Sustainability circle

Calgary group that meets monthly to share books and discuss the topics of environmental sustainability and social justice.

Gathered in the basement of Pages, a bookstore in Kensington, the group met on Wednesday Nov. 18 to discuss Frances Moore Lappé’s novel Eco Mind: Changing the Way We Think, to Create the World We Want.

The circle’s conversation focused on how best to get increasingly important environmental messages out to the Calgary public.

“Environmental messaging needs to be almost entirely positive and opportunistic,” said Gerald Wheatley, who has attended the discussion circle for over five years.

Wheatley works as the manager of Open Streets Calgary, a local initiative that promotes active transportation as a step towards reduced car dependency.

“It can’t just be about preserving the environment,” he said. “It has to be about green jobs, and green economy.” “The doom and gloom environmental message is not the way to go. It really doesn’t work,” said Hans Verwijs, another long-term attendee.

Lappé’s book confronts what she views as self-defeating notions, which prevent everyday people from taking action on environmental issues.

“This book is positive. It presents a problem, but we can do something about it,” said Hannah Ramos.

“She flips the negative construct,” said Daryl Walz. “We are able to be able. We’re able to have an influence.” While excited about what the book presents, those at the circle recognize that positive environmental messaging has often failed to reach the Calgary public.

“The challenge to me is how to be seen,” said Wheatley.

Chantal Eves works for Green Calgary, a local non-profit organization and sponsor of the club that delivers a variety of programs for Calgarians. Eves agrees that important environmental issues often fall short in the Calgary community.

“A barrier for us is that we’re not engaging with Calgarians who don’t already have an environmental outlook,” she said.

Calgary—sprawled and largely driven by oil and gas revenue—presents unique challenges for environmentalists.

“Consumerism is consuming,” Eves said. “We personally believe as green Calgarians that living a minimalistic lifestyle makes us happier.” “We’ve got more money than time, and we’re not really reflecting a lot,” said Wheatley.

Those at the circle viewed sustainability as essential for overall health and wellbeing.

“People get rejuvenated by nature. It’s an elemental part of who we are,” said Verwijs.

“[David] Suzuki’s been saying for years, we need more than GDP to determine our success in society,” said Walz.

The circle is optimistic that by engaging the community, positive environmental change can take place in this city.

“Believing we can do something is critical for change,” said Walz. “We’re all in this together. We all consume the oil and gas, we’ve all got to do something.” “There’s no question on where we need to go, the question is how we get there.” Wheatley said.

“What’s great about these events is that people talk through issues.”

The Sustainability Discussion Circle meets on the third Wednesday of every month. The next meeting will take place on Dec. 16 at Pages Books, 1135 Kensington Rd N.W.

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