Environmental Knowledge Learning and Sharing Seminar Series

This article by Environment North board member, Roopa Rakshit was first published in the Chronicle Journal in October 2013.

New seminar series:  enhancing environmental learning and sharing

 “The only way forward, if we are going to improve the quality of the environment, is to get everybody involved,” Richard Rogers, British Architect.

Ecological and environmental information are increasingly becoming a priority area in development, research and education. Effective environmental communication can play a pivotal role in making informed decisions, community advocacy and bridging gaps among different sets of stakeholders.

 Communication of environmental and sustainability issues involves the conveying, at times complex, scientific information in an approachable and understandable manner.  In addition, communicating the message effectively requires proper choice of medium, channels, tone and content that will  encourage society to adopt sustainable practices, rather than act as deterrent. Coordinated communications of environmental issues to multi-stakeholders is important. Multi-sector linkages can stimulate planned “on the ground” action.

Sharing and maximizing on collective resources will pave the way for a healthy and committed “Environmental Community of Practice” in Thunder Bay.  A community of practice is a relatively recent coinage but the concept itself is not new. Groups have gathered to learn and to foster quality discussions through face to face events. It promotes collaboration among institutions and individuals to influence, inspire and engage. With the advent of digital technology, community voices are further reaching out and sharing thoughts through online discussion boards, webinars and podcasts.

There are several agencies and organizations that are promoting community of practice and networking through online information services. At the Global level, examples are the Eldis Organization (www.eldis.org) and Prevention Web (www.preventionweb.net). The Eldis Organization’s goal is to share the best in development policy, practice and research.  Prevention Web is a United Nations initiative and serving the disaster risk reduction community. Home turf examples include the Canadian Environmental Network (www.rcen.ca) and the Ontario Environment Network (www.oen.ca) which facilitate networking and provide information resources.

 Locally there are a number of organizations helping to build Thunder Bay’s environmental community of practice. Environment North has a long history of environmental education and community advocacy.   EcoSuperior operates many environmental programs and an educational website. EarthCare has developed and is implementing an Environmental Community Action Plan. The Environmental Film Network offers monthly films and lively discussions.  Two relatively new organizations are the Thunder Bay Chapter of the Council of Canadians and Citizens United for a Sustainable Planet.  These and many other organizations offer different ways of learning, sharing and making changes toward a more sustainable community.

As part of these efforts on enhancing discussions and dialogues, Environment North is pleased to launch “Environmental Knowledge Sharing & Learning Seminar Series”. The seminar series - a way forward to reach collective understanding - proposes to invite experts as guest speakers from the region and beyond to share insights and reflections on emerging environmental topics. The seminars will provide an informal setting enabling members of the community to meet, learn and share ideas about environmental challenges.

The first guest speaker of the series is Rick Smith, a well-known environmental scientist and bestselling author of "Slow Death by Rubber Duck: How the Toxic Chemistry of Everyday Life Affects Our Health".  Currently Rick Smith is the Executive Director of the Broadbent Institute. The event will take place on November 12, 7:00 p.m. at the Finlandia Club (314 Bay Street). His previously scheduled talk had to be cancelled due to an April snow storm. For the first seminar Environment North is pleased to be partnering with EcoSuperior and Science North and the event will be part of Science North’s popular “Science Café”.  Rick Smith will discuss how toxins from everyday household products make their way inside us and the impact that they have on our health.  He will also share with us how to avoid these toxins and how we can help make these products safer.  Visit www.environmentnorth.ca for more details on this and future events.