature: A Critical Review of the Concept

Authors: Harald Bauder*, Ryerson University
Topics: Migration, Political Geography, Immigration/Transnationalism
Keywords: migration, solidarity, activism, borders, political geography
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: FRI-044-3:20 p.m.
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Poydras, Sheraton, 3rd Floor

A mega index paradigm for simplifying sustainable development assessment

Authors: Richard Shaker*, Ryerson University
Topics: Sustainability Science, Urban and Regional Planning, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Composite index, Factor analysis, Geometric mean, Mega index, Sustainability assessment, Sustainable development planning, Sustainability indicators
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: TUE-013-8:00 a.m.
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Galerie 3, Marriott, 2nd Floor

An approach to modelling tree root architecture in virtual urban growing conditions

Authors: Justin Miron*, Ryerson University, Geography and Environmental Studies, Andrew Millward, Ryerson University, Geography and Environmental Studies
Topics: Environmental Science, Quantitative Methods, Urban Geography
Keywords: urban forest, tree root, model, simulation
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: FRI-085-5:20 p.m.
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Proteus, Sheraton, 8th Floor

An Assessment of a Multinational Retail Chain on Local Economic Development, Investigating the Impact on Commercial Activities using Geographic and Spatial Analysis

Authors: Brian Ceh*, Ryerson University, Tony Hernandez, Ryerson University, Florence Ipaye, Ryerson University
Topics: Business Geography, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: Walmart, retail, geography, box-store, store
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: FRI-026-8:00 a.m.
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, 4th Floor

Cardiovascular health in the city: an analysis of the health risks of exposure to environmental stressors in Toronto, Canada

Authors: Danielle Sadakhom*, Ryerson University, Tor Oiamo, Ryerson University
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Canada
Keywords: environmental health, health geography, cardiovascular disease, Toronto
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: FRI-008-10:00 a.m.
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Studio 8, Marriott, 2nd Floor

Defining Community Tolerance Levels of noise and assessing the influence of environmental context on responses to noise exposure in the City of Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Authors: Desislava Stefanova*, Ryerson University, Tor Oiamo, Ryerson University
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Urban Geography, Canada
Keywords: Environmental noise, Noise annoyance, Noise perception
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: TUE-083-10:00 a.m.
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Endymion, Sheraton, 8th Floor

Deforestation at Tommy Thompson Park: solutions for urban double-crested cormorant disturbance

Authors: Daniellle Marcoux-Hunter*, Ryerson University, Andrew Millward, Ryerson University
Topics: Environmental Science
Keywords: urban forestry, double-crested cormorant, Tommy Thompson Park, restoration
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: FRI-085-5:20 p.m.
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Proteus, Sheraton, 8th Floor

Developing a Typology of Integrated Retail Mixed-Use Properties

Authors: Christopher Daniel*, Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity – Ryerson University, Tony Hernandez, Centre for the Study of Commercial Activity, Ryerson University
Topics: Business Geography, Urban and Regional Planning, Applied Geography
Keywords: Business Geography, Retail Geography, Urban Planning
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: THU-026-8:00 a.m.
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, 4th Floor

Equity goals and implementation strategies: A meta-analysis of urban forestry policy documents for municipalities across North America

Authors: Amber Grant*, Ryerson University, Environmental Applied Science and Management, Andrew Millward, Ryerson University, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Sara Edge, Ryerson University, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Ekow Ashun-Stone, Ryerson University, Department of Geography and Environmental Studies
Topics: Urban Geography, Social Geography
Keywords: urban forestry, tree cover, cities, management plan, equity, justice,
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: THU-102-3:20 p.m.
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Bourbon Room, Astor, Mezzanine

Geodemographic Visualisation of Foreign Upscale Retail in Canada’s Major Cities

Authors: Stephen Swales*, Ryerson University, K. Forsythe, Ryerson University, Nicole Serrafero, Ryerson University
Topics: Business Geography, Geographic Information Science and Systems, Applied Geography
Keywords: geodemographics, business geography, upscale retail, Canadian cities
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: FRI-026-8:00 a.m.
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, 4th Floor

Impact of Box Stores in the Exurban Region: Case Study of a Large Metropolitan Region, Toronto, Canada

Authors: Oskaycan Turanoglu*, Ryerson University, Brian Ceh, Ryerson University, Nana Ntim, Ryerson University
Topics: Business Geography, Economic Geography, Urban Geography
Keywords: box-store, walmart, Toronto, retail
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: THU-026-8:00 a.m.
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, 4th Floor

Implications of Large Retail Stores on Commercial Activities by Suburban and Inner City Location, A Comprehensive Metropolitan Analysis

Authors: Nana Ntim*, , Brian Ceh, Ryerson University, Oskaycan Turanoglu, Ryerson University, Tony Hernandez, Ryerson University
Topics: Economic Geography, Urban Geography, Canada
Keywords: retail, Toronto, box-store, walmart,
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: THU-026-10:00 a.m.
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, 4th Floor

Location strategies and retail disruption: from trade areas to customer moments

Authors: Tony Hernandez*, Ryerson University
Topics: Business Geography
Keywords: Retail, business model, customer behaviour
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: FRI-026-10:00 a.m.
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, 4th Floor

Practitioner perspectives on the role of Spatial Big Data in retail decision making.

Authors: Joseph Aversa*, Ryerson University, Tony Hernandez , Ryerson University, Sean Doherty, Wilfrid Laurier University
Topics: Business Geography, Marketing Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Big Data, Retail Location Planning, Retail Decision Making
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: THU-026-10:00 a.m.
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, 4th Floor

Production of risk: Multiple interacting exposures and unequal vulnerability in a coastal community

Authors: Greg Oulahen*, Ryerson University
Topics: Hazards and Vulnerability, Hazards, Risks, and Disasters, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: hazards, risk, exposure, vulnerability, flood, Crescent Beach
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: TUE-089-10:00 a.m.
Day: 4/10/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Muses, Sheraton, 8th Floor

Quantifying scalar ecological processes in an urban forest using drone-based image acquisition

Authors: Christopher Scarpone*, Ryerson University, Environmental Applied Science and Management, Andrew Millward, Ryerson University, Geography and Environmental Studies
Topics: Environmental Science, Quantitative Methods, Remote Sensing
Keywords: urban forest, ecological restoration, machine learning, UAV, drone, LiDAR
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: THU-102-10:00 a.m.
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Bourbon Room, Astor, Mezzanine

Socioeconomic status, greenspace and exposure to multiple environmental stressors in Toronto, Canada

Authors: Tor Oiamo*, Ryerson University
Topics: Geography and Urban Health, Hazards and Vulnerability, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: Environment; noise; air pollution; greenspace; health; equity
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: WED-015-10:00 a.m.
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Galerie 5, Marriott, 2nd Floor

Spatial Access to Community and Specialized Mental Health Care in Toronto: A Case of Mental Health Crises

Authors: Lu Wang*, Ryerson University
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Spatial Analysis & Modeling, Applied Geography
Keywords: Spatial accessibility, mental health, Two-Step Floating Catchment Area model
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: WED-069-5:20 p.m.
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Estherwood, Sheraton, 4th Floor

The Survival Strategies of Dollarama in the Era of Online Retailing

Authors: Shuguang Wang*, Ryerson University
Topics: Business Geography, Canada, Economic Geography
Keywords: retail geography, business geography, Canada, Dollarama
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: FRI-026-10:00 a.m.
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 10:00 AM / 11:40 AM
Room: Bacchus, Marriott, 4th Floor

Towards Urban Revitalization for All: Reflections on Participatory Research, Action and Equity in Digitally Enabled Citizenship

Authors: Sara Edge*, Ryerson University, Rachel Singer, Ryerson University, Ekow Stone, Ryerson University, Emma Beattie, Ryerson University, Amber Grant, Ryerson University, Andrew Millward, Ryerson University
Topics: Urban Geography, Geography and Urban Health, Political Geography
Keywords: urban revitalization, equity, displacement, lived experience, PAR, digital citizenship
Session Type: Paper
Scheduler ID: FRI-049-3:20 p.m.
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon A2, Sheraton, 3rd Floor

Welcome Home, GIS Professionals – Ryerson Geography at URISA’s 54th Annual Conference

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) held its first conference on “Urban Planning Information Systems and Programs” in 1963 at the University of Southern California. Now dubbed “GIS-Pro”, the conference and URISA as an organization are the preeminent destinations for exchange of best-practices among Geographic Information Systems (GIS) professionals. This year, Canada, the birth place of GIS, welcomed URISA back for its 54th annual conference held at Toronto’s Westin Harbour Castle hotel from Oct 31-Nov 3, 2016.

The conference drew over 350 participants, with some 200 from Canada (including 150 from Ontario) and most of the remainder from the United States. Representatives from Australia, Barbados, Japan, Malaysia, Republic of Korea, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, and the United Kingdom rounded out the pre-conference attendee list. URISA is greatly engaged in the professional development of its members, and consequently, over 100 participants held the GISP designation. URISA is a founding member of the GIS Certification Institute, which awards the “GISP” status and was an exhibitor and workshop organizer at the conference. URISA’s Vanguard Cabinet of young geospatial professionals, URISA’s GISCorps of worldwide GIS volunteers, its GIS Management Institute, and its regional chapters were all involved in organizing the conference. In one of the conference highlights, Esri Canada founder and president Alex Miller was inducted to the URISA GIS Hall of Fame. More information about URISA can be found at http://www.urisa.org/main/about-us/.

Title slide - 3D-printed geography

Ryerson’s Department of Geography and Environmental Studies attended the conference with three speakers and ten student volunteers. In the unusual format of a luncheon presentation and discussion table (https://gispro2016.sched.org/event/6nuR/hosted-lunch-vendor-spark-lunch-presentations-roundtable-discussions), I presented work with Dr. Claire Oswald on “3D-Printed Geography for Education, Outreach, and More?” This was a summary of one-and-a-half years of 3D-printing of terrain models and cityscapes, focusing on the processing of geospatial data into 3D printer-compliant format, and on the reception of this project among potential users such as conservation authorities. Our slides are available at http://gis.blog.ryerson.ca/files/2016/11/3d-printed-geographies_urisa-gispro2016.pdf. A previous review of the project is available at https://storify.com/ClausRinner/3d-printed-geographies-one-year-in.

My former graduate students Justin Pierre and Richard Wen had signed up for a session on open-source geospatial software (https://gispro2016.sched.org/event/6nv7/free-puppies-and-solutions-open-source-and-commercial-software). Justin presented on his Master of Spatial Analysis (MSA) major research paper “Developing an Argumentation Platform in an Open Source Stack”. His map-based discussion forum on Toronto’s bike lane network runs on Ryerson’s cloud at https://cartoforum.com/bikelanes/, albeit not always as reliably as we wish. Richard outlined his MSA thesis research on “Using Open Source Python Packages for Machine Learning on Vector Geodata”. He applied the “random forest” algorithm to the task of detecting outliers in OpenStreetMap data, with the goal of developing tools for semi-automated data input and quality control in volunteered geographic data. Richard’s code and thesis are available at https://github.com/rrwen/msa-thesis. Both of these student were part of the Geothink SSHRC Parternship Grant, http://geothink.ca/, which supported their conference participation.

RyersonGeo booth with AR-sandbox at GIS-Pro2016

@RyersonGeo also had a booth in the GIS-Pro 2016 exhibit hall. While conference participants were interested in the Department’s programs and research expertise, the main attraction of our booth was an augmented-reality (AR) sandbox. The sandbox was built, set up, and staffed by our collaborators in the GIS team at the Central Lake Ontario Conservation Authority (CLOCA – http://cloca.ca/). CLOCA staff had attended Dr. Oswald’s GeovisUW workshop (https://storify.com/ClausRinner/geovisuw-workshop-ryersongeo) in June 2016 and were inspired by the visit of Ryerson’s Digital Media Experience Lab, which demo’ed an AR sandbox. In subsequent discussions about public outreach around surface- and groundwater protection, we proceeded with 3D-prining of CLOCA’s watershed geography and terrain, while CLOCA staff endeavoured to build the sandbox. The two displays were used by CLOCA at the 2016 Durham Children’s Groundwater Festival in late September. At the GIS-Pro 2016 conference, some participants were wondering about combining the two technologies, while others were interested in using the sandbox to model real-world terrain and simulating flooding. While accurate modeling of terrain and water flow may prove difficult, we are indeed planning to test the sandbox with semi-realistic scenarios.

CLOCA's AR-sandbox at GIS-Pro2016

In conclusion, applied GIS researchers and practicing GIS professionals are a friendly, close-knit group. The conference volunteers from our BA in Geographic Analysis, BA in Environment and Urban Sustainability, and MSA in Spatial Analysis programs were given a lot of free time and thoroughly enjoyed the conference. They were truly impressed by the large number and variation in GIS applications presented, and left the conference with a greater sense for the professional community. For me, the conference confirmed that research and development of GIS should be led by geographers, within Geography departments, as we are best positioned to understand the professional end-user’s needs, yet also have the technical expertise, at least @RyersonGeo, to contribute to GIS R&D.