Forest Fires and Climate Change

A playground destroyed by fire

A playground destroyed by fire  

Our thoughts and prayers go out to everyone impacted by the devastating forest fires of northern Alberta.

What I am about to discuss will offend some people.

Fires are devastating. We as a society are contributing to the explosiveness of forest fires. We are not doing it intentionally but now that we are beginning to see that some of our economic choices have a destructive and devastating impact, we need to keep an open mind and an open heart. We can make a difference.

Forest fires need three things: fuel, ignition and weather. The fuel needs to be dry and easy to burn. Ignition can come from lightning which is a byproduct of extreme weather like thunderstorms. Weather can feed a fire by blowing oxygen into it or kill it with rain/precipitation.

So what does Climate Change have to do with it?

Climate Change has been linked to an increase in temperatures and droughts. 2016 is the warmest year on record. Northern Alberta has experienced the third most dry and the second hottest winter and spring on record. The weather has been higher than 30°C or 86°F. Let’s just say this – for Northern Canada that’s hot! Historically the temperature in Northern Alberta for this time of year would be 13°C or 55°F.

Climate Change has been linked to powerful winds. Wind is created by air moving from areas of high pressure to low pressure. Pressure changes as a result of uneven heating of the earth’s atmosphere. As the oceans warm and glaciers melt, warmer winds blow. These winds become more powerful as they blow towards areas of lower pressure. Last week, in the case of Northern Alberta, the winds consistently exceeded 30Km/hour or 18mph.

Climate change has been linked to droughts. The warmer weather leads to more evaporation. Water is literally sucked out of the forests and they become dry and more susceptible to fire.

Forest fires are a way of life in the Boreal forests of Northern Alberta. But what is different is the amount of area burned. It has doubled since the 1970s. The fire season now begins before winter is scheduled to end. It began March 1st 2016. I am told that in the 1970s, forest fire season began in June.

Today we have many refugees of Climate Change here in Canada.

We need to work together to find ways that will decrease our carbon footprint. It is time to rebuild the Canadian economy. We can.

Fort McMurray was first founded as a Hudson Bay Trading Post in 1879. The first explorers brought trade and opportunity. They worked collaboratively with our First Nations. They shared their faith, their wealth and their hope for the future.

We need the spirit of our Canadian explorers to return and rebuild northern Alberta. We need to work collaboratively with our First Nations. We need to share our faith, our wealth and our hope for the future.

Northern Lights of Fort McMurray

Northern Lights of Fort McMurray

For all the refugees of Climate Change, let us find creative ways to rebuild your homes, your economy and let us together minimize our carbon footprint so that we can let our children play and prosper. We pray.

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World Domination

“What are we going to do tonight Brain? Same thing we do every night Pinky…Try to take over the World!”

Pinky and the Brain

Pinky and the Brain

It has been twenty years since Stephen Spielberg and Tom Ruegger created Pinky and the Brain – a delightful cartoon about two friends who plot to take over the world. I hope that they are still trying.

This week, many of us met in Ottawa for the The Conference Board of Canada’s Business Innovation Summit. This will be the first in a series of blogs aimed at sharing the ideas of many brilliant, innovative and courageous individuals who also want to see Canada again try to take over the World. Now unlike the Brain, no one was sinister nor devious, everyone was inspirational. They were honest, focused and committed to renewing the economy.

What is innovation? It is something new – a new process, new product, a new way of doing things. For Canadians, it will be a new way of doing things.

It is time for Canadians to be innovative and do things differently. The challenge will be to create a sense of urgency. As I watched in sadness the wildfires of Alberta today, I hoped that this might be the trigger that ignites an understanding that we must do things differently.

We have the people. We have the technology. We have the sales and commercialization skills. We just need to start living our values and aligning them economically.

So what are the values with which Canada wants to take over the world?

  • Peace
  • Diversity
  • Trade and Partnership
  • Giving Back
  • Wealth
  • Respect

Sorry Brain….we will take over the world.


yours in Corporate Social Responsibility

Cara MacMillan



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#MOTHERLOVE - Join our community to support the Pimicikamak community.

#MOTHERLOVE – Join our community to support the Pimicikamak community. 

“To describe my mother would be to write about a hurricane in its perfect power. Or the climbing, falling colors of a rainbow.” —Maya Angelou

We are each capable of a love so powerful it mirrors the forces of nature. Let’s channel a great love.

Close your eyes for a moment. Imagine a beautiful spring morning. The birds are singing. The flowers are starting to bloom. You hear the children’s laughter.

We are renewed with hope.

Our youth are our springtime,  our hope for tomorrow. They are innocent, joyful; filled with life and wonder.

Now imagine a world where you wake up wondering if yet another child has attempted suicide. A world where those that bring us hope have lost all theirs? To me this would be hell on earth.

For the Pimicikamak community, this is their daily life.

cross lake

So my friend and hero, Catherine Landry is a hurricane in its perfect power.

Catherine asked,”How can we help?”

The answer was simple:

  • Prayer
  • More people help on the front line
  • beads, knitting, weaving crafts, sports equipment
  • guest speakers who can empower/inspire both the youth and the community
  • a connection/links to new people and communities beyond Pimicikamak borders

On Monday April 4th, we will be coming together as a community to join Catherine in her hurricane of perfect love for the children of Pimicikamak. We will be bringing beads, knitting and weaving supplies. We will be bringing sporting equipment. We will be making cards and notes to become pen pals to create a connection with the beautiful community of Pimicikamak.

Join us.


Cara MacMillan


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Carbon Tax…an opportunity?

Carbon tax is an opportunity to level the playing field.

The problem is when we see the word TAX, we have a visceral reaction to it and why not? Honestly paying taxes is frustrating, and expensive. So often we do not feel that we are getting our money’s worth. The issue of Taxes is not the topic for today.

Carbon is the topic today.

2016 is the warmest year on record thus far. We have seen record extremes in weather. Oil prices are ridiculously low – how can this be a good thing for our earth? Well to be honest it is the best thing that could happen. Rather than adding a tax to the price of carbon, oil prices have made it unprofitable to harvest from the tar sands and other areas that have carbon intensive extraction processes. So the oil stays in the earth. That’s a good thing.

For many years, socially responsible investors have been demanding a balance of our energy needs. We have asked that our grids go green – nuclear, wind, solar and hydro electricity are all earth stewardship alternatives….I saw that! Ok for the purists of corporate social responsibility, you just screamed, “No nuclear never!” Nuclear is an expensive and risky alternative but for today it is safer than fossil fuels.  Many countries have a very green grid. Canada included. The focus on many countries is to reduce the production of fossil fuels.

Mille Craig of Millani Perspectives and Sophie Brochu, President Gaz Metro on the IWF Ecpnomic Panel discussing Carbon Tax

Mille Craig of Millani Perspectives and Sophie Brochu, President Gaz Metro on the IWF Economic Panel discussing Carbon Tax

The challenge is that to move away from fossil fuels loses MANY jobs; both in fossil fuel extraction and in their subsequent support infrastructure.

So what is the answer?


At this point, we have ventured into a new world. We do not know what it will look like.

We know the values that we want included.

Christopher Ragan, Associate Professor of Economics, McGill University discussed the Ecofiscal Commission. Their mandate is:

 An ecofiscal policy corrects market price signals to encourage the economic activities we do want (job creation, investment, and innovation) while reducing those we don’t want (greenhouse gas emissions and the pollution of our land, air, and water).

Yes we want clean capitalism. Yes that is a slogan around which we can all rally.               The question is “What’s behind the slogan?”


The message must be clear, Whenever we talk about Climate Change, we must respect all the peoples who are unemployed. People who are hungry and scared of the future. People who do not see any reason to hope.

It is now a time for leadership. Everyone in corporate social responsibility must be standing up and demanding job creation, investment and innovation. This is time of tremendous change. And with every transformation, there are times when we are very uncomfortable, even terrified! And so it is right now.

Yet there are many thought leaders who are saying that a Carbon tax will not cost us money or jobs. Many sectors will be negligibly affected and we will create jobs and opportunity. So what are the focus areas:

Ecofiscal's Report: Smart, Practical, Possible: Canadian options for greater economic and environmental prosperity

Ecofiscal’s Report: Smart, Practical, Possible: Canadian options for greater economic and environmental prosperity


The focus of the report shows that we need to address some very key areas quickly:


  • Road congestion pricing
  • Municipal user fees
  • Carbon Pricing
  • Subsidy Reform
  • Air pollution pricing
  • Water pollution pricing
  • Water use pricing
  • Catastrophic risk pricing

What this means is that we need to add the cost of cleaning up the mess that various sectors/consumers leave in our world. Now for those of you still uncomfortable… We are asking for companies, investors, and consumers to clean up after themselves. To live what we all learned in kindergarten – put things back the way you found them!


yours in Corporate Social Responsibility

Cara MacMillan MBA



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Continuum 2016

Continuum - Climate Change Post COP21 Paris, click logo to access the invitation

Continuum – Climate Change Post COP21 Paris, click logo to access the invitation

Last week I had the privilege of attending Continuum 2016, an International Women’s Forum Conference to discuss the scientific, social and economic impacts of Climate Change.

This Conference had a new energy. After COP21, the United Nations’ international agreements to globally reduce our dependence on fossil fuels were achieved, we needed to begin the conversations on what that new world might look like. These conversations are no longer in the category of “wouldn’t it be nice”; these conversations are realistic and relevant. We are creating a clean energy world.

The first panel discussed the science of Climate Change. Facilitated by the Honourable Louise Otis, President of the Administrative Tribunal of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development, Louise regularly works with the United Nations, IMF and the World Bank. Louise discussed the need for mediation between economic, social and scientific forces. You see, they are all interconnected. Her points were re-enforced by Anne-Helene Prieur-Richard, Global Hub Director, Future Earth. Anne-Helene, presented excellent linkages between our economic indicators and scientific facts.

When we review our economic progress over the past decades, we see consistent exponential economic expansion. Our real GDP, (Gross Domestic Product), FDI, Foreign Direct Investment, and world population have seen unprecedented growth. Fertilizer consumption, water usage, international travel and telecommunications/transportation infrastructure builds have all also grown exponentially.

Newton’s Third Law teaches us; For every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction.

So what is the reaction of our earth? Tropical forest loss, marine fish loss, domesticated land loss have also grown exponentially.  CO2, N2O, ocean acidification, and our earth’s surface temperature  also have grown exponentially.

Jean-Pierre Savard, Oceanographer from McGill University discussed the impacts on our oceans. The good news is our oceans are absorbing the majority of the heat. The bad news is our oceans are absorbing the majority of the heat. As the oceans warm, they become more acidic. The change in pH has decreased the ocean’s ability to photosynthesize the CO2 we produce. Which means we will be growing the CO2 faster than expected.

What does this mean for us as individuals?

Our summers will be very warm and very dry.

Our winters will be filled with storms and temperatures could rise 15 degrees in Canada over the next twenty years. The storms will be extreme like the ones that we are seeing across the world. Snowmageddon and powerful rainstorms will become the norm. As I write this, I am on vacation. I am pleased to say that with a snow dump yesterday of almost 50cm, the skiing today will be awesome.

It is time to understand that we are living Newton’s Third Law. For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. For our economic prosperity and consumerism, the earth is reacting. But the Law is constant, if we minimize our action, we can minimize the reaction.

yours in Corporate Social Responsibility,

Cara MacMillan





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