I love this year’s theme for Earth Day: “Restore Our Earth”. I love what it evokes. A sense of gratitude for the beauty of our natural systems, and a sense of calm rejuvenation as our seasons shift. But, if we look closely, the theme of restoration is also an acknowledgement that something is broken. I would offer that it is not the Earth itself that needs restoration, rejuvenation and change, but the human systems that we have placed upon her. Specifically, our western conception of economy and of unending growth and consumption that come at distinct odds with a healthy and natural balance. Too long have we maintained broken systems and silenced wisdom that comes from the Earth, from the other, and from Indigenous Peoples. Restoration simply cannot happen without Reconciliation.

Yet, in the midst of this there are many beautiful signs of hope that should be celebrated and acknowledged today. Like so many of us, I remember that first brush with nature – a tickle of grass, the heat of the sun, the cold of snow, soil between the toes, or better yet, a worm wiggling through hands.

These are memories I have enjoyed re-engaging with today, and ones I hope we all can take the time to reflect on. But we can’t simply linger in those moments, because in my view, Earth Day should be a day of balance. A day where we stop to acknowledge the realities of injustice and environmental degradation that are inextricable from our way of life; and then allow our connection to healthy natural systems, and to each other, to be the forces that guide us through the rest of the day.

Here at Alberta Ecotrust restoration is in our ethos. We have the great responsibility and privilege to direct funds that ensure water quality, protect natural areas and wildlife, and take action on climate change. In my five years working on our Environmental Grant Program, I’ve had the pleasure of getting to know the passionate and hard-working people behind the projects and organizations we fund. I am constantly inspired by the amazing work that they do. I’ve even been lucky enough to be invited on a field trip or two!

In the spirit of hope and inspiration I invite you to read about three beautiful projects that have restoration and connection at their heart, and have captured mine:
– The Bistcho Indigenous Protected & Conserved Area project from the Dene Tha’ First Nation and the Canadian Parks & Wilderness Society Northern Alberta. I recommend watching their incredible short documentary about the Bitscho Lake IPCA.
– The Using Science & Storytelling to Spur Watershed Action project from Red Deer River Watershed Alliance. Another incredible short documentary to watch, Source Waters: The Rivers That Shape Us.
– The Calgary Climate Conversations project from the Alberta Council for Environmental Education and the Calgary Climate Hub.

As Earth Day comes to an end I am reminded that, An Hour is Not Enough for Earth Hour, a day is not enough for Earth Day, and, quite frankly, my work here is not enough either. But these things sure make a difference, and I’m eternally grateful for the chance to be a part of it, whether it’s an hour, a day, or half a decade at Alberta Ecotrust.

We’re just wrapping up the Spring 2021 intake of our Environmental Grant Program. This time next month, we will be convening our Grant Review Committee, a wonderful mix of our Corporate and Environmental Nonprofit Visionary Partners to grant nearly $600,000 to environmental projects across our province that are working to improve the health of our ecosystems. I can’t wait to be inspired yet again.

Restoration is pragmatic and necessary to reduce climate change. Restoration also brings hope, itself an important ingredient in the age of COVID-19. The impacts of the pandemic have illustrated with painful clarity that the planet faces two crises and they are connected: global environmental degradation and its connection to our health. – Earth Day Network


Photo: Simon Irving on a field trip at Inside Education‘s Youth Climate Leadership Summit in 2019.

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