The Mayor’s Task Force: Sustainable Orillia

By Fred Larsen – Special to SUNonline/Orillia

Recently, with encouragement of Mayor Steve Clarke and the Orillia council, several concerned individuals volunteered to develop concepts, strategies and plans for a “made in Orillia” grassroots movement under the banner Sustainable Orillia. It’snot only the name of our organization, but our destination. We are confident hundreds Orillia citizens are trying to live greener lives while looking for more ways to make their lives and our community more sustainable.

The state of the earth is becoming a problem for all humans; the remedy thus demands collective solutions. Sustainability means a way of life promising future generations a comparable quality of life. Our societies must be redesigned and realigned so that humanity’s “way of life, technologies, and social institutions honour, support and cooperate with nature’s ability to sustain life,” according to Fritjof Capra, founding director of the Center for Ecoliteracy in Berkeley, California. 

Why Take Action?

To become sustainable in Orillia requires vision – a shared vision. Imagine a trip to a galaxy far, far away.  For the people on board to survive the trip, the spaceship environment must be sustainable. Those who depart Earth for the decades-long voyage will have to ensure resources remain for the well-being and survival of their successors on the journey.

As Canadian scholar Marshall McLuhan said, “There are no passengers on spaceship earth. We are all crew.”

It is clear in 2019 spaceship earth has an unbalanced ecosystem. Those who come after us – our children and their children and their children – will not inherit the earth we take for granted; one with sufficient clean drinking water, oceans that are full of life (rather than plastic), and forests that shelter plant and animal life in abundance, a beautiful planet which has fostered human life and development over the millennia.

Today Earth is threatened. Insufficient action by national and provincial governments and by citizens has resulted in pollution, waste, and resource depletion which threaten to diminish the quality of life for future generations. Studies cited in a recent CBC news report revealed, while the planet itself is heating up, Canada is doing so at a rate faster than the rest of the world. There have been more forest fires (spending doubled to $212 million fiscal 2018 – Ontario finance ministry), more droughts, the number of floods is higher—all because of escalating catastrophic weather. The scientific community is united, matters will become worse if we do not succeed in reducing greenhouse gas emissions worldwide.

Citizens Around The World Are Taking Local Action

Orillia is not the first community to consider the sustainability of our lifestyles. Vancouver and Calgary have initiated action plans.  So have cities in Ontario, Kingston and Guelph among them. Sustainable Orillia hopes to borrow from what others have learned while working locally to develop answers to making life for Orillians sustainable – now and in future.

We see a process involving both individual action and action by groups and businesses. We have identified the following sectors; allowing people to find a focus to maximize community engagement:

  1. Agriculture/Food
  2. Land/Water/Habitat
  3. Goods and Services
  4. Housing
  5. Transportation, Renewable Energy and Conservation
  6. Private Sector Capital and Operations
  7. Arts and Culture 
  8. Education
  9. Health and Wellness

A variety of strategies are necessary to bring about change toward sustainability.  Sustainable Orillia will support City-sponsored projects and other community projects. We will encourage local, non-partisan action to enhance sustainability and seek measurable reductions in individual and community carbon footprints. Through quick wins and long-term achievements we want to make Orillia a leader in change-making and carbon reduction.

Sustainable Orillia will also develop as a learning, leadership and collaboration hub for ideas and new directions. Our goal is to develop viable solutions to take us forward across all sectors of our community toward sustainability.

Building on the City’s corporate plan, the emerging Strategic Plan, and previous environmental achievements by this city, we believe we can facilitate a sustainability program for Orillia leading to better health for our citizens, new economic opportunities, an improved physical environment, and improved production of agricultural land – in short, improved life for all.

The Big Weekend

Over the next few weeks we will recruit additional members to represent the sectors as we plan for a Sustainable Orillia launch event Friday and Saturday, May 24 and 25.

The Friday evening will feature a free viewing of the award-winning documentary, Anthropocene: The Human Epoch at the Orillia Community Church on Colborne Street followed by a reception and discussion.

Saturday’s program at Lakehead University begins with remarks by Mayor Steve Clarke and guest mayors from cities with existing sustainability plans. The afternoon is reserved for action. Sector presentations and breakout sessions will focus on “actions that can be taken” and result in “an action report” for each sector.

Following the launch, the task force will focus on goals and objectives (including greenhouse gas targets) supporting sector committees, learning from other cities, bench marking Orillia’s global footprint, measuring the effects of projects, and monitoring progress toward goals with annual reports to Orillia’s citizens. We hope you’ll join us in making Orillia a sustainable place to live.

Editor’s Note: SUNonline/Orillia presents a series of articles by members of the Sustainable Orillia mayor’s task force in advance of the launch of a community initiative in May. The initiative is designed to provide local solutions for the effects, economic and quality of life, of combating climate change which are attainable. It is SUNonline’s position the debate on whether climate change exists is closed, but how it’s dealt with is a matter of discussion, closely followed by action. It’s clear, especially this spring following an erratic winter, the effects (for example to fix more potholes and water main breaks because of excessive snowfall in a compacted time frame) are causing more tax dollar and personal expenditure. The Sustainable Orillia launch weekend is the beginning of a coordinated and guided approach to prepare for a different future than we are use to. A link to the event registration will appear in subsequent stories.

(Sustainable Orillia Image Supplied)


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