By Susanne Laperle – Special to SUNonline/Orillia
The title of this article is taken from a recent interview with David Suzuki and his wife, Tara Cullis. The article was full of insight and reflections; however, it was Suzuki’s comment that, “We (many of us, at least) think it’s okay in Canada to be eating fresh strawberries in the middle of winter” which really hit home. It seems to capture how surreal our lifestyles have become – how, for most of us, there is an expectation that as long as we can afford it, we can have anything, from anywhere, at anytime regardless of the consequences. I’ll plead guilty to that. My own painful epiphany: in order to reduce carbon emissions and do my bit to mitigate the climate crisis, something as simple as not enjoying berries that have travelled across at least one, and sometimes four or more international borders (all enabled by fossil fuels), represents one of the many small individual sacrifices I will need to make.
In the same article Suzuki speaks about the need to reduce our personal energy use by 25% in 2022. One of his strategies is to spread that message across Canada and help people at every level to begin their personal transition to cleaner energy. Although reducing our personal carbon emissions by 25% may seem challenging, with a little knowledge and willpower such a reduction is within reach for most of us. Individual actions matter, as captured in the quote attributed to renowned anthropologist Margaret Mead, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed individuals can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”
With that in mind, please make a 2022 New Year’s resolution to reduce your personal carbon emissions. Sustainable Orillia, through articles like this one, through our Tips program, and through ongoing information sharing, is one resource you have to help identify actions that will reduce your personal carbon footprint. Simple day-to-day actions such as foregoing your clothes dryer for a clothes line; walking your kids to school, instead of driving them; and yes, shopping seasonally and locally every chance you get. These and many more small changes will make a positive difference in reducing our personal carbon footprint.
An important first step in making any reduction in our personal carbon emissions is to measure our current impact on the environment. There are numerous sites and sources that provide templates and calculators to do so. It’s not that hard and it doesn’t have to be perfect. An approximation can get you started. Sustainable Orillia has several sites that we recommend, including The Carbon Calculator and the Global Footprint Network. So grab your utility bills, check your car’s odometer, and let’s each get started on our personal road to lower carbon emissions.
In addition to what we can collectively do to counter the climate crisis, we will need political and business leadership to come together and recognize that the climate crisis is the crisis of our times, and to thoughtfully and consistently reinforce the point through their decisions and actions. And we need media who will prioritize informed coverage of this looming crisis, as they have done with the pandemic. It’s time to tell people the full story. Most Canadians are ready not only to hear it but to do something about it.
Here in Orillia, City council will soon receive a Community Climate Change Action Plan, appropriately called Orillia’s Climate Future. This plan targets net-zero carbon emissions for the community overall by 2050, or sooner, and it includes a roster of recommended low-carbon solutions. It is far and away the most significant sustainable initiative currently underway in our community, and, upon approval, it will have implications for us all. Since the project’s launch in spring 2021, Sustainable Orillia has played an ongoing role providing input and participating on several committees. For a more detailed update on Orillia’s Climate Future, visit the Sustainable Orillia website for a 2021 year-end update on this critical project.
2022 is the year when the number of people mobilizing against the climate change crisis is expected to reach a tipping point, as more and more individuals, families and organizations are joining forces to demand proactive change from our leaders and from ourselves. Recent surveys confirm the growing number of Canadians citing the Climate Crisis as their top issue. In one, 66% of respondents want to see governments do more to reduce emissions. It may be time for industry leaders, media and politicians to catch up to their constituents. The public is ready to be led. Business, media and political leaders who don’t commit to needed changes risk losing the support of individual Canadians, who will vote with their wallets and more directly at the ballot box.
In summary, you matter in winning this battle, which brings us back to the opening thought. Eating strawberries midwinter is just a small metaphor that implies we must make some changes, some of which may feel like sacrifices. Can we have our strawberries in January and be sustainable? The answer may be yes, but we need people with vision to thoughtfully and proactively lead the transition to cleaner energy. And we need everyone to support these changes. It may mean that strawberries from a local greenhouse operation cost a bit more and maybe we will eat fewer of them in January as a result.
Please, as we look ahead at 2022, set some personal goals to reduce your household carbon emissions and join our movement to make Orillia a sustainability leader among Canadian communities.