Mapping Montréal’s wild greenspaces

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Have you ever been moving through a familiar urban environment in Montreal, only to be surprised by a piece of land you’ve never really noticed before? Perhaps upon closer examination, you find faint footfalls in the snow, or a dirt path crossing the space. You might see native grasses flourishing, or a colourful yarn-bomb wrapped around a tree. A rustle in the shrubs might indicate a rabbit or squirrel foraging for food. Most of all, you probably notice the silence – a feeling of removal from the adjacent bustle of city life. Wild City Mapping is a new initiative started by a collective of “artists, green space enthusiasts and geeks”.

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Photo courtesy of Wild City Mapping

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En Route to Paris: Quebec commits to reducing its GHG emissions by 80%. Should we be thrilled or skeptical?

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Guest post by Sidney Ribaux, Équiterre Cofounder, executive director and spokesperson

Disclaimer: the views expressed in the following blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

Last month, at the Climate Summit of the Americas in Toronto, Quebec Premier Philippe Couillard committed to an 80 to 95% reduction in the province’s greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. In my opinion, this represents the largest commitment ever made by Quebec regarding climate change.

Several people are skeptical, however. They wonder how the Premier can set such an ambitious target while also investing in oil exploration on Anticosti Island and spending $500 million to expand Highway 19. Besides, these skeptics think, Couillard won’t be Premier in 2050 anyway.

I tend to believe in the Premier’s sincerity on this point. Here’s why.

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Transforming the Table: What I learned from 22 Interviews with Leaders of the Canadian Food System

 

Sohpie Silkes_blog authorSeveral years ago, a group of Canadian organizations gathered to discuss one of their shared funding priorities: sustainable food systems. Hailing from across the country, this informal funders’ group began to contemplate how best to come together to share learnings and in some cases, support of strategic partnerships to deepen their impact.

Earlier this summer, the group commissioned a high level landscape assessment of the Canadian food system to help inform its work. As a Social Innovation Fellow in Sustainable Food Systems at the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, I had the unique opportunity to complete interviews in support of this assessment, which Eco-Ethonomics is conducting.

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My questions included the following: When you think about the Canadian food system, what catches your attention? What are the key levers for change? How can we most effectively collaborate across sectors and regions to make lasting change?

 

I spoke with 22 leaders, actors and influencers who represent a spectrum of expertise within our national food system, from production, processing, distribution, and industry work, to the academic, non-profit, private, and government sectors. Some compelling themes emerged.

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En Route to Paris: The key ingredient to a successful climate plan is a stronger carbon tax

Guest blog post by Matt Horne, Associate Regional Director, British Columbia, Pembina Institute

Disclaimer: the views expressed in the following blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

Please increase B.C.’s carbon tax.

If I had only five words to share about B.C.’s forthcoming Climate Leadership Plan, those would be the five. Given I have a few hundred, I’ll elaborate a little.

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B.C.’s carbon tax was implemented in 2008 and has proven to be an economic, environmental and political success. B.C.’s economy has outperformed the rest of the country, per capital fossil fuel consumption has dropped and all parties with seats in the legislature support the policy.

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The Price of Good Food – an Acadian Tale

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My $10.25 meal

It’s Saturday morning and the Dieppe farmers’ market on the outskirts of Moncton is buzzing. Farm stalls offer a local bounty: vegetables galore, plump strawberries and blueberry jam, meats and cheese, wines and apple cider. At the food court, I get a vegetable sandwich ($5), and my son, a small box of dumplings ($5). We share a strawberry smoothie ($5.50) and get two muffins ($5). For $10.25 each, we’ve had a delicious locally-prepared meal, made largely with local ingredients.

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Dieppe Farmer’s Market, Dieppe, New Brunswick

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En Route to Paris: Shifting Sands in Alberta – the Energy Futures Lab

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Guest post by Chad Park, Executive Director, The Natural Step Canada 

Disclaimer: the views expressed in the following blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

Six months ago I returned with my wife and our young family to Edmonton after almost 20 years away from Alberta. The motivation behind my homecoming? A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to lead the Energy Futures Lab, an initiative so timely and relevant that there was no escaping its call.

How Alberta chooses to tackle climate change, energy security and sustainable development is key to the future prosperity of not only the province, but the entire country. The opportunity to be involved in a project that helps to frame that decision was simply too good to pass up.

From the shocking reminder last fall of just how tied we are to the price of a global commodity over which we have no control, to the equally stunning outcome of the recent provincial election, the signs have been clear that Alberta is ready for a new conversation about its energy future. Having met with hundreds of leaders and groups across the province in the last couple months, the most consistent reaction to the Energy Futures Lab is “Wow! Your timing couldn’t be better.”

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Pollinating systems change in higher education through evaluation

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Chad_Blog AuthorThis is an exciting time for RECODE. As the work on campuses across Canada continues to ramp up, we are developing ways in which we can effectively evaluate and measure the impact of this work. Our guiding question has been “what will success look like?” To help us answer it, we have developed anticipated desired outcomes, but we also recognize there will be many unknowns. RECODE is working within a broader system of higher education that is also complex; accordingly, our evaluation framework has to be designed and adapted in consequence.

Tim Draimin, Social Innovation Generation‘s Executive Director, recently suggested that I read The Rainforest: The Secret to Building the Next Silicon Valley. The book explores the role of human nature and human networks in creating change and innovation, positing that to truly affect change we need to better understand the role of ‘keystones’. In biological systems, whether a rainforest or an ocean, keystone species often act as central supporting hubs. They interact in so many valuable ways with so many other parts of the ecosystem, that their presence has a disproportionate impact on the system (pg. 70). Think of the role of the pollinating bee in our food system, and you’ll get an idea of the importance of keystone species.

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En Route to Paris: Unlocking the door to Smart Energy Communities – a Framework for Implementation

 

Guest post by: Eric Campbell, Acting Director, Programs & Service, QUEST and  Sarah Marchionda, Manager, Research & Education, QUEST

Disclaimer: the views expressed in the following blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

Communities – the places where we live, work and play – account for 60% of energy use in Canada, as well as over half of all greenhouse gas emissions (GHGs). In other words, when we invest, plan and implement effectively for Smart Energy Communities, we can have a direct impact on addressing Canada’s energy and GHG challenges.

QUEST believes that there are three fundamental features of a Smart Energy Community that you can view by watching this video.

  1. First, a Smart Energy Community integrates conventional energy networks. That means that the electricity, natural gas, district energy and transportation fuel networks in a community are better coordinated to match energy needs with the most efficient energy source.
  2. Second, a Smart Energy Community integrates land use, recognizing that poor land use can equal a whole lot of energy waste.
  3. Third, a Smart Energy Community harnesses local energy opportunities.

Many cities and communities in Canada have taken ownership over their energy, recognizing the significant impact energy has on the local economy, health and community resilience. These communities are exemplifying some of the features of a Smart Energy Community.

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Painting the future: Opportunities for more healthy, local and sustainable food

Beth-2014-1Three years ago, a small group of senior staff from three foundations gathered to talk about our common efforts to support local and sustainable food development: helping farmers access markets, improving supply chains, protecting prime farmland, raising public awareness and informing public policy. What was missing, we mused, was the background to all this work that would help us and others understand the context for all these individual efforts: imports, exports, pollution, waste, taxes, and subsidies.

So we decided to jointly commission a piece of research that would paint this backdrop, engaging a team with a strong diversity of skills and experience, headed up by Atif Kubursi of Econometrics. The Econometrics team’s extensive experience in economic and transportation modelling would be complimented by Harry Cumming’s knowledge of rural dynamics and Rod MacRae’s food policy expertise. There was an on-going conversation between researchers and foundation staff as the work unfolded.

Unlike most artists painting a landscape, the researchers didn’t know what their painting would look like once completed. This made it very difficult to make a communications plan for the work, but kept the process exciting! The research set out to track major economic and environmental impacts of the food system in southern Ontario (a region where all three foundations were working). It found that local food impacts are largely positive — the food economy creates jobs and generates tax revenues.

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En route to Paris: A low carbon economy is emerging in Ontario communities

 

Guest post by Mike Morrice, Executive Director, Sustainability CoLab

Disclaimer: the views expressed in the following blog are those of the author and not necessarily those of the Foundation.

“Why wouldn’t this work anywhere else?”

That was the question that inspired us to create Sustainability CoLab three years ago, followed quickly by the question that has kept us focused since: “And what influence could a whole network of these programs have together?”

CoLabTransSmallNow 15 months since CoLab launched—and as momentum builds towards Paris this December – we can begin to share how the low-carbon economy is taking root in communities across Ontario.

Today, the program that inspired us to create CoLab – Sustainable Waterloo Region’s Regional Carbon Initiative (RCI) – continues to thrive. The RCI brings together a roster of unlikely players employing 14% of Waterloo Region’s workforce in a shared sustainability journey: learning from each other, connected to a network of support, and reporting back on results against targets to reduce their carbon impact.

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