Photo: New Canadians share environmental messages

By Winnie Hwo, Climate Change Campaigner

November has turned out to be "doubly happy" 雙喜臨門 for me and my work at the David Suzuki Foundation. First, I just passed the one-year mark working with DSF's Climate Change and Clean Energy Team, and we have managed to break a lot of new ground. Second, on November 3, the North American Association of Asian Professionals honoured me for community service and cultural promotion at their fifth annual Spotlight on Asian Leadership celebration.

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This year's NAAAP event was titled Faces of Change: Sustaining Culture, Cultivating Community. When I looked around at the honourees and nominees in all three categories, not only did I see faces of change, I saw a roomful of outstanding individuals, each playing his or her part in making our world a more sustainable and better place.

Other honourees in the Asian Leadership celebration included Toby Barazzuol in the business professional achievement category and Alden Habacon in the arts and media category. The keynote speaker for the evening was renowned architect Bing Thom.

DSCN0961_small.JPG Tammy Tsang, Linton Chokie, Rudy Chung, Miyoung Lee, Winnie Hwo, Alden Habacon, Toby Barazzuol, Bing Thom, Walt Woo

Thom emphasized the importance of dialogue, not only within the community but, more importantly, among communities. Thom stressed that as individuals or leaders in Canada's diverse communities, we all have a responsibility to think and act outside of the box — something Toby Barazzuol knows very well.

Barazzuol was born and raised in Vancouver. In his acceptance speech, he reminded us that even though he did not have a Chinese last name, he grew up eating lots of noodles as the son of Italian and Chinese immigrants. After graduating from the Sauder School of Business in 1992, Barazzuol travelled in Asia for almost a year. He returned home and started Eclipse Awards in 1998, making crystal and glass awards for organizations including the United Nations, Habitat for Humanity, NASA and Red Cross. But he didn't stop there. In 2002, he moved his Yaletown business to Strathcona with a goal of helping to improve the community.

In 2003, he became a crucial part of the Strathcona Revitalization Committee. His mission is to help enrich Strathcona by bringing businesses, non-profits and community groups together. His company has already renovated two warehouses into "Living Buildings." Barazzuol has also built 370 square metres of new green space in the form of two green roofs and community gardens. He offers financial incentives to employees who bus or walk to work, and together they have reduced water consumption in the workplace by more than 75 per cent. Barazzuol is currently focusing on making Strathcona the city's first Green Zone as a framework for inner-city revitalization.

This year's NAAAP honouree for Arts and Communications is Alden Habacon. A former CBC multicultural affairs manager and current intercultural affairs director at UBC, Habacon is also the co-founder of Schema magazine and a sought-after public speaker on intercultural issues.

Unlike Barazzuol, Habacon was not born in Canada. He came to Canada with his family from the Philippines when he was six. He told the audience that growing up as an immigrant kid in Canada was a confusing experience. On the surface, Canada's brand of multiculturalism may seem less imposing as the "melting pot" concept in the United States. But for many young immigrants, growing up not looking like everyone else around you could also be daunting. "I was not Filipino, because I was too young when I came to Canada," he said, "but I was also not Canadian because I was an immigrant from the Philippines."

As for my story, I once defined myself and was defined by people who knew me as a tough reporter and news director. I used to tell my news team that even though we didn't get paid as much as a heart surgeon, we were expected to work like one — there was no room for error. As a team, we won many Jack Webster Awards for best Chinese-language news reporting. But at the end of the day, it was never about the awards. What really counted was whether or not we made a difference for the viewers who were counting on us to inform them with breaking news, in-depth reports, and exclusive coverage.

In 2010, I left my work in daily news gathering to join a "movement." I joined the David Suzuki Foundation. I became an activist because I am an optimist.

I believe people are good in nature, and that we all want the best for ourselves, our families, our neighbours and our friends. But it is also true that as a society we do not always agree on how to get there.

This is why listening to each other is so important.

I have learned from my work as a climate change and clean energy campaigner that many "new" Canadians are much greener than we thought and many "old" Canadians are much less green than we thought. Many new Canadians already take public transit, ride bikes, grow their own vegetables and are big on recycling.

All Canadians need to work harder to avoid wasting food and resources, like water and power. And we all want to be closer to nature.

I have also learned that many new and old Canadians want to live a sustainable lifestyle, to be inspired and to be fair and sympathetic to others.

So why are we not there yet?

Well, I think because we are the same and also different.

Canadians come from many different backgrounds, with different cultures and languages, and we are all different ages and have been in Canada for different lengths of time. Because of these differences, I try to listen to others and to bring the best scientific knowledge from the Foundation to the communities, and to bring what we learn from the communities to the environmental movement.

November 18, 2011

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Nov 21, 2011
10:28 AM

Congratulations to you Winnie and to all the amazing change agents who were gathered around you on the night you were honoured! We are so happy you are at the DSF making a difference and working to promote better understanding not only about climate issues but intercultural understanding. Thank you.

Nov 21, 2011
10:18 AM

Great article Winnie! Congrats on an amazing year of success. They are so lucky to have your dedicated work! Keep it up:)

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