The final keynote on the Friday was by Jon Bowermaster; traveller and writer for National Geographic, who justifies his carbon footprint by giving talks on the damage done to the world by over-fishing and poisoning wildlife with plastic pollution.
(Can the carbon footprint of an international conference be justified? On reflection I think the answer is yes. It’s an opportunity to bring back stories from different perspectives which in turn help you to view your own work and institution with different eyes. The impetus for change rarely comes from within; it more often derives from experience of other ways of doing things. There is real value is stepping outside of your comfort zones; there is even more value in viewing your work through not just a national but a global perspective).
Bowermaster says everyone who travels should bring back a story. Well, this is mine. Vancouver is a new, clean city; on a clear day you can see the Rockies although it’s mostly rained this week and even the tops of the tallest skyscrapers have been shrouded in cloud. Vancouver is gearing up for the 2010 Olympics and understandably wants its city to be seen in the best possible light. On the surface that shouldn’t be too difficult with its glass skyscraper skyline and surrounding waters ringed with snow capped mountains. Vancouver has the most expensive real estate in the world. It also has a population that is homeless. There are beggars on every street corner; many amputees laid out on cold wet pavements, some in wheelchairs, all with an outstretched cup asking you so politely for your spare change. There’s currently a plan to make it compulsory to put the homeless into shelters; allegedly for protection from the cold but it’s being seen as a rouse to hide them for the Olympics. Either way Vancouver is not what it seems. While we’ve been in the warmth of a modern hotel presenting on the advantages of education outside on the streets is evidence of social and economic inequalities where education is irrelevant. There’s an advert for welfare food halls on Canadian tv which says you are only ever one paycheck away from destitution and that’s a sobering thought. Homelessness and poverty here in Vancouver is very much in evidence. In Britain people complain about the welfare state but you don’t see as many destitute people on the streets of Hull (or Lincoln) as you do here. While we debate the future of higher education it’s worth bearing in mind how fortunate a situation that is.
Finally – the quote of the week for me came from Chui Woo Kim from South Korea. Speaking on virtual interaction he tells us that the instructor may trigger sound effects (applause) to create a more joyful learning environment.
May we all aim to create a more joyful learning environment.