Nearly a decade ago, in association with the Global Footprint Network, the City of Calgary participated in a study to gauge the city’s ecological footprint.
The report determined that the per capita footprint of Calgarians surpassed the national average by more than 30 per cent.
“If everyone on earth had the same ecological footprint as the average Calgary resident, we would need five Earths to maintain that level of resource consumption,” the report said.
Now, in light of continued discussion on climate change and its global impact, conversations focus on the responsibility of individuals to think about the effects of their habits on the world we all share.
Lila McLean is a retired Calgarian who sold her car years ago to become what she calls “a deliberate pedestrian.”
“We’re not advancing,” said McLean. “We are literally killing ourselves, [and] killing our planet.”
The Brentwood resident takes intentional steps in her daily life to be cognizant of the planet at large.
“What frightens me is that people are utterly disconnected,” she said.
“If people just knew how different this [world] is than when I was young.”
The National Geographic, in collaboration with film actor Leonardo DiCaprio, recently published Before the Flood, a documentary chronicling the effects of climate change in various parts of the world.
Though not a climate scientist himself, DiCaprio spent three years interviewing some of the world’s leading experts in order to get to the bottom of some commonly held myths and misconceptions surrounding the issue.
DiCaprio’s verdict was simple: Climate change is real, and human activity has played a role in perpetuating it.
For the City of Calgary, the issue of a poor footprint led to the creation of imagineCalgary, an initiative that put forward 114 targets in order to reach a 100-year sustainability vision.
“Calgary aims to reduce its footprint to the national average of 7.25 global hectares per person by 2036,” said imagineCalgary website.
Included in these targets are efforts to decrease the city’s susceptibility to flooding and to improve water and air quality.
Colin Pattison, an instructor in the environmental technology program at SAIT, believes that Calgary has made strides in its conservation efforts.
“It’s a very big city, and things are changing all the time,” said Pattison.
“We’ve made big gains in terms of the amount of per capita water usage.
“There’s been a push towards transit and there’s been some real advances in terms of how areas are designed to be more sustainable. East Village is an example,” said Pattison.
“Calgary also has a large park system compared to other cities.”
At the same time, Pattison recognizes the role of individuals to make changes to their everyday habits.
“I think what people can do is continue to become aware of what are real sustainability issues,” said Pattison.
Small changes by many people can make a big difference. – Colin Pattison
“Reduce your own consumption. Instead of driving to work, bike, walk, [or] take transit. You can put in a programmable thermostat, switch off lights when you’re not in the room, and install energy-efficient appliances.”
Still, Pattison believes that people should remain positive as they learn to think environmentally.
“There’s a long list of things people can do individually, [however] I don’t think people should be afraid that the sky is falling,” said Pattison.
“Small changes by many people can make a big difference.
“People should be optimistic about where we are and where we’re going.”