I mother earth

Our planet is going through changes.

Some are quite noticeable, while others more subtle.

All are effects of dwindling resources , the quality of the air we breathe, the water we drink and the demands an explosive global population have put on Mother Earth.

Calgary and MRU and ideal host

Environmental topics such as these are ever more pressing in western North America and Alberta in particular.

Climate change
Under Western Skies brings together members of the business community, students, academics and artists to debate humanity's interaciton with the environment.

As one of the more high profile bastions of an abundant source of carbon-based energy, Albertans have a unique perspective on the global energy controversy and how it impacts their daily living.

That's why Calgary is a great fit to host the first ever Under Western Skies: Climate, Culture and Change in Western North America conference.

The conference, which is hosted by Mount Royal University, will take place from Oct. 13 - 16 in the Roderick Mah Centre for Continuous Learning.

Bringing together some of the world's top thinkers

The brainchild of Associate Professor, Rob Boschman from the department of English at Mount Royal, Under Western Skies will bring together academics, artists, and activists from across the globe to debate and examine the interaction between humans and the natural environment in the context of western North America.

The prolific list of notable participants can be found online, The more recognizable keynote speakers include Maude Barlow, Andrew Nikiforuk and Vandana Shiva.

When asked who he was most looking forward to hearin, Boschman's eyes lit up.

"Richard White, from Stanford University.

"The keynotes we have are all superstars if you will, but White is a historian, Pulitzer nominee and he has legendary status among historians," says Boschman.

"He sort of revised our history of the West in the early '90s … He is going to give a historical overview of climate change in western North America and equate it to the impact that Columbus had when he 'discovered' the New World."

Even though Boschman is a professor of English, his area of expertise is the environment.

He published a book last year on the relationship of certain American poets and the American concept of nature, historically.

Boschman also serves on the executive board of the Association for Literature, Environment and Culture in Canada.

Not your average academic conference

Despite the connections, some might still find it odd that an English professor has created a conference of such magnitude dedicated to the environment.

That is until Boschman explains, "I really believe, passionately as a scholar and a teacher that at a conference, when it comes to the environment, academics can't just talk to each other.

"I try to host a different kind of conference. One that reaches out to the public, to the students, to corporate entities, because the environmental issues before us are so enormous, that I think it would be irresponsible to set this up as the conventional academic bubble."

Boschman has been diligent in bringing a variety of demographics together under one roof to talk shop.

Academics will have the opportunity to openly debate with students and businessmen in the oil and gas sector and members of the general public.

Three full days of discussions will culminate into the Legacy of Ideas Round Table, which will be held the afternoon of Oct. 16.

All six keynote speakers will serve on the panel and the Round Table will focus on possible solutions to some of the issues that will be discussed the previous three days.

The Legacy of Ideas Round Table is the second installment in the series that was created to help Mount Royal celebrate its centennial.

- Fred Cheney, Sept. 30, 2010