Our Fragile Planet 2020: Environmental Programs At Home
While the world is still grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, people are embracing nature at home and locally more than ever before.
This year, the Our Fragile Planet program series will begin offering online environmental protection and conservation programming, all for free. Join in on a conversation or workshop with environmentalists, scientists, outdoor experts and more, no matter where you are!
Supported by TD Friends of the Environment Foundation (TD FEF), the Our Fragile Planet program series aims to increase environmental awareness and inspire people of all ages to learn more about the environment. The series features engaging programs, workshops and events. This series has been offered since 2014, and for the first time, our programs and speakers are available virtually!
If you miss any of these events, don't worry! Whenever possible, we'll be updating this article and to add links to the online replay videos for the events after they're over.
Friday, June 19, 2 to 3 pm
When you go on a hike or paddle, do you think about how race and space are connected in Canada? Jacqueline L. Scott, writer and researcher on #BlackOutdoors will be in conversation with Demiesha Dennis (@BrownGirl_OutdoorWorld) to discuss Black Canadian participation in outdoor recreation, nature conservancy and environmental groups, and how we can all help to increase diversity in the outdoors.
To give you a sneak preview of this program, I had a quick Q and A with the presenters.
Jacqueline L. Scott
Q: What inspired you to become an environmentalist?
A: I spend a lot of time hiking, cycling and birdwatching. Outdoor recreation was my gateway into conservation and environmental awareness. Being outdoors forces you to notice such things as if the birds are fewer or are late in migrating. The climate crisis is not abstract when the snow is late, or there is not enough of it to go skiing or snowshoeing.
Q: What inspired you to become an environmentalist?
A: Growing up I was always the kid outside, climbing trees, digging for gold (obviously still searching) and finding joy in nature. I wanted to understand my role in preserving the things I was enjoying. I actually wanted to go to law school so I could fight for the environment and against corporations that were actively doing harm to nature. I wanted to save nature. Life happened and my law school dreams didn't come to fruition. After moving to Canada, I spent years enjoying nature by myself and with friends. I later started giving more thought to how I could encourage people to learn to understand nature so they could love and care more for it. What better way than to introduce people to the beautiful
Q: What is one message about your topic program that you want people to know?
A: That the narratives that currently exist around Black people and the outdoors is not entirely true. We are on a path to erase those narratives entirely and transcribe one that says we are out here enjoying nature and we too deserve to be a part of the conversation on how we can protect it.
Q: What is one way you've continued to connect with nature during this time due to the current state of emergency status in our province?
A: I have been actively "naturing" in my neighbourhood. There's just so much to see in and around your home/neighbourhood. A great part of the conversation that has been missing is that nature exists right outside your front door. You don't have to wait for a trip to Algonquin to begin to see and appreciate nature spaces. Find flowers, birds, insects and other things that occur naturally in your surroundings, journal those finds and before you know it, you have found that a whole beautiful world, exploding with nature, exists right outside your front door. If you can't outside birding from your bedroom is also a beautiful way to see that you can actually nature where you are.
Presented by Swim Drink Fish Canada, discover exciting places and things to do in the Great Lakes Region, the importance of connecting with nature during this time while staying safe.
Here's a quick Q and A with one of the presenters, Krystyn Tully.
Krystyn Tully, Vice President and co-founder of Swim Drink Fish Canada
Q: What inspired you to care about the environment?
A: I didn’t grow up camping or hiking or doing the stereotypical outdoorsy activities. I did grow up close to Lake Ontario, though, and the lake is a magnetic force on your life. It’s always there, in the background. When I moved to Toronto for university, I started exploring the portlands and the Don River valley. I always felt calmer and more centred when I was by the water, but it still didn’t occur to me that water needed protection or that I had a role to play. I was just really drawn to those places.
My original passions were related to social issues. I stumbled into environmentalism first as an economic justice issue. Communities with fewer economic opportunities seemed to have more pollution and the social impact bothered me. When the Walkerton water tragedy happened in 2000 and seven people died from drinking tap water, it really hit me: access to clean water is the foundation upon which every healthy community is built. We wouldn’t be alive without water. We can’t build a community without water. So we have to care about the environment. It’s that simple.
Q: What is one environmental message that you want people to know?
A: We’re talking about how to find places to connect with the Great Lakes during the pandemic. In Toronto, that means Lake Ontario and the creeks and rivers that flow through our city. It’s a simple message, but I know from firsthand experience that connecting with the lake strengthens our connection to each other. It’s how we develop respect for the world around us and act as stewards of the places we love.
Even if you don’t become a lifelong environmentalist, a few hours a week at a beach or in a park can have a measurable impact on your mental health and sense of well-being. That’s something everyone has a right to enjoy, and everyone needs right now.
Q: What is one way you've continued to connect with nature during this time?
A: I live in an apartment without a backyard, so I have to be creative about finding small doses of nature. I focus on the tiniest of details, which makes nature feel infinite even in an urban neighbourhood. This is the first spring I can remember where I noticed the order that different flowers started blooming and birds started singing. I pause briefly at sunrise and sunset every day. That small ritual reminds me that we’re on this unique blue orb in space and our water is precious. Now that parks are reopening in Ontario, I’m hoping to go for my first hike of the year this weekend. My street has been under construction for two weeks and I can’t wait to hear the sound of the wind in the trees and maybe the scurry of a chipmunk. It doesn’t take much to make me happy.
Friday, July 03, 1 to 2 pm
How well do you know your local wildlife? Learn how you can experience some of the incredible wildlife living nearby. Presented by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA).
Thursday, July 9, 1 to 2 pm
The Parks Canada Learn-to Camp team will show you the basics of how to prepare for your first camping trip and how to enjoy the outdoors safely during COVID-19.
Please note, this event will not be available for replay. Tune in live!
Here's a quick Q and A with one of the presenters of the program, Mahnoor.
Mahnoor H., Learn-to Camp student with Parks Canada
Q: What inspired you to become an environmentalist and how do you continue to connect with nature during this time?
A: Connecting with the outdoors has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember. I grew up surrounded by beaches and spent every day admiring the creations nature had to offer. My journey to working in the outdoors began with being a volunteer with Parks Canada and doing a small photoshoot with my family for Rouge National Urban Park, showcasing the importance of breaking ethnic barriers to increase visitation in the park. My first camping experience was also with a Learn-to Camp team about 7 years ago!
The Learn-to Camp program is an amazing way to step foot into a new experience, especially if you have little knowledge on camping like my family did when we first came to Canada. The program offers excellent guidance and comfort to make the camping experience that much more enjoyable. In the midst of COVID, going on hikes and day trips in the outdoors has been a challenge, but there is always a solution! To keep my roots intact with nature, my family has been camping outside in our backyard, hosting movie nights in the tent, and stargazing with our new telescope! Although COVID has limited our access to the outdoors, using your creativity to spark new ideas is always an adventure in itself!
Tuesday, July 21, 6 to 7 pm
Did you know there are over 700 native species of pollinators in Canada? Presented by the Toronto and Region Conservation Authority (TRCA), learn about the importance of pollinators and tips on how you can support pollinators in green spaces and your backyard during this time.
Thursday, July 30, 1 to 2 pm
Presented by Parks Canada, learn how the Rouge National Urban Park protects a rich assembly of natural, cultural, and agricultural heritage, and how you can enjoy the Rouge safely during COVID-19. Please note, this event will not be available for replay. Tune in live!
More programs will be added shortly. Check back soon or check the Our Fragile Planet program series page.
Check out Our Fragile Planet Reading (and watching) List! We've included our recommended environmental books for adults, teens and children. Got a suggestion? Leave it in the comment section below!
Visit the Toronto Public Library website for a list of all programs under the Our Fragile Planet program series.
Edited June 17: Included Q&A under the program, How to Enjoy The Great Lakes During COVID-19.
Edited June 29: To include link to the Black Outdoors event video