Vaudreuil-Soulanges at the Toronto’s Climate Summit of the Americas
PHOTO BY JEANFRANCOIS BARSOUM
Former American Vice-President Al Gore hosted the Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto last week, one attended by a number of Vaudreuil-Soulanges delegates.
A delegation of local elected officials, entrepreneurs and residents headed to Toronto last week to attend a three-day climate reality conference and workshop organized by The Climate Reality Project, the environmental advocacy group founded by former U.S. Vice President and Nobel Laureate Al Gore. In 2006, Al Gore took the environmental sector by storm with the release of An Inconvenient Truth, the climate reality documentary that went on to win an Academy Award. Later that year, Gore founded The Climate Reality Project, an advocacy group that aims to raise environmental awareness and to bring together and train environmentally conscious individuals to solve the environmental concerns of our times.
The Climate Reality Project offers climate reality training conferences around the world. People who attend the conference join a committed network of environmental spokespersons and leaders from over 125 countries. The training uses a peer-to-peer approach. “It empowers attendees to share the science and solutions of climate change with their family members, friends, neighbours, community groups, colleagues, and schools in the hopes of sparking action,” says Peter Schiefke, former Manager and Director of Climate Reality Canada, and the organizer of the regional delegation to this year’s conference in Toronto. “So far it has been an incredibly successful model, with over 7,800 people trained worldwide who have given presentations to over 7 million people. In Canada alone, over 400 Canadians have been trained since 2008 that have delivered presentations to over 500,000 Canadians.” Schiefke added, “(The Climate Reality Project) is grounded on the principle that a peer to peer approach to sharing information can be quite powerful in meeting the challenges posed by climate change. In essence, Mr. Gore created the organization to share the information he and scientists from around the world had researched on the subject of climate change by essentially creating presentations and giving them out, for free, to thousands of people he personally trains on an annual basis.” The first Canadian training conference took place in Montreal in April 2008, which resulted in 250 Canadians joining the ranks of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps. By the end of this week’s Toronto conference, 12 new Canadians from our region will have completed this training and will be able to apply and pass on what they have learned.
This week’s conference in Toronto will gather nearly 700 people. Attendees will participate in a number of discussions and workshops given by recognized environmental leaders, including Norman Mousseau, research chair in complex materials, energy and natural resources at Université de Montréal, and Merran Smith, executive director of Clean Energy Canada. Our Vaudreuil-Soulanges delegation includes Rigaud Mayor Hans Gruenwald, Hudson Councillors Natalie Best and Nicole Durand, and Pincourt Councillor Alexandre Wolford, and a number of area residents. Twelve trainees were selected out of the 40 individuals from our region who applied.
“Aside from the number of people that have been accepted, the quality and diversity is simply incredible,” said Schiefke. The trainees from Vaudreuil-Soulanges range from high school students to entrepreneurs and municipal representatives. “What is great about the diversity of age, field of work, and expertise, is that this is exactly how the challenge of climate change will be met. It is going to require all of us to come together to find and implement solutions. The first step in doing so is education, and that is what this conference provides.” How conference graduates use their training will vary, depending on the person, according to Schiefke.
“Every trainee who was selected to be trained by Mr. Gore is asked to commit to ten actions in the subsequent year. These actions can range from delivering presentations, to writing government officials demanding action, to attending community gatherings and making climate change part of the discussion. Each trainee will do what works best for them in their community and in their field of work. For example, we have some municipal councillors from Pincourt and Hudson, as well as the mayor of Rigaud, who are attending, so that they can share the information they receive with their constituents and perhaps even incorporate it into their respective municipal plans for the future.” Mayor Gruenwald’s objective regarding the conference echoes Schiefke’s hopes. “I want to bring back what we’ll learn to our people and to the MRC,” he said.
“In Rigaud, we have (an environmental resource) that few other municipalities have access to, and that is our mountain. I want to have all the tools possible to help preserve that mountain, and know how to use it because today, with the public use of the mountain for hiking, horseback riding, cycling and other activities, we need to be properly equipped.” Gruenwald also looks forward to applying knowledge learned to the industrial sector. “The fundamental principles of sustainable development are starting to come out, and people are more and more aware. We realized that what was done over the past 25 years was not exactly (sustainable). We are presently adjusting how we do things, in line with sustainable development. That’s why I will be present.” Schiefke feels that the challenge we face in reducing our greenhouse gas emissions won’t be easy, and it won’t be met simply by reducing emissions in one sector of our economy.
“It will require significant eff ort on multiple fronts. It’s going to require reductions in emissions related to transportation, emissions related to agriculture and mining, and emissions resulting from personal and corporate energy consumption. It will be through collective reductions in all these areas that we are going to achieve emission reduction goals in Canada.”