By Wendy Monk
There has always been a distinct connection between Canada and Europe.
In recent years another has emerged: coastal values.
Philosophys Dr. Peter Trnka is the coordinator of a project that
in 1999 received a grant to research social, environmental and ethical
values in coastal regions.
It is not a standard sort of research grant, said Dr. Trnka.
It is an exchange grant that is improving relations and fostering
study and academic research between Canada and Europe.
Dr. Peter Trnka
What we do is a broad
investigation as to values in general in coastal regions instead of focusing
on economics and medicine. The project is interdisciplinary; the other
major component are the geographers.
The project has allowed its participants to apply philosophy to practical
problems common to each of the universities in Canada and Europe.
The program involves students and faculty from six universities: Memorial
University, University of Ottawa, University of Victoria, University of
Nijmegen, University College Dublin, and University of Copenhagen. The
funding has allowed the development of intensive courses and conferences
at these universities to which students and faculty can travel. The majority
spend four months at the designated university.
There are four intensive courses; the final one is to be held at MUN in
August 2002. Each course covers a different topic: Water Management and
New Nature, Fisheries and Ecosystems Injustice, Cities on the Coast, and
Transport and Telecommunications.
The intensive courses are only six weeks long because sometimes
it is not possible for students and especially faculty to leave home for
four months, said Dr. Trnka. That means a lot of classes,
long seminars, discussion. At the same time, however, you lose out on
time for reflection and preparation.
The use of technology has reduced these difficulties because everything
is archived on the Web so students can do some preparatory work and will
know what to expect.
Dr. Trnka admits that the study of coastal values was certainly a new
experience for many.
A philosopher usually thinks about truth, beauty, and justice; to
begin to think about coasts was a bit odd. However, weve been able
to do quite a few, if not more, of the things we said wed do and
I think weve shown that the stereotype of philosophers having no
relevance or practical application is wrong. Coastal values are very relevant
to a long-term future of survival and sustainable life.
Dr. Trnka believes the program has successfully combined exchange
and curriculum development with research. however he said there
is much more to be done. According to him, what is needed is long-term
intensive research in this area.
Some of the problems cant be addressed if you only look at
what will be affecting you in five years.
There are new issues such as global warming and sea-level rise that have
to be addressed; these problems are not unique to Canada or Europe and
an extension to other coastal regions in the world seems inevitable.
The program appears destined to run longer than the three years allotted
in the grant, which means
Dr. Trnka has had to begin to look for further funding. He said that it
is possible to apply for the same grant again, but the program would have
to be modified because of the type of grant. Another possibility is to
apply for a different grant or look to private individuals or corporations
for funding. As well, the participating universities will make contributions.
About 18 months remain on the original grant, and there is a call for
applications for the next installment of the program. There are positions
available for three MUN students, with the successful applicants receiving
return airfare, $4,500, and paid visa for the four month period to be
spent in Europe.