Eco conference is step toward ‘tipping point
by Catherine Szabo
An indication of how hyperaware we are about the environment is evident with words like “green-washing” creeping into our language. But Mario Trono, an English professor at Mount Royal University, still doesn’t think we’re at the tipping point yet. Trono and Robert Boschman, another MRU English professor, are the co-organizers of the Under Western Skies conference, which will be held at Mount Royal Oct. 13-16 in conjunction with the centennial speaker series Legacy of Ideas.
“We’re hoping this conference will be another part of ongoing dialogues that will eventually get North American society to the tipping point, where talk and analysis transforms into substantive changes,” Trono said. “It’s not a first step…but we thought it was important to do this conference in the energy capital of Canada.”
Their approach is a broad one: they wanted to bring together people with different backgrounds to talk about a single issue — the environment. “As English professors, we study language per se, wherever it comes from in terms of rhetoric,”
Trono said. “We have a skill set that helps us bring people together to talk about issues, even if those aren’t our speciality areas. We are not environmental scientists.” The six keynote speakers at the conference — Maude Barlow, Leo Jacobs, Andrew Nikiforuk, Bron Taylor, Vandana Shiva and Richard White — all have “large intellectual and activist profiles,” Trono said.
“If you just even look at the keynote (speakers) themselves, they’re people who are used to communicating with wide audiences,” said Bron Taylor, a professor of religion and environmental ethics at the University of Florida. “So even if (someone) is not familiar with my topic, I’m sure they’ll find it to be interesting and accessible.”
Taylor’s focus is on the emotional relationship — or lack thereof — that people have with nature. In the past 150 years, environmental religion has continued to grow and affect environmental politics, both in North America and abroad, he said. “That’s been a long-standing interest of mine — how do religious or spiritual sentiments relate to environmental perceptions and environmental activism?” he said. Other specialities of the keynotes include issues from sustainability to Aboriginal rights.
“The environment is an issue that is affected by everything,” said. “…In the same way that the environment is affected by so many factors, the dialogue about it has to involve a lot of factors.”
More information and registration for the conference is available at www.skies.mtroyal.ca.