Plenty Canada: Supporting Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection Goals

Plenty Canada: Supporting Sustainable Development and Environmental Protection Goals

From recent global footage as Rio 2016, we can see the lack of respect for the land and water that sustains us. Canada is back on the international environmental stage to uphold its responsibilities, after attending the UN Conference Board under the ratified Paris Agreement, earlier this year. Although, the Board reported we have a lot of catching up to do, rating Canada’s environmental performance a ‘D’ – 14th among 16 countries. That rating is just above the United States, partly due to former PM Harper removing Canada from the Kyoto Accord goals. Today, stocks of the staple cod species are over 95% lower than they were several hundred years ago. Similar trends hold true for forests, soils, water and the vast majority of our wildlife.

The integral part of upholding a sustainable society is the acknowledgement and respect that we all play a part in working together and hold accountable those who do not. To ensure this collaboration, we must work with those who are motivated and knowledgeable of maintaining sustainability. To uphold the UN Sustainable Goal timelines, we need to start listening and working with indigenous knowledge keepers because they hold critical understanding and shared values in how to best achieve these goals in a modern society – both rural and urban.

Please note just several subpoints from the 17 sections of the UN Sustainable Development Goals , all of which are critical for Canada.

No Poverty 1.4

By 2030, ensure that all men and women, in particular the poor and the vulnerable, have equal rights to economic resources, as well as access to basic services, ownership and control over land and other forms of property, inheritance, natural resources, appropriate new technology and financial services, including microfinance

Zero Hunger 2.3

By 2030, double the agricultural productivity and incomes of small-scale food producers, in particular women, indigenous peoples, family farmers, pastoralists and fishers, including through secure and equal access to land, other productive resources and inputs, knowledge, financial services, markets and opportunities for value addition and non-farm employment

Quality Education 4.7

By 2030, ensure that all learners acquire the knowledge and skills needed to promote sustainable development, including, among others, through education for sustainable development and sustainable lifestyles, human rights, gender equality, promotion of a culture of peace and non-violence, global citizenship and appreciation of cultural diversity and of culture’s contribution to sustainable development

Clean Water and Sanitation 6.2

By 2030, achieve access to adequate and equitable sanitation and hygiene for all and end open defecation, paying special attention to the needs of women and girls and those in vulnerable situations

Sustainable Cities and Communities 11.a

Support positive economic, social and environmental links between urban, per-urban and rural areas by strengthening national and regional development planning

Life Below Water 14.4

By 2020, effectively regulate harvesting and end overfishing, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing and destructive fishing practices and implement science-based management plans, in order to restore fish stocks in the shortest time feasible, at least to levels that can produce maximum sustainable yield as determined by their biological characteristics

Partnerships for the Goals 17.17

Encourage and promote effective public, public-private and civil society partnerships, building on the experience and resourcing strategies of partnerships

More specifically, these all hold common denominators to so many indigenous Canadians that currently face the absence of. The indigenous people have experienced unequal treatment both historically and presently, which is fed by discrimination and prejudice against them over the centuries. However, one main aspect that continues to persevere through their voices is the importance of upholding sustainable development.

We can see this through our environmental history and colonial mindset, in the name of business and development models in the assuming an “endless treasure trove of natural resources”. Despite the continual warnings of indigenous people and offering of traditional knowledge of maintaining sustainability living in the diverse Canadian ecosystems, after only 200 years our environmental and resource limitations have become increasingly clear. In this era where indigenous persons are finally regaining their voices and emerging themselves back in the professional world despite the views of  non-indigenous persons underappreciated, it is time to be supportive allies.

To support this alliance that Canadians needs to guarantee its sustainable development, we need to be aware of who is providing support for the long-term. On one hand, we are realizing that as we put our trust in profit-driven corporations and similar organizations. We have seen them gained great power and sway over governments and civil society. On the other hand, indigenous teachings always been on sustainable living; not just a goal hoped to be achieved in the future. To not live a sustainable life as a human that is respectful of all that surrounds us is like breaking a law of gravity.

Plenty Canada is one such grassroots non-governmental initiative supporting environmental protection and Sustainable Development Goals by facilitating access to and sharing resources with Indigenous peoples and other community groups around the world. For over 30 years, they are comprised and supported by professionals both indigenous and non-indigenous. They have worked both on a local and global scale opening cooperative dialogue with invaluable traditional aboriginal knowledge (TAK) and teachings on tackling environmental crisis and sustainable development goals of today.

In order to uphold Sustainable Development Goals, they work both on a community and global level; not just environmentally, but socially, culturally and economically to respect and uphold these goals, as so often, you hear rhetoric that that degrades the effort of partnership to uphold these Goals. Having the opportunity of participating and learning from some of these activities during a Canadian Roots Exchange , they facilitate traditional knowledge with science including work on protecting species at risk including invasive alien species, traditional medicine protection, forestry (including tree marking, tree planting, woodlot management, wildlife enhancement, traditional crafts, and policy advice), heritage seed protection, erosion control, and alternative technologies (photo-volaics, gravity-fed water systems, building designs).

So why and how do they do this? Do you hear all the time the phrase ‘Everything in moderation’? That’s because it is critical. They recognize that as all persons are part of the environment and are interconnected to achieving healthy living. This is because it is our responsibility to protect it, not exploit it.They are dedicated because they recognize that indigenous values and teachings carry vital knowledge and understanding for contemporary paths to sustainable living. This has included participation in the 1992 Earth Summit, Tribal Parks, and ongoing involvement with the Convention for Biodiversity, Forest Stewardship Council. Mindful of the UN Declaration of the Rights of Indigenous Persons , they have worked with the former Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) in locations as Nicaragua and Guatemala. Refer recent updates for organizations continued involvement. Having the voices of grassroots and non-governmental organizations like this at the international level are what pushes us to stay on top of sustainable goals.

Indigenous Elders and teachers  have the insight of how to best incorporate traditional knowledge to modern day development because this observational knowledge has passed down and revised throughout the centuries.Traditional knowledge has so much to assist and support modern development  because it is recorded from experience. Elder Henry Lickers, Environmental Science Officer at the Department of Tehotiiennawakon works on bridging the gaps by uplifting traditional knowledge of congruent goals and values and addressing the myths surrounding. For example if you were to ask a resident of Ottawa, what wildlife you could find in their area, where you could find them, what breeds or their habits, that  is traditional knowledge; the knowledge you acquire by dedicated observation while living in that area.

At Plenty Canada seminars, they show that like the Reconciliation process, sustainability can no longer be seen as just an aboriginal issue, but a responsibility for all.

John Ralston Saul, Canada’s leading public intellectual and spouse of former Governor General Adrienne Clarkson confirms the importance of embracing Canadian relationships and information sharing in his book The Comeback. “The treaty people, all of us, are bound by our shared obligations as family and community members, whether we are elders or active adults or children. Our responsibilities are tied not to power relationships, but rather to the obligations of shared belonging. This is a sophisticated and accurate representation of our reality. And we are particularly lucky because this interpretation represents a powerful tool for the way most Canadians imagine their country”.

Plenty Canada

Environment and Climate Change Canada: Agreements

UN Sustainable Development Goals

UN Framework Convention on Climate Change

Paris Agreement (ratified)

5 key points in Paris Agreement on climate change

UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Persons

Social Welfare: International Responsibilities

April 22, 2016: Earth Day and The Paris Agreement Towards Sustainable Societies

Karli Zschogner

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