Climate of hope

Climate change on the planet is producing positive change in people’s attitudes.

  • Apr. 26, 2013 6:00 p.m.

Climate change on the planet is producing positive change in people’s attitudes. Chris Turner has seen it himself on the green rooftops of India, the windfarms of Denmark and the solar-panelled buildings of Germany. The author of The Geography of Hope came to Red Deer Thursday night to give that message of hope to a packed audience of 150 people. As he told the group, there’s enough doom and gloom about climate change. “We definitely have a limited time to change our course, or our ability to change well be beyond our grasp,” said Turner inside the Red Deer Public Library Snell Auditorium. “But there’s a sort of paralysis when we grasp the thing of this size. ‘What can I do?’” People should think of this as a new era with new rules, he added. And many individuals and communities are. In Freiburg, Germany, a middle-class neighbourhood of townhouses produces more energy than it consumes. Solar power is used. “There’s nothing unique to Freiburg, Germany other than the will to build these,” said Turner of Calgary. An island in Denmark has also made great advances, thanks to its 4,500 residents. “They have eliminated all greenhouse gases from their energy regime, except for the cars they drive on the island and the ferries that pull up to the island.” Locally grown straw is burned in central plants to provide heat. Wind turbines are used to produce electricity. “Every one of the wind turbines are owned locally, either by the farmer of the land that it is standing on, or by a collective group,” Turner said. In India, a growing number of buildings are being built using Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) standards. Started in the United States, LEED has become an international benchmark for developing green buildings. Some buildings in India have grass growing on the roof, which helps to reduce energy costs. Canada is a “half step” behind when it comes to creating sustainable policies, Turner said. He sees some inroads being made, so he remains hopeful. They include the Drake Landing development in Okotoks south of Calgary. The 52-housing subdivision has space and water heating supplied by solar energy. Overall, the green initiatives Turner saw greatly exceeded his expectations. “My only pessimism and frustration is that the stuff I am talking about is not household knowledge.” His book, released last year, became a national bestseller. Turner’s speech was co-sponsored by Rethink Red Deer, Red Deer College Green Campus and Sustainable Red Deer. Lorne Daniel helps to head Rethink Red Deer, a group of about 150 members which is providing public input into smart urban planning. He said the climate is ripe for similar initiatives to take place here. “That’s part of the reason why we wanted to bring Chris here,” Daniel said. “He’s seen things all over the world and we want to build awareness of that locally. With that awareness, comes action.” Contact Laura Tester at