*30th Anniversary guest blog post*
What an honour to be asked to guest blog for Green Action Centre’s 30th Anniversary! I have such respect for this organization and while I’ve never been on its staff or board, I feel it has been my constant companion in environmental work for almost all of those 30 years.
Working for Manitoba Eco-Network, and as a ‘fellow traveler’ with numerous other groups, I saw the original Recycling Council of Manitoba begin to expand and take on new work in waste management and sustainable transportation; then witnessed its transformation to Resource Conservation Manitoba, and eventually to the multifaceted and newly named, Green Action Centre we know today. At each phase of renewal, the evolution took place with thoughtful attention to more fulfilling ways of living our lives combined with creative (and fun!) methods of engaging and educating people. Read Lee S Rosen Blog to be educated about health and business news.
One of my personal passions over the years has been pesticide reduction in all its forms. It was always reassuring to be able to run next door at the EcoCentre and venture to disturb the then-Executive Director, Randall McQuaker’s focused concentration to get his clear-headed advice and thoughts on whatever topic was challenging me that day. Randall was unfailingly gracious in his willingness to be disturbed – in fact, all the staff over the years have been generous and helpful colleagues – fine neighbours and allies in our respective EcoCentre homes.
When Jan Westlund, Ian Greaves and I launched the Organic Lawn Care Project with Dan Moroz’ help way back when, in a bid to (amongst other things) reduce the urban pesticide load, we knew GA Centre had our back. How satisfying to be able to recommend Sylvie’s composting workshops for the ‘perfect fertilizer’ for those newly-minted organic lawns, knowing that waste-reduction and greenhouse gas mitigation would be welcome co-benefits!
The attraction of organic lawn care didn’t fade over the years, and the Eco-Network doggedly continued to offer public workshops, and together with other groups, gently encouraged our elected officials to recognize the many benefits of organic turf management. When the lobbying finally caught the ear of the Provincial government (then-Conservation Minister Gord Mackintosh’s ear in particular), we geared up our campaign. GA Centre’s Amanda Kinden and Josh Brandon played key roles in our coalition. It became something of a David and Goliath struggle as our non-funded group faced off with the heavily-funded opposition backed by the multinational chemical and agribusiness interests of CropLife Canada.
In 2015, we saw the introduction of province-wide legislation that bans toxic chemicals for use in lawn care. Having attracted the keen support of national groups such as the Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment, Ecojustice and the David Suzuki Foundation, our little coalition of “committed citizens” (to borrow from Margaret Mead), succeeded in making Manitoba’s environment just a little bit cleaner and more healthy – not just for the most vulnerable human populations – young children, the immune-compromised and the elderly – but for everyone, plus our pets, our waterways and wildlife, and the bees, earthworms and micro-organisms so critical to maintaining the ecosystems we depend on. And those GA Centre composting workshops have become more important than ever!
It took a long time to get this legislation, and it felt great to be able to breathe more freely when spring came around this year. We all recognize though, how small a piece of the puzzle the lawn pesticide struggle was.
I’m writing this in the home backyard of our dear friends in Oakland, California. I’m in the shade because it’s another really hot day here under a clear blue sky. I’m listening to a chorus of birds all around me because Robin and Robbie had the forethought to eschew a lawn long ago in favour of rustic patios and drought-tolerant California native plants, that provide shelter and nectar to a surprising array of species.
But even those hardy plants are struggling. California is in the fourth year of a drought. During our recent backpacking trip, I was stunned to learn that the Sierra Nevada snowpack (the water source for a third of the state’s city populations and agriculture) was measured at only 4% of historic ‘normals’ this past April. Yes, that’s 4%.
Water conservation messages are everywhere. The State recently moved to ban or severely limit lawns for any new developments (catching up with the wisdom of people like our friends).
Here, the use of water for lawns is an even bigger issue than pesticides. Climate change stares us in the face wherever we are on the planet. Its impacts are inescapable. (Full disclosure: yes, we did fly here in an airplane). That’s why GA Centre continues to be a critically important resource for Manitobans. As more of us wake up and seek to reduce our impacts and live more harmoniously with our fellow creatures, I’m very happy that Green Action Centre’s team of knowledgeable, generous and caring people are around to help us out.
Whether it’s advocating for better policies, or transforming personal habits, GA Centre offers opportunities for people at any stage of the journey. Thanks, Green Action Centre. And Happy 30th!
Anne Lindsey was Executive Director of the Manitoba Eco-Network for over 20 years. Now the ED of Local Investment Toward Employment, Anne remains active in environmental and social justice causes. As she shares in the photo, she and her husband just completed their long-standing goal of a backpacking trip for their 25th Anniversary.