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The “Dialogue on Advancing Global Sustainability” is an initiative of Memorial University which brings to the University outstanding figures able to communicate insight and understanding to diverse audiences on environmental issues.

The Dialogue exposes students, faculty, public servants, and the public to the analysis of global issues that fundamentally cut across disciplinary divides. As such, the focus of the presentation and discussion is on a problem or an issue rather than on a disciplinary approach. The underlying motivation is to catalyze the interdisciplinary dialogue and understanding required to adequately address global change issues involving complex Earth systems.

Normally, the Dialogue Lecturer will spend three to five working days at Memorial. The lectureship consists of four components:

  • A public lecture aimed at interested citizens. This is the main event of the lectureship and is held on a weekday evening. To encourage public participation, admission is free, and a reception is held afterwards where the audience can meet the lecturer.
  • A research seminar that focuses attention on the specific expertise of the speaker. This event is open to both the University community and the public, although some advanced knowledge of the topic may be required to fully appreciate the seminar.
  • Formal and informal discussions with faculty and students of Memorial. These are coordinated by the Steering Committee (see below).
  • Formal and informal discussions with public servants and community representatives on public policy issues. These events will normally be open to faculty, staff and students; however, some costs may need to be incurred to attend.

In addition, the University community is encouraged to initiate associated events during the Dialogue Week to encourage broad-based participation and discourse on issues of global sustainability.

The lectureship is held under the auspices of the President, and is coordinated by the Dean of Science with assistance from the Deans of Arts, Engineering, and Education and by the Director of the Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development, or their representatives.


Our society faces enormous environmental challenges. We have limited capacity to address global change issues involving complex Earth systems (capitalized to emphasize the planetary sense of “Earth” including biological, human, ocean, terrestrial, and atmospheric components). An obvious example is the lack of a credible action plan to respond to the challenge of global warming. Closer to home, a stark regional example of this incapacity is the collapse of the cod stocks. On local to global scales, we are facing numerous challenges and potentially major environmental changes, with consequent impacts on social resilience and ecosystem/human health.

Our incapacity arises in part from the fundamental divides between science, policy, and public understanding. The Dialogue aims to foster new ways of understanding the policy changes posed by complex, highly nonlinear and interconnected Earth systems.

Selecting the Dialogue Lecturer

The task of selecting the topic and the speaker are undertaken by a panel.

The panel consists of persons who can authoritatively discuss (1) topics of current interest in public policy, (2) appropriate candidates for lecturer and (3) target audiences. It consists of three ex officio members, members of the University community, and one member appointed by the committee of the whole.

  • The Dean of Science, who chairs the committee.
  • A representative of the President.
  • A representative of the Harris Centre of Regional Policy and Development.
  • Representatives from the Faculties of Arts, Business, Engineering, Education, Medicine, and Science chosen on the advice of the appropriate deans. The term is for two years and may be renewed for one additional term. Each staff member will report to their corresponding Dean.
  • When appropriate, a member of the media with an interest in public policy issues. This person will be appointed by the President upon the recommendation of the committee of the whole.

Click here to see the list of current panel members.

The panel meets at least once per academic year, and its mandate is to generate a short list of possible lecturers, ranked in order of decreasing priority. This short list is generated from a call for proposals to members of the University community (faculty, staff and students), as well as to the larger community. The call for proposals is developed by the panel and may include suggestions as to the type of eligible topic and lecturer, the nomination procedure and the deadline for submitting nominations. A sub-set of the panel also takes on the role of Steering Committee for the Dialogue Week.