Brenda Morehouse is manager of the Pembina Institute’s new environmental activism website, EcoAction.ca, and senior editor for ClimateChangeSolutions.com.

Sunday, 18 Feb 2001

OTTAWA, Ontario

Me and Lou, at work.

This is an exciting time for EcoAction.ca! Tomorrow, we launch our Green Power Action campaign in support of renewable energy. I’m at the office on a Sunday afternoon, not only to prepare this diary entry, but also to prepare for a video interview with Epress.ca first thing Monday morning. (Luckily, I have my dog, Lou, here to keep me company.) It has been a lot of work to pull together the Green Power Action campaign, and we drew on a range of expertise at the Pembina Institute to make it happen.

With this new campaign, the Institute is calling on federal and provincial governments in Canada to implement a comprehensive package of policy, legislation, and financial incentives that will strengthen both the demand and supply of renewable energy. In spite of clear indications that fossil fuel and nuclear energy are sunset industries, the federal and provincial governments continue to fund them at the expense of clean, renewable energy sources. As a result, Canadians are being denied access to cleaner air and new economic development opportunities. The numbers speak for themselves:

  • $40.4 billion in direct federal spending on fossil fuels between 1970 and 1999
  • $2.8 billion in federal loans to fossil fuel industry written off since 1970, over and above direct spending
  • $16.6 billion total subsidies to the nuclear energy industry by the government of Canada since 1953
  • $156 million federal subsidy to the Canadian nuclear industry in 2000
  • $55 million in fossil fuel R&D expenditures by the federal and provincial governments in 2000
  • $12 million total average federal funding for renewable energy each year
  • EcoAction.ca is a project I initiated at the Institute because it brings democracy closer to people. EcoAction.ca is part of a new generation of websites, where visitors can participate in direct action online. With just two clicks of your mouse, in less than a minute, you can make your views known to key government leaders. The Green Power Action campaign is going out to 65 federal and provincial leaders. EcoAction.ca is also a tool for grassroots groups or people anywhere who would like to help reduce the impact of energy use and who have an interest in climate change and air pollution issues. It offers a wealth of information on energy and environment issues and practical solutions to put us on a path toward a more sustainable future, as well as a newsroom with the latest scoop from around the world. Important information is combined with advocacy tools, such as downloadable climate change postcard and sticker campaigns, guides for engaging in meaningful discourse with political leaders, and much more. The quick and simple “two-click” action is meant to empower people to become more involved in advocacy over time. Some people participating in these campaigns are already full-time activists.

    Friday night, I was lucky enough to see Ralph Nader talk here in Ottawa about genetically modified organisms (GMOs). He also offered some excellent insight into advocacy work in general and how important it is that social-change movements run deep. It is not enough just to bring together a group of representatives from different factions to support your cause; the foundation has to be secure. And this means giving people the information necessary to make sound, rational choices, which is the foundation of democratic society. I found his speech very inspiring. I only hope that our work at EcoAction.ca can help to bring us closer to a real democracy, where people have a say in decision-making and the public interest comes first.

    This weekend was rather busy, because I also did a workshop on Saturday for student teachers at the Global Education Networks, “Building Peace and Global Awareness in your Classroom,” with my colleague Heidi Lasi. It was an excellent opportunity to exchange ideas with some fresh minds about how to bring important environmental and social issues into classrooms. The Pembina Institute has some excellent resources for teachers, including EcoAction.ca, Climatechangesolutions.com, and the Climate Change Action & Awareness multimedia resource kit for the high school curriculum. We got some great feedback and new ideas.

    The Pembina Institute for Appropriate Development is an energy and environment, research, and advocacy nonprofit group. Our focus is on minimizing human impacts on the planet through practical solutions. We have strong technical expertise and do some great policy work. The Institute hails from Alberta, Canada’s oilpatch, where we started out about 15 years ago working directly with the oil and gas industry to try to reduce their environmental impacts. This means that we have a strong community presence in that province, and that we continue to do some consulting-type advocacy work with industry.

    I like the Institute’s grassroots history. Rob Macintosh, our founder, became involved in environmental activism in the town of Drayton Valley, Alberta, as a result of a dangerous natural gas blowout that caused nearby towns to be evacuated. He and another local resident managed to convince the industry to implement almost 100 important measures to avoid such catastrophes in the future, and Rob was thus empowered to start up the Pembina Institute. We now do a lot of national-level lobbying in Canada. You can learn more about our work at our website.