By Peter Rosenbluth

Working with Environment North and Lakehead University’s Faculty of Education and Student Union, Ontario Nature’s Northern Connections program held a one-day conference on adaptation to climate change last March in Thunder Bay, which more than 80 people attended.

The conference brought together concerned citizens, local experts and politicians. Featured speakers included Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party of Canada and David Pearson, co-chair of Ontario’s expert panel on climate change adaptation. Given the importance of keeping northern and environmental concerns on the agenda in the upcoming federal and provincial elections, we were pleased that Bruce Hyer, the member of parliament for Thunder Bay and several local municipal councillors were also in attendance.

Conference participants identified the ways in which northern communities are especially vulnerable to a changing climate and discussed strategies that would increase the resiliency of these communities. Workshops focused discussion further on pressing topics for the north including adapting to new flooding regimes and developing a climate change education curriculum. Northern Connections events provide platforms where people can collaboratively find solutions that will lead to a more sustainable future.

The conference motto, “Solving It Together,” is equally applicable to Northern Connections’ broader mandate to mobilize grassroots support for northern conservation initiatives. Our partners are Environment North, Sault Naturalists’ Club of Ontario and Michigan, Food Security Research Network, Northern Ontario Sustainable Communities Partnership and the Environmental Film Network. Together, we have raised concerns about radioactive waste from nuclear reactors, food security and sustainable land management practices in the boreal forest.

This September, Northern Connections will be hosting a green economy summit in Thunder Bay. It will be an opportunity to learn about innovative ways to stimulate the growth of green industries and jobs, and for northerners to develop a grassroots vision for integrating economic and environmental health in a mutually supportive way.