It is important to start pressing the Canadian government to work on the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Elizabeth May told about 220 students at Dawson College March 5. “Canada has signed on to all the SDGs,” she said.

Dawson College is working to advance SDGs across Canada in partnership with eight other colleges. Elizabeth was at the College as a special guest in Anna-Liisa Aunio’s Environmental Seminar. Several other classes joined for the occasion.

Due in 10 years

The SDGs are due in 10 years. Elizabeth May believes it is possible to meet the goals, but it will take political will. “It will require unimaginable efforts by every government on earth,” she said. “We need to attain these goals and save our planet.”

“If we don’t reduce our greenhouse gas emissions, there is no second chance,” she said. “The concept of global average temperature doesn’t sound like a big deal. The difference on earth between now and 10,000 years ago, when ice was everywhere, was only five degrees!”

Elizabeth explained that if the average global temperature is allowed to increase by two degrees, it could trigger self-accelerating unstoppable climate change. “We have to aim for as far below two degrees as possible. 1.5 degrees should be the maximum. We are gambling right now.”

Climate change means that many species are threatened and habitats are becoming inhospitable, Elizabeth said. For example, some aquatic creatures are having trouble forming shells off Vancouver Island.

Our house is on fire

“Greta Thunberg is right. Our house is on fire, and we are arguing about having people over for dinner,” Elizabeth said. “We have all the tools and technology we need to address this.”

However, there is a lack of knowledge and understanding about the climate crisis. Elizabeth shared her frustration with politicians and journalists who don’t understand basic climate science, and speak about a two per cent difference in temperature instead of two degrees when discussing climate change.

Canada is warming faster than other countries and is less committed to taking action, warned Elizabeth.

Getting rid of fossil fuels

She believes that Canada can benefit by getting rid of fossil fuels. The economy would benefit from cleaning up the oil sands, retrofitting buildings to be energy efficient and carbon negative, as well as building new green infrastructure.

“We are a nation of smart people. We don’t have any internal wars or struggles. We are in a good place to change the course of our environmental policies and help the rest of the world to do this,” she said.

“The problem is the people we elect to office. They would take action if they believe they have to act or we will not re-elect them,” she said. “Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t have the power to make changes.”

Elizabeth encouraged students to write letters to Members of Parliament and use social media to push for climate action. “Be vegan, walk and cycle, but don’t do that at the expense of political action. Let them feel the impact of your political footprint. Be a sasquatch!”

Dawson can do it!

April 22 is Earth Day and this year is the 50th anniversary of Earth Day. “It is a good opportunity to get people to pay attention,” she said. “When you get thousands of people marching, people in Quebec City and Ottawa pay attention.”

Elizabeth recalled that Earth Day was about teach-in’s at the beginning. “See if you can make it work. If anyone can do it, Dawson College can do it!”


Dawson College is tracking our work on advancing the SDGs and Elizabeth May’s presentation helped build awareness for SDG Goal 13 on Climate Action. For more information about tracking your classes and activities in relation to the SDGs, contact the Sustainability Office: or   

Last Modified: March 10, 2020