Footprints Conference

Bruce Peninsula District School (BPDS) hosted 200 high school kids from across the Bluewater Board for the first ever Footprints Conference.  It offered a combination of increased environmental awareness, along with a look a career opportunities in environmental fields.

Naturally, I was involved in the energy stream, which had about 17 participants.  The first day, Mr. Laing, a teacher at BPDS took the kids through the issue of climate change, the carbon cycle, and how energy is a crucial part of it, and then went to work on some solutions.  They made solar ovens (on a cloudy day), but one of the ovens got up to a temperature of 43 degrees C.  Not bad with no sun, and an outdoor temperature near 20.  They made wind turbines, and used them to demonstrate work – lifting of coins.   They discussed the issues of population and energy use.

Last night they had a forum for local candidates for the upcoming provincial election at Camp Celtic.  So they learned a bit about the political process.  The sitting Conservative MPP didn’t show up – he doesn’t find political forums useful (which is interesting in itself).  Shane Jolley, the local Green candidate, gave the keynote address, a non political speech in which he articulated 3 important environmental themes – climate change, peak oil, and water.  He asked the kids, “How many of you are dippers when you go swimming?  When you go into the water, do you just dip your toes, and go in slowly?  How many of you are cannon ballers – just plunging in?”  There were some of each in the crowd.  He concluded, “When it comes to solving our environmental challenges, we need more cannon ballers.”  Sounds like me.  But I am very careful about the water depth first.  Some of our political leaders don’t even swim.
Today, I helped to organize a tour of local renewable energy and conservation facilities.  The students saw the Ferndale wind turbines.  We toured the solar hot water installation at the local marina, and they learned how 10% of an average home’s energy can come from the sun, at a modest cost, and with a savings on energy bills.  We talked about my hybrid car, and how it reduces energy consumption.  We saw solar panels at work, producing over 400 W of electricity with no noise, and no emissions.  And we toured a straw bale shed that is under construction, and talked about the importance of embodied energy, insulation, thermal mass, and sequestering carbon in the straw.

I could see that some of the kids got it.  All of them learned something.  They know we need to do something about our future.  And now they know some of the solutions, and some of the areas that will offer careers in the future.

Congratulations BPDS on a job well done.

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