Letter to Steven Guilbeault
Minister of Environment and Climate Change.
Government of Canada
Advanced Release May 20, 2022
Dear Minister Steven Guilbeault.
Email address:

This letter is in response to your article in the Peterborough Examiner Tuesday May 17, 2022. The article was titled How to build a more resilient Canada.
What a relief it was to hear someone at the federal level talk openly about a two front war, the first about reducing GHG emissions (mitigation) the second to build resilience to what lies ahead (adaptation). Your words “ We can and we must do both to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for the impacts of climate change, for a complete effort.”

I realize that you are talking mostly about bouncing forward after a climate crisis disaster as we have always referenced in the Transition Towns movement that I am a part of. Our enduring copy line is from oil dependence to local resilience. However, there are many proactive adaptation strategies that we pursue within the movement that need the Resources and Command Structure of the Federal Government to be implemented equitably across the Nation. I will only touch on what we in the transition movement consider the number one and two adaptation strategies and refer you to other proposals for other priorities.

The First Adaptation Strategy is Energy Descent:

For those of us who know how much energy is in a barrel of oil, and how much of it has to be left in the ground before we end up burning up the planet….and further if we understand that our Canadian life style pushes us to the top of the list of all countries in the world on a per capita consumption basis of all forms of energy we need to first understand that …. we have a problem! The sad truth is that we as a people don’t understand what a mess we are in on energy and how difficult the transition away from fossil fuels will be; compounded by the Government of Canada and the Province of Alberta planning to ramp up Tar Sands oil production…and at the same time the Government of Canada and the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador authorizing drilling for new oil off the coast in the Atlantic Ocean. You are going to need a robust PR strategy plus a very aggressive Energy Descent strategy at consumer level for the country to have any success of transitioning away from fossil fuels.

Here is another realty we should be talking openly about, but don’t seem to have the will. Canada is already warming more quickly than the average of the entire planet. The Arctic is more than 3 degrees C above the IPCC pre Industrial Revolution benchmark, and Southern Ontario is well above the IPCC target of 1.5 degrees C set as a desirable maximum temperature rise for the entire planet.

Before we get on with Energy Descent adaptation strategies that can work… I believe we should acknowledge that Canada is a very desirable place to live with a democratic government and our Charter of Rights and Freedoms …’s only the locals that understand how disruptive black flies and pine beetles can be to camping out in the beautiful Canadian wilderness!

So here is the thing.. Canada is poised for a dramatic increase in population from Climate Change refugees,Wars in Ukraine and future wars over water rights caused by the Climate Crisis Long Emergency between now and 2035. And, there also could be a huge surge from the elephant next door because of the lack of abortion rights in that country. The problem with population growth driving economic growth is that if the new immigrants end up consuming the same amount of energy per capita as we now do, the country will have an even greater problem on its hands and little means financial and otherwise to enact change.
If we have learned anything at all from the pandemic, I think we should understand that the Federal Government of Canada needs to put in place the Goals and Objectives to cut our per capita consumption of all forms of energy in half by 2035, supported by the Command Structure and Resources to make it happen.

This is a National Emergency orders of magnitude more critical than COVID 19. And, the Command Structure and Resource Structure recommended comes straight from your own government’s response to COVID 19.

Even at this level of per capita energy consumption, Canada will remain above some of the Northern Countries in Europe. However only at this level of energy consumption can a smooth transition be made to renewable energy sources, and the electrification of the transportation sector including public transportation systems equitably across the country.
Here is a recent quote from an energy expert Richard Heinberg Senior Fellow of the Post Carbon Institute and the author of multiple books on the topic.
“The real energy transition will almost certainly not be a complete and seamless migration from fossil fuels to solar and wind but rather a shift from using a lot of energy to using a lot less.”
Most of the expertise to implement this energy descent strategy already exists at the community level ..the missing ingredients are the will and resources to incentivize and support it. The people in Peterborough have the will not unlike many communities across Canada but the resources and command structure has to come from the Government of Canada.

The Second Adaptation Strategy is Food Security.

Many Communities in Ontario have Sustainability Plans. Peterborough has the Sustainable Peterborough Plan (SPP) approved by the City & County and First Nations. The SPP calls for the Peterborough Community to feed itself by 2035. The actual percentage of Local Food in Peterborough County purchased by households, institutions and restaurants is estimated at between 3 to 5%….so we have a very difficult job ahead even to achieve 50% Local Food by 2030 to have any chance of feeding ourselves by 2035, and we have no plans or funding to support the transition from an industrial food supply to a local/regional supply.

None of the three levels of government have any jurisdictional responsibility for local food or food security so the local municipal governments have only given lip service and budgeted little funding for the development of local food. The pandemic has heightened awareness of the global food security issue with the resulting disruption of global supply chains for our industrial food supply. And the war in Ukraine has heightened our awareness of the Ukraine being the food basket for a significant part of the globe just as Canada is from our Prairie Provinces.

Global food insecurity in much of the world and mass starvation in many poor countries has always been an anticipated outcome of the Climate Crisis Long Emergency. Within the International Transition Towns movement, Local Food has always been considered a life essential and also a means to reduce the amount of energy we consume, mostly oil in our dominant Industrial Food System.
To be a little more precise according to the analysis of Jason C. Bradford, there is approximately 23 times as much energy utilized in the Industrial Food Supply Chain than we humans get by consuming that food ….and most of that energy input is oil.
So one of the best ways to reduce the Canadian per capita consumption of energy and increase Local Food security at the same time is to move quickly to a Local/Regional Food Regime. As we progress into the Climate Crisis Long Emergency, this type of food regime will be forced upon us, many people will starve along the way… even in Canada.


Now is the time for the Federal Government of Canada to start to understand how inter-dependent our Industrial Food Supply is with Oil Energy. It is your Department that needs to immediately set up the Command Structure and provide significant resources for communities to establish Regional Food Hubs in the support of local food and to encourage the start up of more farmers’ co ops feeding local/regional markets etc., etc., etc. There is so much more to the job ahead in the support of a national food security regime as a life essential as is water.

Finally I was pleased with your sense of urgency in your last paragraph quoted as follows:
“Now is the time to build the homes and infrastructure of the 21st century. Now is the time to work together to build a more resilient Canada.”

I am the Founding Director of Transition Town Peterborough Inc., first started in 2007 as Canada’s First Transition Town. During the pandemic, I wrote a book titled NOW IS THE TIME! about building community resilience, and opened up my personal web site. This letter is written to you in the form of a Blog and will eventually be posted on my web site. In the Proposal section on my web site there is a three part Proposal to the City & County of Peterborough and First Nations, on Building Community Resilience to 2030.

You can buy my book online in e form and in paperback that hopefully provides much more depth to the remarks I have made in this letter.

I wish you great success.

Fred Irwin
Founding Director Transition Town Peterborough