Muskoka Summit on the Environment presented Environment vs. Economy:
Resolving the Dichotomy on May 8-9 2014 and although I only attended one of the two days, I can report it was exceedingly successful. Kudos to the organizers for tackling one of the most challenging dichotomies we face as a species – and one we don’t actively discuss because it seems so impossible to solve. Yet, the presenters at the conference spoke about this topic with confidence when clarifying problems (with world class expertise) and offered the most creative and contemporary solutions that exist today.
The conference opened with a five-minute video about Muskoka and the Friends of the Muskoka Watershed (see http://www.muskokawatershed.org/fmw1/about-fmw/) and an original song performed by two high school students.
Robert Sandford, one of Canada’s most respected water policy experts from the University of Saskatchewan, creatively shared the social, economic, and political Consequences of Hydro-climatic Change. He is the author of Cold Matters-The State and Fate of Canada’s Fresh Water.
Elena Bennet from McGill University spoke about agricultural landscapes and how they can provide us with things that we need called- ecosystem services. She offered a new way of looking at landscape planning, while interacting with biodiversity and multiple ecosystem services to meet the needs of a growing global population.
Another researcher from the University of British Columbia whose important work also contributes to policy and decision-making is Kai Chan (see http://chanslab.ires.ubc.ca/people/chan/). He argues the way humans currently use resources not only results in environmental problems but economic ones too. He offered creative economics for mitigating problems “upstream” by investing and offsetting (see http://www.offsetters.ca/).
The Keynote speaker at the conference was renown artist Robert Bateman. He pointed out that in 1930, there were 2 billion people on the Earth. Now there are 7 billion. It took 500,000 years for the first billion and 13 years for the last billion. His message was clear – the planet cannot sustain any more rapid growth. Bateman urged us that this does not mean a negative lifestyle outcome. Changes needed are based more on a philosophical shift. It means simpler, more meaningful lives connected with nature and closer to home. Mr. Bateman donated thousands of dollars worth of his art in support of the MSE Research Grant.
There were many other speakers at the conference the following day who I did not get to hear, however, presentations from the conference will be posted on the District of Muskoka Watershed Council’s website in the next few months. Please see - http://www.muskokawatershed.org/