Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Gwynne Dyer and Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta

Last June I and my company, Cambridge Strategies Inc., was part of the organization a of a symposium and a public meeting entitled Learning Our Way to the Next Alberta held in Edmonton and Calgary.

It was a very popular event with over 700 of active Alberta citizens coming together to become more informed about what we may be facing as Albertans between now and 2030.  We had a number of great speakers about the implications of external, natural and internal events, trends and pressures on Alberta.  Gwynne Dyer presented a most provocative scenario for the future of Alberta.

Dyer was well informed about Alberta, as always, he considers himself as an "honourary Albertan/"  But he was very pointed about what we face and what adaptations we Albertans will have to make to respond to the changes we are in and can anticipate. We taped his comments just over 30 minutes of information and some implications.   

Some salient points include that Dyer is an optimist about Alberta but climate change is the variable.  Alberta has had it easy because we have had the stuff the world wanted and we became rich as a province. But change is in the air with the coming shift away from fossil fuels and the realities of peak oil we can't presume our tomorrows will simply be a reflection and continuation of our yesterdays, economically, ecologically, socially and politically.

We can't  go back to try and relive or perfect our past either.  We have to design and learn new creative ways of living that are flexible, deliberative, innovative, imaginative and yes - prudent if we are to continue to enjoy a superior quality of life.

Dyer muses about what Alberta must do to adapt to face the eventual and inevitable decline of interest in fossil fuels and the shift to alternative energies.  He says one of the major blessing of Alberta are two big cities both with water and a that will be a big asset in the future.  He said we need to immediately build a high speed rail between Edmonton and Calgary and create a utility corridor spine as well.  That will attract the creative economy based on research and development which he believes is the ultimate future forward reality for a sustainable Alberta.  We have attractive countryside, a great deal of room, social cohesion and a diverse dynamic culture with a high quality education and health care...yes we have quality health care - just crappy access!

All this adds to presenting a platform of providing a future of well being and happiness as the self-sustaining quality of life capacity will be the magnet for the best and brightest to want to come to Alberta for opportunity and challenge.  Dyer says we need to spend more money on culture to add to the attractiveness of the place and he said do not think spending money on culture is an indulgence.  I could not agree more.

He observes that there is nowhere else in Canada or between the Mississippi and the Rockies in the USA that can do it like Alberta can if they can do it at all.  But we Albertans are way to complacent and compliant and comfortable in the old way of living and thinking.  We need to get on with the adaptations that are necessary to design, capitalize and optimize our magnificent advantages and with the new narrative for the next Alberta on a vision of possibilities and aspirations, not contentment with a past that is not our future.

That involves some new thinking and engaging by Albertans in citizenship but getting involved in the politics and issues of the day.  It is about stewardship from ecological to the legacy we leave future generations of Albertans.  And it is about servant-leadership in politics but in other key aspects of our society and economy.  But is also demands imagination, creativity and innovation.  We are not overly blessed with those attributes but we can create them and hone them if we wanted to.  We must want to do that and live up to the promise of this place.  We can't presume the future will take care of itself.  The planet will survive climate change and do just fine but there is no guarantee that our species is part of that future.

We are planning another public event next year, building on the Learning Our Way theme.  We are planning another symposium with Alberta and Finland as the highest performing public education systems in the world. We will have another public  event in advance of the symposium too and will build on the consciousness that the presentation of Sir Ken Robinson will make in Red Deer in early February. More to come on this NOT TO BE MISSED EVENT.

You can keep up to date on progress on Twitter via #abfuture, this blog and the website. The website is being redesigned to focus on the next Learning Our Way event. The original material from the first event is still there and recording of the other speakers if you want to give them a listen.