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Building a Green Recovery: EU-US-Canada Contemporary Policy Challenges, International Study Program

September 30, 2011

By Tiffany Grobelski

Above: The group at UW Tacoma. Back row, left to right: Martin Su, Emily Cousins, Stefan Goetz, Britta Tunestam, Lisa Kastner, Tiffany Grobelski, Will Kelly, Greg Shelton (program director). Front row: Victoria Choe, Andrea Lode, Naomi Van Loon

Tiffany Grobelski is a graduate student in the Geography Department, and she recently finished her master’s thesis, The Dynamics of Scale in EU Environmental Governance: A Case Study of Integrated Permitting in Poland. She is interested in the political aspects of environmental policy, especially the opportunities for the public to pursue environmental goals and express environmental grievance using the unprecedented legal infrastructure laid out by the EU. In future work, she hopes to incorporate other case studies, in order to have a more comparative approach.

The Canadian Studies Center, along with the Center for West European Studies, piloted an exciting new study abroad program this summer. The goal of the program was to take a comparative look at environmental policy approaches of Europe, the US, and Canada—at national, regional, and municipal levels. The program brought together a diverse group of ten students—five master’s students from Europe, as well as three undergraduates and one graduate student from UW. What transpired over the five weeks was not only a cultural exchange among the students themselves, but also a cultural immersion experience in Canada.

We were bombarded with different perspectives on environmental policy. We spent two weeks at the University of Washington, followed by three weeks at the University of British Columbia. During those five weeks we engaged with policymakers, city planners, environmental consulting firms, private sector and NGO representatives, public officials, and academics from a variety of disciplines. We wrestled with difficult questions, such as what terms like “sustainability” and “green” actually mean when it comes to on-the-ground implementation. What political realities stand in the way of “greening” public policy? What are the unintended consequences of even the best-intentioned policy?

Among the highlights of the program was a glimpse at the policy initiatives at all three ports in the region (Tacoma, Seattle, Vancouver), a meeting with the mayor of Whistler to discuss the city’s sustainability policies, and lectures coupled with a walking tour detailing Vancouver’s profile as a “green” city. I think my classmates and the instructor, Greg Shelton, would agree that this program was an invigorating one. It was a productive, rewarding experience for all involved.

Regarding the course, Tiffany said: “I was attracted by finally being able to do an actual course on all the “green stuff” instead of just muddling through by myself by turning off lights and the like. The program’s most attractive feature must be the combination of European and American / International students and the two places of the program (Seattle / Vancouver). The topic was interesting to me, especially the prospect of traveling to and learning more about Canada.

This program was instructed by Greg Shelton, Canadian Studies affiliated faculty member and Instructor and Managing Director of Global Trade, Transportation, and Logistics Studies. Greg’s area of expertise is international trade and US-Canada cross-border trade and transportation issues. This project was supported, in part, by funding from the Center’s Title VI grant, US Department of Education, Office of International Education Programs Service.