Reflecting Back and Looking Forward - Five Environmental Topics to Watch and Discuss!


(Thea Silver) #1


The end of one year and the start of another is always a time to take stock, reflect on the year that has passed, and think about the year to come. Below – in no particular order – are five topics that, from my perspective, captured our interest in the environmental sector (and on the Knowledge Centre Green People Hub!) in 2018 and that will undoubtedly continue to do so throughout 2019 and beyond.

Do these resonate with you? Have something to add? Check them out and have your say!

1. Climate Change
It’s impossible to talk about the environment without talking about climate change, and 2018 certainly was unpredictable on that front – both in terms of actual climate and climate policy! But still, some important progress was made. Canada announced its plan for a national price on carbon, released the first phase of its Clean Fuel Standard and was one of 48 international signatories to the Just Transitions Declaration signed at the UN Climate Change Conference (COP24) in Poland. Here in Ontario, after cancelling Ontario’s cap and trade program, the Government of Ontario released its own Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan. So, what do you think? Want to read more or have something to add? Check out these posts or add one of your own!

Release of Ontario’s New Environment Plan
Climate Action in Ontario – How Best to Move Forward?

2. Conservation and Reconciliation
Conservation in Canada took a big step forward in 2018, fueled by the Pathway to Target 1 initiative, the release of reports from the Indigenous Circle of Experts (ICE) and the National Advisory Panel, and the announcement of an historic $1.3 billion investment in Budget 2018.

Fundamental to this effort is the interconnection of conservation and reconciliation, and the leadership of Indigenous communities in protecting Canada’s natural areas and biodiversity. 2018 saw the establishment of the Edéhzhíe Protected Area in traditional Dehcho territory in southwestern NWT as the first Indigenous protected area designated in Canada under Budget 2018’s Nature Legacy, but will we truly redefine the conservation narrative in this country and develop a new path of conservation practice in Canada that is consistent with Treaty Rights and Aboriginal rights, as enshrined in the Canadian Constitution and in the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples?

Protecting Nature in the Spirit and Practice of Reconciliation
Pathway to Target 1 – Report of the National Advisory Panel

3. Connecting with Nature
The benefits of spending time in nature – to our physical, mental, community and environmental health and well-being – are well-established, yet Canadians are spending more and more time indoors and feel increasingly disconnected from nature, according to a recent survey by the Nature Conservancy of Canada. The value of spending time in nature is gaining profile publicly and politically, and a number of reports released in 2018 help to further this effort. If you haven’t seen them yet, check out these posts…

Screen Time vs Green Time: The Health Impacts of Too Much Screen Time
IUCN #NatureForAll New Report: Connecting with Nature to Care for Ourselves and the Earth

So how do you encourage people to connect with nature – especially in winter! I’m hoping to continue the discussion as we move into 2019.

4. Waste Reduction
Canadians generate a lot of waste! On average, every Canadian generates 720 kg of waste that goes to landfill, about twice what is produced per capita in Japan, up to 10 times what is produced by some countries in Africa, and even seven per cent higher than per capita output of waste in the United States!

Tackling waste issues emerged this year as a leading global environmental priority. In March 2018, the Commission for Environmental Cooperation released a comprehensive report, Characterization and Management of Food Loss and Waste in North America, documenting adverse socio-economic and environmental impacts of food loss and waste, and actions to mitigate these impacts. In November 2018, Canadian environment ministers agreed to work collectively toward a common goal of zero plastic waste and approved in principle a Canada-wide Strategy on Zero Plastic Waste.

What did waste reduction champions have to say? During Waste Reduction Week, we featured experts discussing a range of waste issues. Check out their special posts…

Textile Tuesday: The 7 R’s of Sustainable Fashion
Talking Trash: Canada’s Plastic Pollution Problem
The Power of Sharing to Reduce Waste
Farm-fresh…but Destined for Landfill: Why Food Rescue is Important

5. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Nature and the Environment
Just as biodiversity strengthens natural systems, the diversity of human experience strengthens our collective environmental efforts for the benefit of the planet and all human beings. To be successful in achieving its goals, the environmental sector needs to represent and reflect the human diversity of our country and engage authentically with the diverse communities in which it works.

This recognition is not new. Initiatives dating back ten years (check out the Accessibility Project Report by Earth Day Canada and the Diversity Initiative by the Clean Air Foundation – both from 2009) have aimed to address the lack of diversity in the environmental sector, but we still have a long way to go. But maybe we are at a turning point. Organizations like Credit Valley Conservation have innovative programs to engage multi-cultural communities, and public announcements, such as that made recently by Mountain Equipment Co-op regarding the lack of representation in its advertising and organization, have raised the profile of the need for diversity in the sector.

So how will we get there? What strides have we made? And what will it take to change the colour of green?

Equitable Access to Nature – Literature Review
Fostering a Sense of Home for Newcomers through Nature Experiences
Inspiration to Advance Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Environmental Organizations
Making White the Old Green

Looking forward to many more discussions on these and other topics in 2019!