When it comes to finding solutions to the world’s most pressing environmental problems, people need to talk with each other more, find common ground, and support each other in making positive change. People need to work together – and everyone needs to be involved.
Those were some of the key messages at the Alberta Ecotrust Foundation’s second annual Environmental Gathering: Breaking Through, which took place last month, with a networking reception at the Art Gallery of Alberta and keynotes, panel discussions and workshops at the Shaw Conference Centre. Speakers at the two-and-a-half-day event included Alberta Environment and Parks Minister Shannon Phillips, Grand Chief Wilton Littlechild of the Confederacy of Treaty Six First Nations; and panelists, presenters and speakers who addressed topics ranging from how Alberta schools can show climate leadership, to mobilizing with social media, and transitioning to a green economy, to ecological farming, traditional ecological knowledge, and how to lobby the government effectively – among many other topics.
“Change is here,” said panelist Laura Lynes of The Rockies Institute, a new Canmore, Alberta-based charitable organization with global reach, whose mission is to help individuals, businesses and communities build resilience and adapt to climate change. “It’s about looking at this in a different way, instead of ‘the economy versus the environment.’ It’s inspiring people to have both the will and the skills to be able to implement climate-safe futures.”
For its part, The Rockies Institute is focusing on education and climate change resilience in three main areas: first, building climate change resilience in indigenous and rural communities in Alberta, by implementing adaptation and mitigation strategies; second, working with small and medium-sized businesses to help them understand the risks and opportunities posed by climate change, and how they can compete at a national and international level; and third, helping mentor university students through scholarships and work opportunities.
The Rockies Institute invites Albertans to get involved in dialogue about climate change, and navigate climate change together.
In her presentation Beyond Polarization: The Art and Science of Engagement, keynote speaker Renee Lertzman, Ph.D., emphasized the need to build trust and rapport between diverse groups of people, for the greater good of all.
“Engagement is really about relationships. You demonstrate that you really heard what’s being said, and that you really get it. Listen first, acknowledge where people feel stuck – and in that acknowledgement, is where we can move people through,” Renee said.
The 2017 Environmental Gathering was all about bringing people together to learn, brainstorm, and build and deepen relationships with one another. “Out of this, we hope that people will feel more connected,” says Alberta Ecotrust Foundation executive director, Pat Letizia.
While the programming for the Environmental Gathering was aimed at attendees from environmental non-governmental organizations and other ‘environmental champions,’ “it’s broader than that,” Pat says. “Environmental champions can work anywhere. They may be skilled or trained in other disciplines, but the environment is important to all of us.”
The main messages at the 2017 Environmental Gathering included how critical it is to reach out to others and start sincere, open and deep conversations – especially with people whose viewpoints might be different from one’s own. Another urgent message was the call to act together, to adapt to and mitigate the effects of a changing climate – all with a view to creating a better future, for generations to come.
As panelist Melissa Gorrie of Ecojustice put it: “There are a lot of challenges, but a lot of opportunities too.”
And as panelist Alison Ronson, executive director of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society’s Northern Alberta chapter noted: “We need to embrace the hope and the opportunities – because that’s what people respond to.”
Co-created with Alberta Eco Trust
Supported by NewScoop Members