As we harness the power of community, including elected officials and local authorities to embrace sustainability and climate solutions at the policy level helps ensure we’re all rowing in the same direction and accelerate our progress and impact.
The 2018 Made-in-Ontario Environment Plan states that climate change threatens our health, our homes, communities and businesses, infrastructure, our locally grown food and crops, as well as the health of our ecosystems.
These risks to our municipal services and infrastructure place all of us on the front lines of the crisis and our elected officials will need to respond. Agreeing on the nature of that response while building community support, essential for the long-tern success of the policies that are implemented, are the immediate challenges our elected officials face given that this is the ‘biggest, baddest, collective action problem’ we have ever faced.
Here in the Northumberland County (upper-tier) and in our Municipalities (lower-tier), our elected officials and decision makers have a huge responsibility on their shoulders. The choices they make at the policy-level will determine what the future looks like in our neighbourhoods and communities.
Will we ‘steal the future’ with a business-as-usual economic growth model or ‘heal the future’ by coming together to define what ‘sustainable progress’ means to us and influence local government to set us on a path to a sustainable and regenerative future?
The policy-making process at the local level is a balancing act. On one side of the scale economic growth and development issues are the priorities. On the other side, local concerns like homelessness dominate the agenda.
Today interconnected global crises have made this balancing act even more complex. The impacts of a changing climate, global biodiversity loss and ecosystem degradation are at our front door.
Sustainability, as a concept and a movement, is about getting to a ‘safe operating space’ where humans give back more than we take from the natural world. A space that aims to provide enough resources for people to live full, healthy lives, without compromising humanity’s future. The unsustainable demands we’ve placed on nature need to be rectified and we need to find practical ways of redesigning systems and products to be more ethical, equitable, and yes, sustainable. Meaning that the actions taken today to meet our needs are not at the expense of current or future generations and the planet as a whole.
Here in Northumberland, citizens are mobilizing to advocate for the development and adopt of policies that will set us on that path to sustainability.
These are neighbours working on a particular policy file, advisory bodies or community organizations using a lens of sustainability as a cross-cutting approach, exploring how we can integrate sustainability and climate change considerations into our economic development, housing, asset and infrastructure management, fleet, and municipal service delivery.
A working group of municipal officials and advisors from lower-tier municipalities across Northumberland County are looking at three primary markers to monitor progress at the policy level – adoption of a community climate action or sustainability plan, integration of climate change considerations and natural assets into municipal asset management plans and dedicated human resource(s) for climate action and/or sustainability (either staff or advisory committees).
Learn more about what our regenerative future could look like:
Learn more about Doughnut Economics, an alternative model for staying in the ‘safe operating space’:
Sustainability is a complex and evolving concept and best understood today as a movement to find a balance between the environment, equity, and economy.
Each community needs to determine how this will look for themselves based on their local characteristics and the needs of residents.
We encourage our Northumberland community to ask and answer the question: How do we reduce our ecological footprint while enhancing our social wellbeing and maintaining our economic viability?
There is a growing awareness, globally and locally, of the environmental and societal challenges we currently face, however, there is little societal or political consensus on what to do and how quickly to act. Our network recommends a bottoms-up approach with solutions emerging from within each community contributing to our shared future.
Locally, individuals, businesses, and organizations bring a range of perspectives, responses, resources, and commitment to the sustainability challenges we face. Each may be located at different points of the sustainability spectrum, each action adding up to broader change across Northumberland.