Can Canadians Adjust their Priorities for a Better Future?

If there’s anything I’ve learned since I’ve been with CFI, it’s that you’re going to meet some serious roadblocks when you’re trying to save the world. Alright, we’re not trying to save the world, but we’re definitely trying to improve it, and as one might imagine, it’s not so simple. 

Facing logistical complications, monetary issues, and just plain old matters of feasibility, is to be expected, but the barrier I have found to be most consistent and the most shocking for an organization trying to implement positive, and sustainable change, is beating societal norms. I just can’t believe how difficult it can be to bring innovative and different ideas to the public sphere. What we have been trying to achieve at CFI, is to prove that it is possible to live an alternative and more sustainable lifestyle, and still be active and involved within society. We try to show that Canadians don’t need to live so excessively and reactively to consumerism, or that we don’t need to clearcut an entire forest to meet our economical goals. We are trying to think differently about the world around us, because we are seeing that at the pace we are living, the direction we are heading doesn’t look appealing. The challenge CFI faces, is getting more people on board with that mentality; that is what shocks me the most.

So, why does it look like Canadians don’t really care about the environment? It perhaps seems so, but I don’t think that is what’s happening. We, as Canadians, face social pressures to keep our economic well-being a priority, and as a byproduct, environmental conservation is put low on our ‘to do’ list. Even though we, as a society, are nature enthusiasts and consider a clean and healthy environment as important, it seems to be something we aren’t necessarily doing much to ensure. I understand the importance of jobs and the sustenance of economic growth, and I don’t think that we need to stop everything we’re doing and focus only on the preservation of the environment. But I do think that Canadians shouldn’t prioritize our own economic growth at the expense of the environment. This is simply because a good economy isn’t going to help much if we don’t have a livable planet in 50 years. 

We cannot blame the government for all our environmental woes and expect it to magically be fixed. And at the same time, although the environmental challenges we face are extreme and daunting, we can’t look the other way and see what happens. As a society, we need to start looking more at solutions, we need to adapt our values, we need to show the government that the environment is a priority for Canadians. When the values of Canadians reflect an alternative and more proactive attitude towards the environment, we can expect the government to act alternatively as well. Here at CFI, we lead by example by showing that although we perhaps sacrifice the ultimate comfort, we live in a way that we know we can continue living, with low impact to the environment.

The way I see it, there are two outcomes of our world: We could, as a society, continue doing what we’re doing; living unsustainably, excessively, and less consciously (not to mention much more comfortably) and continue in the downwards environmental trajectory we are currently in, or we can collectively make the effort to be conscious of what we consume, and see a brighter and more palpable future. Both outcomes are foreseeable, but here at Community Forests International, we are trying to beat those odds by paving a way for a sustainable future by living a sustainable lifestyle - we are finding balance between our economic development and the environment around us. Now, as a society, we must change our perspective to find more of a balance between the two and to make it worth it for the government to do so the same.

-Ran Sommer

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