Environmental Imperative Online Course

The Environmental Imperative engages with environmental issues from a robust scientific as well as a critical human decision-making perspective.

Its outcomes include:

  • Providing students with a broad introduction to the primacy of a range of environmental issues,
  • Determining the role the environmental imperative plays in one’s study, workplace and community,
  • Examining one’s own environmental interaction and means of intentionally addressing it,
  • Interpreting the policy implications of eco-carbon footprint growth and bio-capacity decline,
  • Implementing cross-disciplinary and experiential learning opportunities within the environmental imperative.

It draws on the intellectual and engagement resources of:
The Office of Eco-Seneca initiatives (OESi)
The Regeneration Institute for the Great Lakes (ReIGL)
The Green Citizen Campaign

produced by:

William Humber
Office of Eco-Seneca initiatives (OESi)


It is anticipated that our world may house 10 billion people at some undefined time in the second half of the 21st century. Barring unforeseen global events, urban living will be the setting for a majority of these lives while even those outside a city will increasingly have similar lifestyles and expectations. More people than ever before will live above a subsistence level approaching something defined as a middle class existence with all of its accompanying expectations and demands, including those for a cleaner, healthier and safer world.

This is the conundrum of modern living. Prosperity and growth, allowing for increased consumer and lifestyle activity with the resulting maladies for the natural world and climate instability, are also the foundation for a flourishing environmental awareness.

One response to this dilemma was “sustainability”, and the connected notion of “development” as espoused by a United Nations Commission headed by Norway’s former Prime Minister Gro Bruntland in the heady days of the 1980s environmental movement. “Sustainable development,” the Commission stated in 1987, “Is development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.”

It remains an evolving concept, incorporating and surpassing many existing ideas of environmental care such as conserving lands, protecting threatened species and Malthusian limits to growth and population. Over the years, a large “s”, Sustainability, has grown to include considerations of economic development, social equity, and cultural integrity. As such its overarching principles have seen it move far beyond a solely environmental perspective.

As an ethic for the future, sustainability was a good starting point. It entered into the mainstream of public discourse and though often so broadly characterized by proponents as to be almost meaningless became a rationale for deliberate public and private decision-making and practice.

In a world of competing social, economic and environmental demands however, sustainability’s undefined or problematic metrics (it’s been said they line up well with poverty!), unresolved solutions for the cumulative detrimental effects of improved efficiency (Jevons rebound effect in which savings are invested in more uses of a resource), and the unanticipated and often unintended consequences implemented in its name (the damaging effects of an automobile-dependent “return to the land” philosophy) may not be enough for human living and the natural world to survive comfortably within and alongside each other.

Sustainability is in danger of becoming a proxy for special ideological interests. Addressing the environment on its own terms is what is here referred to as the Environmental Imperative. By focusing attention on this one item and using it as a stand-alone target for creating and maintaining public policy, a pragmatic approach to the environment and other ongoing challenges is afforded.

Subject Outline

The environmental imperative has three primary attributes. It is concerned with:

  • The foundations for survival and comfort,
  • An unavoidable ethical obligation, and
  • A command to integrate this knowledge in one’s choices in the workplace and community.

The subject, “The Environmental Imperative”, provides foundational knowledge and includes:

  • Why and how the environmental imperative has become an essential feature in workplaces and in one’s community regardless of one’s field of study, or eventual career,
  • The five characteristics of the environmental imperative in the modern organization,
  • The human place on earth and its scientific basis,
  • changing world in terms of where we live, rising middle class living expectations, and regional impacts,
  • The conflicting stories we tell about the environment from sustainability to contrariness and responses from no growth and intentional simplicity to prosperous pragmatism and enhancing bio-capacity.

The subject “The Environmental Imperative” provides reasons why this is an unavoidable ethical obligation and includes:

  • The personal meaning of one’s carbon and eco footprint,
  • Consumerism and its choices,
  • Why where we live and how we get around are meaningful,
  • The nine planetary boundaries and their tipping points based on scientific interpretation and current knowledge,
  • The perspectives and actions of leading experts.

The subject, “The Environmental Imperative” examines how knowledge translates into choices and actions in workplaces and communities and includes:

  • Options from eco/carbon footprint reduction to bio-capacity increase in terms of fertile soils, robust pollinators, clean air, and potable water,
  • Community gardens, local food and bee hives,
  • Analyzing an organization’s environmental status,
  • Engaging the public through successful participation processes,
  • Regeneration and the questions it asks and the answers it provides.

Foundational Knowledge and Perspectives

Why and how the environmental imperative has become an essential feature in workplaces and in one’s community regardless of one’s field of study, or eventual career.

Bob Willard Interview:



The five characteristics of the environmental imperative in the modern organization

  1. Regulatory – rules, laws, practices, standards, legal requirements etc. increasingly guide everyday life, professional practice, and organizational obligation.
  2. Operational – organizations are more aggressively managing their resource use and waste production as a bottom line imperative, and recognizing, as an example, that carbon releases and their impact on the atmosphere and oceans, are morally problematic, symptoms of lost profit from inefficient resource use management, and represent a failure to invest in more efficient processes and equipment.
  3. Commercial Opportunity – ingenuity is the most celebrated way humans overcome the limitations of their current status and the same applies in public and private workplaces which create imaginative ways to increase their ability to do more with less, or realize new revenue streams.
  4. Reputational – organizations attentive to enhancing their public identity and environmental impact attract superior talent – you! They also inspire their clients to continue supporting them, and often drive the process of regulatory reform, and
  5. Transformational – the unexpected opportunity is always the most nebulous but promising realm of future endeavor for an organization and for yourself. It can often be found in distinct responses to the environmental imperative.

The human place on earth and its scientific basis

Power Point: http://www.thegreencitizen.ca/powerpoint-image/The%20Environment.pdf


A changing world of where we live, rising middle class living expectations, and regional impacts

The report, Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds, published by the National Intelligence Services, says that by 2030 world population will likely be 8.3 billion. As we go farther out the numbers are less certain with suggestions that the world population of just over seven billion in 2015 may reach 10 billion at some point in this century. Even assuming no health-related or geo-political catastrophes however that number could be as low as nine billion.

Such assurances (and given a range of a billion people the imprecision is notable), are based on the increasing urbanization of people’s living places which historically has accounted for both increased affluence and declining birth rates. Regarding urbanization throughout the world, the Global Trends Report says, “Today’s roughly 50 percent urban population will climb to nearly 60 percent, or 4.9 billion in 2030.” It could be said parenthetically that, with the exception of isolated tribes, urban lifestyles and expectations are now, or will be, part of everyone’s reality regardless of living place.
Alongside this, the Global Trends Report says, will be a “growing global middle class, which constitutes a tectonic shift: for the first time, a majority of the world’s population will not be impoverished, and the middle classes will be the most important social and economic sector in the vast majority of countries around the world.” This is a particularly ironic expectation given current thinking in North America that the middle class is a threatened species, which may reflect either the death knell of a sense of entitlement of continuing economic prosperity for those living in North America, or a failure to address systemic inequities in the distribution of public and private resources.

The conflicting stories we tell from sustainability to contrariness, as well as responses from no growth and intentional simplicity to prosperous pragmatism and bio-capacity enhancement

Sustainability is a call to respect the way present decisions will have an impact on future generations. As noted it has come to be the term encompassing not just environmental health, but social justice and economic opportunity for all. Cultural imperatives and even business survival have rallied around the concept.

So for all its acknowledged regard it remains more an ethical obligation than a well-developed prescription. In short it is more art than science. So far there’s nothing wrong with this, but as it moves into performance, it often confronts a series of problematic conundrums.

It can often mean that if two of three outcomes such as social justice and economic opportunity are realized, but at the expense of environmental health, such a result is tolerated. Or the term has been used by business to trumpet its own survival though it might have been achieved at the cost of environmental degradation.

Even when apparently successfully realized, sustainability’s metrics, as one observer noted at a Congress for New Urbanism gathering in Philadelphia, line up well with poverty. Success stories such as greater energy efficiency often result in cumulative detrimental impact, by virtue of an increased use of a resource. Refrigeration and lighting are two examples of resource dependent functions that have massively increased in use owing to lower costs associated with their greater efficiency.

Performance success stories such as increased fish stocks in the Atlantic and Gulf Coast waters were the result of war (during the Second World War fighting on the Atlantic Ocean caused fishing trawlers to refrain from becoming collateral damage) and oil spills (such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, known more pointedly as the BP oil spill) in the Gulf of Mexico. Neither is a foundational basis for policy and practice.

An absence of nighttime lighting in Africa for instance owes little to advanced energy management or a desire for a clear view of the stars, but to inadequate infrastructure and economic failure. The diagram below of course is an imaginative rendering of the entire world as if nighttime darkness covered it at the same time.


The often one dimensional characteristic of environmental measures, trusting that one action will lead to a better result, can be undermined by unintended consequences more troublesome than the problem they were meant to solve. A Matrix approach is necessary recognizing that any action has multiple impacts. It is the job of humans to choose responses appropriate to the situation; those which best serve other living features, and ones whose negative effect is limited.

Finally, the environment needs to be examined in its right and not as a proxy for other interests, regardless of the latter’s merits. Only then can choices be made that acknowledge potential eco system damage or renewed opportunity.

Other Perspectives

“Seven Generations” is a human ecological idea originating with the Great Law of the Iroquois which compelled leaders to consider the implications of their decisions for those who would follow them through the next seven generations. It is allied with concepts such as the modern precautionary principle which recommends against new actions or policy for which there might be a suspected risk or possible harm despite an absence of full information or analysis. New industries and chemical combinations are often cited as examples of such a regard.

Voluntary or intentional simplicity requires citizens to choose a lifestyle of significantly reduced consumerism and even the abandonment of many items most affluent citizens take for granted. Its extreme or unusual characteristics include living without toilet paper; entire families sharing the same bath water; and even burials in which the body is essentially composted.

Another perspective is one advocating a return to past practices or one based on culturally appropriate ways of living. Wells Fargo for instance once delivered by horse and bicycle; some tribes were known to prepare a cocktail of deceased relatives and consume it; while as an Inuit spokesperson once said, “We once had a sustainable residential lifestyle, living in igloos, but few would choose that as a permanent option today!”

Eco-modernism is an advocacy position for modern technology and its further use to mitigate issues of poverty and energy deprivation. Prosperous, urbanized people, with access to modern conveniences, have both lower birthrates and self-interest in reducing their environmental harm.

The regeneration imperative addresses the rebuilding of both natural and built environments so that bio-capacity is increased and the embedded energy already within constructed materials is maintained, while the cherished quality of such places is enhanced and provides models for the future.

An Ethical Obligation

The Personal Meaning of the Eco and Carbon Footprint

Tools for determining environmental impact are extensive. Two particularly useful concepts are the individual measurement of carbon footprint and ecological footprint. To some extent they overlap and so they are combined into a cumulative, though limited measure of environmental impact. Carbon describes waste, or atmospheric pollutants from resources not successfully treated, or used more efficiently. Carbon in the atmosphere effects climate in ways we are still quantifying though its correlation with rising temperatures, (other influences being neutral), is scientifically settled. Ecological impact examines the use of fresh water, amount of waste generated, and one’s impact on bio-diversity.



Consumerism and its Choices

One place to make sense of your own role is by looking at your personal consumption. Your choices drive the marketplace to produce either more beneficial or more harmful, products and services. There are few absolutes when it comes to any choice, but also risk in just about everything you do and everything you choose! They all carry some impact and some caution. Start by completing the following:


Why where we live and how we get around are meaningful

One of the most significant choices you make is where you live and how many of your needs are within walking distance. These determine how lightly you tread on the earth and in many cases how healthy you are. You can measure your own walkscore at:


The nine planetary boundaries


Nature has many tipping points or boundaries as the Planetary Boundaries image indicates. These boundaries represent safe operating limits of the Earth’s capacity to regulate itself in a way comfortable for humans. When human activities, combined with other non-human caused factors, exceed these boundaries, stability is disrupted. The formulation above describes what researchers believe to be the tipping points for a variety of phenomena which humans are warned against exceeding.

This image shows that human activity’s impact has gone beyond the boundary line for both bio-diversity loss and nitrogen/phosphorous loading. It also shows that human impact is in danger of exceeding recommended tipping points for ocean acidification and freshwater use.

As for items such as atmospheric aerosol loading, and chemical pollution, there is not as yet sufficient data to draw reasonable conclusions.

The perspectives and actions of leading experts


Amongst the authorities consulted and available at www.thegreencitizen.ca are clockwise above: Dr. Gail Krantzberg of the Centre for Engineering and Public Policy at McMaster University and a Great Lakes specialist; Gord Miller, former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, Canada from February 1, 2000 to May 18, 2015; Dr. Kay-Ann Williams, adjunct professor at Seneca College and York University, and a knowledge specialist on environmental issues in the Caribbean region; Dr. Tony Day, executive director of the International Energy Research Centre in Cork, Ireland; Dr. Jenny Mant, Science and Technical Manager of the River Restoration Centre at Cranfield University, United Kingdom.

Translating Knowledge into Choices and Actions in the Workplace and Community

From eco/carbon footprint reduction to bio-capacity increase

One measure of human success is the United Nations’ Human Development Index (HDI). A complementary indicator is the ecological and carbon (eco/carbon) footprint describing our use and disposal of resources associated with that success. Ecological footprints often embed the carbon within their total calculation of all uses and impacts on nature. On the other hand the extraction, decline and disposed impact of fossil fuels, created from transformed dead organisms, are often reported as a standalone carbon footprint. For our purposes the two are recognized as elements of a combined eco/carbon footprint.

The commonly shared interface between these two is our measure of bio-capacity. In broad terms it describes those ecological services or natural capital on which our prosperity is based, from fertile soils and insects pollinating crops to clean potable water, from wildlife balancing the ecology of places to trees sequestering carbon, cleaning the air, and storing groundwater.

The Conundrum! – For discussion, debate and direction

Exceptions exist, but as a general rule as the combined ecological and carbon footprint of a country rises so does its improved Human Development Index, or put more simply as we use resources and turn them into market-based opportunities, the lives and comfort of citizens generally gets better. Two items however don’t improve and either go in the opposite direction or show no measureable benefit. The latter refers to civic life from judicial transparency and availability, to the democratic opportunity for all to participate in public life on a relatively equal and safe footing. Sometimes it improves; often it does not, and in many cases gets worse.

Likewise bio-capacity almost always declines as the eco/carbon footprint increases. This is particularly worrying for future generations. Nor is it simply a matter of setting aside pockets of isolated nature as distinct from human settlement, as if this were an either/or proposition. In fact the ways we design our built environment, the resources required for such and the places in which we live are often the crucial aspects of determining our draw on natural capital and our ability to regenerate its bounty.

The chart below is from p. 471, Moran, Wackernagel, Kitzes, Goldfinger, Boutaud. 2007. Measuring Sustainable Development – Nation by Nation. Ecological Economics.

2003 figures (but trends continuing to this day) show the connection between HDI, ecological footprint, and bio-capacity. Wealthy Norway and United Arab Emirates (UAE) had respective HDIs (scored out of a maximum of 1) of 0.96 and 0.85. Norway had an ecological footprint per capita of 5.9 and a footprint to global bio-capacity ratio of 3.2, while the UAE’s numbers for these categories were 11.9 and 6.5. On the other hand the diminished wealth of Bangladesh and Niger was reflected in respective HDIs of 0.52 and 0.28. Their ecological footprint per capita was respectively 0.5 and 1.1 and their footprint to global bio-capacity ratio was respectively 0.3 and 0.6.


Moving forward then, what might be a provisional but manageable heuristic with which to contemplate and undertake a re-ordering of this challenge?

Most countries currently have a negative ratio, i.e. their eco/carbon footprint exceeds their bio-capacity. The Living Planet Report of the World Wildlife Fund et al. (2006) indicates that economically and civically advanced countries including Germany, the United States, and Japan had ecological deficits per person (measuring ecological footprint to bio-capacity). Three big places, Brazil, Russia and Canada, however have positive bio-capacity to eco/carbon footprint ratios. The first two however have varying degrees of civic inequality, (and in Russia a lack of democratic transparency), along with a range of extreme poverty (and in the Brazilian interior, reported cases of actual slavery). Only Canada has an advanced quality of civic life. Its regeneration ratio of bio-capacity versus carbon/eco footprint impact is 2:1, (Canada’s bio-capacity per person of 14.5 contrasts with its per capita ecological footprint of 7.6) a net positive good news story but only because of the country’s large size in relation to its population.

Going forward in Canada maintaining a 2:1 bio-capacity to eco/carbon footprint is as good a place as any to mount a foundation for robust policies and programs. It recognizes that our eco/carbon footprint will increase. Even developing a wind or solar energy regime with all its environmental benefits would require the production, installation, maintenance, and eventual disposal of the associated technical apparatus, not to ignore the necessary back up energy sources such as natural gas, battery storage, and in some cases coal, required to complement them when the wind isn’t blowing or the sun goes down.

Nevertheless environmental measures like wind and solar and particularly their daylighting and natural ventilation features are go-forward pieces for reducing eco/carbon footprint while adding to human comfort and prosperity. Central to this idea however and the most valuable long term measure is addressing the decline in bio-capacity by intentionally maintaining and adding to the stock of eco-system services from increased tree planting and soil remediation to water and air purifying. This could result in a different approach to growth in which bio-capacity enhancement and its associated economic opportunities would align with a rise in HDI, doing so alongside a diminishing but recognized increase in our collective eco and carbon footprint (we still need to produce the goods and services from which bio-capacity growth could occur, and with which, perhaps ironically, our eco/carbon footprint is reduced!). Our present economic model looks something like this.


What if it looked like this!


While this new model might work for the overall environmental health of the planet on which we live, is a deliberate, or intentional, bio-capacity regeneration strategy also a way of improving civic life? One thing is certain today’s conventional winner-takes-most economy, with residual crumbs ‘trickling down’ to everyone else, and its associated and increasing eco and carbon footprint at the expense of a declining bio-capacity, has only moderate success and many failures in improving civic life.

Regeneration as an aspect of a more rounded economic success story offers real promise. After all it is about the process of returning life to degraded situations; of lowering carbon emissions while adding to the stock of eco system services and resilient built places; of incorporating in all initiatives the capacity for their eventual re-purposing, re-use and natural evolution. It depends on a collaborative and engaging process which in its realization creates the conditions for a lasting and judicially transparent and democratic civic life.

This is not only about the natural world, as we have come to understand it, but also the human created built one. They are increasingly integrated in their impact on our associated lifestyles, comfort, and common fate. In adopting the regeneration imperative therefore there is no better place to begin than with a growth founded on an always adjustable bio-capacity to eco/carbon footprint ratio of 2:1.

Community gardens, local food and bee hives

Examine the following:



View the following: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pYIoChe_E8


Constructing a fish passageway on a fast flowing stream. View the following:



The above are cross disciplinary and experiential learning opportunities at their finest!

Analyzing an organization’s environmental status Twenty characteristics of an organization addressing the environmental imperative by asking the right questions are featured in the guide available at:


Engaging the public through successful participation processes

The Charrette Process and other tools –



Regeneration and the questions it asks and the answers it provides


The above text, by the Regeneration Institute for the Great Lakes (ReIGL), is available from CRC Press.

Tools for examining the environmental imperative as part of an ongoing process of on-line and in-class dialogue

Background perspective: The environmental imperative acknowledges the merit of sustainability’s doctrine that today’s human living should not compromise the choices available for future generations. Questions to consider include:

  • Is it more than a survival prescription,
  • Can it accommodate comfort and prosperity for all within, alongside and respecting the natural world,
  • As a doctrine, ethic and practice requiring continual refinement in light of changing circumstances will it (or can it, or should it) evolve into a more robust perspective?

Conundrums for Consideration

  1. The almond’s flavourful taste, its role as a milk substitute, and its profitable export as a positive balance of trade item for the American economy, squats uneasily alongside its fresh water requirements (annually matching the combined water use of the urban populations of Los Angeles and San Francisco), land use dedication, and potential impact on commercial honey bee populations. From a sustainability perspective its many economic, social, and health giving properties might be mediated by environmental regulation but ultimately does that enhance or merely slow the degradation of our shared environment?
  2. Bicycles are entitled to the same consideration on public roadways as automobiles in regard to right-of-way, adherence to traffic signals, safety requirements, lights, and something equivalent to the car’s horn. Increasingly however and particularly in cities, cyclists are reverting to pedestrian sidewalks for fear of avoiding the car’s devastating impact in the event of a collision. In so doing all walkers, including the elderly, the physically challenged, children, and every pedestrian regardless of their agility, are placed in jeopardy in the event of a collision with a bike. How should bicycles be accommodated in our cities?
  3. Should potato farming on some of Canada’s prime farming land continue in the Alliston-area of Ontario, or is its mining for aggregates, as a source material for the concrete used in constructing urban infrastructure, a greater need? Aggregate mining is water intensive and puts a lot of trucks on the road, but its product is essential for cities. City building in turn potentially frees up marginally used lands elsewhere for more appropriate uses as people abandon them for urban living. As well such lands provide opportunities for bio-capacity enhancement, while ground impermeability can be reduced to below 10%, a figure at which watershed health is significantly improved. Potatoes on the other hand often end up as the essential elements of the next bag of fast food potato and corn chips. Which is the better and higher use for such lands?
  4. Canada currently has one half of one per cent of the world population – approximately 35 million people in a world of over seven billion. World population may grow to as many as 10 billion by the second half of the 21st century. It will be a world continually challenged by unpredictable weather patterns from the changing location of rain falls to rising temperatures thus rendering many parts of the world uninhabitable. Given Canada’s contribution to increased carbon emissions and their correlation with temperature change, does Canada have a moral obligation to at least provide a home for one per cent of that future world population, or something in the order of 100 million people?
  5. Cities are increasingly the preferred living place for a majority of the world population. Parenthetically it might be noted that even those not living in a traditional city have urban lifestyles and expectations from digital devices to items for luxury and comfort. Cities have a demonstrably high per capita impact on our ecological and carbon footprint but at the same time remove rural areas from unproductive economies, decrease the latter’s impermeable surfaces, and allow for greater bio-diversity regeneration. Cities are also the place in which the long recommended policy of lower birthrates is realized. Should rural living be discouraged except for those places providing for food growing and bio-capacity enhancement?
  6. The Human Development Index (HDI) of the United Nations is a measure of social improvement in matters such as human longevity, access to primary and higher education, and opportunities for all regardless of gender, ethnicity, or ability. There is a direct correlation between HDI and a rising ecological and carbon footprint of its citizens, and alongside this a declining bio-capacity (all those essential ecological services from pollination, to clean potable freshwater and fertile replenished soil). How do we provide for a world in which bio-capacity becomes the measure alongside which HDI can grow even as our collective ecological carbon footprint declines?
  7. Sustainability began as a heuristic, has aspects of an ideological eco-Marxism, and today is for some a “new age” cliché. It is promoted by everyone from true believing apostles to corporate mavens. In entering the public realm of recognition however it has a unique opportunity to become something more. Just as Newtonian mechanics gave way to a quantum physics interpretation of reality in which the very act of observing changes the behavior of the observed in unpredictable ways, so also must a sustainability perspective consider how its study and actions perform and evolve in a matrix-laden way rather than an A causing B relationship. Describe what a sustainability matrix might look like?
  8. Canada has an esteemed positive bio-capacity to eco/carbon footprint ratio of about 2:1. Thus for every impact of our collective eco/carbon footprint totaling one, we have twice as much bio-capacity (forest land, fresh water, productive soil etc.). In this we surpass the performance of most developed nations including the United States, Germany and Japan, all of which have a negative bio-capacity to eco/carbon footprint ratio. Is this because we have deliberately developed approaches for its achievement, or because we have a small population on a large landmass? Most would say the latter. How might we maintain this ratio in future recognizing that even good intentions such as renewable energy initiatives require production, installation, maintenance, and eventual disposal, all with eco/carbon impact?

Additional Resources and Features

The subject “The Environmental Imperative” can include a thematically related experiential learning opportunity. Here are some big ideas for consideration within an academic conference format:

What’s the Big Idea! (s): Celebrating Canada’s 150th Birthday, and beyond, with Green Citizen Panache!

Green citizenry is more than just reducing one’s environmental footprint, or addressing the regulatory challenges and market advantages of greater efficiency and cleaner production. In fact such measures, removed from a consideration of future context, may, because of multiple factors including unanticipated consequences, rebound effects, cumulative carbon increases despite (or owing to) per-operation efficiency, and problematic metrics, actually contribute to increased ecological trauma.

In thinking about the future, particularly Canada’s, we must ask a series of challenging questions. What outcomes will, or should be realized? What are the means of moving towards such a world? What will be inherited by today’s and future generations of students? “What’s the Big Idea! (s)” is a concept for a three day Green Citizen series of conferences, examining Canada’s future by focusing, on separate days, on the following:

* 100,000,000 Canadians
* Planetary Cities, and the
* Mid-Canada (Boreal) Corridor

Background Context: Ethical perspective

Climate change and fresh water availability around the world will challenge the role Canadians play in meeting their global obligations. In a world growing to 10 billion humans in the second half of the 21st century, many of them living in barely habitable locations, what should Canada’s response be? Currently our population of just over 35 million is about a half of one percent of the world population of just over seven billion people.

In recommending that we accommodate one percent of the total world population by the second half of the 21st century, i.e. 100,000,000 Canadians in a world populated by ten billion, what are the ethical (moral arguments) both for and against this proposition, and for settlement in either the emerging reality of planetary cities or the region described as the mid-Canada (or Boreal) Corridor?

Planetary cities describes the “megapolitan” character of successful contemporary cities which stretch one hundred or more kilometers from a historic traditional city and which might have a total population numbering in the tens of millions. They provide opportunity and prosperity not available in the countryside or in less successful urban venues. What are the challenges, opportunities, and necessities for such places?

Most Canadians live in a region stretching about 300 kilometers north of Canada’s border with the United States. North of this, and up to the tree line 800 kilometers or more away, is the mid-Canada or Boreal Corridor in which a majority of the country’s resources and First Nations are located. What are the challenges of developing a formal urban, bio-capacity enhancement, and resource extraction strategy in full partnership with First Nations and other area residents?

Learning Process and Evaluation – the basis for on-line collaboration/discussion, written/verbal submission, testing/examination etc.

Disciplinary perspective:

Describe, in at minimum 500 words, what you believe to be the most important of the nine Planetary Boundaries that humans should address by their future actions, show the connection between the item chosen and the other planetary boundaries, and document with appropriate references your reasons why.

Synthesizing perspective:

Enter the address, at www.walkscore.com, where you most commonly live, and find its score. Then draw a map for other locations in which you commonly or occasionally visit. These could include schooling, shopping, entertainment, work, place of worship etc. There is no need to define what they are.

Discuss on-line why a consideration of where you live or the places you commonly, or occasionally visit, are important for an understanding of the environmental imperative and general public health?

Creative perspective:

Reflecting on your future career and/or present job describe how your knowledge of the environmental imperative will contribute to the following:

  • The reputation of the company employing you. (How will its ability to attract customers, or its ability to hire top talent such as yourself, be improved?)
  • The commercial opportunities for the company employing you. (What new or re-designed products or services might it be able to deliver because of this knowledge?)
  • The day to day operations of the company employing you. (How will it be able to save money and staff time on a daily basis because of this knowledge?)
  • Your own career advancement. (How will it be enhanced?)
  • Your community and personal life outside the workplace. (How will it be improved?)

Respectful perspective:

There are a multitude of ideas for improving environmental health. For each of the ideas below develop a brief three minute presentation on their positive merits as tools for action.

  • Sustainability
  • Seven Generations
  • Precautionary principle
  • Eco-modernism
  • Voluntary/intentional Simplicity
  • Regeneration imperative

Then develop a three minute presentation on why each of the above tools might be problematic or incapable of fully addressing the challenge of greater environmental health.

Other learning opportunities:

Organizational Environmental Analysis

In groups of four, using the 20 questions making up the organizational analysis,


submit a final report on the environmental performance of a public or private organization of your choice in consultation with your professor.

Bio-capacity to Eco/carbon Footprint

Canada’s current bio-capacity to eco/carbon footprint is in the ratio of 2:1. However growing the Canadian population to 100,000,000 might (probably would) jeopardize this ratio negatively, i.e. lower our bio-capacity while raising our eco-/carbon footprint. Your task as a student is to consider those means by which the population of Canada could grow to 100 million but our current bio-capacity to eco/carbon footprint would be maintained at 2:1.

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