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She Wants Future Generations to Live Here

"Lorraine Johnson"

Canada has a disgraceful record when it comes to damaging the environment: we use more energy per capita than any other country in the world. We produce more garbage than any other country studied. Canadians have the lowest recycling rate of any country studied. We consume the second highest amount of water, our output of sulphur dioxide (major contributor to acid rain) is higher than that of the United States and, our per capita output of carbon dioxide (major greenhouse gas) is second only to the U.S.

So what are we doing about it now that these startling revelations are becoming known? Lorraine Johnson has made it a life goal to bring this awareness to more and more people. She wants to make a difference and wants the rest of us to help. Her book "Green Future: How to Make a World of Difference" is a gloomy prediction of what will happen if we don't smarten up in our attitude towards global warming, acid rain, garbage disposal and other issues that are becoming critically important to us all.

"I decided to write the book when I was working as an editor at Penguin Books in the summer of 1988. That was an incredibly hot year, creating droughts everywhere. That event, the extended heat wave, brought home to me the importance of the environmental issues I had been reading about in the newspaper.

"I wondered if this was the global warming that we had been warned about. So it led me to ask the question: 'What can I do about this? How can I make a positive difference?' And I decided to write a book about it. I couldn't find a book that already existed that would give me those answers. While there are a few environment books that have come out recently, each has a very different focus. There's a consumer guide, for example, mine isn't so much a consumer guide as a handbook on the issues and the actions that people can take."

Did Lorraine grow up with an awareness of the importance of recycling and re-using and conservation of our resources?

"My father was involved in recycling and that had an influence on my attitude. Very little was wasted in our household and that instilled in me an awareness of the importance of conservation.

"Granted, conservation in those days was mainly for economic reasons. In the household where I grew up, commonsense ruled. So we saved electricity and water to save money. But whatever the reason, and it is still valid, we weren't wasting resources.

"My book is full of suggestions on how we can all make a positive difference, through the products we buy, the way we run our households, the way we run our offices.

"One of the positive aspects that is becoming apparent in Canada is the number of kids who are educating their parents on environmental issues. I see kids constantly asking their parents questions about recycling and other concerns. I think this is a wonderful thing because it is the youth of the world today who will have to confront these issues.

"The days of rampant consumerism are on their way out. I don't think there will be a resurgence of the kind of incredible consumerism that we experienced in the 50ís and again in the 70ís. The big issue right now is the animosity felt by some environmentalists to big corporations who are jumping on the bandwagon to cash in on what groups like Friends of the Earth have been advocating for years. Some groups are a bit suspicious of that involvement. "

We are always hearing about acid rain. What is it and what can we do about it?

In Canada we have at least 14,000 biologically dead lakes, and that is a low estimate because obviously not all lakes have been studied.

"The job for us as individuals is to keep up the pressure on the governments; we can also assist by using less energy every day, thus reducing the amount of energy and acid rain our power plants create. We can use our cars less, use public transit, cycle or walk.

"As I said, if we want as individuals to reduce the risk of further global warming we have to consider how efficiently we heat our homes, the amount we drive our cars. We can use energy efficient appliances; there are hundreds of commonsense ways to conserve energy."

I asked Lorraine if Canadians should be concerned about the destruction of the rain forests in Brazil?

"Yes. At least one species of life form-animals, birds, flora-is being destroyed every day that the forests are being burned down. Their habitat is going. The other way we are affected is the way the rain forest impacts on the global climate. Those trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen. They also regulate the water cycle that goes through the Amazon to the ocean.

"That's how the rain forest destruction affects us all. That's why we use the slogan: think globally: act locally. To get a local view of a global problem, garbage, take a trip to your local dump and see the incredible amount of material thrown out. You may have thought you solved your garbage problem by throwing it into the trash can. Out of sight, out of mind. But it hasn't gone away!

"Even in Ontario where 69% of the population is now participating in the blue box program, only about 2% of the garbage we produce is diverted from the dump. We have to also rely on two other principles: reduce and reuse. "

Lorraine Johnson is someone who is doing something positive to change

our world. She is a Canadian Achiever who has a lifetime goal: to make the rest of us aware of the incredible importance of thinking globally: acting locally.

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