“If I was designing a university faculty from scratch and I tried to think about the most important issues facing the world and humanity today, and design a program so we can understand, so we can communicate, so we can use science, policy and planning, it would look a heck of a lot like FES at York University.”
“I was a student in [York] Professor Peter Victor’s ecological economics class, where I learned that the economy isn’t just a thing on its own,” says alumnus and activist, Bruce Lourie. “The economy is a construction of society, which in turn is bounded by our environment. That’s a concept that’s still not well understood and sustainability needs to be reframed in that way. Peter is very much ahead of his time.”
In the years since he was a York student, Lourie (MES ’87) has applied the cutting edge and provocative thinking he learned in Victor’s class to change the way Canadians view climate change. He is the co-author of the international bestseller Slow Death by Rubber Duck and its follow-up Toxin Toxout, which tackle head-on the wide array of harmful chemicals found in everyday products and offer solutions around what can be done about it.
Lourie initiated the campaign to shut down coal-fired power plants in the province and advocated for the greenbelt initiative in southern Ontario. He is also the president of the Ivey Foundation, which recently provided a $27,000 grant to Victor in support of his work to explore transformations of national economies so they respect ecological limits.
“It’s important to support people like Peter who are challenging the status quo,” says Lourie. “I’m really lucky to be doing every day exactly what I learned at FES, and that’s using an interdisciplinary approach to solving environmental problems that touch on health, economy, public policy, and the environment.”
Widely acclaimed as one of Canada’s environmental leaders, Lourie’s accolades include being named a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society of Canada, an honorary director of the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment and receiving a York University Bryden Award for outstanding achievement in his career in 2015.
In accepting the award Lourie called FES a second family and thanked former Dean David Bell calling him “one of his great mentors.”
“FES was an extraordinary learning experience for me. It changed how I think about things,” Lourie told the crowd. “If I was designing a university faculty from scratch and I tried to think about the most important issues facing the world and humanity today, and design a program so we can understand, so we can communicate, so we can use science, policy and planning, it would look a heck of a lot like FES at York University.”
In reflecting on his studies, some of the most useful skills he applies in his incredible successful career were elements of the program he had never considered before he applied.
“One of the amazing things [at FES] was being exposed to communications and political science,” Lourie said. “I would have never of imagined when I was a geology student that I would ever use or care about that, but yet 20 years later, it is probably more of what I am doing than anything. It’s understanding how to communicate and having that small-p political sense of how you change things.”
With files from IMPACT: THE CAMPAIGN FOR YORK UNIVERSITY