The ‘Environment’ Of Environmental Sciences In Canada:
Reflections On Recent Socio-Political Developments, And Why Scientists Should Care

Dr. Ian Stewart
History of Science and Technology Programme, University of King’s College
Time: Thursday February 4, 2016 – 03:30 PM
Location: 5th Floor Lounge, LSC, Biology Wing

Abstract: How often did you hear phrases like “muzzled scientists” or “no science, no democracy!” in the lead up to the Federal election last October? The role of science—its people, its academic and government institutions, and their role in shaping our collective public life—took on a prominence not hitherto seen in Canadian politics. In fact, the recent election uncovered important questions that continue to need addressing concerning science ‘in the public interest’ in Canada. By focusing on the environmental sciences (particularly for marine contexts) I will first review legislation passed during the last decade that many regard as having weakened the role science plays in public life. Second, with reference in particular to examples from the energy sector, I will highlight some key challenges going forward that the environmental sciences currently face in seeking to contribute to goals of “sustainable” development. These challenges include the role of science in policy formation, and the way uncertainty within scientific practice is managed in that context. Lastly, I will offer up reflections on why these issues matter in particular to our university community—natural scientists, social scientists, engineers and humanists alike.