As a conservation advocate for the Yukon chapter of Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society (CPAWS) and CoPower’s first Green Bond investor from the Yukon, Joanna Jack is walking the talk. We asked her to tell us more about the campaigns she’s involved in, from the recent Supreme Court of Canada victory for the Peel Watershed, to the fight to stop oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
I live in a place where the winters have been getting warmer and the summers rainier. The permafrost and glaciers are thawing, resulting in sudden and drastic changes to the landscape leaving people unnerved.
Belief in climate change isn’t a question for your everyday Yukoner. It’s all around us, affecting our daily life, plants and animals. In fact, the Arctic is already warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, and that’s a disturbing thought. It’s because of this that I’m acutely aware how much of what I do–from my work to the way I invest–connects back to climate change.
“Belief in climate change isn’t a question for your everyday Yukoner. It’s all around us.”
At CPAWS Yukon, I consider myself lucky to be working on the front lines of conservation with inspiring people and First Nation governments who aren’t taking this lying down.
In many ways we’re winning. Recently we celebrated a major victory in the multi-decade campaign to protect the Yukon’s Peel Watershed, a vast and beautiful mountain wilderness the size of Nova Scotia, that until recently has been threatened with wide-scale development, including mining.
In the advent of climate change, large-scale wilderness protection like this is more important than ever. One reason is that it maintains crucial life-lines for species like the Porcupine Caribou and other animals already struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing world.
December 2017 was a pivotal moment for the campaign: the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in our favour, upholding a land use plan that protects 80% of the watershed. With this ruling, combined with a recent change in territorial government, we’re well on our way to securing the protection the Peel needs.
“In the advent of climate change, large-scale wilderness protection like this is more important than ever, maintaining crucial life-lines for species like the Porcupine Caribou that are already struggling to adapt to a rapidly changing world.”
The celebration was sweet but short, because now we’re facing a new problem. The same caribou that winter in the Peel also have the longest land-mammal migration on the planet. Each spring, the Porcupine Caribou travel hundreds of kilometres across the Arctic to give birth to their young in Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, another wilderness area that’s been under threat for decades.
Since coming to power, the Trump administration has been working to roll back environmental protections and enable oil and gas drilling in this refuge where critical calving grounds have supported those caribou for millennia.
Leading the charge are the Gwich’in, an Indigenous people whose way of life depends on the herd. They’re supported in this fight by northern communities, First Nation, territorial and federal governments, citizens and environmental organizations like CPAWS Yukon who are mobilizing to speak out against this outrage.
Together we’ll continue to push for the protection of a place that is sacred to many and key to the survival of one of the last healthy barren ground caribou herds in Canada’s north.
“It wouldn’t feel right to speak out vocally against oil and gas development in the Arctic, and then turn around and invest in those same activities in the north or elsewhere.”
For me, though, it can’t end when I leave the office. I believe public education and advocacy are powerful tools for change, but I know they don’t work in isolation. The private sector is always an enormous part the equation, for better or worse, and even more so when policy fails us. In this case, business decisions could tip the balance in favour of protection. For example, oil and gas wells cost three times as much to develop in the Arctic than they do in the lower 48, yielding relatively marginal returns on investment. The less we depend on oil and gas, and the more fossil fuel companies are forced to internalize externalities by paying a price on carbon, the shakier the business case becomes for Arctic drilling.
That’s part of the reason why I take my investment decisions as an individual very seriously. My savings may be small by comparison, but what they enable matters to me. What are my savings saying about my values? To whom am I giving social license?
For me personally, it wouldn’t feel right to speak out vocally against oil and gas development in the Arctic, and then turn around and invest in those same activities in the north or elsewhere.
This isn’t an issue that is new to me. While studying at the University of Toronto, I remember coming across a pamphlet that brought the issue into focus. In one clear bar graph, it laid out the investments that Canada’s big banks — including my own at the time — had in the oil and gas industries. In those days, climate denial was being fuelled by those same companies and that visual shifted my thinking about what it meant to be complicit in climate change denial and inaction.
“My savings may be small, but what they enable matters to me.”
I was motivated, but the next step, divesting my chequing account, turned out to be pretty hard. I felt paralyzed by how limited the alternatives were. It took a long time, but when 350.org was running their first divestment campaign across university campuses, I made the switch to a credit union. Still, I found the investment options for an investor like me restrictive.
When I first heard about CoPower’s Green Bonds last year, I was particularly excited. They weren’t yet available in the Yukon, but I got on the list and made my first investment as soon as I could. Finally, there was a way to not only divest, but to know exactly where my money was going — towards the kinds of low carbon initiatives we need to change course and build the future we all want to see.
This article first appeared on the CoPower website
Cover photo credit: Peter Mather, http://www.petermather.com/
The client testimonial that appears on this page was solicited by CoPower and may not be representative of the views of other investors or potential investors in CoPower Green Bonds. Please consult the CoPower Green Bond Offering Memorandum for all material information in respect of CoPower Finance Inc., CoPower Green Bonds and the terms of the offering.