We understand that our current globalized civilization is in crisis. Its economic system is based on a sustained exploitation of the commons run primarily on fossil fuels and driven by accumulation of wealth and power by the financial elite. The depletion of readily available hydrocarbon resources and the accumulation of pollutants in the soils, water, and atmosphere has now diminished the capacity for growth and imperils most of the human population and the biosphere. Global warming has already resulted in enormous losses of life and destabilization of social structures. Our work is to find solutions for a post-carbon world in which communities may yet thrive in a sustainable manner within restored bioregions. If the inevitable suffering is to be minimized, we will need to rapidly convert to a zero-GHG economy and develop resiliency in the face of climate chaos. This will entail changing everything about our buildings, infrastructure, and natural resource use. As an essential correlate, our relationships with each other must reflect our shared concern for the transformation to a sustainable society founded on ecological reciprocity. So we seek to work with people pursuing social and technical solutions.
Greg Allen- September 2016
In the face of the combined environmental, economic and social crisis, indigenous people, governments, scientists and social critics have found common ground in the conviction that, as a species, we must engage in a radical transformation of how we conduct our affairs. It is no longer a question of doing that which is most economic, but something we simply have to do. That being said, there is a tremendous economic opportunity in the transformation to a low carbon economy, particularly for the jurisdictions which are early adopters.
This expansive requirement requires unprecedented approaches. It simply can’t be left up to the government. Premier Wynne has shown great leadership with her Climate Change Action Plan (CCAP) and it is now critical for civil society to step up and take responsibility for determining how to implement the plan. The Rivercourt Response as follows, is our offering and invitation
In the first quarter of 2016, Rivercourt Engineering embarked on an ambitious expansion to offer comprehensive, integrated sustainable engineering services. This involved both the recruitment of new personnel and the acquisition of Sustainable EDGE, who have been on the leading edge of the sustainable building movement in Canada for forty years. Welcomed to that team are subsequent generations of innovative thinkers in the areas of energy, resilience and biology. Together with its network, Rivercourt Engineering constitutes perhaps an unparalleled team in terms of its ability to address the built environment aspects of the climate change crisis in Ontario.
We believe that while the Provincial and Federal Governments have critical roles to play, fundamentally the solution has to come from civil society: businesses, industries institutions and NGOs, and the people in in communities working together to create comprehensive change concerning how we live and the way in which we conduct our affairs.
At Rivercourt, the projects we have either developed or are in progress, illustrate our integrated approach to reducing greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in three different situations.
o First Nations
Indigenous communities are, in some ways, ideally suited to take a leadership role. Their values and tradition of collectivity are in perfect alignment with that which needs to be done. We are engaged with several First Nation communities around a model which would dramatically improve sustainable community infrastructure and quality of life, while reducing costs and GHG emissions. In the last decades, scientists have confirmed what indigenous people have known since time immemorial: that everything is connected. Our lack of connection is, we suggest, a root cause of all of our problems. Our relationship with Mother Earth, and indeed with feminine leadership, has been systematically degraded. There is hope, however, in the increasing recognition of the interconnectedness and in the wisdom of the indigenous.
o Rural towns
Rural towns have similar but different advantages and opportunities as First Nations. We are in
conversation with several small Ontario towns about integrated approaches to low carbon economies.
o Urban Centres
Over the last 40 years we have played key roles in numerous projects in Toronto which contribute to the solution for this problem such as deep lake water cooling for the City of Toronto, the revitalization of Regent Park and East Bayfront, to name just a few. We believe the approaches taken in these projects illustrate the need for a much broader kind of thinking not only throughout the city but across the province.
We bring these projects and experience to the conversation. We are actively having conversations in diverse sectors and hope to formalize that through collaborative working groups in the next months.
We are developing several tools as part of our response:
o Sustainability Framework - A sustainability framework will provide a common language and a comprehensive model for all organizations involved with built environments. Based on a "systems" approach. It will recognize that what happens in one part of the system affects all of the others. It will provide the means to analyze what is required and to provide it. Rivercourt intends to create a primer on the environmental & social problems that we face, on future shocks & stresses that are likely; and on both hard & soft solutions for sustainable & resilient buildings and communities. The overview will consist of short summaries, references, costs, regulatory constraints, and examples that will be shared openly online. Rather than being solely reactive to client wishes & decisions made by others, Rivercourt Engineering feels that it is important for the engineers and designers to be proactive. This overview will be comprehensive, objective, and concise, geared to allowing professionals of all types to get quickly caught up with sustainability & resilience issues and solutions for Ontario.
o GHG accounting - In order to find ways to reduce GHGs we must develop the tools to accurately measure and understand GHG emission as well as natural carbon sequestration. We have done a thorough literature review of the current science and are developing the basis for an accurate GHG emissions accounting system. We plan to include carbon sequestration and release related to land use. More work needs to be done and we are seeking collaborators.
o Collaborative Working Groups - It has become clear that, in addition to the projects and other tools we are initiating, there is a need for a coordinated approach to implementing the CCAP. There are many people thinking about and working on climate change issues who could help each other if they were all connected. To this end, we are partnering with the Canadian Urban Institute and the Sustainable Energy Society of Canada to convene a First Nation, inter-ministerial, inter-governmental, private sector, and NGO working group. Through a series of conferences and charrettes this group would establish the necessary mutual awareness and linkages and catalyze the kind of coordinated action necessary to realize the targets of the CCAP related to buildings and communities. We are trying to determine where there are gaps in policy, who needs to be connected to whom and what are the missing tools.
This is not all we think needs to be done, nor all that we could suggest; it is intended to start a conversation, to begin a process. Additionally, we recognize that the solution is not just technical in nature and will not be solved by engineers only. We need everybody, from all walks of society; artists, business people and social workers, all of us. We are merely stepping up and saying that we need to do this, we are committed to playing our part in this and we are asking people to join us. We owe our children and the planet no less.