Innovating in the bio-economy

One prescription for success is to dream and then turn that dream into reality. That is always a big challenge.
Quetico Centre decided to get expert advice by mounting a working conference of international scientists, regional business and civic leaders, and other stakeholders this past spring.
In any building project, a big step from dream toward reality is to clarify a concept and prepare a blueprint. Until then, it’s all imagination and hope.
At the blueprint stage, it becomes a plan. It takes on order, though also complexity. It is the start point for assembling resources and organizing activities.
A group of people had a dream—and now they have a blueprint.
The dream was to establish a global climate change monitoring node in the Quetico-Superior area, a region that is at the heart of the North American continent.
It is a pristine wilderness area, with resource extraction industry nearby. It spans two provinces and two nations. It includes several unique climatic, geological, watershed, and other natural features.
Therefore, it is eminently suitable for measuring changes in the earth’s ecology and assessing their implications.
Centres of environmental research, measurement, experimental projects, and citizen science are being set up in various sensitive locations around the world.
The word “node” means being part of, or a knot in, a global network which is in the early stages of being established.
The blueprint for Northwestern Ontario is the result of mobilizing professionals to think through what issues must be addressed, what resources are required, who should be included, and what has to be done.
Quetico Centre’s International Conference on Ecosystem Health, held in May with FedNor Industry Canada support, was an inspiring and highly-productive event. A number of projects that grew out of it already are in the works.
The conference report has just been released. It records the presentations of highly-respected scientists on world-wide and local ecology issues, on successes in land restoration and pollution clean-up, and on the learning from scientific assessment and research.
It also includes the conclusions of the study group explorations.
The report is available to environmental organizations, schools, libraries, and interested individuals on request from Quetico Centre.
Most important, the report describes what must be considered and done to establish a locally-based, internationally-linked global climate change monitoring node in the east-to-west centre of Canada.
That is the blueprint.
The work is in progress. The organization has been formed: Observatory Earth Inc. partnerships are being set up with universities and other research and education enterprises.
One very important goal now is to bring a Fluxnet site to Northwestern Ontario. That is an installation for measuring carbon emission and cycling.
Reliable information on variability of carbon, water, and energy in forests and wetlands is crucial for assessing ecosystem productivity and sustainability. A station here would complete a network since such sites already exist in eastern and western Canada.
It also would become part of an International Fluxnet expanding in the U.S., Europe, Japan, and Australia.
The Observatory Earth Inc. organization, a number of partnership projects being explored and set up, and the Fluxnet are all part of the new bio-techno economy.
Linda Wiens is president-CEO of Quetico Centre and executive director of the Prairie Crossing Institute in Chicago. Both are institutions for learning-based planning and change.

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