A call for coalitions 

Noted environmentalist to speak at Quest University forum

Where once there were waves, now there are mostly just watermarks. For Ann Dale, that simply won’t do.

Dale, a noted academic and environmental authority, breaks the environmental movement up into three separate waves, two of which have left the mainstream political agenda and rolled back out to sea.

“Climate change is the third wave of environmentalism,” she said. “We had a failure before to sustain it on the political agenda for a long period of time.”

What brought about that failure? According to Dale, it was a type of lone wolf fever, a natural aversion activists sometimes have towards effective coalition building and the leadership opportunities it can produce.

Dale will bring her ideas to the Sea to Sky corridor in the form of a keynote address to the Corridor Environmental Leaders Forum, a workshop series planned for April 12 at Quest University in Squamish.

“My understanding is there’s going to be a number of groups coming together in Squamish for this meeting,” she said. “I think there’s a golden opportunity now for the environmental movement to become a movement, rather than just a collection of environmental groups.”

As a collection, the different groups have no power. They operate in respective vacuums, gobbling up grant funding without mounting a sustained, cohesive challenge to the status quo. In a recently published think piece called Bridging Gaps: Building Diversity, Resilience and Connectivity, Dale identifies the Internet as an ideal forum for exchanging ideas, determining priorities and building alliances.

“In particular, the environmental movement needs to accelerate its use of new media,” she writes, “in more dynamic and interactive ways within their respective constituencies, in strategic partnerships with the research community, and through the deliberative building of online social networks to create a critical mass of involved Canadians for meaningful social change.”

There are jurisdictions driving that change, Dale says. She lauds British Columbia’s recently unveiled carbon tax. Quebec, too, is making some of the right gestures when it comes to sustainability.

Alberta, meanwhile, is lagging.

“Alberta also has the greatest opportunity because of the cash inflow,” she said. “But it has to do something about its carbon emissions from the oil sands.”

On the federal level, Dale says the Stephen Harper Conservatives produce policy rife with contradictions, although she feels that each of the official parties have members who embody the necessary commitment to sustainability. In particular, she points to Green Party leader Elizabeth May as the type of thinker Canada needs.

According to research compiled on www.crcresearch.org, a Royal Roads University webpage Dale is an active part of, much of the tangible work towards sustainability takes place at the local level. The site’s case studies section mentions Whistler2020, a community-propelled plan that strives for a sustainable future.

An agenda for the Corridor Environmental Leaders Forum is pending. More information on the event can be found at www.whistlerforum.com.


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