Tuesday 17th July 2018

Resource Clips


Sustaining dialogue

Resources for Future Generations brings diverse viewpoints to vital issues

by Greg Klein

Resources for Future Generations brings diverse viewpoints to vital issues

Geo-boffins take part in a pre-conference field trip to the southern British Columbia porphyry belt.
(Photo: Jeanne Liu/UBC Mineral Deposit Research Unit)

 

Evidently the organizers want to find common ground between disparate, even polarized, viewpoints. And Vancouver, as a world capital of mining, a burgeoning high-tech centre for clean energy and a hotbed of environmental activism, might be the ideal venue for such an endeavour. It’s here that Resources for Future Generations will assemble an international and divergent group to discuss three essentials to our survival on this planet: energy, minerals and water.

The event takes place at the Vancouver Convention Centre between June 16 and 21 where, to offer just a few examples, representatives of Rio Tinto, the David Suzuki Foundation, Clean Energy Canada, the Tahltan Nation and Resource Works will meet and mingle, where the likes of Ross Beaty and Tzeporah Berman will share perspectives and where the public—the real stakeholders in all this—might gain a better understanding of resource-related issues.

Resources for Future Generations brings diverse viewpoints to vital issues

While describing the event John Thompson keeps using the word “diversity.” The chairperson of the RFG steering committee and Cornell University’s professor in environmental balance for human sustainability says the word applies to the three themes of energy, minerals and water. “Then we’ve got people with this diversity of disciplines, and this diversity of backgrounds and countries, so we can certainly say this will be a diverse conference.”

That applies to viewpoints, too. “We’re absolutely encouraging people to put their issues on the table and listen to each other’s views,” he emphasizes. “We want good dialogue and we want people to express their views as long as they do so in an appropriate manner, and I have no doubt they will.”

Education, debate and awareness will be encouraged through panel discussions, keynote talks, public lectures, interactive events, field trips, short courses and more. From different sectors, disciplines, causes and communities will come executives, professionals, activists and representatives. A series of free public events ensures the broadest possible participation. About half the attendees will come from outside Canada.

This will be RFG’s debut, but Thompson hopes success will make it a regular occurrence. The idea began with the International Union of Geological Sciences, one of UNESCO’s scientific organizations, and was developed further through discussion with other groups. Presenting the event are the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences, the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum, the Geological Association of Canada and the Mineralogical Association of Canada. Additional support comes from over 85 sponsors, technical partners and others.

Thompson hopes to realize an ambitious list of goals. Among them, “We certainly want to get resource sectors talking to each other,” he says. “We have a bad habit of doing our thing when we have a lot to learn from each other.

“We’re also trying to give people a better understanding of the relationship between the Earth, all the resources we take for granted and how we can use them more effectively going into the future.”

We do have ‘future generations’ in the title and our goal is to engage young people. We have about 350 students coming to the conference. They’re from almost all parts of the world, they’re the future. They need to be involved in the issues regardless of which side of the fence they’re on.—John Thompson

He notes the importance of “increasing people’s understanding of other people’s needs and views, and promoting interaction between industry, sectors and society at large. A lot of people have concerns that aren’t often discussed at a higher level.”

With a global population expected to reach nine billion by 2050, there’s a lot at stake.

“We do have ‘future generations’ in the title and our goal is to engage young people. We have about 350 students coming to the conference. They’re from almost all parts of the world, they’re the future. They need to be involved in the issues regardless of which side of the fence they’re on. We need to get people thinking and solving problems with a view to the future for everybody. If we succeed in that and get more young people engaged, I think that’ll be a great outcome.”

He hopes that outcome will extend well beyond those who attend. “The general public often has a limited understanding of the nature of resources, where they come from, how we extract them and how hard we work to do things appropriately. If we increase the understanding and awareness of where things come from and the challenges, but also the amazing progress people are making in solving those challenges, that would be a great outcome as well.”

Resources for Future Generations 2018 takes place from June 16 to 21 at the Vancouver Convention Centre. Click here for more info and registration. See the lineup of free public events here.


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