Vancouver View

Three Female Environmental Leaders, Two Inspiring Quotes, One Birthday

Each year, I’ve reflected on the wisdom I’ve collected from people and places I’ve been. As each year arrives more quickly, here again, I reflect on another lap around the sun.

This year, I’ve been incredibly lucky to have a birthday week filled with strong, powerful, female environmental leaders. It’s as if the universe knew exactly what I would love for my birthday and aligned the stars (and the talks) to gift it to me. As a set out on my clean energy education path, it’s a pretty well thought out present. Thanks, Universe (and UBC)!

In my birthday week, I was fortunate enough to hear three such leaders speak.

Elizabeth May

On Tuesday, I enjoyed two separate talks at UBC featuring Elizabeth May. In the afternoon, she reflected on her life in politics followed by an evening talk on current environmental legislation.

Listening to Elizabeth speak of her life and environmental work is like having a crash course in the global sustainability movement. She pulls lessons from the major global conventions, weaves Canadian history and politics through rounds of legislation, and quotes leaders of every political stripe and nationality.

Elizabeth May speaking at UBC
Note: sorry for the terrible photo quality in this post.

With the raft of environmental issues in the world today and the challenges ahead to meet a goal of no more than 1.5C increase in global average temperature, she reminded us that “It’s hard work to be hopeful.” Yet, she still is. She says she’s genetically wired for optimism, but if anyone could see the dire straights we’re in, it would be Elizabeth May. Yet, she finds hope.

She draws inspiration from the nearly incredible World War II story of Dunkirk. She asked, “What’s the equivalent of every tiny fishing boat to rescue the entire British army?” Rescuing 300,000 men by fishing boats seems impossible. But it was done. Now, it’s our turn.

In order to meet the Paris Agreement at 1.5C, she simplified the task into priorities:

  1. “Get fossil fuels out of electricity generation everywhere.

  2. Get rid of internal combustion engines.”

It’s simple and incredibly complex. But so is rescuing the entire British Army.

A slightly better quality photo filled with even more inspiring women

In the evening, she wove a rollercoaster of a story of Canada’s environmental assessment process. From attending the first ever environmental assessment panel in Wreck Cove, Cape Breton(!) to today’s proposed legislation (Bill C-69). What should be an improvement on the gutted, broken assessment process from the Harper era doesn’t even get back to where the process was in the 90’s. Elizabeth May makes a powerful call for action, which you should read here.

Catherine McKenna

Catherine McKenna spoke at the GLOBE Forum with a rousing speech to an audience focused on sustainable business. I disagree with some of McKenna’s moves around pipelines and the economic-environment balance, there was something special about hearing her speak. She is the first Minister with climate change in her title, holds a cabinet position from the beginning of her time in office, and is a strong, well-educated, articulate leader.

Catherine McKenna speaking at the GLOBE Forum

Her talk opened and closed with insights I thought were particularly thoughtful:

After recognizing the unceded territory of the Musqueam, Squamish and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations:

“Reconciliation is hard, but we need to be part of it.”

Recognizing the broad and sometimes unexpected parties who do and need to come together to fight climate change and grow a sustainable future:

“Unusual suspects working together is the only way to get things done.”

Annette Verschuren, O.C.

Annette Verschuren came a long way from a Cape Breton dairy farm. She’s lead major corporations and foundations and is chancellor of Cape Breton University. She spoke at the Walrus Talks Energy, offering a story of her eureka moment while on her bucket list trip:

“We found a way to store food. We found a way to store water. But we hadn’t found a way to store energy.”

Annette Verschuren speaking at the GLOBE Forum

Now, she’s founded an energy storage company, NRstor, to meet this need. And has a simple tactic for getting things done:

“I’m a believer in mediocre strategy and great execution.”

Wisdom in Pairs

Hearing thoughtful, clever, experienced women share their lessons and their thoughts on how we need to tackle today’s challenges was the best gift I could receive.

Vancouver View
Vancouver’s early arrival of spring ain’t a bad gift either.

The messages are potent, but even moreso coming from women. Women who have carved out space and created change in this messy world. It’s a reminder and an inspiration that I and other women can (and will!) follow suit.


April 23: Earth Day Resolution Day

April 23: Earth Day Resolution Day

[Aside update: After a misfortunate run-in with a wily beer glass and a fortunate experience with the Hungarian medical system, I have a repaired severed tendon and a splinted right hand for four weeks. All’s well, however, the SASS posts may be a little sparse and/or succinct over the recovery time. Hurrah for ambidexterity.]

Danube Calling Earth Day eventYesterday was Earth Day. The largest global event both celebrating the Earth and fighting for its protection. Forty-four years in, it’s a day of hope, of cynicism, of action, of announcements. I held a lot of hope yesterday with the act of 175 countries signing of the Paris Agreement in New York, an important step towards true climate action. An agreement that, as Elizabeth May noted, “is not the treaty that saves the world. It’s the treaty that gives the world a chance to save ourselves.” I felt hopeful listening to Hungarian and global social enterprises discuss their purpose and their way of effecting change at a Startup Safary panel at Impact Hub Budapest. I felt a lot of joy seeing people of all ages connect to the Danube and celebrate the Earth through art at the Danube Flow – Hív a Duna! event as the river lapped at our feet. Read more

The Leap Years

Book Review: This Changes Everything

Is it trendy to review a book over a year after its release? If so, then I’m spot on. Here is my book review and reflection on This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate by Naomi Klein. It’s a book that has been a companion through two moves, two elections, dozens of life crises and more “Are-we-screwed-What-can-I-do” moments than I can count.

Rather than my introductory words, please enjoy the trailer to the partner film This Changes Everything as an effective backgrounder:

This Changes Everything is an engaging read. Klein takes magnificently complex topics and wrangles them into a readable and captivating work. The first striking feature was the accessibility of the text. When I opened its pages, the weight of the book felt daunting. Though an engaged citizen and environmentalist, I was worried that the book would read above my head and I would be left behind after the first chapter. Perhaps this was a silly assumption on a work from an accomplished journalist who writes for the public, but the title pushed my thoughts to an impenetrable manifesto. However, Klein guides the reader through each topic in a way that allows the gravity of each fact to be understood, while wrapped in a human-scale story.

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Buda forests

Showing Up: Global Climate March on Sunday

Things need to change.

That’s simple.

Little else is.

Climate change is a complex, global process that disparately effects the regions and peoples of the world. The solution is complex, requiring rapid, insightful action on every personal and political level. If you’re reading this blog, you know the situation and I don’t need to lay out the facts. If you’d like to read more from the world’s experts, you can find more here, here, here and here.

As complex as it is, there are a number of simple steps. In fact, the UN created The Lazy Person’s Guide to Saving the World. I’m not sure if it’s clever marketing or a sad statement of the state of the world. Either way, there are simple tips to minimize your impact. I’ll advocate for another simple action: show up.

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