25 Apr Welcome Jason Unger as ELC’s new Executive Director
Perhaps you’ve read a few of Jason’s blog posts and wondered about his unique sense of humour and talent with the written word. Jason has been staff counsel with the ELC for more than 10 years. We are delighted that Jason will now bring his talents and commitment to protecting the environment to the ELC as Executive Director.
Jason agreed to a brief Q&A so we could find out a few tidbits about our new fearless leader.
ELC: How long have been with the ELC?
JU: I started at the ELC back in January of 2005. Prior to that I had actually worked at the ELC as a student in 2000, while in law school at Dalhousie University.
ELC: Why (and when) did you decide to work for the ELC (a charity) instead of private practice?
JU: I jumped at the chance of working at the ELC, having been familiar with it as a student and having a keen interest about the interplay between science and law. Private practice gives you different opportunities when compared to the law reform and education work the ELC was and is known for. Well before entering law school I was interested in how we interact with the natural world and impact it. I recognized early on that law was a critical component of that. With my background in science I contemplated both continuing in the scientific field or a jump to law. After that, and fast forward through articling and private practice I shifted to the non-profit world, seeing more opportunity to participate in change.
ELC: What is the project that you’ve worked on at the ELC that you are most proud of?
JU: Hmmm, very tough question. The ELC has given me fantastic opportunities to work in a whole host of areas which would not have been possible, and to meet people, in non-government organizations, industry and government. So, I will evade the question (I have also thought of entering politics), and say, rather than projects, I am proud of the relationships forged which have led to incremental advancement of environmental laws and policies.
ELC: How do you spend your time when you are not working hard at the ELC?
JU: These days it is mostly family stuff, with two young daughters, life has gotten busier. I am also a huge fan of ultimate Frisbee and take every opportunity to play.
ELC: What do you really wish people knew about you and your work at the ELC?
JU: For those who don’t know me, I guess I would say I am a pragmatist, first and foremost, and generally an optimist. I think this merges well with the work of the ELC. Laws and policies should be measured in terms of outcomes and abandoned if they are not working; no easy feet with other economic and social goals that society wishes to meet. Many legal principles we focus on at the ELC are also pragmatic, particularly when considering longer term planning and environmental outcomes. By integrating core environmental law principles like polluter pays, pollution prevention and precaution we can temper the impacts and uncertainty of the broader impacts of development and growth.
Science based decision making is also a central tenet of good environmental law and policy but there are significant challenges. Increasingly, policy development seems mired in “analysis paralysis”. In the same breath, we, as a society, need to have robust and adequate monitoring and scientific backing to guide good decision making.
ELC: Anything else you want to say?
JU: It would be nice if environmental protection could be a win-win scenario all the time but it isn’t. We, as a society, have to recognize there will be costs and we need to stop externalizing the harm we cause to the environment. In the long run we are only harming ourselves.
It’s your turn! If there’s anything you ever wanted to know about Jason, the ELC or environmental law in Alberta, we invite you to put it in the comments below and we’ll answer them here or in a new blog post.