Thursday, April 7, 2016

Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference 2016— What Do You Know?

(Map: WWU)
It’s been just about two years since the last Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference brought together scientists, governments and activists and in a week we’ll see how much smarter and resolute we’ve become in preserving and restoring the health of the shared waters of Washington state and British Columbia.

Over the years, the biennial conference has endeavored to bring science and policy together with themes titled,  "The Salish Sea: Our Shared Responsibility,” "The Future of the Salish Sea… A Call to Action,” "Knowledge for the Salish Sea: Toward Collaborative Transboundary Solutions,” “Science for the Salish Sea: a sense of place, a sense of change,” “Applying Science and Information to Sustainability in a Shared Transboundary Ecosystem,” and "Many Voices, One Sea.” You get the idea. Science, projects and people (policy) but no politics. [Proceeding of these conferences are archived at Conference Archives]

Two years ago, one of the big stories coming out of the conference was about pteropods, sea butterflies with delicate calcium structures, being destroyed by an acidifying sea. [New Study: Acidifying Ocean Destroying Sea Butterflies ] There were news reports of a bad oil spill in Virginia when a tanker train derailed. And the Squamish First Nation was in the news with their Liquified Natural Gas project. Seems like we’re still dealing with ocean acidification and fossil fuel transport.

In a series of blogs from the conference last year I wrote about how David Marshall of the Georgia Basin Council gave an example of how science informed a restoration project. He challenged attendees to answer three questions when the conference was over: Give another example of how science and policy went together, identify a specific project that could influence policy, and predict what the Salish Sea would look like in 10 years. [#SSEC14 Day 1: Will Science Inform Policy and Politics? ]

Outgoing Western Washington University president Bruce Shepard laid down another challenge to attendees, one that today is a front-burner issue: He said, “... If in the decades ahead, we are as white as we are today, we shall have failed as a university.” Western has just named Sabah Randhawa its new head, but I think Bruce Shepard’s challenge is one for the environmental movement as well and I’ll be looking forward to seeing the complexion and cultures of those attending this year’s conference. [#SSEC14 Day 2: What Will It Take to ‘Save’ the Salish Sea? ]

At the end of the three-day conference in 2014, I tried to channel David Marshall, looking ahead to the next conference in 2016 and asking this year’s attendees, “Did what we learn at the 2014 conference make a difference?” and seeing a sea of hands raised. Then: “Tell me your story about how it made a difference.”

See you in Vancouver at the Salish Sea Ecosystem Conference 2016. [#SSEC16]

--Mike Sato

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