Extreme weather events including worldwide forest fires and unprecedent flooding were clearly evident in 2020, Environment Haliburton! president Susan Hay told the annual general meeting Dec. 2.

She added that climate change, which has also come about due to deforestation, brought COVID-19, and “the world to its knees.

“We’ve learned there is a relationship between deadly pandemics and deforestation. As man destroys natural spaces, the likelihood of diseases transmitted from animals to humans increases, and yet the destruction continues,” she said.

Due to COVID-19 public health protocols, the AGM was held via Zoom, covering EH!s work since May 2019 when the last AGM was held.

During her president’s report, Hay discussed the work the group had done since the last AGM. Its summer speaker series featured Trent University professor, Dr. Dan Longboat, who shared an Indigenous understanding of man’s responsibility to nature before a crowd of more than 70 people Aug. 10, 2019.

In January, 2020, biologist, Paul Heaven, spoke about the importance of wetlands at the enviro café.

Hay said last Wednesday, “but by using COVID as an excuse, the Ontario government authorized ministerial power to override planning processes, without public consultation or the chance to appeal. And then if that wasn’t bad enough, now they are trying to remove conservation authority’s ability to protect against overdevelopment,” She said while only a small part of Haliburton County is served by a conservation authority, it is still an important issue.

Public education continued with a talk in February by Russ Christianson, who spoke about how General Motors in Oshawa could have gotten into green vehicle production. In March, Paul MacInnes of the Coalition of Haliburton Property Owners Association and Terry Moore discussed the importance of shoreline vegetation.

Hay noted the County of Haliburton’s shoreline preservation bylaw is not expected until April 2021, a delay she said was a major concern for environmentalists.

She noted while EH! shifted its programming online for May, they were able to still spread their message, including hearing from Eco Choice Pest Control on environmentally-friendly options; Dr. Bob Sandford of University of Alberta on the need for a local and global reset and Christianson on economic development through co-ops; a ‘no planet B’ webinar with Moore and Sue McKenzie of Climate Action Muskoka. EH! was also instrumental in the Sept. 25 Haliburton Highlands climate action day.

Hay also paid tribute to two local environmentalists who passed away this year; Gerry Hunnius, and Donald A. Smith.

The meeting also heard a presentation from Kevin Skerrett on pension fund capitalism (which can be found at youtube.com/watch?v=COW5g2zn8l0).

Hay said November’s viewing of ‘Living in a Time of Dying’ offered advise on how environmentalists can go forward when they are starting to lose hope.

She said what resonated for her was, “even if we can effect some positive change on our governments, and in our communities, protect some wetlands from development, some species from extinction, keep the increase in global temperatures down to a level we can exist, we need to keep trying, support each other, build community and seek ways to be resilient and resourceful.”

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