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Everyday heroes 

Eco-celebs inspire, but we all need to perspire, says Tim Bousquet.

David Suzuki and Elizabeth May are in town this week to speak at the Sustainable Campus Conference at King’s College.

But I’ll leave it to others to heap praise on the pair or ask whether the environmental calculus really favours generating tonnes of greenhouse gas by flying eco-celebrities around the world to get people excited about, er, reducing GHG production. (Maybe it does: I don’t know.)

No disrespect intended to Suzuki or May—I’m looking forward to seeing them—but the bigger story is that lots of ordinary people are excited about environmental issues and are trying to incorporate environmental consciousness into the routine and structure of their everyday lives. They’re using existing environmental organizations and experts as resources and taking the movement in interesting directions.

Take the Sustainable Campus Conference as an example. Organized by the youth wing of the Sierra Club, the 80 participants are college students from across the Maritimes, says Kate Siemiatycki, the student organizing the King’s event. The group will discuss how to bring “sustainable” practices to their respective campuses.

“Campuses are basically mini-communities,” she says, “and we want to talk about how those communities should make themselves sustainable for the future.”

Siemiatycki is already talking about bringing composting to residence halls at King’s and forming a paper co-operative so universities can buy recycled paper. The conference will, no doubt, produce many more ideas.

Over at the Shaar Shalom Synagogue on Oxford, the congregation invited several experts to a “Climate Change Symposium” last Sunday.

Meteorologist Richard Zurawski told the group that unless drastic action is taken soon, global warming will melt the Greenland ice shelf, disrupt the gulf stream and, paradoxically, bring a Whitehorse-like climate to Halifax within 50 years.

Daisy Kidston, from Clean Nova Scotia, also outlined the international “faith and climate” movement. She spoke about certifying churches and temples as “eco-congregations” and pledged to help the community cut GHG production. The congregation hopes to slash energy use by 75 percent by retrofitting its building.

The single largest challenge facing humanity is global warming. Every business and community organization must develop concrete and meaningful climate-change plans. Consideration of GHG emissions should be incorporated into everything we do.

Eco-celebrities can inspire. Enviro-organizations can provide resources. But it takes each of us to act.

The point is brought home by an exhibit at the Dalhousie Art Gallery called “Imaging a Shattered Earth.” Like the King’s students and the congregation at Shaar Shalom, the artists have decided to incorporate environmental awareness into their everyday lives and their art.

The artists document the destruction wreaked upon the environment by humans, but one alcove of the gallery contains an oddly hopeful note. The whimsical Reclamation series by Robert and Shana ParkeHarrison shows an “Everyman” attempting, against all odds, to restore a devastated earth. Reclamation shows him dragging turf over a denuded landscape. In The Guardian he uses his body as the trunk of a reconstructed tree in a clear-cut forest.

“Equal parts saviour and fool, Everyman is an apt emblem for our fumbling efforts to save the planet,” says an exhibit description.

Suzuki and May will come and go this week. Everyman and Everywoman remain behind, with plenty of work to do.

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