Photo: Bottom-up initiatives fuel provincial race to the top

New staff members Winnie Hwo and Harpreet Johal engage with multicultural groups to learn and share climate solutions. photos: feeling photography

By Ian Hanington

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Hoping for action on climate change to come from the top down can be an exercise in frustration. Our own federal government appears more concerned with promoting the fossil fuel industry than protecting Canadians from the harmful effects of that industry.

At the same time, we see encouraging signs at the community level and from municipal and provincial governments (and state governments in the U.S.). Despite the corporate-focused priorities of top levels of government, most Canadians care about the environmental health of their fellow citizens and of their children and grandchildren. We care about pollution, clean air and water, and global warming. We also care about the economy, but we realize that a long-term healthy economy depends on a healthy environment and healthy citizens.

That's why the David Suzuki Foundation is focusing many of its efforts around climate change, clean energy solutions, and pollution in a project titled "Race to the Top".

At one level, that means encouraging a healthy competitive situation in which provincial leaders try to make their province the greenest. We regularly evaluate the provinces on their efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, noting the positive initiatives, such as putting a price on carbon emissions, and the areas where they need to improve. Several municipalities are making progress when it comes to making cities more liveable and lighter on the environment.

Some of the most exciting work we're doing, though, involves outreach at the community level. Young people, new Canadians, and ethnic minorities also care about environmental issues that affect our health and our future, but they have sometimes felt left out of the discussions.

Two new members of our Climate Change and Clean Energy team, Winnie Hwo and Harpreet Johal, have been meeting with student groups, multicultural organizations, immigration societies, and ethnic media to assist with their work to keep Canada a healthy and prosperous nation. They've found an incredible amount of interest and enthusiasm, as well as great ideas, from a broad range of Canadians. Our role is to help these communities and organizations find ways to put these ideas into action. At the same time, we also have a lot to learn from them.

One thing we have learned is this: the more that people throughout society get involved, the more chance there will be of positive change taking place at the top.

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