The answer shows that the connection is not so far-fetched after all. “Social workers have always had education in, and the skills and aptitude for, community engagement, policy research, and public education,” explains Lysack. “In the area of renewable energy, we always need new science and technology, but we also need to facilitate movement forward, bring people together, and build capacity and effective political and community leadership. Social workers like to work across disciplinary boundaries, so we're a natural fit.”
Mishka Lysack, associate professor in the faculty of social work, and adjunct assistant professor in medicine, was recently awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in recognition of his commitment and vision to environmental leadership. “I was deeply honoured to be nominated for the medal,” says Lysack. “It galvanizes my commitment to my research and community engagement regarding renewable energy, protecting the environment, and revitalizing communities.”
Lysack is being increasingly recognized for his work in environmental leadership. The Canada West Foundation selected him as one of "40 Extraordinary Canadians" for their book: "An Extraordinary West" because of his innovations in environmental education and leadership. Last fall, Mount Royal University invited him to dialogue with Preston Manning on the question: Is it possible to be a Green Tory?
Lysack’s current research is focused on the connections between a healthy environment, clean renewable energy and a sustainable economy on the one hand, and community and social health and well-being. Lysack is currently coordinating a team of academics, community, business leaders, and non-government organizations in Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Alberta - focusing on policy research and public education to encourage the generation of renewable energy.
As part of his policy research, he spent two weeks last September - in 2013 - studying renewable energy in Germany, a world leader in the field.
Renewable energy is an increasingly talked-about subject, even in oil-rich Alberta. Major players, including the World Bank, International Energy Agency, PricewaterhouseCoopers and the United Nations, all recognize that we’re missing greenhouse gas emissions targets in order to mitigate climate change and address its effects. In addition, there are major economic and community development opportunities that Albertans and Canadians can take advantage of when renewable energy becomes a key part of the energy strategy.
Lysack is serious about the need for change. “If we have any hope of addressing climate change, we must look to renewable energy as an absolutely critical part of the strategy,” he says. “Tinkering at the edges while continuing full steam ahead with the status quo is not sustainable.”
Natalie Dawes, Manager - Communication and Marketing, Faculty of Social Work, University of Calgary