The waves of time will soon wash away the year 2016, leaving us with memories both good and bad

For all of us at Alternatives Journal, the year 2016 will be viewed as a time of celebration and change. It was a year in which we continued our 45-year mandate to deliver Canada’s best brand of environmental journalism and empower positive change.

Across the globe, many positive actions have taken place, from ratifying the COP21 climate accord through to continuing the transition to a low-carbon future. More voices than ever are raising concerns, offering ideas and advocating for continued efforts to minimize the impacts of global warming. And yet, we are watching with increasing fear and trepidation as those impacts become more obvious. Temperatures across the planet keep rising along with the oceans, while freshwater becomes an increasingly precious and hard-to-find commodity as demand from citizens and industry increases.

And while there have been many small victories at the legislative level across Canada and around the globe, we’re still seeing approvals for pipelines, continuing disregard for fundamental human rights  -  and are about to witness the inauguration of a climate change-denying US President at a time when the world needs true leadership to lead the fight against the greatest challenge our species has ever faced.

Glass half-full or half-empty? This year, it truly depends upon your perspective.

For us, we’ve been advocating for many positive changes since our inception – and have been increasingly proud to note that these efforts are bearing more positive fruits as momentum continues to grow at both the grassroots level and in the halls and corridors of power in this country. We’ve also had to temper our expectations throughout the years, knowing that building consensus takes time and effort, but we’ve always believed (and continue to believe) that most Canadians (and global citizens) want to pursue policies and initiatives that work hand-in-hand with our planet. 

In terms of our little corner of the world, 2016 has seen:

  • A move to our new offices, an exercise in patience and sore muscles from moving 45 years of back issues to our fine new digs in the heart of Downtown Kitchener.
  • New team members have joined A\J this year, including Associate Editor Leah Gerber and Graphics Assistant Selina Vesely
  • The transition to a robust quarterly+ new format, moving from 60 pages per issue to 80+, while allowing us to expand our digital and online story-telling capacities, including our first Summer Reading series (supported by TD and Friends of the Greenbelt Foundation)
  • The release of four great issues: FAITH, HOPE & CHARITIES, COMING HOME, BELONGING and LIFELONG LEARNING.
  • A busy calendar of events, panels and discussions, including participating at the 2016 Canadian College & University Environment Network’s annual conference in Halifax and helping to shape Options For Homes’ recent COMING HOME learning series. We also worked with partners like Sustainability Network and ECO Canada to provide distance- and in-person learning opportunities on topics as diverse as Communications and Strategic Story-telling.

For us, this was a year spent looking back at our 45 years of achievement – and envisioning how we will continue to support our community and our country into the future. We’ve got some interesting plans in the works to build upon our successes – and would welcome input and involvement from our community’s stakeholders as we seek to build more communications capacity to assist our movement to engage with more Canadians in unique and interesting ways. From expanding digital brand efforts to increasing our support for experiential learning initiatives (including the envisioning the development and delivery of an A\J-themed MOOC or multiple, open online course), we continue to fulfill our mission to support environmental education, to empower environmental journalism and to provide vitally needed increased communications capacity for outreach and engagement.

45 years of covers

Across the country, it has been a year of starts and stops. There has been positive momentum on the climate file, including the ratification of COP21’s climate obligations in the fall and the unfurling of a national carbon plan. On the converse, we’ve seen approvals for LNG and fossil fuel pipelines, the negative consequences of which could swamp any benefits that might be gained from the ‘victories’. We’ve heard lots of conversations and read of many consultations with a diversity regional and local stakeholders, including a renewed commitment to prioritize the concerns of Canada’s First Nations community.

One of the important efforts has been the work at the federal and provincial levels to breathe a fresh new life into the culture of environmental protection. A belated acknowledgement is better than no acknowledgement (or worse, recent history of antipathy and accusations) – and is heartily appreciated by those who work to protect our water and our land. Being recognized as true patriots to the cause of Canada as opposed to ‘eco-radicals’ working against our national interests is a GIANT shot in the arm of the millions of Canadians working actively, every day, to foster a greener and more sustainable future for all citizens.

The challenge, for us at A\J and for all of us as environmentalists, is to choose to direct our attention to the positive movements while filtering out the negativity. 

Around the planet, we’ve watched as the rising tide of populist and nationalist forces coalesce to deliver surprising electoral upsets as evidenced by the Brexit vote and the surprising election of Donald Trump, among many others. We’re very concerned that the cause of environmentalism will get swamped in increasing acrimony at the exact moment when we should be coming together with renewed vigor and collaboration. But we also recognize that many large and small efforts are taking place – RIGHT NOW- that hold the potential to transform our world for the better.

The challenge for A\J and for all of us as environmentalists, is how to direct our attention to the positive movements while filtering out the negativity. That may be easier said than done, but it is how our movement has always operated. Who would have believed that 45 years ago, when A\J first launched, Canada would commit to a national carbon plan or that new innovations would help us to harness the power of renewable energies to drive change and foster groundbreaking new solutions.

So here’s to 2016. And here’s to you, our readers, to our community members. We appreciate all of your support and encouragement and, together with you, we look forward to delivering a year full of insightful stories, inspiring articles and intriguing innovations that help build a stronger ecosystem of environmental improvement, here in Canada and across the planet.


David McConnachie is A\J's publisher.

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