On Friday April 20th, Dawson’s Green Earth club hosted its first GreenxTalks with the objective of bringing awareness to various environmental issues and connecting people from different walks of life who share a common passion for sustainability. The evening began with the sweet sound of a live jazz band and an array of NGO and non-profit kiosks presented by young activists. Following were the two speakers of the event: Michael Cookson PhD and Shir Gruber.
The World University Service of Canada (WUSC) is an association of young people committed to empowering, educating, and creating economic opportunities for youth around the world. WUSC’s multidisciplinary approach allows for comprehensive projects to flourish on the local level. Sustainable Youth Canada, to which all proceeds of the event were donated, is a federal non-profit organisation which helps students from high school and university to get involved with local sustainable initiatives. Midnight Kitchen is a McGill-based collective which provides healthy, vegan lunches four days a week thanks to workers and volunteers. They also advocate for and educate on subject of social and environmental justice. Youth for Youth Quebec (Y4Y Qc) is a provincial, non-profit organisation facilitating networking, integration, and leadership opportunities for English-speaking youth. Its goal is to create a sense of community and to represent language minorities in Quebec.
Michael Cookson is a Dawson graduate and environmental engineer who works mainly on developing wind power projects in Quebec. He is a major contributor to the “Monteregie Wind Farm”, in collaboration with Kruger Power, just 22km from Downtown Montreal. He was inspired to do this work by the memories he has of canoeing on the Moisie river, and the fear that it may disappear due to Hydro Quebec dam construction. His solution was to provide an alternative renewable energy source to hydroelectricity which would conserve the ecosystems in the North. He is a firm opponent to NIMBYism, the tendency of people to say, “Not in my backyard!” when it comes to energy production projects. He would much rather see a wind mill on the horizon, modifying his view, than knowing that acres of forest are being flooded hundreds of miles away. Having a wind power plant so near a metropolitan city provides many advantages such as flat ground and the already existing transmission lines which add to the cost of more isolated plants.
Shir Gruber is a 3rd year Dawson student who has a great passion for research in the environment. Along with members of the Green Earth club, she decided to collaborate with other sustainable initiatives at Dawson. What they found was a need to assess the environmental situation in the school itself, and thus embarked in a research project to find out how much waste from the cafeteria could be avoided. One evening, a team of ghostbuster-looking researchers emptied the contents of the cafeteria garbages and found that an outstanding 76% of it was recyclable or compostable. Clearly, we could do much better, but how? Shir feels that the infrastructure is in part to blame; it should be easier and more obvious to dispose of waste in an efficient way. Even though they are already present in the school, recycling and composting bins should be strategically placed to facilitate their use. She also named the issue that people are detached from the consequences they have on their environment; when we produce so much waste and it decomposes in landfills and pollutes the air, we are affecting every person we see during the day.
The two speakers agreed that grassroots movements and scientific innovation are both necessary in the battle against climate change. The former generates social change, and once people’s mindsets have changed, they are ready to invest in new technologies to change their lifestyles.