Report: Public Salon, November 19, with Sam Sullivan and guests

Thanks to Alice Zhou (of Gracious Host Events & PR), I got an invite to attend Sam Sullivan’s Public Salon on November 19. As typical, this salon had an impressive lineup of guests, as you can see here:

Keep an eye out for the 2015 salons at the Global Civic Policy Society site.

I am sure that many of us have the intuitive sense that the political domain enforces a type of binary thinking that can work against discussing complex problems honestly and finding broad-ranging solutions. Sam Sullivan, of course, was mayor of Vancouver a few years ago, but I had forgotten that he is now a Liberal MLA for False Creek. He did not discuss his political work at all, to my recollection.

The Global Civic Policy Society, which puts on these salons, was founded by Sullivan and funded by the Annenberg Foundation, as described here on Wikipedia.

Due first to work (and just being tired from recent travel to Asia), I did not attend the pre- or post-program networking, so I undoubtedly missed out on some good opportunities to talk to interesting people. When I next attend, I hope to take full advantage of that part of the program.

For this evening’s session, as I entered the auditorium at Vancouver Playhouse, I noticed the sitarist Mohamed Assani and a percussionist playing. They provided perfect ambient music to set the pace. The musicians were dressed in traditional clothing, and although that might seem like a small thing, I felt that it is a step that can help take you of the conventional norm and perhaps cultivate open-mindedness for what was to come. Take a listen at Assani’s site:

Take a look at these musicians (photo credit: Minaz Kurji Photography):


After some introductions, we proceeded with the speakers. Each speaker has 7 minutes, so in that sense, the style is somewhat similar to Pecha Kucha. But the speakers have complete freedom as to whether to use slides or not, and their use of slides varied.

Seven minutes is not very long, obviously. We can get an idea of what each speaker has to say, but it’s our responsibility to avoid superficiality and delve deeper on our own.

With that caveat, here are some moments I really enjoyed (photo credits:  Minaz Kurji Photography):

* Genevieve Ennis Hume talking about the plight of artisanal miners. “Artisanal” might imply a high-quality, boutique operation, but in fact men, women, and children work in appalling and dangerous conditions to satisfy our hunger for precious metals. I know about this with the so-called conflict minerals, but I had not really thought about it in respect to gold.

* Kwiaahwah Jones talking about the renaissance of Haida culture, after the near-eradication of a people and its culture. I really want to see what she is doing as curator at Bill Reid Gallery.

Kwiaahwah Jones, Curator of Bill Reid Gallery

Before Kwiaahwah spoke, a Haida dancer performed onstage. His actions would have been illegal under previous Canadian law until 1951. We cannot forget that Canadian laws and practice were specifically oriented, and stated as such, to destroy the cultures of aboriginal people in Canada.
Dancer performing an act previously outlawed by Canadian law

* Mohamed Assani talking about (and playing) his journey from Pakistan through western classical music studies to his return to the traditional sitar.


* Lance Barrett-Lennard talking about the use of drones to photograph killer whales, in order to assess their weight and health. (Many killer whales starve when salmon stocks are low, and you can chart their demise as they enter a “death spiral”, becoming skinnier and weaker.) Killer whales are easily recognized as distinct beings, once you start to look at them.

There were other speakers and no shortage of insights and interest. There were over 500 people attending. I am really appreciative for events like this for their social and intellectual nurturing of Vancouver.

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