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Who has seen the wind?


Fresh on the heels of the David Suzuki inspired Blue Dot Tour, I suited up for a 64-metre climb (watch the video here) to see the world below – the world I know. As my climbing partner Chantel McKie – a third-year Environmental Protection Technology student – and I reached into the vastness of the blue-grey sky, I waved to my fellow Centennial College professor Carol Preston indicating that we had made good on our promise to do better back in May at the college’s E3 environmental symposium.

Bullfrog Power generously sponsored our participation in the 2014 TREC Climb the Turbine campaign to bring greater awareness of the benefits of renewable energy and the need to mitigate climate change. Our mission was to stand atop the Windshare Cooperative Windturbine, built by a Dutch firm in 2002, and celebrate Toronto Hydro’s free-standing, engineering marvel on the waterfront.

Saturday, October 4 started out cool and rainy, but as our climb time neared, the skies miraculously cleared and the sun came out to cheer us on. Exactly 193 ladder rungs later, Chantel and I emerged to enjoy a sublime view of Toronto, the kind a movie location scout would write home about: the majestic, late 19th century CNE buildings that were once purveyors of agricultural and technological cool; the infinite, gleaming pixels of sunlight in the canal of Ontario Place; and the chain of islands sheltering our gorgeous harbour, flush with trees bearing the autumn splendour.

Taking in the elements and being mindful of an experience both humbling and empowering, we were living the truth. Centennial’s Environmental Protection program and the Environmental Student Society have been passionate about what to do at this existential juncture: overcoming the obstacles that prevent the rapid deployment of clean tech and green infrastructure for sustainable living.

“The greatest challenge we face today, with respect to creating a world powered by renewable energy, is purely social,” our guide, Sean Magee (Director, Bullfrog Power Builds), put it succinctly. “The technology exists. What we need to create is a will to act!” 

Chantel, who was chosen by her peers, commented at the ground-level party afterwards: “ I’ve been fascinated with wind turbines since I did the GCELE at Walpole Island. This experience was an eye-opener and it renewed my love of this planet and how I want to preserve it for future generations.”

If we’re going to talk the talk, we’ve got to walk the walk. But this isn’t about just us. It’s about a fundamental shift to see the world through our children’s eyes. It’s going to take deep empathy.  It means transcending the biological imperative to have only our own offspring prosper, because all our children play under one sky. It’s the only sky we’ve known and depended on, so let’s demand the right for a pollution-free sky that impacts our well-being and our legacy.

As I climbed down the wind turbine, I wondered “Which way does the wind blow?” For me, the environment is the great common denominator. If our understanding about how we are to interact with the world is taken from the next generation’s perspective, we have a chance of slowing down this runaway train called climate change. It’s simply illogical to think otherwise. 

Written by Marc Yamaguchi, English faculty with Centennial College’s School of Advancement