Some Canadian Agents of Change

Canada has set the goal to become net zero in carbon emissions by 2050.

Realizing this ambitious, essential goal will need the efforts of all Canadians – individuals, organizations, corporations, academics, entrepreneurs, researchers, NGOs, virtually every sector of the economy, provinces, territories, municipalities and the federal government – each contributing their part to our country’s (and the world’s) common goal, to ensure a sustainable, livable future for humans, plant and animal species and the beautiful blue planet we all share as home.

We’d love to be able to tell all our climate action stories, in this country so rich in natural beauty and resources (including human) that 37.5 million of us have the privilege to call home. Let’s start by spotlighting three individuals (among many) who are helping to shine the way forward for their fellow citizens, and beyond.

David Takayoshi Suzuki

One of Canada’s early public profile environmental figures, David Suzuki has been educating us on the need for sustainable living practices since the 1970s, in various broadcasting roles, including CBC’s The Nature of Things with David Suzuki, by serving on the Science Council of Canada, as an author and co-author of over 50 books, and through the David Suzuki Foundation, established in the 1990s as “a non-profit organization that promotes solutions to environmental problems”. He has been widely recognized for his work, including being awarded the Order of British Columbia and named as an Officer and subsequently as a Companion of the Order of Canada. (The Canadian Encyclopedia, https://bit.ly/3dMOPHV)

The David Suzuki Foundation website asks, Are You “Radically” Canadian? as it urges us to “Support climate action. Protect nature. Create resilient communities that benefit everyone.” More from the website on how and why Suzuki and the Foundation work to promote positive change in Canada:

“We are interconnected with nature, and with each other. What we do to the planet and its living creatures, we do to ourselves.”

“This is the fundamental truth guiding our work at the David Suzuki Foundation.”

“Founded in 1990, the David Suzuki Foundation is a national, bilingual non-profit organization headquartered in Vancouver, with offices in Toronto and Montreal.”

“Through evidence-based research, education and policy analysis, we work to conserve and protect the natural environment, and help create a sustainable Canada. We regularly collaborate with non-profit and community organizations, all levels of government, businesses and individuals.” (https://davidsuzuki.org/ )

Catherine is the beneficiary of one example of a Suzuki Foundation project in action in her neighbourhood – the community Butterflyway pollinator project in front of the library, sponsored by our local Leaside Garden Society. To learn how to sponsor a volunteer-led project like this in your neighbourhood visit – https://bit.ly/360deoU.

Diana Beresford-Kroeger

Similar themes and passion for nature (especially trees), stewardship and personal climate action exude from Diana Beresford-Kroeger’s website, aimed at “Global Forest Revival”.

“Diana’s Bioplan is an ambitious plan encouraging ordinary people to develop a new relationship with nature, to join together to replant the global forest. “

“All things are connected on planet Earth, from the burning eye of the volcano and the brilliant colours of a butterfly’s wing, to the chlorophyll of plants and life within the seas. In recent years the tapestry of life has been damaged.”

“The Bioplan is the tool to mend the holes in the fabric – so that forests will be planted, the seas will have fish and marine life, the air will have more oxygen and less carbon dioxide.”

“This is the pledge of mankind to share this planet because it is our divine contract to ourselves and to all others.”

How to Participate

  • “Everyone needs to plant one native tree per year for the next six years.”
  • “If we can globally plant 48 Billion Trees over the next 6 years we can reverse the effects of Climate Change.”

(https://dianaberesford-kroeger.com/)

Here is the descriptor from Amazon.com on one of her many influential books, The Global Forest: Forty Ways Trees Can Save Us (2010) –

“The basis for the documentary film Call of the Forest: The Forgotten Wisdom of Trees – a compelling tribute to trees, grounded in a wide range of scientific knowledge.”

One of the world’s experts on how trees chemically affect the environment, Canadian scientist Diana Beresford-Kroeger is on a mission to save the planet- one newly planted tree at a time. In this new book, she skillfully weaves together ecology, ethnobotany, horticulture, spirituality, science, and alternative medicine to capture the magic spell that trees cast over us, from their untapped ecological and pharmaceutical potential to the roles they have played in our cultural heritage. Trees not only breathe and communicate; they also reproduce, provide shelter, medicine, and food, and connect disparate elements of the natural world. In celebrating forests’ function and beauty, Beresford-Kroeger warns what a deforested world would look like. Her revolutionary bioplan proposes how trees can be planted in urban and rural areas to promote health and counteract pollution and global warming, main­taining biodiversity in the face of climate change.”

“Presented in short interconnected essays, The Global Forest draws from ancient storytelling traditions to present an unforgettable work of natural history. Beresford-Kroeger is an imaginative thinker who writes with the precision of a scientist and the lyricism of a poet. Her indisputable passion for her subject matter will inspire readers to look at trees with newfound awe.” (https://amzn.to/3dwFLXs)

We found one example of the kind of newfound awe she inspired in an account of her influence as a keynote speaker at the 2018 CSLA/OALA (Canadian Society of Landscape Architects/Ontario Association of Landscape Architects) conference.  In this excerpt from a piece by Lorraine Johnson on the event posted on the OALA website, we see evidence of her knowledge in action, as she educates and inspires anew even those belonging to a profession already deeply connected to all things trees.

“…Reverence for the unknowns of nature doesn’t mean that Beresford-Kroeger isn’t certain about our current realities: ‘We’ve taken down too much forest,’ she states simply, and her life’s work is to repatriate lost species in order to replant the planet— something she has termed bioplanning—as a ‘foundation of resilient sustainability.’ ”

“Where Beresford-Kroeger departs from traditional tree-planting messages, though, is in her emphasis on the health-giving properties of trees, using terms you’ll rarely hear from a forester. Plant black walnuts, she urges, for their ellagic acid that absorbs harmful aromatic hydrocarbons from the air. Plant willows for their phenolic compounds that relieve anxiety and depression. Plant yellow birch for the anti- prostate cancer compounds it emits into the air. Plant eastern white cedar to boost your immune system and steady your pulse rate. ‘These are medicine trees,’ Beresford- Kroeger points out, exhorting landscape architects to include health attributes in their considerations for design.’ “ (OALA-https://bit.ly/3wauEK2)

Beresford-Kroeger is also associated with her research evidence on Mother Trees. To learn more see this 2020 piece by Andrew Nikiforuk in the Tyee https://bit.ly/3ymIjPZ.

Mark Carney

Suzuki’s and Beresford-Kroeger’s backgrounds in science would seem to make for understandable foundations for their passions for climate action. In the case of former banker, Mark Carney, the finance-climate change connection might seem less obvious on the surface, at least to us initially. And yet, he is no less passionate even as he comes to the issue from a different path. All the more so now in his role as UN Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance, following a prominent career in finance that included serving as Governor of the Bank of Canada and Governor of the Bank of England.

Posted on the United Nations website are excerpts from an interview with him on “how private finance is increasingly aligned behind achieving net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, where emissions produced equal those removed from the atmosphere.”

We are always on the lookout for signs of momentum building for change to be able to share with our Readers, and were interested in particular on what Carney describes in the excerpts below about positive shifts he sees taking place in the finance sector around getting to net zero.

“What’s the most exciting climate-related development right now in private finance?”

“The dialogue has shifted from viewing climate change as a risk, to seeing the opportunity, and really translating that into a single objective, which is to move our economies to net zero as quickly as possible. That’s a tremendously exciting development because what we have now in private finance is a focus on a clear goal – net zero – and finding the opportunities to advance that and to be rewarded by it. “

“Private finance is judging which companies are part of the solution, but private finance, too, is increasingly being judged. Banks, pension funds and asset managers have to show where they are in the transition to net zero. And people are voting with their money. That is creating the type of investment that we’re going to need to get to net zero. “

How does action by companies fit with the needs of countries and communities?

“Companies are recognizing that they are not islands, independent of the social system, political system, economic system or climatic system. They are connected and take responsibility for those connections and help those to whom they are connected to move forward. With COVID-19, a sense of solidarity has grown and added to a sense of purpose for many companies. That’s a very positive development because it can point companies towards making climate and other needed investments.”

“Why are you committed to acting on climate change?”

“I like many others have been aware of the issue for a long time. I felt that on the margin I was helping out in recycling and conservation and other aspects. But candidly, I assumed that climate was being taken care of, that “they” were taking care of it. And then at some point I realized I was part of “they”, and it wasn’t being taken care of.“

“When I became governor of the Bank of England, which oversees the insurance industry, I saw that the number of extreme weather events had tripled and the cost of those events had gone up five times in a quarter century. These things really concentrated my mind on climate. In terms of my role [as Special Envoy on Climate Action and Finance], I think we’re all in a position where if we’re asked to help we do. I’m honoured to help in any way I can. “ (UN- https://bit.ly/3js8zUy)

This March 23, 2021 interview with Steve Pakin, The Agenda, spotlights Mark Carney as “Climate Change Crusader,” as he releases his 2021 book, “Value(s): Building a Better World for All.” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KicpljLAx-A

Good Reads describes Carney’s Values book as:

“A bold, urgent argument on the misplacement of value in financial markets and how we can and need to maximize value for the many, not few.”
“As an economist and former banker, Mark Carney has spent his life in various financial roles, in both the public and private sector. VALUE(S) is a meditation on his experiences that examines the short-comings and challenges of the market in the past decade which he argues has led to rampant, public distrust and the need for radical change.”
“Focusing on four major crises-the Global Financial Crisis, the Global Health Crisis, Climate Change and the 4th Industrial Revolution– Carney proposes responses to each. His solutions are tangible action plans for leaders, companies and countries to transform the value of the market back into the value of humanity.” (Good Reads – https://bit.ly/3jtTG4f)

We believe in the truth and power in these words by Margaret Mead – “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”

Community Agency: Eden Mills, Ontario

Moving from individuals to community agency, here is well-earned recognition being given by Clean50 to Eden Mills, Ontario for its community-wide climate action efforts, underway since 2007.

Run by the Detta Management Group, the Canada Clean50 awards, “annually offers recognition to Canada’s leaders in sustainability for their contributions over the prior two years.  Nominations are collected year round until Canada Day each year, reviewed and then honourees for three different types of awards are announced each September.”

“The Clean50 Awards were founded by Delta Management Group in June 2011 and have been awarded in September each year since.  Selection is made primarily by Delta Management, but with significant assistance from a team of exceptional third party advisors, and is based on detailed submissions by nominees who wish to be considered, based on their impacts as measurable in Canada.” (https://bit.ly/3qJmoji)

Guelph Today tells the story of why Eden Mills “takes home the gold for green thinking”  (https://bit.ly/3yetGOB)

While still on their “Going Carbon Neutral” journey, here’s a description of where they were at, as reported by Guelph Today in 2019, when they were awarded the top Clean50 award –

“The community of Eden Mills isn’t waiting around for government action to address climate change. In 2017, the community completed a retrofit of their Community Hall, bringing the heritage building to 94 per cent carbon neutrality. This project is part of the community’s larger grass-roots initiative, launched in 2007, to reduce CO2 emissions and increase carbon sequestration that involves residents, volunteers and youth along every step of the way, rendering the entire village 75 per cent of the way to carbon neutrality.

“This week with Eden Mills Going Carbon Neutral:

  • A geo-thermal heating system is being installed at one residence.
  • Edible Garden work bee on Saturday, Oct. 5.”

“A presentation on electric cars will be made by Tim Burrows of the Electric Vehicle Society on Thursday, Oct. 10, 5:30 p.m. at the Eden Mills Community Hall.” (Guelph Today – https://bit.ly/3yetGOB)

Green Municipal Fund (GMF)

One community. Two communities. Three communities, more…. Building momentum for change, nation-wide… The Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM) self describes as “the national voice of municipal government since 1901. Our members include more than 2,000 municipalities of all sizes, from Canada’s cities and rural communities, to northern communities and 20 provincial and territorial municipal associations. Together, they represent more than 90 percent of all Canadians from coast to coast to coast. Municipal leaders from across Canada assemble each year to set FCM policy on key issues.” https://bit.ly/361r4Hs

FCM sponsors the Green Municipal Fund (GMF), with federal government funding support.

“GMF helps local governments switch to sustainable practices faster. Our unique mix of funding, resources and training gives municipalities the tools they need to build resiliency — and create better lives for Canadians.

“With our support, municipalities implement innovative and proven sustainability practices. These practices have directly improved quality of life for millions of Canadians by:

  • Giving communities access to cleaner drinking water
  • Creating energy-efficient housing and buildings
  • Expanding conservation and recycling systems
  • Supporting green and active transportation
  • Restoring contaminated sites to productive use
  • Keeping energy dollars in the community
  • Growing local economies”

2020 marked the 20-year anniversary of FCM. To learn more about what’s ahead, here’s where to find the FCM’s five-year strategic plan (2018-2023) (FCM – https://bit.ly/3y69CxG).

GMF Net Zero Community Project

FCM’s news release for April 7, 2021 announced GMF investments in the National Capital Region’s First Net Zero Community –

“Ottawa – In communities across the country, Canadians are experiencing the impacts of climate change. By investing in new technologies and projects that lower emissions, we can create good, middle-class jobs and build a low-emissions energy future and economy. This commitment is more important than ever as we plan our recovery from the COVID-19 crisis.”

“The Honourable Seamus O’Regan Jr., Minister of Natural Resources; the Honourable Catherine McKenna, Minister of Infrastructure and Communities; and Garth Frizzell, President of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities (FCM), today announced a $23-million investment to Hydro Ottawa through FCM’s Green Municipal Fund (GMF) to create a district energy (DE) system for Ottawa–Gatineau’s carbon-neutral Zibi waterfront development.”

“This innovative DE system will help achieve Zibi’s environmental objectives of transforming 34 acres of brownfield lands between Ottawa and Gatineau’s urban core into the National Capital Region’s first net-zero community. The DE system will eliminate greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions from building heating and cooling operations by leveraging locally generated hydroelectricity, river-coupled cooling from the Ottawa River and waste industrial heat from the local Kruger Products plant.”

Nova Scotia Gets an “A”

We wondered how provinces and territories were doing on getting to carbon net zero.

Turns out, there’s are Report Card for that!

In the Corporate Knight’s Net Zero Report Card, as reported by Shawn McCarthy’s April 19, 2021 piece “Net-zero report card: How future-friendly are Canadian provinces?”, Nova Scotia earns top marks for its efforts to-date. Here is why Corporate Knight assigned Nova Scotia an “A” —

“Nova Scotia has been a leader in climate action in Atlantic Canada. Recently elected Liberal Premier Iain Rankin promises to put in place new measures to drive a clean-energy transformation.

Current Emissions: 17 Mt in 2018, down 26%
since 2005

Emissions Per Capita: 17.7 tonnes

Climate Strategy: The province implemented its own cap-and-trade system, which the federal government accepted as equivalent in ambition to its own backstop.

Best Attempt at Curbing Carbon: The province has adopted aggressive energy-efficiency programs, expanded renewable power and slashed its dependence on coal for electricity from 76% in 2007 to 53% in 2018. Rankin initiated a program to provide up to $3,000 in rebates for buyers of electric vehicles.

Long Shot: The province has been touting the potential of tidal power for years without much result, in terms of actual electricity flowing. It now has a goal of generating 300 MW from Bay of Fundy tides.

Blind Spot: Nova Scotia still relies on coal-fired electricity and plans to phase it out well after 2030, when more hydroelectric power from Newfoundland and Labrador becomes available. Rankin, who became premier in February, vowed during the leadership campaign to end coal use by 2030. Despite that promise, Nova Scotia Power plans to spend $30 million on improvements to its coal-fired generating units to keep them running smoothly.

Projected Emissions: Nova Scotia is on track to reduce its emissions by 56% between 2005 and 2030, according to projections from ECCC.”

Grade: A

To learn about Corporate Knight’s rubric, and to see your province’s assessment, go to — https://bit.ly/3hpCdaF

It Takes A Nation Working Together to Create the Future World We Want

The good news is, there are many more good news stories to tell about agents for change, at every level, in Canada’s climate action journey. We will need them all and more, given the scope and scale of the challenges that lie ahead.

We also will need to be smart about joining up our efforts and limited resources, nation-wide, toward shared goals.

On a practical note, we should also wrap up this blog post – it is already long enough! (Thanks if you are still reading 😊)

So, we end today’s post with one last piece on a group of groups working together, which we hope will be inspiring about the kind of positive civic engagement it takes, and that thankfully is happening already from coast to coast, to give lift to all the heavy lifting that will be required to get us to the goal of carbon net zero by 2050, for the brighter, sustainable, livable future we wish for all who call Canada home.

Climate Action Network Canada’s Mission Statement

“To combat climate change, particularly by building social consensus for the implementation of comprehensive climate change action plans by all levels of government, based on the best available science, with specific policies, targets, timetables and reporting, and to work with Canada’s governments, First Nations, Inuit and Métis, private sector, labour, and civil society for the effective implementation of these plans.” (CAN-RAC Canada – https://bit.ly/3dt3APV)

To give a quick sense of the diversity among the 100+ member organizations belonging to this example of a Canada-wide coalition for climate action,  here are but a few (not an endorsement) on the list of current members of Climate Action Network Canada –

Amnesty International Canada

Assembly of First Nations

British Columbia Sustainable Energy Association

Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment (CAPE)

Canadian Environmental Law Association

Canadian Labour Congress

Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society

Community Resilience to Extreme Weather (CREW)

David Suzuki Foundation

Edmonton Climate Club

Environment Coalition of PEI

ENvironnement JEUnesse (ENJEU)

GreenNeighbours21

Manitoba Wildlands

New Brunswick Lung Association

Pembina Institute

Rapid Decarbonization Group

Sierra Club of Canada Foundation

Youth Climate Club

Yukon Conservation Society.

To learn more about CAN-RAC Canada, and to see the full list of members, go to – https://bit.ly/3dt3APV .

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