This article was written by WorldChanging Canada Editor Mark Tovey in November 2008. This month we've been showcasing some of the best of the 382 articles we've published, in celebration of four years of WorldChanging Canada.
Our very first post was written on October 31, 2006. WorldChanging Canada writer Rod Edwards provided a distinctly Canadian perspective on the prairies. His post was a tribute to the land, its vastness, its fragility, and its opportunity:
... I've never lost my appreciation for the "scale" that the prairies proudly flaunt .... Those scales hit you at a primitive level—standing in the prairie, lost in near infinite plains below, and endless sky above, you can feel, viscerally, the raw size of the planet. The Earth curves beneath your feet, and you know that the wind buffeting you has traveled lifetimes to get there.
Perspective is fickle, however. A car passing on a nearby highway will quickly invert the sensation of infinity. The size here speaks to vulnerability, too—as huge as this land is, it’s been settled, sown, ploughed, and harvested for generations. This land is fragile and damaged, and facing challenges commensurate with its scale.
Fortunately, the potential is proportionate too: those infinite fields are ripe for transformation into sustainable, organic engines of economic growth. There's a billion acres of functioning carbon sink out here too. And that endless sky, and its howling winds, are already spinning turbines in megawatt wind projects.
Read more of The Prairie Perspective: An Introduction to Green Manitoba by Rod Edwards (October 31st, 2006)
It was a lyrical and fitting beginning.
Fast forward to Summer 2008. Two years later, Edwards, along with a steadily growing team of contributors, is still very much engaged in chronicling that potential. Rod's most recent piece examined a striking prairie innovation:
There's an interesting development lurking in your magazine rack (provided you subscribe to Canadian Geographic): paper made from wheat straw—the stem & stalk waste product of grain farming. Indistinguishable from regular wood-pulp paper, printed products made of a percentage of wheat straw are notable not for their tactile qualities, but for their sustainability implications. As agricultural waste, wheat straw is perennially renewable so long as people farm. As a product, monetizeable wheat straw provides a diversified income stream for farmers. As a source of paper fibre, it takes pressure off the forests that traditionally supply pulp, and the species that inhabit them.
Read more of Paper from Wheat, Not Wood by Rod Edwards (August 29th, 2008)
Rod's piece is an exemplary WorldChanging story. It chronicles a bright green solution which is already changing the world. It looks not just at a game-changing idea, but a successful implementation. It brings attention to an innovation that ought to be better known, but which is under-appreciated. It provides context which helps us understand why an innovation is important. It allows the reader an opportunity to drill down to the details if they so choose.
It is also a terrific WorldChanging Canada story. It not only has all the features mentioned above, it also provides Canadian context. Canadian context is harder to define than Canadian innovation, but it's every bit as important.
Canadians are the highest per capita users of energy in the world. We have some of the greatest challenges, and the greatest opportunities, in conservation and energy efficiency. We have regional economic disparities. Our cities are livable but unsustainable. Our arctic ice is melting. We have both abundant natural resources and significant energy security issues. Our opportunities in the renewables sector are underexploited. Heating for most of us is not a luxury, but an matter of survival. We have huge distances to traverse in building faster telecommunications, more efficient transport, and smarter electrical grids. We have a history of welcoming newcomers and developing enduring social institutions. We have a unique social fabric.
A Canadian context can mean many things, but it certainly includes:
- an awareness of new models and technology as they affect Canada's unique biodiversity, consumption patterns, urban/rural split, or democratic institutions.
- the particular challenges of a northern nation addressing climate change and energy security.
- voices or publications that further articulate Canadian challenges with, or contributions to, a more sustainable society
- new uses for renewable resources that we have in abundance (wheat, wind, waves).
- replacements for non-renewable resources where our continued use or extraction is polluting or problematic (oil, water, old-growth forest).
This is our beat: bright green solutions through a Canadian lens. Over the course of November we've been celebrating by re-publishing some of our very best.
For an overview of some of the great WorldChanging Canada stories we've brought you over the last four years, we invite you to read some of our previous retrospectives:
Outside and First inside images: Kevin Rosseel
Second Inside Image: Charmaine Swart