Climate tops list of local environmental concerns

Haliburton County is no different from the rest of the country – and the world – when it comes to pressing environmental issues; climate change is top of the list.

With Earth Day coming up on April 22 the Echo asked Carolynn Coburn president of Environment Haliburton what she and her colleagues at the environmental action organization thought needed to be most urgently addressed locally.

Coburn said the rapidly warming climate had the widest impact.

“Though it doesn’t get a lot of press alarmingly. It does have local implications because we’re dealing with flooding we’re dealing with more extreme weather events whether it’s strong winds or whether it’s ice storms or whether it’s invasive species” she said.

As the world’s climate changes people need to both prepare for the shift in weather patterns and also work to lessen the greenhouse gases put into the atmosphere.

The David Suzuki Foundation states that “since 1900 the global average temperature has risen by 0.7ºC and the northern hemisphere is substantially warmer than at any point during the past 1000 years.”

From an individual perspective the goal should be reducing your impact whenever possible.

“I would say keep your money at home. Go away less often” Coburn said.

“Your ecological footprint is going to be small if you walk instead of drive. If you grow your own food. If you support local growers. If you shop from local merchants instead of driving to save a bit of money 100 miles away. I really think we need to do everything we can.”

But even with a drastic decrease in carbon emissions the climate has already begun to change which means we need to be prepared for what that will look like.

Coburn suggested another local approach: get to know your neighbours so you can help each other in an emergency.

“[The] more extreme weather events the greater chance you might be stranded in your home far from the village. … Get to know your near neighbours.”

Being engaged in the community and informed about local politics helps. When it comes time to vote make sure you get out and elect the representatives willing to make decisions to preserve and improve the environment she said.

“Vote when the time comes for the people who are going to save the planet” she said.

Aside from the climate other local environmental concerns include septage disposal reducing organic waste landfill capacity and keeping our lakes clean.

“We [are] encouraging people to compost more. It is possible to compost in bear country if you put the right stuff in and you don’t put the wrong stuff in” Coburn said.

Currently organic waste that is thrown out with garbage is put directly into the county’s landfills taking up precious space and releasing methane gases which contribute to climate change. Reducing the amount of organic waste and composting it at home can help.

While Environment Haliburton endeavours to keep their actions local they do participate in larger initiatives.

“We made a presentation to the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission in January objecting to a 10-year licence for the Canadian Nuclear Laboratories to manage Chalk River” Coburn said. The group had concerns about safety measures and controls on how the site was operated.

There are several promising initiatives on the horizon for the Highlands Coburn said including the rural transportation initiative and the county’s intent to do a feasibility study for a transit system; mandatory septic inspections being implemented in each municipality; as well as municipal level climate change planning.

Environment Haliburton holds monthly Enviro-Cafe evenings featuring speakers on a range of environmental concerns with an opportunity for discussion. You can find details on these as well as other initiatives on their website: