Grand Bend, Ontario is a small town that attracts people who love natural beauty. The white sand beaches of Lake Huron area spread at our feet, and the provincial park next door is home to the rare oak savanna ecosystem. But Grand Bend is also a conservative rural community, one where wind farms are almost universally detested.
My husband and I moved here 14 years ago. Soon after, we had an opportunity to see An Inconvenient Truth, and our world view shifted. When my husband came home from Chicago trained as a Climate Reality presenter, he wondered what opportunities there would be to spread the message in our community. But in May 2014, with the support of his Rotary Club, he organized a forum that attracted some 300 people.
And then Mother Nature stepped in with a sharp reminder. In August 2014, a tornado tore through our community, taking down thousands of trees. We were approached by our local community foundation to take the lead in encouraging reforestation. It was, in a strange way, an opportunity – to clothe the climate crisis in the reassuring message about tree-planting. Our small group set a goal of 5,000 trees over 10 years and began to offer spring and fall tree sales. In 2017 we held the first-ever Ausable Heritage Tree Festival alongside our spring tree sale and implemented a major public planting at our local soccer field. In October we hosted the former Environmental Commissioner of Ontario at a forum on adaptation to climate change.
(Along the way, I also trained with Mr. Gore (Toronto 2015), and we have made several presentations to local churches and community groups.)
Our group, now called the Lakeshore Eco-Network, works closely with a nearby Conservation Authority, a trails group, local service clubs, and the Community Foundation. We have been consistent in our core message: tree planting and conservation to fight climate change. I’m not sure if we’ve changed many minds, but we’ve certainly sold a lot of trees!
Our group is proud to have presented, on April 5th, An Inconvenient Sequel at a small local movie theatre. I think it’s the only screening that has happened in our neck of the woods. For my husband and me, it’s coming full circle. But it’s not the end of the road, not at all.
I am a communications consultant and writer, and most recently became Executive Director of the Grand Bend Community Foundation. I live in the midst of an Oak Savanna on the shores of Lake Huron, with my husband and three Border collies.