Drawing on Mother Nature to help combat climate change

Continuing the work of the late Michael Purves-Smith, others have pressed on to present Partnering with Nature to Heal the Biosphere

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Shannon Purves-Smith pushed ahead with the event. [Veronica Reiner / The Observer]

Michael Purves-Smith [File photo]
Studying climate change and ways to combat it was a decades-long passion of the late Michael Purves-Smith, and even more so after his retirement from Wilfrid Laurier University. Before succumbing to cancer last January, he had planned to organize an awareness event; others have picked up the mantle and will present Partnering with Nature to Heal the Biosphere next week in Kitchener.

“He had been researching climate change for quite a long time and very impressed with the urgency of taking action,” said Elmira environmentalist Susan Bryant. “His research was mostly involved with one of the best ways to slow climate change.”

One of his interests was in techniques for sequestering the carbon that has already been released since the industrial revolution, ideally with the hope of natural means.

“We slow climate change, not through fancy engineering processes but imitating the way nature does it,” added Bryant. “Because nature does it naturally. So if we can enhance those processes by adding fertility to the soil, planting trees, just increasing the amount of photosynthesis that happens on the planet, then we’re farther ahead.

“Because we can put all the solar panels and reduce our dependence on fossil fuel, but none of that is going to matter if we don’t draw down the excessive amount of greenhouse gasses that we’ve already put out there.”

Under that scenario, everyone needs to contribute smaller changes to result in a sizeable overall shift. Bryant was quick to point out that climate change means more than humid weather – the long-term consequences of climate change are alarming.

“Without intervention, it’s just going to get too hot for life,” said Bryant. “So that’s what he and all the climate change activists are trying to get the word out – that this doesn’t just mean bad weather, it means the consequences are dire. So it’s not a pretty message in this sense, but I think it is in the sense that he and these people have solutions. What it takes is the mobilization to make it happen.”

Long-time Elmira APT Environment member Shannon Purves-Smith said her husband predicted the crisis decades before it happened and began offering solutions a long time ago.

“He left a ton of information. He wrote an incredible PowerPoint that just covers everything,” she said of his research. “In light of the two things that came out this week; for example, the two climate change researchers that won the Nobel Prize in economics and the other thing about the UN warning that we’re really in deep trouble, these are things that my husband knew decades ago. He predicted these things in the ’80s or ’90s.”

The free event will feature a variety of guest speakers including Bryant, Dr. Paul Voroney of University of Guelph School of Environmental Sciences as well as Jodi Koberinski, 2015 Oak Human Rights Fellow and co-founder of the Dangerous Ideas Festival.

Shannon Purves-Smith will also be speaking to honour her husband’s work and passion.

“Shannon and I are going to do a brief presentation that summarizes Michael’s views and do that in his own words, just to have his presence there with us,” explained Bryant. That’ll set the scene. Then these experts in these various fields that have to do with increasing photosynthesis will speak.”

“His message is so important,” said Purves-Smith. “I just felt that it needs to be said – it really does need to be said, so that’s why I took it on.”

Among the topics presented will climate-smart food, soil, organic matter, decomposition, population and the importance of educating women, restoring nature and restoring ourselves, as well as nature bonds and transforming taxation. There is also a question-and-answer session scheduled near the end.

The event will take place at the Kitchener Public Library theatre on October 16 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free, but there is also the option to register online at EventBrite to reserve a seat.

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