About 70 residents took part in a town hall meeting about environmental issues and climate change on Wednesday (Aug. 21) in Cloverdale.
The event was co-hosted by Cloverdale-Langley City MP John Aldag and Camp We Empower.
Aldag kicked off the meeting at 7 p.m. at the Cloverdale Recreation Centre, talking about his work as the chair of the standing committee on environment and sustainable development.
“I personally believe this is arguably the largest challenge facing our planet and those of us living here,” Aldag said of climate change. “I’m hoping that, with the turnout tonight, many of you also feel the same way.”
He said the committee completed several studies throughout the year, including reports on clean growth and climate change in Canada as well as the report on plastic pollution, titled “The Last Straw,” that he tabled in June.
He then introduced panelist Kai Chan, professor at the Institute for Resources, Environment, and Sustainability at the University of British Columbia, who previously provided expert testimony for the committee.
Chan also helped write the United Nations Biodiversity Report, launched in May, that estimated one million species of plants and animals are facing extinction because of humans.
He said humankind needs to think about transforming systems, such as supply chains.
“The main tool that has been leveraged with respect to those supply chains is informed certification,” he said, giving labels as an example.
However, he said creating separate supply chains to label products, such as labelling organic apples, is inefficient and contentious.
“Instead of going into a grocery store or going into a restaurant and being faced with this bevy of different labels, all of which are confusing … imagine that all of the offerings had built in a price to mitigate the negative impacts associated with it,” he said.
While this kind of offset model would make some goods and services more expensive in the short-term, Chan said eventually “many products would actually become cheaper as we get better at helping nature subsidize us.”
He invited people who are interested in learning more about the “lasting pathway” to join CoSphere, a Community of Small Planet Heroes Ecologically Regenerating Economies that will launch before the end of the year.
The second panelist was Myles Lamont, a professional wildlife biologist who is also a member of the City of Surrey Environmental Sustainability Advisory Committee (ESAC).
Lamont spoke more about the decline of species from insect biomass to salmon to birds and told attendees ESAC is considering declaring a climate emergency in the community.
“I’m sure if any of you grew up in the valley you probably remember driving from New Westminster through Abbotsford and your windshield would be completely covered in bugs,” he said.
”Very rarely do you drive through the Fraser Valley and have that same problem today. The biomass of insects in this area has declined substantially and it will continue to be a major cause of concern.”
Rather than despair, Aldag suggested supporting young people to take action and introduced Rochelle Prasad, the 20-year-old co-founder of Camp We Empower. The camp is a Surrey-based non-profit organization that works to get youth involved with promoting climate action, among other things.
Prasad said the best way to engage youth is by telling a story and giving incentive, and plugged the Climate Change Challenge 2019 the camp published online earlier that day.
She said the new workshop miniseries is in partnership with the City of Surrey and the local school district, and invited students in Grades 3 through 12 to register so that the camp can help them create an action plan for a project.
The presentations were followed by a question and answer period, which ranged from the status of the proposed ban on single-use plastics, to the importance of protecting Roberts Bank, to food waste and the herbicide glyphosate.
Liz Walker, who also sits on ESAC, told the panel she was “all for” regulations on the use of glyphosate, the active ingredient in Roundup, by the B.C. forests ministry.
Glyphosate is applied in reforested areas to suppress the growth of aspen and other fast-growing broadleaf species and allow planted conifers to get established.
Walker said the practice is “deplorable,” especially considering aspens act as fire breaks.
Student Riley Grim, who is starting at Lord Tweedsmuir Secondary School this year, was the youngest person to stand up at the town hall. Grim used her time to advocate for more climate change education in schools, an idea that Walker also supported.
In the meantime, Grim said her and her friend Gurnoor Kaur, who is going into Grade 7 at Don Christian Elementary School this year, have been making school announcements about the environment and climate change. For example, Grim said they used the PA system to invite their fellow students to take part in a climate change strike.
“I did research on it and climate change even affects the water,” Kaur said, with Grim adding that she wants to “have a future.”
“We’re not going to have a world if there’s going to be so much pollution,” she said.