Sunday, May 31, 2020

Online Event - Unlocking Human Potential for Biodiversity Virtual Conference

This virtual event will take place on June 5, 2020 from 9 a.m. to noon as part of World Environment Day (WED). Montréal is the North American host city for WED. This event is being organized by Space for Life and the Secretariat of the UN Convention on Biological Diversity.  It imagines the future of our planet, our cities, and our spaces as well as the cohabitation between species on Earth, humans included.

Unlocking Human Potential for Biodiversity is an opportunity to reflect on how can we better understand the human potential to preserve biodiversity, get closer to nature and guide our future actions. This virtual conference asks us to consider what we need to understand about human beings—our motivations, our ways of thinking and acting—that could help us develop the most effective policies, actions, communications and projects?

To help answer these and other questions this online event will bring together renowned experts and calls us to share our collective intelligence. At a time when a health and economic crisis triggered by COVID-19 is causing an unprecedented global slowdown, this event urges us to take a step back. It brings together a variety of people in an environment that is conducive to sharing.

Unlocking Human Potential for Biodiversity is the first phase of a vast project designed to find and implement solutions for the future. This event proposes to create a space to share and communicate on the subject of the environment with participants from various backgrounds (scientists, artists, educators, citizens, activists and Aboriginals) from Quebec, Canada and elsewhere around the world.

This virtual encounter brings together four committed scientists on a unique panel that will address the theme of human potential in order to identify solutions and make a difference. Against the backdrop of a global crisis, they will attempt to address the ways that we can we collectively guide our future actions to preserve the biodiversity of our planet.

This issue will be addressed in a round table by the Mayor of the City of Montreal, Valérie Plante, the Federal Minister of Environment and Climate Change, Jonathan Wilkinson, the Director for North America, United Nations Environment Program, Barbara Hendrie, the Acting Executive Secretary of the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, Elizabeth Maruma Mrema, the Executive Director of the Commission for Environmental Cooperation, Richard Morgan and the Director of Space for Life, Charles-Mathieu Brunelle.

Afterwards, participants will be divided into sub-groups to discuss and share their findings on topics such as our individual and collective relationship with nature and biodiversity. They will attempt to answer questions such as :
  • What should be the focus of our collective attention? 
  • What are the opportunities to be seized? 
  • What types of projects should be pursued, developed and implemented?
A review of the workshops will follow to share main outcomes with all participants.

The event is is part of Montréal's Space for Life's Laboratory of Possibilities. It will be hosted by Julie Bourbonnais, Ph. D., Organizational Psychologist, Hors-Piste. It will include Anne-Sophie Gousse-Lessard, Ph. D., researcher in social and environmental psychology and committed citizen Matthieu Ricard, Ph. D., author and initiator of humanitarian projects Stanley Asah, Ph. D., Associate Professor, Conservation Psychology Vandana Shiva, Ph. D., eco-feminist and founder of Navdanya
(see the speakers full biographies below).

Key Speakers


Anne-Sophie Gousse-Lessard

Anne-Sophie completed a PhD in social and environmental psychology and held a postdoctoral fellowship on adaptation to climate change. She is now an associate professor at the Institut des sciences de l'environnement (ISE) at UQAM and a research fellow at the Centre de recherche en éducation et formation relative à l'environnement et à l'écocitoyenneté (Centr'ERE). She also holds the chair on the ecological transition at UQAM and is a research officer with the Réseau inondations intersectoriel du Québec (RIISQ). Her research interests include the motivational processes, levers and barriers related to behaviour changes (individual and collective) and eco-citizenship. She is particularly interested in sustainable mobility (via the Chantier auto-solo), eco-anxiety and activism from a social transformation standpoint. Anne-Sophie Gousse-Lessard is a lecturer, a speaker and she writes blogs for the Unpointcinq media. She is also involved in the board of directors of the Réseau des femmes en environnement.

Matthieu Ricard

A Buddhist monk, author, photographer, scientist and initiator of humanitarian projects in Asia, Matthieu Ricard also has a PhD in cell genetics. During a trip to India in 1967, Matthieu Ricard met Tibetan spiritual masters. After settling in the Himalayas in 1972 following his thesis in cell genetics at the Pasteur Institute, he became a monk in 1979 and went on to serve as a French interpreter for the Dalai Lama in 1989. He has given numerous conferences, including a dozen at the World Economic Forum in Davos and at the United Nations. A prolific author, Matthieu Ricard participates actively, as a scientist and Buddhist monk, in scientific research in neuroscience on the effects of meditation on the brain. He has co-published several scientific papers on this subject. As a photographer, he has published a dozen albums and donates all of his rights to the humanitarian association Karuna-Shechen, which he founded. In 2019, this organization helped more than 380,000 people in Tibet in the areas of education, health and social services.

Stanley Asah

Stanley Asah is an Associate Professor at the University of Washington specializing in Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management with a focus on Conservation Psychology. He studies the ways to orient human behavior, organizational behavior, and political behavior toward sustainability and conservation outcomes. His interests in the human dimensions of conservation include topics such as: how to connect people—especially children—to the outdoors; effective strategies for motivating pro-environmental behaviors; social responses to environmental hazards such as wildland fire; the social impacts and social acceptability of renewable energy systems; how people benefit from ecosystems and how those benefits could serve as motivators of environmental stewardship behaviors. He is also interested in how to use the psychological sciences, including social marketing and persuasive communication, to initiate, direct and sustain pro-environmental behaviors such as energy conservation and efficiency.

Vandana Shiva

Vandana Shiva is an Indian scholar and an environmental activist who has dedicated nearly five decades of her life to the protection of biodiversity. Shiva completed and received a PhD in the foundations of quantum theory at the University of Western Ontario. Her scientific research and work in biodiversity conservation with local communities, especially women, has allowed her to evolve a paradigm of oneness and non-separability, which she refers to as the "biodiversity of the mind". Her work has shown how, through the conservation of biodiversity, humans can produce more food, better health, reduce hunger, disease and poverty. Currently based in Delhi where she established the Earth University and a biodiversity conservation farm, she has authored more than twenty books, is one of the leaders and board members of the International Forum on Globalization, and a figure of the global solidarity movement referred to as the Earth Democracy movement. She received numerous awards for her service to the Earth, the protection of biodiversity and people’s rights.

Click here to access the live event.
Click here to see the other activities and events taking place for World Environment Day.

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