Leading environmental group names new CEO

By Katy Anderson

One of Canada’s most respected environmental groups, the David Suzuki Foundation, announced a new CEO early September.

Current Mountain Equipment Co-op CEO Peter Robinson will begin the position Jan. 1. Robinson will stay at MEC until then to finish up his current projects.

“I’ve done seven and a half years of the co-op and had come to the recognition that all of the goals that I had set for myself were on their way to being fulfilled,” said Robinson. “I had set myself a fairly rigorous agenda of things I wanted to do while I was here. As I started to see those fall into place I thought I should look for a challenge that would get me a little closer to what I think are the big issues of our time.”

Robinson explained he thought the big issues of our time are the environment and human security, and how these two inter-relate.

“People would have to be living under rocks for the last little while not to understand that the environment is at a particular juncture of everything from climate change to resource extraction and development,” he said. “All of the big impacts we’re having are suddenly much more apparent to people. I don’t think there’s any doubt the environment is an area that, collectively, we as a species need to address.

Robinson explained human security issues are less apparent, but should be looked at in relation to the environment.

“In areas where human security is low you actually get increased environmental degradation,” said Robinson. “Where there are areas of conflict, or where there might be weak governments, the rule of law doesn’t exist. You can actually draw strong correlations between the two. Environment affects people obviously and then people with low security impact the environment. Both issues have to be addressed.”

As well as MEC, Robinson’s previous jobs include a 12-year stint as a park ranger in B.C., CEO of a crown corporation and work with the Red Cross–both domestically and internationally–on human security and environmental issues. Robinson also has a varied educational background including a diploma in fish and wildlife management, an undergraduate degree in geography, a post-baccalaureate diploma in community economic development and a masters degree in conflict analysis.

Robinson stated he hopes his diverse background will be a benefit to the foundation.

“I’m not a scientist,” said Robinson. “My role, essentially, will be to ensure that the foundations message is listened to, that it is coherent, that it is understandable to a broad range of Canadians and that people can act on the information that the foundation provides.”

Robinson noted it was still too early to have specific ideas about where he wants to take the organization.

“I’d like to spend some time with the folks there [first],” he said. “Certainly I am aware of their major messages around their desire to be a trusted and reputable organization as it relates to science and environment and that’s really what I want to continue to help develop.”

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