Environmental stewardship is a fundamental pillar of RTOERO’s advocacy program. RTOERO encourages engagement on every level — as individuals, households, communities and regions, both nationally and globally.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the gigantic issues: polluted air, earth and water; harm caused by CO2 emissions, plastics and industrial waste; climate warming; and loss of biodiversity. Yet step by step, with resolve, we can all make a positive difference.
Harry (Skid) Crease (District 23 North York) is a lifelong eco-activist and champion of environmental literacy. Crease says all first steps toward environmental responsibility are important because they boost the psyche when a person can say, “I’m acting upon it. I’m trying my best.” Both individuals and groups feel better when they’re trying to be part of the solution.
Actions may at first appear too small to matter, but they do, says Crease. Think about reusable coffee mugs and water bottles. Litterless lunches. Home audits to eliminate toxic products. Thoughtful vehicle purchases. Refusal to buy products from unethical companies. Less consumption overall. Crease believes people committed to sustainability, over time, become role models for friends, family and their communities. The momentum builds. “Practising non-Earth abuse encourages others to practise non-Earth abuse,” he says.
Crease’s passion for the planet knows no limit. Neither does his disdain for people, institutions, governments and commercial entities that threaten the environment or refuse to acknowledge the damage that has been (and continues to be) done. Crease constantly refers to ethics as “the cornerstone of action.” He is concerned that schools have spent decades not teaching students to be thoughtful about consumption and politics where the environment is concerned. “Economics always win. Economics control politicians. Economics rule,” Crease observes. “We are with whom we do business.”
Crease remembers when ethics were an intrinsic element of classroom instruction, affording students opportunities to discuss environmental issues and their consumption decisions. Crease believes ethics and environmental literacy encourage responsible consumer and voting behaviour, which motivates industry and government to practise what they preach.
Crease notes that city living and consumerism weaken our connection with the natural world: “We tend not to care about the things we don’t experience, understand and respect,” he says. He worries that we’ve lost our collective sense of “hunter-gatherer stewardship” and our responsibility to the planet. “We and the environment are one,” he adds, and then quotes a famous line from the cartoon character Pogo: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The good news is that people intrinsically want and need to rekindle their love affair with nature. Crease describes the rapture of young students learning about the mysteries of photosynthesis or the life cycle of a frog in a pond. The awe and wonder of nature get buried as we age and sometimes only resurface in retirement. Crease has faith that we humans can keep that awe and wonder alive throughout our lifespans by simply remembering our relationship and codependency with nature in every aspect of our well-being.
Crease also believes in action. Start by recognizing the problem, he says, then research it and take action. “Stop buying that product, supporting that corporation or voting for that politician, and start role-modelling a more sustainable alternative, offering positive solutions for change and being the difference.”
As an organization, RTOERO talks with all levels of government and people of influence to encourage responsible environmental policy and behaviour. You can amplify these efforts with your voices and those of your families, neighbours and people in your communities. Tell all levels of government about which environmental policies will earn your vote. Advise businesses how you spend and invest your money. Let educational institutions know about the instruction children need to be critical thinkers and ethical decision makers.
“It comes down to love and respect. It’s a relationship, and you don’t abuse what you love and respect,” advises Crease, whose outrage at environmental threats is surpassed only by an immeasurable appreciation for all things natural and a deep concern for legacy. “We want to look our children, our students, in the eyes and say honestly, ‘I did my best,’” he adds.
To find out more about RTOERO’s environmental-advocacy program and how you can contribute to environmental stewardship, visit rtoero.ca/vibrant-voices.
It comes down to love and respect. It’s a relationship, and you don’t abuse what you love and respect. – Harry (Skid) Crease (District 23 North York)