Seniors and Environmental Issues (CJN August 2011)

This "Sustainable Jew" article appeared in the Canadian Jewish News on August 11, 2011

The Canadian Association of Retired Persons (CARP) is a national, non-partisan, non-profit organization committed to a ‘New Vision of Aging for Canada’ promoting social change that will bring financial security, equitable access to health care and freedom from discrimination. Their mandate is to promote and protect the interests, rights and quality of life for Canadians as they age.

At the June 2011 IdeaCity conference I had the opportunity to meet and speak with Susan Eng, Vice President of Advocacy for CARP. I asked Ms. Eng where sustainability fit in the priority of advocacy efforts that CARP undertakes on behalf of its members. It wasn’t clear where issues around the environment and sustainability get prioritized, for a group which advocates for its members around financial security, equitable access to health care and freedom from discrimination.

In our discussion Susan indicated that CARP and its members noticed that in the recent Federal election, there was an absence of intelligent discussion on the issues surrounding the environment, energy supply and global warming, Perhaps with provincial elections coming up in seven of the ten provinces, there was an opportunity for CARP members to engage in a non-partisan way on these complex and evolving issues and to promote civil discourse to get beyond polarized and ideological arguments.

To that end, a number of people including myself, were asked to contribute articles for the CARP Action Online newsletter and to provide questions which would be used to solicit member opinions specific to the issue of sustainability and the environment.

My article appeared in the recent newsletter ( It argued that leaving the world in a better place than when you found it for your children and grandchildren is important. I also proposed that there was a natural fit with current CARP advocacy on behalf of financial security and equitable access to healthcare.

To date, over 3,100 people have responded to the survey ( At the time of this writing, the survey was still available online to capture opinion.

Some quick highlights

84.8% agree that we are going through a period of changing climate and 65.8% believe it is a man-made phenomenon, 74.7% agree or strongly agree that individual actions can have a significant positive effect on the environment, however only 34.5% believe it is possible or very possible to alter our behavior to avert lasting environmental damage.

88.7% of those participating in the survey agreed or strongly agreed that manufacturers should be responsible for their products throughout their lifecycle. 71.4% agree or strongly agree that a carbon tax on industries would create incentives to limit emissions. There is a split on a Cap and Trade approach, with 47.1% in favor and 45.9% opposed, indicating that this approach would be tough to develop a consensus around.

A number of readers of this newspaper are CARP members and can have an impact on the public policy options which need to be identified, prioritized and acted upon.

If you have the time, take the opportunity to shape and influence how this organization, with 80,000+ members aged fifty and over, represents and communicates their opinions and articulates policy options around sustainability and the environment.

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