Sustainability for future generations

What is RFG2018?

John Thompson, Chair of RFG2018.

John Thompson, Chair of RFG2018. — Photo courtesy RFG2018

The first-ever Resources for Future Generations Conference (RFG2018) will take place this June 16 to 21 in Vancouver. The conference is dedicated to the availability and delivery of resources as our population grows. Its goal is to solve the challenges of energy, minerals and water for future generations. Several thousand participants from across the globe and sectors are expected to participate in the week-long event.

RFG2018 is a result of a partnership between the International Union of Geological Sciences (IUGS), the Canadian Federation of Earth Sciences (CFES), the Canadian Institute of Mining, Metallurgy and Petroleum (CIM), the Geological Association of Canada (GAC) and the Mineralogical Association of Canada (MAC).

The conference is years in the making. Attendees will tackle the difficult challenge to explore resource and sustainability issues, specifically meeting the future demand efficiently.

Despite the challenges of creating a conference that crosses boundaries between sectors, the result is undeniably beneficial to future generations. John Thompson, chair of RFG2018 said, “We need to increase awareness professionally but also to the broader public about the nature of resources and their importance.” This includes the needs of humanity as our population grows and also the means we use to meet this demand. “Everyone we talk to believes that the theme of the conference is excellent,” Thompson said.

Mapping at Freycient - Tasmania, Australia. Drone use will also be discussed at RFG2018.

Mapping at Freycient - Tasmania, Australia. Drone use will also be discussed at RFG2018. — Photo courtesy RFG2018

These topics have been discussed before but never brought together in the search for solutions. “What’s different about this event is this attempt to bring energy, minerals and water people, expertise and interests together under one roof to talk about these complex issues,” Thompson said. “It’s an ambitious conference, but it’s worthwhile to not put it off.”

Bridging gaps in sustainability

The conference is divided into sessions developed by each of the individual interest groups. Groups like energy, minerals, water, earth sciences, among others, will tackle their own side of a challenge. Then these groups will come together for discussions and panels meant to start conversations. “They are designed to satisfy the common interests, common challenges and opportunities in these sectors,” said Thompson. “We hope people will go to their specialized events but then take part in some of these broader discussions.”

Attracting younger people to this event is critical because it is about their future after all. “We hope they will listen and participate,” said Thompson. Organizers are hosting a series of events around career opportunities and mentoring, as well as chances for younger participants to express their views. “There are a lot of events that will hopefully engage young people to be really active within the conference environment,” he said.

The conference has also focused on attracting Indigenous groups. “We want a strong Indigenous participation because they have a vested interest in resources and resource development in the future,” said Thompson. The same goes for levels of government, senior executives of large companies within the different interest groups and the public. “For each of these groups, we are trying to reach out and selectively interest them,” he said.

Orakei Korako Geothermal Pools - New Zealand. Energy, water, and minerals in action. These are critical topics for RFG2018.

Orakei Korako Geothermal Pools - New Zealand. Energy, water, and minerals in action. These are critical topics for RFG2018. — Photo courtesy RFG2018

The conversation after RFG2018

While the conference is meant to start a discussion, “We hope these interest groups will create ongoing projects that will continue beyond the conference,” Thompson said. “The conference may be the first of many following.” Organizers hope to create action beyond discussions, to create connection between industries and to kickstart a collective effort to address the challenges we face in our future. “How are we going to have energy to meet nine billion people’s needs? Where are we going to get the materials from and how are we going to do it better?” Thompson asked.

The long process to organize an event of this nature and size will be worth all the effort when conversations extend to real-world solutions. “I’m really looking forward to seeing how the pieces come together and hopefully generate excitement,” Thompson said. “The most exciting thing for me would be to see a general buzz created by the conference, ideally spilling out of the convention centre.” He is eager to hear the panelists, leaders and lecturers share their ideas at the conference and for the resulting discussions. “That will be the success—if we get people talking to each other for mutual learning,” Thompson said.

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