Actions that make a difference – from divesting investments to educating the next generation
Building a greener future for Earth Days to come requires commitment from individuals, businesses and governments on actions large and small. Mobilizing the power of our investments and introducing the next generation to the importance of the natural environment are just two of many initiatives gaining momentum in the effort to take action on climate change.
Toby Heaps believes that we are at an opportune time to make a difference. The publisher of Corporate Knights Magazine argues that the “big story from the business perspective is that the financial community is finally waking up to climate change.”
That matters, because the financial industry has a unique ability to act quickly and with significant impact. “The price tag for implementing the Paris Agreement and the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals is said to be $90-trillion. There is over $250-trillion of capital in the financial system that can be channelled and leveraged to play a consequential role.”
If governments are committed to working towards the Paris Agreement goals, investments in fossil fuels are increasingly risky. Pension funds, sovereign wealth funds, mutual funds and institutional endowments seeking long-term sustainable returns are now looking to investments that support a clean energy future.
There’s a definite sense that change is afoot. Just one year after the Paris meeting, over $5-trillion of investment funds have committed to divest their fossil fuel assets. Organizations that include the Ireland Strategic Investment Fund, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the Rockefeller Brothers Fund, Laval University and the Canadian Medical Association have all divested – or announced their intent to divest – their investments in the fossil fuel industry, and the pressure is on other institutions to follow suit.
“This is a period of transition,” says Mr. Heaps. “And what will determine the pace and scale of change is how quickly the capital system becomes unplugged, how quickly capital can be taken out of investments that support doomsday scenarios in favour of investments in areas that create opportunities for a prosperous future.”
Drawing connections to the power of the divestment campaigns that helped end apartheid in South Africa, Mr. Heaps suggests that individuals need to ask themselves if they are investing their money in a future they believe in.
If more of us take action to invest in a green future – walking the walk when it comes to aligning our actions with our environmental values – we can be part of the fundamental shift to creating a heathier and sustainable future for our children.
This also requires nurturing environmental awareness in our children and ensuring that they have a tangible connection to the world beyond screens, cars and living rooms.
Earth Day Canada is doing its part to engage kids in the natural world through its national programs that connect Canadians to nature and aim to build more resilient communities.
“Many researchers have established the links between spending time outdoors and later connections to nature and a commitment to caring for the environment,” says Deb Doncaster, president of Earth Day Canada. “Unfortunately, fifty per cent of kids spend less than an hour outside each day. If we don’t have children outside, experiencing the natural world, where is our next generation of environmental stewards going to come from?”
Earth Day Canada’s new EarthPLAY campaign is a multi-pronged initiative to give more children opportunities for self-directed outdoor play, an activity that is increasingly close to extinction in many communities. EarthPLAY encompasses programming at schools, neighbourhoods and parks to raise awareness of the importance of child-directed play and time outdoors.
“Our mission is to connect people to nature on Earth Day and every day,” says Ms. Doncaster. “We need to be physically connected to natural environments to build our understanding of interconnection and interdependency. We are innately social animals who are part of the natural world, and we lose that crucial self-awareness when we divorce ourselves from the physical environment.”
For many of us, Earth Day has become an annual opportunity to reflect on the challenges we face and the successes we’ve made in protecting our planet. Together, the divestment movement and initiatives like EarthPLAY remind us that awareness and action – by both individuals and organizations – are the means to a greener and more sustainable future for all.
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