U of A campus & Livestream • November 17–19, 2023
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Concurrent session



November 17, 2018 at 2:30pm - 3:45pm


Engineering Teaching & Learning Complex (ETLC), University of Alberta
with Gwendolyn Blue and Ian Urquhart

Democratizing Climate Change: Beyond Expert Assessment and Citizen Participation

Progressive responses to climate change typically involve expert assessments and formal public engagement. While important, these approaches fail to address structural power imbalances. Untangling these dynamics involves confronting scientism, the assumption that environmental policy issues should be framed entirely by quantitative metrics. Scientism leads to the perspectives and values of some elite social actors becoming the unquestioned frame for public policy rather than the subject of scrutiny and debate. Alberta's approach to climate leadership serves as an example of the problems of relying solely on expert assessment and formal public engagement, and as a clarion call for progressive leaders to think differently about democratizing environmental policy.

Gwendolyn Blue is an associate professor in Geography at the University of Calgary. Formally trained in cultural studies, her research examines public controversies involving science and technology; public engagement with science and technology; and political, cultural, and ethical dimensions of scientific and technological innovations.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly: Alberta's New Democrats and the Environment

Alberta's New Democrats committed in the party's 2015 election platform to several important environmental objectives such as climate change leadership, phasing out coal-fired electricity generation, increasing renewable energy production, and protecting the Castle Wilderness Area. This presentation primarily examines the government's record in fulfilling those commitments. It argues that "market fundamentalism"—what Joseph Stiglitz called the prevailing religion of the West since the early 1980s—has compromised and tempered the substance of the overall New Democrat environmental policy record.

Ian Urquhart teaches in the Department of Political Science at the University of Alberta and is the editor of Wild Lands Advocate, the magazine of Alberta Wilderness Association.