Mining and society are intricately connected. We are so dependent upon mining that it is far more realistic to question how, when, and where we will mine than to question if we will mine.
But this brings forth some serious challenges. The resources we depend upon are finite, and we are consuming an ever-increasing amount of them. At the current rate of growth in consumption, it will not be long before we will need more resources than our planet can provide. What will we do then?
More significantly, what can and will we do to prevent this scenario from unfolding?
‘Rethink’ is an exploration into how society can become sustainable and what roles all of us play in achieving this goal. It is a call to action to begin the change now, with the recognition of the factors that can drive or inhibit such change. Most importantly, it is a dialogue on how we get from ‘here’ to ‘there’.
For those following the Rethink blog, it should be apparent there are two perspectives being pursued. Firstly, there is what can be called the ‘small stuff’.
In this category are topics which include reducing the amount of garbage the Museum generates. Our ‘small stuff’ is about what different we, the Museum
and our staff members, can do to reduce our environmental impact.
Secondly, there is what can be called the ambition – to have a broader impact on public awareness on resource usage issues.
From the beginning of Rethink however, there have been challenges to achieving both of these goals. For every small step taken, the question has been asked as to whether it makes economic sense. This is no small matter, as for many would-love-to-do efforts to make the Museum more environmentally sustainable, there are the hard challenges of making it work financially. This leaves us in some cases attempting less than ideal solutions while in other cases having to accept that at least for now we are not in a position to make a change.
The real challenge however is how we engage people on the broader issues related to resource usage. From the beginning there has been the question of how does a mining museum fairly discuss issues around mining? Is it possible or will we show a bias towards mining? If we show such a bias, can and will we demonstrate transparency about it?
How does an organization which is supported by the mining industry openly discuss topics which challenge mining? Is it possible?
It is our goal to do just that. While we have not yet delved into any topics which are controversial, it is our intent that when those topics become pertinent to Rethink that we will address them from all perspectives.
To do that, we need to clearly define the passion behind Rethink.
Is it about the sustainability of society? How about the sustainability of our ecosystems? What do these concepts of sustainability mean?
Does the sustainability of society refer to maintaining our current system or does it refer to changing the system, and in both cases what is the basis for such a definition?
Does sustainability of ecosystems refer to maintaining natural systems or to restoring ecosystems?
These questions are rather simplistic, yet also fundamental to defining what the passion of Rethink is.
Rethink would take a vastly different approach if its passion was to preserve natural ecosystems and to engage people in making lifestyle changes needed to achieve this than if its passion was to encourage sustainability through ecological management and restoration to balance out our demand for mined resources.
Where do topics such as resource management and resource extraction fit into this? Are we about responsible resource development or are we about responsible resource usage?
The answer: Rethink is about responsible resource management, where management is about the entire lifecycle of a natural resource. On the usage side, it is about minimizing waste and maximizing the lifespan of materials. On the ecological side, it is about minimizing the impact we have.
Put together, the passion of Rethink is to engage people in conversations on responsible and sustainable resource usage. It is also a belief that these conversations will shape us as much as the people we engage with and that through this process we will all become more aware and understanding of the different perspectives on the issues and realities surrounding our natural resources.
At this point though, this might not sound like it has added much to the conversation of Rethink, and perhaps it has not.
What this post does however, is bring to the surface some of the questions I have faced since first proposing Rethink. It may not seem like much, but for our organization to have stepped outside the framework of mining and allowed me to venture into conversations around resource usage from a broader perspective has been a major shift for which I am thankful for the trust placed in me to guide this part of the journey.
Photo: Brian Stansberry/Wikicommons
The views expressed by the author(s) of Rethink are not necessarily reflective of the organization and are provided as ideas for consideration in context of a changing world view.