Sources of Knowledge’s 13th Forum: “The Climate is Changing, Will We”

Photo Credit: from the book “Niagara Escarpment: Land Between Waters” Photo: The 2022 Sources of Knowledge Bill Graham Award of Merit was presented to Rod Steinacher for his many years assisting the Forum and educating the public and students on environmental issues.
Submitted by Brian McHattie

After having been postponed three times due to covid concerns, the 13th Sources of Knowledge (SoK) Forum was worth waiting for! Approximately 75 attendees listened eagerly to speakers on topics ranging from ecological economics to low-carbon agriculture and youth participation was a key aspect. We encourage you to visit the websites of the speakers below and to learn more.

John Terpstra spoke his blend of lyrical poetry and short story set amidst the Niagara Escarpment in Hamilton, ranging into what being an “Opa” is like, a topic with which many grandparent-aged listeners quickly identified. 

Our own Bill Caulfeild-Browne set the stage for the local with a summary of warming climate conditions and more violent storms with data gained from his Big Tub Harbour weather station (see for Bill’s weather data). 

Dianne Saxe, former environmental lawyer, was our keynote speaker at the banquet on Saturday. She formerly served as Ontario’s Environmental Commissioner and was a former Green Party candidate. The previous Monday Dianne was elected to Toronto Council. She spoke of some of her ‘interesting’ moments in environmental law and working with governments. 

York University Professor Eric Miller explained the Ecological Footprint project that measures how humanity’s consumption of renewable resources has changed over the last 50 years – since the first Earth Day in 1970. If everyone in the world lived like a Canadian, we would need 4.72 Earths to sustain us. Exceeded the planet’s carrying capacity, results in further accumulation of carbon emissions and ongoing pressures on biodiversity. 

Retired University of Guelph Professor Ralph Martin brought us specific direction on how sustainable food production can produce enough food to meet dietary needs today, while preserving productive capacity for future generations of people and other species. His recent book, Food Security: From Excess to Enough explains how in the context of healthy soil, clean air and water, and regenerative energy to support resilient farming and fishing communities.

Daimen Hardie from Community Forests International outlined their carbon sequestration and offsets in the Wanenaki-Acadian forest in the Maritimes, interestingly, started when a community activist on Pemba Island, Zanzibar, befriended a Canadian tree-planter travelling in the region. 

Steve Lee told real life stories from the Foundation for Environmental Stewardship’s 3% Project that has mobilized 1,000,000 Canadian youth – that’s 3% of Canada- through 4 national tours across 400 high schools. 70% of the tour route is in Indigenous and rural communities with a population of less than 100,000 (including Bruce Peninsula District High School). I can’t help but mention that Steve was one of the early targets of the Alberta’s $30M government-funded Canadian Energy Centre “War Room” – a badge of honour and intimidating at the same time!

Reid Gomme, a lawyer from Eco-Justice updated us on the historic youth-led climate lawsuit, Mathur et. al. v. Her Majesty in Right of Ontario, that finally reached its full hearing in the Ontario Superior Court on September 12–14, 2022. This case is a Canadian first and could set a vital legal precedent for climate action across Canada — not just Ontario. Reid and his colleagues represent seven young people, arguing that the Ford government’s weakened climate targets violate the constitutional right to life, liberty, and security of every person in Ontario. As young people, they and others like them, will bear the costs of climate inaction more than previous generations. Reid was joined by video and phone by one of the litigants, Zoe Keary-Matzner who said: “Being involved in this case is a chance to educate people in Ontario and across Canada about why we need strong climate targets to make sure we have a safe and sustainable future.” 

In typical SoK fashion, Sunday morning focused on the local with presentations and engaged discussion on the Northern Bruce Peninsula Climate Action Plan. Those following the recent municipal election saw many candidates committing to implementation of the recommendations. Mayor Milt McIver and his wife Bonnie spent all of Saturday with us – addressing climate change during this term of Council seems a real possibility. 

Stay tuned to the SoK website for an upcoming video of the 2022 Forum proceedings, along with announcements on timing and topic for the next Forum.