Queen's University

Rio+20 summit won't be enough to boost public's sagging environmental enthusiasm: Queen's University experts


Queen’s University experts John Smol and Warren Mabee are available to talk about the Rio+20 Earth Summit, set to begin on Wednesday.

Dr. Mabee is a School of Policy Studies professor and director of the Queen's Institute for Energy & Environmental Policy. He feels the meetings won’t be able to turn around sagging public enthusiasm for environmental issues.

“The gathering at Rio in 1992 was a massive step forward, bringing together all parties on environmental issues for the first time in two decades, and as such brought an optimistic tone to the dialogue. The current Rio meeting sits at the end of a long line of environmental meetings, and must deal with the failure of Kyoto, public apathy, and a faltering global economy. It will take a lot to get people excited about the environment again – and I’m not sure that this meeting is up to the job,” says Dr. Mabee. “Part of the issue is that sustainable development is such a huge topic – touching so many aspects of our lives – that a single three-day session can simply not do the concept justice.”

Dr. Smol, a biology professor who holds a Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, says Canada’s international reputation has drastically changed since the original Rio Earth Day summit in 1992 when Canada was one of the leaders in tackling environmental issues.

“Since then, any pride that Canadians could hold with respect to environmental issues has collapsed like our cod stocks. The embarrassment over our present-day selfish and non-evidence-based environmental policies has grown as fast as our environmental footprint,” says Dr. Smol. “Canadians have been lulled into a Faustian bargain whereby promises of economic prosperity today are traded for a burden on future generations and an expensive environmental debt. Canada was once celebrated as a champion in tackling environmental issues. We are now vilified as obfuscators. What happened since the 1992 Rio Earth Summit? How did we let it get this far? Canadians concerned for the future must speak out strongly if our current course is to be corrected.”

Please note that Tuesday (June 19) afternoon, Dr. Smol will be traveling and only available for phone interviews.

To arrange an interview, please contact communication officers Michael Onesi (office: 613.533.6000 ext. 77513, michael.onesi@queensu.ca) or Anne Craig (office: 613-533-2877, Anne.Craig@queensu.ca) at Queen’s University News and Media Services Department in Kingston, Ont., Canada.

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Last updated at 3:38 pm EDT, Mon September 1, 2014
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