Head’s Blog: Environmental Engagement

Child_Wading_FloodOur student Green Team volunteers and a handful of other students are LCC’s “eco-warriors” who are active in considering new ways to educate, support, and advocate for our environment. Despite their efforts and a strong commitment from school administration, I am still concerned about awareness and ownership of environmental issues across our broader school community.

I write this as thousands of people in our city are out of their homes due to catastrophic flooding. Two years ago, major floods were called “once-in-a-century floods”. Unfortunately, they happened again. It can be very tough for young people to process the many elements of climate change. Many people, young and old, think they can have little real impact. I believe that none of us should sit on the sidelines; we should all consider how we can play a part in protecting our environment.

LCC has taken a lot of steps in recent years, but we cannot rest on our laurels and should do more. These are some environmental initiatives undertaken at the school:

Between 2005 and 2010, we started a student Green Team, introduced recycling in a systematic way and addressed a number of costly campus infrastructure issues, replacing inefficient furnaces, ventilation systems and energy-wasting lighting. We also constructed Montreal’s most energy efficient arena in 2008, using an efficient ice-making system called ECO CHILL. That building is LEED Silver Certified (highly sustainable standards). In 2009, we made the environment one of the seven key pillars of our school’s Strategic Plan.

After 2010, our Board of Governors adopted and published a Sustainability Commitment, and we have continued to improve our facilities with sustainability and energy efficiency in mind. This was reflected in the renovation of our science wing in summer of 2010 and construction of the LEED Gold Certified Assaly Arts Centre in 2013. It has many sustainable attributes, including geothermal heating. During those years, an active staff Sustainability Committee and an LCC Parent Environmental Committee also worked on promoting sustainability practices in day-to-day school life.

We have replaced washroom taps with automatic units and installed low-flow urinals. We purchase only sustainably-sourced paper, introduced composting in our food service operations and LCC was twice named one of Canada’s Top 100 Green Employers. All along the way, teachers at all levels have considered ways to focus on the teaching and learning about the environment in our curriculum.

Beyond our committed eco-warriors, I still think we can do better by giving environmental education and sustainability a higher profile. In all fairness, many students and adults are not sure what they can do to help, either at school or at home.

Despite Canada’s small population and vast open spaces, we do not have an admirable track record on a host of environmental benchmarks. We are signatories to the 2015 Paris Accord on reducing harmful emissions, yet each Canadian produces 22 tonnes of greenhouse gas per year. That is the highest among all G20 countries and nearly three times the G20 average of eight tonnes per person.

I am pleased that the world has been effectively nudged by the work of many young environmental activists. Notably, 16-year-old Swedish Nobel nominee Greta Thunberg has presented a powerful call-to-action to youth globally. Her message and her passion for this cause are impressive. She reminds all adults that in many ways we have failed this young generation, and now it is time to pull together and act on behalf of Mother Earth.

In an effort to raise the bar on environmental issues, LCC recently joined a new Environmental Steering Committee of a few CAIS schools. We are working together to set higher standards and benchmarks and hopefully impact all of our nearly 100 CAIS schools across the county.

I invite all students to sit up, listen and take notice. How do we share ideas for improvement within our school and with other CAIS schools? I asked them to channel their thoughts through our advisory groups, Green Team or Student Council. Most importantly, let’s consider how we translate our ideas into action. This is a whole-school initiative that could have long-term impact.

To paraphrase American writer H. Jackson Brown from his NYT bestseller Life’s Little Instruction Book, 20 years from now our students will be more disappointed by the things that they didn’t do than by the ones they did. – Christopher Shannon (Pre-U ’76), Headmaster

Greenism – A New Religion?

GreenismTo buy into the Green Movement is like buying into a religion. It has the structure, the values, the tithing and even the god, Mother Earth. Heck, for now let’s call it Greenism.

In truth, most religions have very much in common in terms of structure. Firstly, there is always a prophet or a guru. Someone to follow, someone with divine knowledge, someone to lead us, someone that can predict what will happen in the future. It sounds a lot like the environmental experts nowadays. Think of Al Gore or David Suzuki. They’re practically worshipped. People follow them from city-to-city, begging for solutions and salvation. Which brings me to the next, most essential aspect of any successful religion: followers. Now the religious followers of Greenism prove to be very widespread and devoted. They are active members in their religious community. They take on the lifestyle that a good Greenie should. They have a hybrid, they save water and they recycle. There are even fanatics in this new religion. There are people who spike trees, to prevent logging; sabotage and sink illegal whaling ships; and set big SUVs ablaze. Structurally, the Green Movement is a religion.

Now many of you are probably thinking that structure is not what makes a religion: it is creed. Greenism has many creeds. Firstly, there is the idea of eternal life or salvation, in other words sustainability. Greenies have set rules for their lifestyle as well. From composting to reusing a bag and sometimes, for the fanatics, buying those hideous eco-friendly socks, include many of the acts practices by the Greenies. They even exude this exclusivity, this idea of holier than thou that is often associated with a religion. Amazingly, even tithing is practiced in Greenism. Greenies forego luxuries and demand that the big bad companies pay up. It even has the idea that our future is decided by our behavior. It has the same self-importance. Our generation is the centre of time. Our actions will decide the future of the human race. Weren’t they saying that like 30 years ago? Greenism most definitely has a creed.

So the big question is: is it so bad? As I said before, religion gives an abstract understanding of life. It guides us in times of indecision. And look at what good it has done for the world. It has truly united us in a way that seemingly only religion can. It has brought us together to save ourselves, to save each other and to save the world. I suppose that I am proud to say that, without a doubt, I am a true believer of Greenism and will include it in the other creeds in which I engage.

—Ingrid Hagen-Keith ’09 (Pre-U ’10)