Photo: Small successes keep us dreaming big

Foothills of Alberta Rockies near Grande Cache, Alberta. Credit: pellaea via Flickr

By Ryan Kadowaki, Climate Change Program Coordinator

Success is a relative term when the goal is environmental sustainability. Even when we do manage a win here or there, people who care deeply about protecting the environment can find it challenging to enjoy the moment because we know there is still so much work to be done. But it's important to keep in mind that achieving deep, meaningful change does not happen linearly and gradually. Small, incremental changes can build the foundation for monumental victories.

For instance, last week Environment Minister Peter Kent announced that the government would not allow coal-fired power plants to be rushed to completion to avoid incoming greenhouse gas pollution rules. He said this was in response to hearing "loud and clear that Canadians won't stand for companies that seek to circumvent the spirit of the new rules." Hey, that was all of us! The messages that thousands of David Suzuki Foundation supporters and other environmental groups sent to Minister Kent over the past few weeks created pressure to bring forth this decision. Maxim Power will be prevented from building a dirtier coal-fired power plant north of Grande Cache.

It would be delusional to think that this marks the turning point and is evidence that the federal government is getting serious about tackling climate change. This decision was, after all, just about forcing coal plants to be less terrible for our health and environment. But it is encouraging when the government finally listens to Canadians about climate change and echoes our concerns in public statements.

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The challenge now is to build on this small victory and move the government to greater action. As world-renowned climate change scientist James Hansen has said, "Coal is the single greatest threat to civilization and all life on our planet." So the federal government should, like Ontario, start by quickly phasing out dirty, 19th-century fuels like coal. It should, like British Columbia, ban entirely the building of any new coal plants and focus on clean-energy development that is practical today. It should also stop giving money to industries that are already profiting hugely at the expense of our environment.

We want to thank every person who sent a message in support of our action alert on this issue and to those who went even further by writing or calling their MP. I hate to conclude with a sports analogy, but it's a lot like golf where a couple of decent shots in a round are the reason you come back to play again. None of us will be satisfied until the larger successes have been achieved, but these small victories keep us motivated to keep trying.

September 14, 2011

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1 Comment

Oct 16, 2011
10:54 AM

Congratulations! What an encouragement, in a seemingly bleak and hopeless situation. Let's keep up the good work!

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