Manitoba, a province rich in culture, heritage, and natural resources, is now challenged by global climate change and a public desire for sustainable living. This month, as a guest of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Ruler of Dubai, I have had the wonderful opportunity to visit the sustainable cities and architectural wonders-of-the-world currently being developed in the United Arab Emirates. Moreover, by attendance as a Canadian Delegation at the World Future Energy Summit and International Water Summit I have witnessed the potential sustainability opportunities available to Canadians and especially Manitobans.
First and foremost, the essence of sustainability has become vitally clear as there are three elements of life that can be modified, including food, water, and energy. Without a balance of the three, the land cannot support the people and a consumer-driven society silently approaches a pinnacle moment beyond which there is no recovery as the resources are no longer available. As a world, evidence suggests that we are on this destructive path, and now with the current food, water, and energy demands would require 1.5 worlds to live in balance with the environment. Through identification, management, and corrective actions, we are able to modify our government policies, style of living, and resource demands to bring our societal needs back into check and achieve balance with the natural world. This balance is called sustainable living. It is a guarantee that when the world is inherited by the future generations it will have the same or better resource value as it has today.
The elements of life can be addressed and corrected individually or collectively. The simplest collective approach for Manitobans is to operate more efficiently. By evaluating our choices related to food, water, and energy decisions, we can reduce our resource demands by as much as 40%. Some of our choices include:
- Purchasing locally produced food,
- Choosing non-processed or less-processed food,
- Minimizing waste and waste by-products
- Recycling, reusing, or composting remaining waste products,
- Catching “free” water and applying it to gardens and lawns,
- Installing low-flow automatic sensor faucets,
- Purchasing low water use and energy efficient appliances,
- Installing additional building insulation and low usage light bulbs,
- Eliminating reliance on the automobile, and
- Using energy produced by low-carbon and zero-carbon sources to heat and energize our homes
It may appear by this list that the focus for reducing demand is on residential users, however, sustainable government and industry-driven business initiatives will also reduce the Provincial net environmental impact. Moreover, through leadership, government and industry have the potential to influence individual consumer habits while providing Manitobans with incentives and sustainable products.
Similarly, individuals can demand sustainable government policies and only accept manufactured items with low-carbon footprint.
Even with government and industrial implementation of sustainability, this does not mean the individual is off the hook! As I have witnessed through the stories and photographs presented by island-dwelling people whose homes are being threatened by rising sea levels induced by climate change, everyone has a responsibility to act now. Collectively, we can achieve global sustainability and influence the negative environmental changes being witnessed worldwide.
Sustainable lifestyle choices will soon be available to Manitoba individuals. These lifestyle choices can have a substantial impact on our food, water, and energy demands. Making smart lifestyle choices will further reduce our environmental impact and improve our life-balance. It is no longer an impossible concept to live sustainably in Manitoba. Some options include the first Canadian single-structure-city, DreamScape Winnipeg (DreamScapeWinnipeg.com), and the sustainable city at Rosser, Manitoba (RMofRosser.com). Both of these initiatives have been carefully designed with the essence of sustainability being first and foremost. These development areas incorporate residential housing near places where we can work, live, and play. Moreover, the community gardens, multi-use non-vehicular paths, and natural parks provided in these sustainable communities provide opportunities for connectivity and focus on healthy living.
As I have witnessed in my recent visit to the UAE and in previous studies of communities worldwide, sustainable living is a responsibility that needs to be adopted globally but acted upon locally. Sustainable living involves reducing the carbon footprint related to our choices in food, water, and energy demand. It is a responsibility that needs to be adopted by government, industry and individuals. It is only through making the smart choices that we will be able to maintain the rich culture, heritage, and natural resources of our province for the enjoyment of future generations.