Our Common Future

Ever since the Brundtland Report, Our Common Future, burst onto the global stage in 1987 and stimulated interest in sustainable development and later sustainability, I have been intrigued by these concepts and the challenges of putting them into practice. My first efforts focused on developing and applying the ideas as they would apply to the Fraser River Basin, which drains a quarter of British Columbia and produces an estimated 80% of the provinces economic output. In 1991 working with a diverse interdisciplinary team, including collaborators from inside and outside UBC, two books and a video resulted from this work.[References to be added].

British Columbia Round Table on Environment and Economy

This research led me into roles in two innovative multistakeholder processes intended to advance sustainability strategies and put them into practice in British Columbia. From 1990 to 1994 I was a member of the BC Round Table on Environment and Economy (BCRTEE) established by the Provincial Government as part of Canada’s response to the Brundtland Report. Little has been written about the work of the BCRTEE and the tumultuous times in  which  it played a key role in designing and implementing the innovations in sustainability policies and institutions. I would like to at least partially remedy this by beginning to reflect in these pages on what was for me an extraordinarily valuable and stimulating learning experience with a remarkable group of people from all walks of life in British Columbia.

Fraser Basin Management Board

From 1992 to 1994, I took a leave from UBC to become the inaugural Chair of the Fraser Basin Management Board (FBMB). The books we had written based on Westwater’s research on the Basin had identified the absence of any kind of management institution as the most critical threat to its environmental, social and economic sustainability and had made proposals for what might be created. For once recommendations from an academic institution coincided with a strong economy and a political desire across Canada to be innovative and supportive in implementing the recommendations of the Brundtland Report. The Federal Governments Green Plan initiatives provided substantial new funding for all kinds of sustainability initiatives across Canada. The FBMB was one result and I was challenged to come out of the University and try to put our recommendations into practice in the real world. The next two years were again a deeply rewarding experience, one from which I learned so much and developed great respect for so many individuals, as I worked on the challenges of facilitating discussion among the diverse stakeholders on the Board and at large in the Basin. I returned to UBC in 1994 to renew my research and teaching, forever changed by all that I had experienced and learned. I have written elsewhere about my two years as the Chair but I would like to reflect further in these pages on that experience and the subsequent work of the Board, which was re-named the Fraser Basin Council in 1997. The Council continues today. It is interesting to ponder why it did not get closed down by the governments when none of the other innovative multistakeholder institutions focusing on sustainability created in the first half of the 1990s survived beyond 1996.

Perspectives on Sustainability Planning

When I became Director of SCARP in 1999 I encouraged faculty members to draft short statements outlining the perspectives on sustainability planning as a way to clarify our differing views and promote discussion. My own statement was entitled Challenges of sustainability planning: Living dangerously in worlds of theory and practice. I have periodically revised it as my ideas have evolved, the last time was in 2008. In these pages I plan to revise it still further.

Omnibus: Becoming a Good Sustainability Planning Practitioner

Also when I became the Director of SCARP I designed and began teaching a new course called Omnibus that was taken by all incoming masters students and was intended to introduce them to sustainability and planning as it was taught by the School’s faculty. This was taught every year until I went on leave in 2007. During that year away I re-designed the course and began teaching it in its present form in September 2008. As the title now indicates it is designed to help incoming students in Becoming a Good Sustainability Planning Practitioner. After now teaching it twice I am pleased with the improved results in terms of preparing students for their program in SCARP and careers in sustainability planning. There are, however, many ways in which I would like to enhance the materials for it and I intend to use these pages as a place for developing them.

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