THE FEDERAL ELECTION is kicking into high gear as this issue goes to press. It’s too early to predict which party will form the next government, but regardless of who ends up living at 24 Sussex Drive, there is an abundance of environmental lessons that our future prime minister can learn from other jurisdictions – the European Union in particular.

In this double issue of Alternatives, we look into laws, policies and practices that Canada would do well to mimic, and team them up with our latest environmental education directory. Building on our bestselling 2007 Campus Directory, this year we have profiled 50 Canadian universities that offer undergraduate and graduate environmental programs. The directory combines course and program information with a unique sampling of extracurricular activities that will give prospective students an inkling of what they can expect from a given school, and help them decide where to spend these pivotal years.

Further afield, the European Union will be very close to meeting its Kyoto target. Besides the mindset that put them on the road to greenhouse-gas-emissions reductions, the Europeans have been trading carbon for over three years. Michael King, the former assistant chief in the International Department of the Bank of Canada, is currently working for the Bank for International Settlements in Switzerland. He describes what Canada can glean from the EU’s Emissions Trading System.

James Meadowcroft returns to Alternatives with his overview of why they seem to do it so much better in Europe – and we’re not talking about chocolate and paid vacations. From Germany’s renewable energy policies to Sweden’s system of national environmental objectives, from the UK’s five-year “carbon budgets” to Denmark’s pleas for more stringent environmental policies, the Europeans really do make a better cup of coffee – or tea.

But good as the Europeans are, it’s a nation on this side of the Atlantic that comes closest to practicing sustainable development. Only Cuba combines a high-enough standard of living with a low-enough environmental impact to have won favour with the World Wildlife Fund. Laurie Guevara-Stone, the international program manager at Solar Energy International in Colorado, describes Cuba’s Revolución Energética, which has so transformed this island state best known for its long-time Communist president Fidel Castro.

Rounding out the package is Stephen Bocking’s latest contribution to our Living Classics column in which we present a fresh analysis of the environmental classics and consider their relevance today. On the 40th anniversary of its publication, Bocking takes exception to Paul Ehrlich’s reliance on numbers in The Population Bomb. And, finally, I had the pleasure of profiling David Donnelly, Earth Day Canada’s 2008 Hometown Hero. Part lawyer, part activist and part kid who refuses to grow up, Donnelly’s environmental track record sets him apart from the crowd.

Whether you are a high school student, Europhile or simply interested in what you can learn from others, we invite you to tuck into a hot, buttery croissant, pour yourself a cafécito and enjoy the offerings in this issue of Alternatives. 

Nicola Ross is the former Editor of Alternatives Journal, and is a member of the editorial board.

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