Weekly Tips

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Tip of the Week: Is it time to renew our commitment to citizenship?

The Sustainable Orillia theme for April-May-June is “renewal,” a theme natural to the spring time of the year and especially poignant in 2021 as we try to recover from over a year of trying to cope with the COVID-19 pandemic.

And what a year it has been! In addition to the steady stream of COVID 19 news, we have seen protests against the lockdowns instituted by governments; we have seen the protests of the Black Lives Matter movement in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands (or knee) of a Minneapolis policeman; and we have seen protests led by anti-vaxxers against the vaccines, and protests by those protesting the refusal of anti-vaxxers to accept the vaccines.

All of us probably regret the violence which has arisen during several of these actions, both in the USA and here in Canada, but few of us, I would guess, question why people are protesting. When people feel they are being ignored, or worse, being victimized, or when they see a great injustice occurring, a strong reaction is entirely understandable. An active response—a demonstration of some kind—is natural.

To many of us in Canada, however, and in particular, to those of us who live in small towns or rural communities, activism does not come naturally. With the exception of those youth who are now making their voices heard about Climate Change and of indigenous peoples across this country who have been seeking change through peaceful confrontations with both industry and governments, Canadians tend to be a passive people. Even during elections, on average only 50-60% of eligible voters bother to turn out to vote, and between elections many of us tend to ignore what our governments are doing.

There are many issues that can motivate people, of course: inequality, economic crisis, the deaths in long term care facilities, and others. For those of us in Sustainable Orillia, the disaster threatened by the Climate Crisis demands more from us than passivity and resignation. It demands action.Your voice has power. Use it.

The need for action—on a multitude of issues—demands that we renew our sense of responsibility as citizens of this community, of this province, of this country and of the planet. Citizens, especially those in a democracy, must be prepared to let their voices be heard. And no, it is not always necessary to take to the streets—although if there has ever been a cause to act on, climate change is it.

Instead, ask yourself whether you might phone the local MP’s office, or the office of the MPP. Could you and other family members or friends arrange to meet with either your MP or MPP to discuss your concerns that governments aren’t doing enough either to prevent the worst of climate change effects or to adapt to the changing world we’re already seeing? You don’t need to be an expert; tell him/her how you FEEL. How about writing a letter (remember those?) to your Mayor? the Premier? or even the Prime Minister? (No postage required to send a letter to Justin Trudeau!) Attend town hall meetings. Join a political party. Run for political office! 

Join an online petition. Better yet, start a petition yourself and engage friends and family in conversation about the issue you have raised. Talk to friends and family about topics that concern you: pollution, loss of diversity in animals, the chemical and environmental threats to bees and other pollinators, the threat of plastics to life in our oceans and our own lives. There is no end of what each of us as individuals can do to change the world for the better. 

Be hopeful. Be optimistic. By acting now, there is a good chance that the worst aspects of climate change can be avoided. But act we must.

There are over 30,000 people living in Orillia today.  Imagine if each of those people—man, woman, and child—sat down to write a letter to the Prime Minister to ask for stronger action on the Climate Crisis. 30,000 letters arriving in his office in Ottawa? Could they be ignored? Now imagine thousands more across this country demanding the same thing. 

This is a call for renewal this spring of citizen responsibility and activism. Let’s raise our voices and take action for a better world. Together we can make a difference.

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