Schools, Climate and Our Changing Province

“The role of the provincial government is critically important. It must provide the leadership and model the behaviour and actions needed to ensure sustained and ambitious actions to address the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change.” (New Brunswick Climate Change Action Plan, 2016) 

Current discussions between communities and the Anglophone South District Education Council regarding school closures in Saint John have yet to consider climate change as a significant factor in the upcoming decisionmaking on neighbourhood schools. Our ability as a City, and as communities, to mitigate the impacts of climate change and adapt into the future is intrinsically tied to our schools which act as community hubs not only for education but also for capacity building and community resilience. 


In late 2016, the Government of New Brunswick released its Climate Change Action Plan which is “supported by actions to build resilience into our communities, businesses, infrastructure and natural resources.” (p. 4) The following actions from the New Brunswick Climate Change Action Plan directly relate to the placement or site selection of schools in New Brunswick:

Action #18: In urban areas, and where possible elsewhere, preferentially locate public buildings in areas accessible by public transit, walking and cycling (p. 7)
Action #25: Engage with municipalities and regional service commissions to encourage actions at the community planning and local development stages that include strategies for climate change mitigation and adaptation, smart growth and brownfield and infill development (p. 8)
Action #50: Collaborate with municipal and local governments to expand cleaner alternative transportation options such as electric vehicles, public transit, carpooling, ride-sharing, bicycling and walking (p. 13)
Action #62: Encourage community and regional land-use planning practices that incorporate energy efficiency, energy conservation, carbon sequestration, reduced emissions, support healthy built environments and which incorporate and encourage communities to improve the availability and accessibility of safe alternative forms of transportation such as walking, cycling and public transit (p. 15)
Action #63: Provide incentives to promote smart growth (natural infrastructure, green buildings, low-impact developments) and sustainable community design. (p.15)


These action items give the province a unique opportunity to take leadership on climate change by ensuring that schools remain in neighbourhoods wherein children already walk or cycle to school, limiting their family’s dependence on automobiles and fostering a sense of community in our youngest citizens as they interact daily with their community and surrounding environment. Lifestyle behaviours learned by children, including using sustainable modes of transportation, will influence future behaviour as these younger generations deal with increasing impacts from climate change.


According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, schools profoundly affect the communities they serve and should follow smart growth principles; they should always be placed within walking distance of residents and neighbourhood services to reduce traffic congestion, support existing communities and facilities, reduce pollution, and preserve open space. 

Action #33(c): Expanded capacity and programs to support low-income New Brunswickers (p. 11)

The schools proposed to be closed are located in priority neighbourhoods of Saint John where there are high concentrations of low-income families. Climate change impacts and extreme weather events disproportionately affect low-income households due to a lack of resources and services to deal with impacts. Schools can provide information, shelter, and community support for socially vulnerable people in dealing with extreme weather events. Furthermore, closure of schools within walking distance for students disproportionately affects families who cannot or choose not to rely on driving a vehicle. Schools that offer more transportation choices have been shown to reduce the amount of land that is paved, reduce automobile and bus traffic, allowing for reductions in air pollution while also promoting increased active transportation use.


In addition, the potential relocation of a school to the fringes of a community can contribute to outward migration from its core, which can cause disinvestment in existing neighbourhoods and contribute to generational poverty cycles and widening gaps in its capacity for adaptation and mobility. School siting policies that discourage renovation or expansion of existing schools and favor building larger new schools can induce traffic congestion, increase fossil fuel emissions and consumption, reduce the proportion of students walking and biking to school, and contribute to disinvestment in existing neighborhoods. This disinvestment further contributes to the physical, social and economic decline seen in many neighborhoods where a large percentage of low-income, minority or traditionally marginalized populations live. 


While the decisions faced by the Anglophone South District Education Council are by no means straightforward, and require careful consideration across our communities, it is important to understand and acknowledge the ramifications of school site selections on climate adaptation, the health of our environment and our city’s success in driving sustainable urban growth. The short term costs of maintaining critical infrastructure such as schools in existing urban neighbourhoods can be part of a long-term community revitalization effort and serve as an impetus for broader revitalization efforts. Our community’s future is directly tied to our success adapting to the challenges posed by global climate change, and while no single action will make or break that future, we must work together to consider our collective impact and the role we each play in making Saint John a champion of resiliency and smart growth.



References

Waterways of New Brunswick

Just in time for the New Brunswick day long weekend I am sharing some of my personal visits to New Brunswick's well known and less well known waterways. Before I started working for ACAP this summer, my main environmental interests have always been in pollution control, endangered species, as well as anything and everything related to climate change that I could get my hands on. Though my passion for the environment has been intrinsically imbedded in my mind since an early age, I never really began to think about one of the main things that constantly surrounded me... water.

Since working for ACAP I have discovered a deep interest in aquatic ecosystems in every which way whether it was for their ecological productivity value, the species that inhabit the water, their health, and their aesthetic value towards a broader community. Now more than ever with my own form of transportation, I can explore and delve in my personal scientific interests from a angle that I have always been aching to fulfill. However, I must note that you do not need a motorized vehicle or anything similar in order to go searching for aquatic ecosystems as they might just be found in your backyard!

My entire life I have lived just a few mere kilometers away from the Nerepis river, which connects to the larger Saint John River that helps to feed the Bay of Fundy. I have always heard stories about a fishing hole that was located where I live that people have been going to for the last 40 years, but I never took the time to explore it myself. More recently, I was informed that Ducks Unlimited was involved in a project down the road from my house after questioning my immediate family of all the dump trucks travelling up and down my road. I live on a more often than not deserted road that no body really bothers to travel down. However, I soon learnt that a dyke was being built through 300 truckloads of infilled gravel, clay, and sand mixture to prevent the small neighborhood located near me from flooding. Being the interested intrinsically motivated scientist that I am, I had to find out more.

Travelling to the end of my road and hiking through the wood and along the Nerepis River I discovered the progress of the dyke being built. Though my initial interest was to come find out more about the dyke, I was presently surprised by what else I found. It was the marsh that I found that instead sparked my interest. In the marsh where a multitude of birds singing their songs, frogs jumping and swimming throughout the vast expanse of lily pads and reeds, and a the biggest beaver dam/hut I have ever seen! I would have never guessed that something so beautiful was so close to my house. Evidently, the fishing hole behind my house that everyone always told me about, was actually connected to this marsh after investigating from a birds eye view of google maps.

So far, this has been my favourite body of water that I have found this summer. However, I have been going on excursions since late May and ACAP has only helped to fuel my love for the environment in regards to the preservation of all water bodies. Mostly, I just travel around my house with a radius of a few kilometers and end up pleasantly surprised in what I happen to find. I highly recommend everyone to take time to explore their local lands, and if that does not appeal to you, maybe a larger more coastal area will spark your interest like Saint Andrews or Fundy National Park!

Images from Beginning Until End of Post

  • Image 1: Marsh that connects to the Nerepis River that extents back towards Keatings Corner, NB and travels south towards Woodsman's Point, NB
  • Image 2: At the top of Laverty Falls in Fundy National Park, Alma, NB
  • Image 3: Mud Lake in Welsford, NB that feeds Welsford Falls that then later connects to the Nerepis River
  • Image 4: Saint's Rest Beach at low tide that is located in Saint John (West), NB
  • Image 5: Sand Brook Falls in Wirral, NB
  • Image 6: Top of Welsford Falls in Welsford, NB

Employment Opportunity

This position has been filled.

Job Description

The Urban Ecology Coordinator will be a key member of the ACAP Saint John team and will carry out a range of environmental work associated with (but not limited to) the prioritization, protection and management of watershed lands, watercourses, urban greenways and wetlands throughout Greater Saint John, as well as contributing to on-going partnerships, education, outreach and communication initiatives associated with ACAP Saint John's mission and goals. 

The work will be dynamic, and will include all elements of ACAP Saint John's current projects including: program goals, program promotion, environmental education and outreach, GIS‐based prioritization to identify future projects, in-stream habitat remediation and fish rescue operations, liaising and coordinating with partner conservation organizations/partners, fostering the growth of the Saint John Harbour Environmental Monitoring Partnership [SJH-EMP], decision‐making and developing strategies to advance ACAP programs, writing and proofing proposals, liaising with stakeholders and rights holders, site visits to evaluate potential environmental challenges and volunteer program planning and management. The Urban Ecology Coordinator will also support ACAP Saint John with its social media initiatives and education program.

The Coordinator is expected to work cooperatively in a team‐based workplace, yet with a high degree of independence and self‐direction. The Coordinator will report to the Executive Director.

Qualifications

  • Bachelor’s degree in a natural science (biology, forestry, fisheries & wildlife, botany, environmental science, et cetera). Graduate-level research experience or Graduate-level degrees will be considered an asset;
  • Experience leading/assisting with field projects and collecting environmental data;
  • Interest, and at least some formal training, in environmental education and watershed management; 
  • Ability to safely work outdoors in all weather conditions;
  • Positive attitude and ability to work closely and collaboratively with staff, volunteers, and external stakeholders; and a,
  • Motivated self-starter who is able to work independently.

Assets

  • Knowledge of and passion for the issues and challenges facing non-profit organizations;
  • Experience studying Cumulative Effects and work with large databases;
  • Strong writing and reporting skills, including proposal writing and record-keeping;
  • Electrofishing/Electro-seining field experience, training or certification;
  • Professional or academic knowledge of the natural environment and/or physical geography of Saint John, New Brunswick;
  • Knowledge of and passion for environmental education, conservation and restoration;
  • Previous experience in project management or leadership;
  • Experience with GIS platforms [preference given to experience with ArcGIS]; and,
  • Communications skills for interaction with community volunteers of all demographic backgrounds.

Because this position is funded through Environment and Climate Change Canada’s Science Horizons Program, applicants must meet the following criteria:

  • Intend to lead an environmental career related to science, technology, engineering, or mathematics;
  • 30 years of age or younger;
  • Canadian citizen, landed immigrant, or refugee status;
  • Eligible to work in Canada;
  • Graduated from a post-secondary institution;
  • Unemployed or underemployed;
  • Have not participated previously in a federal youth employment or education program.

For more information on qualifications for the program, please visit http://www.eco.ca/eyc/

Additional Information

The advertised position is designed to be full-time [40 hours per week], from August 22, 2016 through to March 31, 2017.

ACAP Saint John is an equal opportunity employer. We welcome diversity in the workplace and encourage applications from all qualified candidates including women, members of visible minorities, persons with disabilities, and aboriginal peoples. 

About ACAP Saint John

For over two decades, ACAP has conducted successful in-school environmental education programs, summer camps, ecological inventories, water quality monitoring programs, habitat restorations, watercourse restorations, wetland enhancements, contaminated site remediation and engaged thousands of area residents in community cleanup initiatives. ACAP Saint John has an excellent reputation in the community for acting as a third party mediator on contentious environmental issues, and continues to expand their role as a public source of knowledge and information dissemination.

At its heart, ACAP Saint John is an environmental incubator, one that transforms and evolves our region’s landscapes with the help of governments, companies and community collaborators. Our work is designed be seen, felt and experienced throughout the environment – from our wetlands and coastlines to our streets and public spaces.

How to Apply

Please submit your cover letter and resume by August 12, 2016 to executivedirector at acapsj.org * with the subject line, "Urban Ecology Coordinator" - only those short-listed for an interview will be contacted.

*Note: The e-mail address above has been masked to help prevent spam. Please copy the address and replace “at” with @.

Happy Earth Day!

"The Blue Marble" taken in 1972.

"The Blue Marble" taken in 1972.

Earth Day is a day for action and also a day for us to celebrate the Earth and to reflect on our relationship with it. It is a day where we band together to clean up our litter, turn of our lights, and promote environmental awareness. At the heart of this day there is also something more profound than the actions and awareness taken on by citizens and groups. When reflecting on what the Earth provides to us it provokes a strong sense of gratitude. We didn’t earn the air we breath, the water we drink, or the energy provided by the sun. These are provided to every one of us with no expectation of return. Earth Day is also, therefore, a celebration of life. It is an occasion to be grateful for the qualities of our planet that sustain us and a reminder of how our actions affect those life giving qualities.

When Apollo 17 beamed down the first images of Earth in 1972 people describe a sense of awe at how blue our planet is. A blue dot in the vastness of space. Let’s show our gratitude to this blue dot and remember that we are all a part of it!

The Storytelling of Science

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious- the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” – Albert Einstein Mystery In the natural world is terrifying in an inspiring sort of fashion.  We’re not entirely sure why we feel an unnervingly annoying nag somewhere between our neck and navel when we do something inherently wrong….but we do.  We’re not fully confident we can explain the remarkably unusual act of throwing our heads back and contorting our faces in a gremlin-like yawn when we’re tired….but it happens.  We marvel at the healing power of our minds during the placebo effect though no medication has been administered.  And we simply cannot explain the geometrically amusing state of Stephen Harper’s hair…but there it is in all its shapely glory.  I think we can all agree that it IS in fact this mystery that keeps us moving forward in the scientific world! We are arrestingly absorbed by the unknown and there is profound elegance and beauty in that.  But with every new discovery, with every beakers-drop and within every ecosystem there is another device we crave, the wonderful story nature tells.  Indeed within it all….is the storytelling of science! Rachel Carson’s epic Silent Spring encourages us to band together in defense of the natural world with a sledge hammer of emotion as much as facts and figures; we could almost feel the poisons on our skin, as if she Pavlov-ed us into trembling at the very mention of pesticides.  Hawking’s Theory of Everything reminded us to look skyward in wonder with its rhythmic, pulsating equations of the cosmos.  It is this brilliantly scientific poetry that inspires us to march onward towards discovery and will most certainly be the driver for future generations of scientist frontiersman!

“The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious- the fundamental emotion which stands at the cradle of true art and true science.” – Albert Einstein

Mystery In the natural world is terrifying in an inspiring sort of fashion.  We’re not entirely sure why we feel an unnervingly annoying nag somewhere between our neck and navel when we do something inherently wrong….but we do.  We’re not fully confident we can explain the remarkably unusual act of throwing our heads back and contorting our faces in a gremlin-like yawn when we’re tired….but it happens.  We marvel at the healing power of our minds during the placebo effect though no medication has been administered.  And we simply cannot explain the geometrically amusing state of Stephen Harper’s hair…but there it is in all its shapely glory. 

I think we can all agree that it IS in fact this mystery that keeps us moving forward in the scientific world! We are arrestingly absorbed by the unknown and there is profound elegance and beauty in that.  But with every new discovery, with every beakers-drop and within every ecosystem there is another device we crave, the wonderful story nature tells.  Indeed within it all….is the storytelling of science!

Rachel Carson’s epic Silent Spring encourages us to band together in defense of the natural world with a sledge hammer of emotion as much as facts and figures; we could almost feel the poisons on our skin, as if she Pavlov-ed us into trembling at the very mention of pesticides.  Hawking’s Theory of Everything reminded us to look skyward in wonder with its rhythmic, pulsating equations of the cosmos.  It is this brilliantly scientific poetry that inspires us to march onward towards discovery and will most certainly be the driver for future generations of scientist frontiersman!

Above is a picture we can almost unanimously identify (no it is not a furry representation of the Worldwide Wrestling Federation).  Although we may not all be aware of Chi Chi, the giant panda who inspired Sir Peter Scott, we are all quite aware that it is the official symbol of the World Wildlife Fund. 

Aside from saving the organization hundreds of thousands of dollars in printing costs, Chi Chi brings to light the intensely important essence of the storytelling of science. 

Conservation, in theory and in practice, intrinsically revolves around the respectable debate of why we conserve.  What is it about a certain species that begs its salvation over another lesser species?  How do we delineate which ecosystems are in greatest need and how do we dictate our findings to organizations on the ground and the general populous?  Do we want to live in a world where the rainforests have long since been obliterated and abolished? Nature is becoming less natural all the time, are we certain that we can imagine a world without the splendor of colorful wonder that rejuvenates us as fellow animals?

The former two questions are scientific and the latter two tell the story.  Scientifically speaking WWF’s panda Chi Chi represents a double-sided conservation model.  Although giant panda’s may not be as biologically significant as the honey-bee or the giant sequoia, high atop the misty mountains of Western China there is another story being told.  Giant pandas subsist almost entirely on bamboo, in earnest needing anywhere from 25 to 85 pounds of the woody perennial daily to maintain their robust figure.  These bamboo forests are the heart and soul of Western China, an economic and geographic strong hold with an essence of enormity; both in terms of physical beauty and biological productivity.  These wholesome forest ecosystems are not just the home of Chi Chis next of kin, but a stunning symposium of wonderful and curious species; some of whom, like the golden monkey, are endangered.

In pursuit of protection at the highest level, a deeply enriching story is being told about the giant panda and their bamboo homes.  Indeed we can protect an entire ecosystem, ensuring the survival of endangered species, but we need only fall in love with one.  Laboriously and gracefully walking from A to B, pandas have the distinct qualities of a wise old man; respectful, calm, understanding even in some ursidae way.  Young children hold their plush brethren when they go to sleep at night and their black-rounded eyes are almost apologetic.  They sit thoughtfully on their bean-bag-behinds in pleasant temperament and alternate between walking and sitting and eating, walking and sitting and eating, walking and sitting and eating as the time and place demand simply because that’s what they do. They seem happy to do it.  Their young, rather orb-like babies, wordlessly beg to be hugged and you are overwhelmed by the strange desire to tell them everything is going to be okay even though you’re not at all sure why it wouldn’t be. 

In every distinctly unique faction of science stories like that of the giant panda are being told.  The story often reads like an epic poem and its value cannot be underestimated.  The wonderful and amusing story of the giant panda currently being told is an inspirational introduction to the amazing world of Western China’s bamboo forests, and all the mysteriously magical creatures in it that are in need of a story of their own.  Citizen scientists and professionals alike can see to it that these stories of conservation and community have a happy ending, all that is needed is for someone to start telling it! 

A Sacred Place

I remember the first time I went to Tin Can Beach. It was during the winter and snow covered the ground. Paths in the snow led to the water and indicted that other people had been coming to the area. It was calm and beautiful to sit and look across the harbour. I am a new resident to the City. I remember the excitement I had about my discovery that such a place existed on the peninsula. Here is a natural area with access to the water!

The first person I told about my new discovery was clearly not as excited as I was. I was told that Tin Can Beach is dangerous – a place to be avoided. Since then I have heard many stories about Tin Can Beach. For the most part I've heard that it is a hidden gem and a place with great potential. I also hear the story of it being dangerous and neglected.

I can’t help but wonder how these stories shape the way we use and interact with this place. Collectively, how do these stories form the environment of Tin Can Beach. If we treat this place as somewhere to be avoided it may become the dangerous area that some fear it is – it will remain dark at night, people may stop going there, we may even abandon the area. I am optimistic though. I have a feeling that more people are telling the story of Tin Can Beach’s potential. This is the story I like most! It encourages us to be stewards in our community and to recognize Tin Can Beach as an asset and a sacred place. This place is a unique asset for the community! It is a natural coastal setting in an urban environment. We have a chance to shape this place to be what we want, both physically and in the stories that we share.  

I believe that Tin Can Beach is a sacred place for many people in our community. Randolph Hester describes sacred places in his book Design for Ecological Democracy as places where community members feel connected to their personal and cultural identity. Sacred places are often hidden gems - they may not be recognized by an outsider. A sacred place can be a historic building or district, or it can be as small as a neighbourhood swing that holds special memories for the youth of an area. By recognizing sacred places we are invited to discuss the qualities of our community that make life truly worth living. City design is often dominated by functional and economic debates and the sacredness of a place can be overlooked. In recognizing Tin Can Beach as a sacred place, we can apply the concepts of ecological democracy that Hester describes.

Ecological democracy emphasizes direct, hands on involvement by the people. “Actions are guided by understanding natural processes and social relationships within our locality and the larger environmental context.” Hester argues that the surrounding community and people who frequent a place know it best and should be involved in the design process. There should be a feeling of collective ownership over sacred places. He describes how North American cities have been in a cycle where “insecure and unrooted individuals make insecure and unrooted cities, which make even more insecure and unrooted individuals, [this] was generations in the making and will be generations in the undoing. Shifts that disrupt the unhealthy cycle are essential. This is the great challenge of our time.”

I see shifts happening in Saint John.

Here is another opportunity to shift the cycle. Community members have already stepped into the stewardship role at Tin Can Beach with tree planting and beach cleanups. I hope that through the process of enhancing the area we can shift the collective story of Tin Can Beach to the story of its sacredness for everyone. 

Hester’s book is what inspired me to study community design and I am thrilled to be a part of a project that aligns with his teachings at Tin Can Beach. 

Cumulative Effects

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of collaborating with staff from the Muskoka Watershed Council and the District Municipality of Muskoka at their offices in Bracebridge, Ontario. Quite aside from the joy of visiting the most famous 'cottage country' in Canada, this was an amazing opportunity for ACAP Saint John to grow, as we continue to build toward a cumulative effects monitoring programme for Saint John Harbour.

Port Carling. Photo: Graeme Stewart-Robertson, 2015

Beginning in the Spring of 2015, ACAP has taken the reins of the Saint John Harbour Environmental Monitoring Partnership [SJH-EMP], charging ourselves with the immense task of uniting over two dozen stakeholder groups, ranging from government regulators, to industrial users, to academic researchers, all in the name of better science and a healthier harbour. This is a continuation of a multi-year project directed and funded by the Canadian Water Network [CWN], designed to, "build consistency in monitoring programs in the Saint John Harbour by understanding the spatial and temporal variability in sediment contaminants, macroinvertebrates and the best biosentinel species being determined by this project. The goal of the research is to design a long term monitoring program for the harbour that is recognized by regulators and users, and enable the incorporation of the information with partners and end users." Link

Muskoka Wharf, Gravenhurst. Photo: Graeme Stewart-Robertson, 2015

So why was I in Muskoka on a beautiful weekday in late May? The answer lies in the latter part of the above quote, because the "incorporation of the information with partners and end users," while not rocket science, is indeed a complicated and delicate task. Luckily, Saint John is not alone in these challenges, and the five other CWN watershed nodes [of which we were the first] that exist across the country each have their own expertise, software and research from which we can build and learn. What is particularly exciting for me, as a data manager, geographer and researcher, is the ability to draw technical expertise and database tools from these other watershed nodes. Thanks to meetings like these in Muskoka, ACAP will be better suited to take the brilliant science of academics at UNB and the Canadian Rivers Institute [CRI], the rigour of federal and provincial government scientists, along with the knowledge generation capabilities of our industrial partners, and allow Saint John to develop long-term monitoring programmes for our harbour.    

Muskoka Beach Road. Photo: Graeme Stewart-Robertson, 2015

While the work continues behind the scenes, keep an eye out for more information on this exciting project coming later in the year, including plain-language research outcomes from the amazing teams at CRI and details of ACAP's ongoing work to bring the stories of our region's environment directly to our community.

Lake Muskoka. Photo, Graeme Stewart-Robertson, 2015

World Oceans Day!

Protecting Our Unknown World

 

“From birth, man carries the weight of gravity on his shoulders.  He is bolted to the earth. But man has only to sink beneath the surface and he is free.” – Jacques-Yves Cousteau

 

World Oceans Day is a day we commit to a better year of protecting our big, blue, unknown world! It may strike you as odd that we have a day commemorating our Oceans. “Shouldn’t everyday be World Ocean Day?” you might ask.  Spot on my friend! Spot on! Alas as humans we are all too skilled at forgetting what truly matters.  With the official recognition of our Oceans every year in the early days of June, we can come together under one banner and recognize what it means to be a species entirely dependent on H2O. 

Twenty-three years ago it was Canada that put forth the proposal for an officially recognized ‘World Oceans Day’ at the Earth Summit in Rio.  It had been unofficially celebrated every June 8th since then, until its official adoption by the United Nations in 2008, a day of respect and gratitude for our Oceans that has been ratified and observed (we hope) by every UN member state.  Since its official inception, it has been coordinated across borders by The Ocean Project, a US based organisation advancing our conservation efforts and education programs surrounding our vast oceans. 

The Ocean Project, in their official mandate, has recognized the important of scientific education and conservation as well as the influence of public opinion, i.e. if we do not learn to love our oceans we will not learn to protect our oceans.  Global warming is present and continuing, sea level rise is threatening to maintain its ascent and ocean acidification cannot go unchecked.  Although this is a day of celebration, it should also be a day on honesty.  If we are not honest with ourselves, and soon, we may very well one day return from whence we came. 

Our innate attraction to water is inherent in all of us.  Aesthetically that passion is difficult to explain, each person carrying his or her own interpretation.  Its size terrifies yet amazes us, its depths allow us to defy gravity, its destructive nature humbles us, and its soothing calmness is undeniable.  Sunset on a beach or at ‘the cabin on the lake’ tends to be a rather silent affair, as if the colors forming the reflection of the sky can better explain our emotions than words.  Whether you’re a fisherman on the Atlantic, a scientist in the pacific or a captain in the Artic one fact remains the same; we need our Oceans, and we’re abusing them. 

Biologically speaking our relationship with water is rather easy to put into words; the equation of two hydrogen and one oxygen is constant, fresh drinking water is a human right, an essential component of life on earth and almost 70% of our physical form.  Salt water in our vast oceans covers almost the same percentage of our Earth’s surface and is lesser known to us than outer space.  Indeed the oceans are a universe entirely their own.  The salty seas play host to graceful giants, towering dense forests, mountain volcanoes, the meager and the massive.  Of all the animals that use the resources the oceans have provided, it is abundantly clear that only one knowingly casts them aside as expendable. 

While it should be rather obvious that every day should be World Ocean Day, let’s use this officially recognized date in June to put ourselves to the test. We at ACAP challenge you to consider your own personal relationship to water as well as the biological components of our oceans that are at risk.  We challenge you to learn one new thing about our oceans today; the more we know about our natural world the more likely we are to foster an appreciation for it that leads to significant change!

FACT: “Under conditions expected in the 21st century, global warming and ocean acidification will compromise carbonate accretion, with corals becoming increasingly rare on reef systems.  The result will be less diverse reef communities and carbonate reef structures that fail to be maintained.”

Hoegh-Guldber, O., et al. 2007. Coral Reefs Under Rapid Climate Change and Ocean Acidification. Science. Vol. 318. No. 5857. Pp, 1737-1742. 

Bridging the Gap

Collaboration In the Public Sector 

“ACAP Saint John has become known for partnering and working with the community to help provide solutions to existing and pending environmental problems.” 

 

Collaboration is important.  It’s really important.  Putting aside the intricacies that distinguish private sector versus public sector, every successful non-profit organisation must be philosophically intent on open-mindedness, outreach, and community collaboration. 

Although the private sector may be immune to certain strains of conflict present in the public sector, not-for-profits simply cannot exempt themselves from the democratic process.   Non-profits working in human rights, addiction services, healthcare, and the preservation of local ecosystems may be different on the surface, but they all share one essential component; the community and the individuals they serve. 

I think it is inherent in all of us to want to help.  ‘Help’ being used as blanket coverage for that most human feeling of wanting to contribute in some way.  Nobody wants the seas to rise and swallow island nations whole.  Nobody wants their local beaches to be covered in poorly-disposed-of human trash.  Nobody wants a community to be without green space to play, laugh, run and grow.  We all have stock in the natural world and it is us who will lose our investment should grassroots environmental work not continue. 

But where to start?  To the individual who wants to help stabilize the environment and who wants to benefit from a sustainably green community, the task seems immense.  Almost overwhelmingly impossible.  What a shame it would be if the hundreds, indeed thousands, who want to see New Brunswick’s environment flourish remained silent because they did not know how to best tackle the BIG issues. 

Having a third party organisation bridging the gap between the community and environmental change is key.  With our partnerships, outreach, community inclusion and passion for the natural environment of Saint John, ACAP has become an intense resource for change.  

We Have Concerns

An Open Letter to Our Future

To be an explorer is the stuff of dreams.  Young children go to sleep with visions of twinkling stars, now star-dust in the Milky Way.  Twenty-somethings carry the ideals of exploration into careers as writers, biologist, physicists, philosophers and dreamers.  Those characterized by the deep lines of graceful old-age look back on their lives in pursuit of early memories of blazing trail in a ‘simpler’ time.  Wouldn't it be sublime if every human-being had the chance to enjoy the universe in this deliberate and wondrous way? How fantastic it would be if we could all fall in love with the natural and profound wonders of the world ahead of us! How truly excellent it would be if our motto was no longer, “Progress for the sake of Progress,” and instead became, “Collaboration for the sake of Sustainability.” The conclusion forthcoming may have already dawned on you; for the first time in forever, we are the generation who can. 

We've found ourselves at a crossroads in history where we are witnessing the formation of a uniquely prestigious club, in fact and undoubtedly the first of its kind; the generation that can no longer claim ignorance.  We have stumbled into an era of technology that was largely not of our making but a tool we've adopted for ourselves.  We have become and will continue to become the first crusaders of information.  Knowledge Knights.  Legions of learning forming every day that see fit to be angry with the status quo because perhaps that’s what the status quo deserves. 

A personal example would do well here. 

In Africa I lived in a uniquely extraordinary region.  At the epicenter of the Warm Heart of Africa in Malawi, I worked among children who redefined inspiration.  Each at high risk of micro-nutrient deficiencies in an area whose people play host to the HIV/AIDS virus to the detrimental tune of 1 in 3 inhabitants, but who each-in-turn hold true to their devotion  to humanity. For those who live in Lilongwe, their environment has cultivated a truer sense of ‘human’ than I, or anyone from the West could ever hope to personally measure.  These children solidified in me a level of gratitude for education and learning I may still be without had I not stepped off that plane.  Our generation is coming around to this conclusion with a grandeur and determination unlike any before it.  Our love for learning and sharing information has come to represent exploration, public engagement, being angry and outspoken when the situation demands it of us, refusing to be left out-of-the-know and having a keen understanding of the importance of the scientific method; all pillars of ACAP Saint John. 

We have created a situation in the modern world whereby those with the least possessions, possess the least voice.  We can accept it no longer.  Climate change is happening and we know it.  There are systemic institutions which seek to keep us unhealthy, actively targeting children and those who are economically challenged, and we know it. There are one billion without the requirements for life and we know it.  The fear of not knowing is behind us, and the challenge of what we will do about it is ahead. This is an open letter to those in Saint John and beyond who, for the first time in history, have the opportunity to right the wrongs.  We will be the first to scientifically and socially benefit from a global discourse that finally includes the incredible minds and talents of one billion people who have, until now, been all but forgotten. 

We've banded together and have accepted that the human condition has pushed us into corners but we’re enchanted by the idea of pushing back! Sharing information via the internet is the general on the stallion leading us ahead.  We have the ability to learn if we chose to do so and we have the ability to talk about it with people we may never meet in person.  The sharing of ideas, the brainstorming of solutions, and the dispersion of knowledge about humanity and the environment from Montreal to Mongolia.  A global conversation that quite literally has never taken place on such a scale. 

ACAP Saint John is a bastion for information, a conduit to environmental change and a channel for local participation.  Outreach has become the name of the game. Encouraging those who have by no fault of their own been in the dark and welcoming them into an era where we can band together and in unison say, “You have got to be kidding me.” I am confident that in 15 years we will look back into the annals of history and see that Saint John’s residents, young and old, chose to join the wave of change.  ACAP Saint John will not only be riding that wave, it could very well be what sets it in motion. 

It simply cannot be said enough; we have created a situation in the modern world whereby those with the least possessions, possess the least voice.  The fear of not knowing is behind us, and the challenge of what we will do about it is ahead.

Join us in making Saint John a front runner in public discourse on the path to change! 

A New Hope

If I had to name one thing that an Executive Director of a non-profit organisation survives upon, it would have to be hope. I see it every day, from the leaders of local housing initiatives, to human rights watchdogs, to social science researchers, to environmental groups like mine, we all rely on some form of hope to sustain us. 

The hope from which we draw our strength can take on many forms, it can be an undying love of community, it can be a vague optimism that some day things will get better, it can be a passion for ensuring everyone in our community has an equal voice, or it can be a grounded belief inspired by actions seen and felt around us. Consider me to be in the latter camp. 

It can get trying at times, as you spend half your year writing, planning and - you guessed it - hoping for the future. In my case it often takes the form of countless hours negotiating with various levels of government, proposing to grant agencies, impressing foundations and conferencing with research institutions, all under the auspices of some grand design intended to make an impact on Saint John's environment. It would be all too easy to get lost in the hopelessness of it all. But then comes one day in the Spring when the first of a parade of bright-eyed students, recent graduates and Millennial daydreamers comes to your office door, extends to you a resume where you expected an open hand, and in an instant you are reminded of every awkward interview, every hopeless internship and every menial job you ever had.

That is hope my friends. 

Theirs are the faces of a generation unwilling to accept that the way things are is the only way they ever will be. Theirs are the minds that will change how we look at urban wetlands, or active transportation, or climate change adaptation or any of the thousand other ways we can make our world better. More than a job, they are looking for validation, a sense that the lessons they were taught in school were more than just lip service paid to the problems of the world, but tools they were given to affect real change. If I had my way I would hire all of them, and give them all a chance to prove that working and thriving in our city is a product of opportunity more than it is of circumstance. The capabilities of our young people in Saint John is incredible, and to be able to bring in even a half dozen of them - as ACAP has done in the past two weeks - is in my mind a tremendous occasion for our region to grow.

What stands out as truly exciting in all of this, are the new horizons we are embarking upon this year. For the first time ever, we are able to hire students and researchers and regale them with grand tales of a time long ago when Saint John dumped untreated sewage into our harbour and our rivers, rather than briefing them on safety protocols as we prepared for that long, grim walk into a shadowy, pathogenic wasteland. These are the first of a new generation of researchers who will only know the contamination of Marsh Creek as numbers on a page or points on a graph, not as stains on their boots. If you cannot see that as progress, and if it does not fill your heart with its own sense of hope, well I am afraid there is little to be found for you in this world.

So that is why I continue on, because my contemporaries, and those before us, are compelled to believe that the work we do - whether this instant or ten years from now - will make a difference. While there may be days when we all feel a little starved of hope, we can look to our own Marsh Creek, a shining [and now crystal clear] example of how much difference a little hope can make.

 
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