I was on a panel early in the fall at the University of Guelph to announce George Green’s appointment as the first Kinross Knowledge Exchange Chair in Environmental Governance. As someone whose day job is to promote research and policy that protects the environment and stimulates innovation in the economy, the day at Guelph really caused me to reflect on the roles that governance and knowledge exchange have, and the critical moment in time we are at for each.

In this blog, I wanted to share my thoughts on what is now happening with inter-generational knowledge exchange for the environmental movement. I will get to governance next week.

In Canada, like most developed countries, the pioneers of the environmental movement began their careers in the late 1960s and early 1970s. This was the time of the Stockholm Conference, the founding of the United Nations Environmental Program and a wave of national laws designed to protect endangered species, clean up air and water and protect us from toxic chemicals. Over a span of 40 years, the people responsible for setting up these law and entities were part of an evolution of environmentalism - from an activist movement lead by perceived radicals, into mainstream acceptance in science, management, engineer and business strategy.

Now, at Stockholm, plus 20, the math is simple. The 20 year olds who started working on environmental issues then are entering their 60s now. While many are still vigorous and active, they are in the later stages of their careers and are turning their minds to how to pass on their knowledge and experience, and their successes and failures.

As Executive Director of Sustainable Prosperity, those who intrigue me most these days are those individuals who have been working across interest groups, with NGOs, business and government to make environmental protection a mainstream, bottom line input into business strategies.

They are the people who figured out that in a market-based democracy, government, business and civil society must see protection of the environment as a shared interest. And for this to happen, policy and market signals must give tangible rewards to governments and companies who manage their enterprises toward sustainability.

There is a tiny handful of individuals who have lead this movement: working with governments to cause them to change policy signals so that environmental protection will be rewarded in the market; working with businesses to help them interpret policy and market signals and find ways to reduce their environmental footprint in ways that will benefit them in the market; and working with civil society to build a constituency that truly believes that environment and economy are mutually supportable. George Green is certainly one of those pioneers.

Kinross’ willingness to step up and fund such an exercise is laudable and George Green is an excellent first choice. We at SP wish him luck in engaging a new generation at Guelph and across the country in truly sustainable prosperity.


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