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Melissa Shin is deputy editor of Advisor Group. Before joining the team in 2011, Melissa was managing editor of Corporate Knights. She was awarded a Great Waters Fellowship by the Institute for Journalism and Natural Resources in 2010 and is a graduate of the Schulich School of Business at York University.

Great lakes, big problem

Can the world's largest freshwater system, and the regional economy that depends on it, survive climate change?

North America couldn’t survive without the Great Lakes. They power the economy, quench inhabitants’ thirst and provide an array of ecosystem services. Together, Lakes Huron, Ontario, Michigan, Erie and Superior contain 95 per cent of the continent’s fresh surface water.

With the 1959 opening of the St. Lawrence Seaway linking Montreal’s ports to Lake Ontario, the lakes opened to the rest of the globe. Today, annual shipping exceeds 200 million net tonnes; almost a quarter of that travels to and from overseas ports.

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Missing persons

The environmental movement can’t afford to exclude anyone. Yet green organizations have typically ignored people of colour.

When Sonia Dong first pitched the idea of a conference on diversity, some participants thought they would be learning about ecosystem variation.

In fact, the environmental NGO (ENGO) staffer had to explain, it was going to be about increasing the diversity of voices within the environmental movement—an issue such organizations have historically failed to recognize.

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Cities will get a lot bigger

Q&A with Jeff Rubin author and former Chief Economist with CIBC World Markets.

CK: How can cities prepare for a peak oil future?

RUBIN: The trend from the last four decades has been suburban sprawl. Increasing amounts of car ownership and huge extension of freeways moving into the hinterland has seen people moving from the cities to the suburbs. This is an unsustainable practice. Firstly, the cost of commuting is going to increase. Secondly, we’re going to find that much of the prime agricultural land that has been paved over to accommodate urban sprawl, like in Southern Ontario, will be needed for [agriculture].

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Co-operatives at the forefront

This ancient form of business organization is leading innovation in Canada.

Co-operatives and credit unions—which have more than 17 million members and control $275 billion in assets in Canada—have been paving the road to better corporate citizenship for a long time. Vancity Savings Credit Union was the first financial institution in Canada to lend to a woman in her own name, to offer a Registered Educational Savings Plan, to run a lesbian- and gay-targeted advertising campaign, and to offer an ethical mutual fund, among many other Canadian banking firsts.

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No Canadian left behind?

If our system is universal, why do statistics show rural and Aboriginal Canadians have less access to health care?

Universal health care is part of Canada’s identity, but the lack of care in our rural and Aboriginal communities leaves some feeling un-Canadian.

“I was a family physician in rural practice for over 20 years and twice I had individuals who chose to go blind rather than travel to the big city to access an eye specialist,” says Dr. Roger Strasser, founding dean of the Northern Ontario School of Medicine. “So you can hardly say the system is meeting the needs of those patients.”

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Philanthropy is dead?

Mere “balloons and t-shirts” initiatives just aren’t going to cut it today.

If the environment were a bank, we would have saved it already.

This amusing yet sobering socialist protest mantra illustrates the misguided view our markets take of the invisible economy—the environmental goods and services like clean air and water that quietly sustain us every day, for “free.”

Slowly, the world is starting to wake up to the reality that if we don’t protect our ecosystem services, we’ll lose them forever and have a huge bill on our hands. As a result, companies are starting to take environmental and social information into account, linking their executive pay to environmental, social, and governance (ESG) criteria. Global financial news powerhouse Thomson Reuters has acquired ESG information provider ASSET4—who provided data for this ranking—to integrate its data into mainstream financial analysis. Similarly, Bloomberg’s 250,000-plus data terminals provide access to all the publicly available ESG data of over 3,000 companies, including Carbon Disclosure Project data and renewable energy use.

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Thirsty for answers

The tenth anniversary of the Walkerton water tragedy is in May. Has Canada learned its lesson?

Drinking water shouldn’t make you sick. But for several harrowing months ten years ago, turning on the tap in the farming town of Walkerton, Ontario meant risking exposure to a deadly strain of E. coli—o157:h7.

What happened that May has been well documented. After heavy rainfall washed bacteria from cattle manure into the town well, known for years to be vulnerable to contamination, residents began to experience bloody diarrhea, vomiting, cramps, and fever—all symptoms of E. coli.

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Boiling hot

Canada is sitting on a huge renewable, carbon-free energy source that works 24/7. So why aren’t we using it?

Imagine if all the oil rigs in Canada suddenly starting drilling for renewable energy.

With high-temperature geothermal energy, it’s possible. “The rig and personnel who drill for oil and gas can be the same rig and personnel who drill for geothermal,” says Alison Thompson, founder and chair of the Canadian Geothermal Energy Association (CanGEA), which now counts 30 companies, including Enbridge and Nexen, as members.

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Rendez-vous at the TSX

CK editors Toby Heaps and Melissa Shin caught up with legend of green David Suzuki at the Toronto Stock Exchange.

The Exchange is the central organ that breathes life into the economy, and one Suzuki has often exhorted for its blinkered assault on the environment.

But the “Suz’s” rendez-vous on Bay Street makes perfect sense. After all, the TSX is now home to more cleantech companies than any other exchange in the world. Many of these companies, like geothermal player Magma Energy, have the know-how to dramatically transform our society to live in greater harmony with the planet. The question is, will they do it from a Canadian base? The answer, Suzuki suggests, depends in large part on whether Canadians can believe in ourselves and think big—for a change.

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