Upcoming Green Drinks ponders population impacts

Erin Handy
By Erin Handy
March 29th, 2011

It’s a beast of an issue, but size cannot intimidate Rossland’s Sustainability Commission; next week’s Green Drinks event will address challenges associated with the whopping topic of global population trends, exposing what the keynote speaker characterizes as sustainability’s “sleeping elephant.”

The upcoming Green Drinks event is scheduled for Tuesday, April 5, 7pm at the Rock Cut Pub. It’s a panel discussion on population trends and projected impact, both globally and locally.

“It’s a hot topic,” said Sustainability Commission manager Lea Thuot. “For a lot of people, it’s such a huge issue; it’s sometimes hard to really know what the facts are.”

The elephant analogy is a running bit for speaker Dr. Jack Alpert, from the Stanford Knowledge Integration Lab. Alpert has visited Rossland before. Two years ago, he arrived with the message that our control over future global population conditions is akin to sharing a room with a sleeping elephant: “as the room fills to capacity, people bump into him, he awakens, rolls over and crushes many.”

Now it’s time to talk about the size of the elephant.

“No matter how big and terrifying and destructive our view of overpopulation, we are still grasping only a small fraction of the coming injury,” explains Alpert. “My challenge is to describe this magnitude so we can put into perspective our proposals to address it.”

Lest such talk sit oddly in a small community in the Western world, where key looming and local issues (eg. infrastructure and economic capacities, schools) are clearly more attributable to a shrinking population than a ballooning one, the Commission wisely chose to round out the evening with contributions from member and environmental consultant Aaron Cosbey regarding consumption patterns, and George Penfold, Selkirk College’s Regional Innovation Chair, regarding the expected economic toll of our ageing population.

It’s precisely because of our immediate demographic and geographic environment that global population is such a sleeper of an issue in the Western world, explained Thuot.

“In Canada, we just grow up with so much space, it’s (a hard issue) for Canadians to wrap their heads around.”

Green Drinks is a sustainability movement, designed to foster discussion of important issues in informal settings, build community connections and perhaps arrive at new insights. The hope is that the pub environment and relaxed setting of the event draws in a new crowd: folks who might not make it to a formal lecture, say. After the speakers, there will be time for questions, mixing and mingling.

Car-pooling is encouraged, or attendees can meet at 6:20pm at the Centenntial Trailhead to walk together.

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