Lars Hallstrom, Director, Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities

How does sustainability influence your job?
It influences my research, my teaching and much of my service activities as well as my role as Director of the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities. 

What does sustainability mean to you?
It’s very broad and it depends, of course, on what we are doing. But for me, it has, at its heart, the tension between economic, social and political equity and environmental or ecological equity. It is trying to limit or minimize inequities or disparities over multiple domains over time and generations.

What are the main initiatives of the Alberta Centre for Sustainable Rural Communities?
We have 3 priority areas right now:

1) The first is focused on eco systems and society. We emphasize work on water and watershed resources and management in rural communities.

2) The second is society and rural communities. This has an emphasis on demographic change in rural communities’ —i.e the implications of aging and also the role of youth in the development of sustainability of rural communities.

3) The third is planning and policy and is focused explicitly on the role and implementation of sustainability plans in rural communities across Canada.

What are the biggest successes of the centre?
We have been working with academic and community partners across the country to build an inventory of sustainability plans as well as build tools and knowledge exchange patterns to move from a plan to implementation. This is highly localized, so every community is different.

What are some of the personal accomplishments you are most proud of?
Being able to work on water, watershed and wetland policy in Alberta and in other parts of Canada. Also being able to present some of that work at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C this year. I was the first speaker in the Alberta speaker series there. And being able to bring together dozens and dozens of community and university partners from across the country to Camrose and the U of A to engage in a conference on rural sustainability and the importance of community/university partnerships in rural sustainability.

Where do you see the future of sustainability on campus?
I see it in a number of different dimensions. Within teaching, the U of A is in a position to have a massive influence on larger learned social and behavioural attitudes towards sustainability and as well towards technology. It is a very large institution and has an immense reach out into the province, indirectly through students, faculty and research but also through public policy. The university has an ongoing role to play in the province as a resource for public policy related to sustainability in Alberta.

What would you say to any staff, students or faculty members looking to become more sustainable?
The combination of initiatives like the Office of Sustainability’s Academic Advisory Committee (OSAOC) and things like the Green Campus Committee at Augustana Campus are initiatives that we weren’t even thinking about having ten years ago. There are resources and ways to have a meaningful impact in the work that they do whether it’s teaching, administration, research, in their classes, in their dorms and commuting, that the University can support.

As engaged citizens who should, in my mind, be thinking about equity considerations, we should take advantage of those resources and be engaged citizens who are not just engaged in politics and the economy but in the long-term sustainability of our society.