Human health is intimately connected to the health of the planet. We need fresh water, clean oceans, and natural spaces that contain a rich array of animals, insects and plants. Promoting education about and recreation in our natural spaces has been a part of the Sierra Club philosophy since it was founded in 1892.
Health & Wellbeing
Because of your support and strong commitment to the environment, we were able to take on some very challenging campaigns this year:
"Let's change our national motto - "From sea to sea" forgets that we have three oceans; the Arctic is largest part of our coastline. We're an ocean nation, if our youth grow up knowing that, it will change how we do things... 'From sea to sea to sea'!" - Geoff Green, Executive Director and Founder of Students on Ice
"...The more we all know about and love the ecosystem that embeds and surrounds us, the more we feel that we are a part of it, the more we will see ways to enjoy, protect, and enhance what we have..."
The official announcement came on December 7th. The province is proposing to grow the Greenbelt by up to another 345,000 hectares (see Figure 1), adding on to the 810,000 hectares already in permanent existence plus the extra 10,000 hectares of urban river valley lands and wetlands that were announced this spring. This is a truly impressive proposal.
"..The consortium proposes a “Near Surface Disposal Facility” (NSDF), a mound of one million cubic meters of nuclear waste on a hillside draining into the already highly contaminated Perch Creek wetlands, less than 1 km from the Ottawa River.
On the afternoon of October 28th, on St. Catharine’s' Lockhart Drive in a threatened Carolinian Old Growth Forest north of the Niagara Escarpment, the Sierra Club celebrated a major environmental victory. This was the extension of Ontario's Greenbelt to 21 major urban river corridors from Northumberald to Niagara. In Niagara, this involved the protection of Lake Gibson - a reservoir for most of the drinking water for Niagara's residents.
The following article was written by Becky Bassick, Sierra Club Ontario's Green Energy & Great Lakes Campaign Volunteer.
“By wasting billions on nuclear rebuilds rather than investing in far more cost-effective energy efficiency and hydro imports, the government's plan misses out on the best opportunities to lower energy and environmental costs.”
This article Part II of a 5-part blog series, as part of our Biodiversity Video Campaign.
"When ecosystem services are compromised, economic and health impacts such as lower agricultural productivity and lower quality drinking water can result, raising costs for Canadian, industry and governments."
Do you have a passion for the environment and want to do something to help stop Climate Change? Would you love to be part of something bigger and make an impact in your community? Are you looking to get back in shape and achieve your 2017 fitness goals? Or... do you just simply enjoy running for the fun of it?
The (Greenbelt Plan's) amendments uphold the Greenbelt's most central legacy: its permanence.
The following article was written by Thaia Jones, Sierra Club Ontario's Greenbelt Campaign Chair.
HERE AT LAST!
On May 18th Minister Bill Mauro, Ontario’s Minister of Natural Resources and Forestry, officially presented the new Provincial Greenbelt Legislation. Two years after so many of us wrote submissions or attended Town Hall meetings to discuss the Crombie Report on Greenbelt and Growth Plans for the Greater Golden Horseshoe's Co-ordinated Land Use Planning Review, the results are finally in!
But was it a WIN for environmentalists and the Greenbelt? Or was it a LOSS? Or a bit of both? Environmental groups are still dissecting the complexity of details to find the answers. Even then, we won’t be sure until the legislation is gradually turned into implementation and implementation is accompanied by the effective monitoring and enforcement strategies that have been stipulated.
That being said, the overall results are promising. The general consensus is that the new legislation is an improvement over the old, with greater protections for boundaries, more attention to curbing sprawl and more rigorous environmental assessment required. Monitoring and enforcement plans are to be designed and followed.
The provincial announcement was low key, generating little public attention or interest, possibly giving the province plenty of leeway in how promptly and energetically to act. Nevertheless, it sent a clear message to municipalities and developers that boundaries would be considerably more difficult to breach and sprawl would be gradually curbed.
The revised ratio of infilling urban development to greenfield(1) development is 60-40, with tight new restrictions on size and ease of growth around small communities. This latter restriction was a last minute legislative alteration and was quite likely a response to the 45,000 petition letters received. Unfortunately, the new ratio will be phased in between now and 2031, giving little help to beleaguered groups such as the Simcoe County Greenbelt Coalition who hoped for more immediate aid in slowing the rapid greenfield development in their area.
Also very encouraging is the province’s continued expression of interest in growing the greenbelt beyond its current borders. Growth through 21 urban river valleys(2) and 7 coastal wetlands remains a definite promise, but interest extends well beyond this to additional packages that have particular hydrological or other importance and that may not be too challenging to designate. The province is seeking recommendations from Environmental Defence in identifying some possible packages. Additionally, farm organizations are expressing increasing interest in exploring forms of protection for farmland increasingly threatened by sprawl, and their interest may lead to further countryside protections of one sort or another.
In summary, the legislation is here, and overall it looks good. We may cautiously count it as a win for the Greenbelt, and also a win for communities that might have found their infrastructure costly and unsustainable if they had succumbed to the short term allure of sprawl. It is not such a pleasing scenario at present for developers, who lobbied hard for fewer rather than more restrictions.
But the process of implementation has not yet begun and this next phase will be as important to get right as was the legislation itself. Our next work is already waiting for us. We must remain vigilant as new challenges emerge in interpreting the legislation, and we must find ways to encourage the province to keep up momentum as it works to turn its plans into realities.
Lake Erie's algal blooms are hurting the lake's ecosystem, Ontario’s economy, and the health of communities that depend on it.
The following article was written by Dr. Lino Grima, former professor of Water Resources Policy and Environmental Management at the University of Toronto, Chair of Sierra Club Ontario's Great Lakes Campaign and Co-Chair of Sierra Club's Binational Great Lakes Committee.
An important part of Sierra Club Ontario’s advocacy work is the protection and restoration of the Great Lakes ecosystem, which constitutes the largest body of fresh water in the world. A major threat to the Great Lakes is the eutrophication(1) of Lake Erie leading to algal blooms, and the presence of health-threatening microcystin(2), especially in the western basin of the lake. Harmful and nuisance algal blooms are negatively impacting Lake Erie’s environment and Ontario’s economy, and present significant risks to human health.
To mitigate this problem, Canada has been working with its partners to develop a Canada-Ontario Action Plan to help reduce the amount of phosphorus – a key factor causing algae – from entering the lake. Back in March 2017, the Governments of Canada and Ontario circulated a joint “Draft Action Plan” -- a discussion document to assist in the engagement of key stakeholders, First Nations and Métis communities, and the public in action plan development -- to reduce phosphorus loading in Lake Erie, and achieve their 40 per cent phosphorus reduction target.
Sierra Club Ontario would like to congratulate Canada and Ontario’s leadership on this critical issue and particularly on the involvement of its citizens. We are encouraged that the Governments of Canada and Ontario recognize that the financial, social, and ecological costs of these blooms are significant and that action is urgently needed to reverse the trend.
However, as-is, the plan is inadequate -- it does not adequately describe what actions are necessary to achieve the proposed 40 per cent phosphorus reduction target. Without significant modifications to the Draft Action Plan, especially targeting agricultural sources of phosphorus and other non-point sources, Sierra Club Ontario fears that the final Action Plan will not adequately address the threat of algal blooms to Lake Erie.
In its current iteration, the Plan lacks most of the attributes of effective action plans including:
· Specific and measureable actions and objectives;
· Measureable results;
· Clear and reasonable timelines and deadlines;
· Adequate budget for implementation.
As a member of the Great Lakes Protection Act Alliance (GLPAA)(3), Sierra Club Ontario has supported the GLPAA’s recent submission(4) in response to this Plan, particularly its call to confirm a timeline to reduce the phosphorus load reduction by 40 per cent by 2025 for the Ontario portion of the western and central basins of Lake Erie.
Enough is known about the problem to make a start on reducing the load of phosphorus and other nutrients such as nitrogen. However, the Plan would need to include more robust monitoring and adaptive management so that the scientific understanding would be enhanced and the policy refined.
Sierra Club Canada Foundation and Sierra Club Ontario expect that the authors of the Draft Action Plan will be responsive to the feedback garnered through the consultation process, and that the final Action Plan, expected to be in place by February 2018, will be significantly more comprehensive as a result.
Almost as an antidote to last week's announcement that the US intends to pull out of the Paris Climate Agreement, today, June 5th, we celebrate World Environment Day.
“A Politician only thinks of the next election... A Leader thinks of the next generation.”
Patrick Brown, Ontario PC Leader, has shown support for the shelved Mid-Peninsula Expressway - representing a threat to Ontario's Greenbelt, including some of the local communities, green space, and wildlife habitat that it has been supporting ever since its establishment in 2005.
The following article was written by Dr.