Engagement plays role in creating sustainability: McDermott

Engagement plays role in creating sustainability: McDermott

‘The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use’

When it comes to creating sustainable communities, public engagement plays an important role, says Dan McDermott, director of the Ontario chapter of the Sierra Club of Canada.

Engagement, he says, can begin at the grassroots level by putting pressure on all levels of government to look closely at ways to move towards a more environmentally-friendly society.

“One way is to demand political vision and will on the part of the people we elect,” says McDermott. “We’re only making spotty progress in that area.”

While he applauds the Ontario government’s move to phase out some of the province’s coal-fired generating plants, McDermott says the government lacks direction in terms of moving towards sustainable energy sources.

In order to create sustainable communities, McDermott says the idea must start with the concept of minimizing usage of natural resources.

You also must figure out what the needs are of the people in the community.

“You need to have them accessible to some environmentally-friendly means, and you need to include in your planning for this community what you’re going to do with the waste,” says McDermott.

Limiting our use of cars is a “major component” of a sustainable society, says McDermott. Large cities, he says, are positioned to initiate change by creating better policies.

For example, McDermott says large cities must do a better job of creating public transportation infrastructure that can accommodate people in their day-to-day lives. Expanding railway transportation is one step McDermott would like to see taken in Canada.

“We need to regard natural resources at a higher level than we have,” he says. “Conservation needs to be the first thing we think about when we look in the direction of using energy. The cheapest energy is the energy you don’t use.”

When it comes to needs such as heat and power, McDermott notes that geothermal, tidal and other natural energy sources are the way to go when it comes to creating sustainable societies.

Compared to other countries, McDermott says Canada is just starting to latch on to the concept of creating sustainable communities. Compared to most European nations, we have some catching up to do, he notes.

Compared to the United States, he says, Canada has been more progressive in working towards sustainable communities in some areas, but adds we lack the strides regions like the U.S. Pacific Northwest have made in utilizing renewable energy sources and promoting public transport.

Writer Bio

Deron Hamel's picture
Deron Hamel

Deron joined Axiom News in March 2007, having previously worked as a news reporter for print, online and wire services. He serves as Axiom News’ long-term care pod lead, after several years of writing stories and editorials for our clients in that sector. An award-winning advocacy journalist, Deron has seen first-hand the strengths long-term care brings to the greater health-care sector and through his work he seeks to share successes and best practices.

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