Green Drinks Anyone?

Don Ivany, ASF Director of Programs for Newfoundland and Labrador

Dec 12, 2018
Don Ivany at the Green Drinks event.
We all realize how important the natural environment is, but for an organization attracting volunteers and members to the cause, the effort is never easy. An aging population, along with many competing goals for younger folks means that new ways to attract talent and focused discussion are definitely required.

The Western Newfoundland Environmental Centre (WEC) is one local organization on the forefront of innovative outreach. Recently they launched a community outreach program called “Green Drinks” in partnership with Grenfell College.

Green Drinks is a series of four informal social events over the next few months where each evening will feature two guest speakers, one academic, one a community person, providing views on important environmental and conservation issues.

Those attending will ask questions of the speakers with the idea of developing an engaging conversation on the predetermined topics. One never knows - each event could be a stepping stone for someone to become involved in addressing an important environmental issue.

First off in mid-November was an evening at Bootlegger Brewery, with Dr. Bob Scott, environmental professor and researcher from Grenfell College, along with myself, on behalf of ASF.

The topic: Do you think aquaculture can be a sustainable part of the NL fisheries.

The evening was implemented with creativity: It took place in a bar, but far more of a challenge was the first major winter storm howling outside, with winds screaming at up to 125 km/hr and the beginning of a 45 cm. dump of snow facing those who came. Perhaps it was the challenge of the elements, but there was a full house with standing room only.

I focused on the environmental impacts of open net-pen aquaculture world-wide, and the inadequate aquaculture regulations being used in Newfoundland, as shown by the Gardner-Pinfold study commissioned a few years ago by ASF.

I explained Grieg’s massive Placentia Bay project, plus the province’s attempt to approve it without an environmental assessment. My point was this: How can aquaculture be environmentally sustainable if the regulators are reluctant to acknowledge or address the very real impacts.

Dr. Scott added a very different perspective by focusing on the chemical and biological impacts of the industry on the environment, plus disease transfer to wild stocks.

We found agreement that open net-pen salmon farming, as practiced in NL, was not sustainable, and there is no political will to transition to better methods.

The questions and comments flipped around the room; many shedding new and interesting insights on the topic.

Green Drinks worked as a format, even with the elements throwing us a special mix of weather as the evening darkened. And maybe, just perhaps, there will be a few more good stewards of the environment emerging from the give and take of this great evening.

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