Canada wants to have a strong economy, but the expansion of development has to be within limits. Our economic activities are significantly contributing to climate change. We can’t separate the human impact on the environment from our survival as a species. In the past few years, the government has dramatically weakened our environmental protection laws to enable more and more industries to expand their production. That’s scary, because without strong laws we can’t keep production within sustainable limits. So it’s organizations like Greenpeace that are really trying to ensure that those laws exist, and to provide Canadians a voice to speak out. We shouldn’t have to be forced upon this decision between economic development and the environment. These two can come together if we build a green economy and really start transitioning now to clean energy.

In the next ten to twenty years, successful environmental advocates will likely have to be part change manager, communicator, scientist and inspirator.

Environmental organizations like Greenpeace work with the business community in many different ways. On one hand, we are confronting corporations whose practices are polluting rivers, destroying endangered species, or undermining First Nations land rights. But we also form partnerships with companies who want to improve. Companies who are the most advanced on this issue will ultimately be the most successful. Research very clearly shows that employees of companies that are doing the right thing for the environment and the community are much more engaged and committed to the company. And employers also know that to keep a happy, talented workforce they also need to be doing good.

In the next ten to twenty years, successful environmental advocates will likely have to be part change manager, communicator, scientist and inspirator. The issue of climate change is affecting everyone, but no one wants to ultimately take responsibility for it. We need a much more critical mass of citizens, business leaders and the government to support change. That’s why environmental advocates will need to have a range of skills: to influence hearts and minds, behaviours and attitudes as well as systems and policies.

To get started, many young people come to organizations like ours through the route of community activism and volunteering. We are always looking for a diversity of skills and passion from research to communication, fundraising, and marketing. Like in any sector, project management skills are also important, in order to ensure we are effectively using our scarce resources to have the greatest impact.

I love this work simply because I can see the tangible impact we’re making. Most people who come into our sector are full of passion, and that’s the number one ingredient. Passion for change. You don’t do it for the money, you join because you actually believe that the world and our communities will be a better place if there is a much greater balance between our natural world and our economy. People find themselves doing this work because they believe that change is not only urgently needed, it is possible

About the author

Joanna Kerr

Joanna Kerr is the executive director of Greenpeace Canada, one of the nation’s largest environmental organizations. She received a Bachelor’s degree in African studies and a Master’s degree in International Development from the Institute of Development Studies in Sussex and the University of Toronto. Before Greenpeace Canada, she was the chief executive of ActionAid, a global non-profit fighting against poverty and the director of Policy and Outreach for Oxfam Canada; in addition to advocating for women’s rights, human’s rights and community development.