Theglobeandmail – Over the past months, Canadians have demonstrated their ability to innovate, to care and to serve. Nowhere has this been more visible than in our academic community, where researchers immediately turned their attention to solving the challenges of the pandemic. They came together across the country, from different disciplines, and shared their knowledge and equipment with each other and with local businesses. Whether designing and manufacturing protective gear or modelling and producing potential remedies and vaccines, researchers and entrepreneurs created successful partnerships. The results were truly innovative. We must apply this collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to another global crisis we face: climate change.

Inextricably linked to population health, our environment is also key to world economic recovery. Humanity sits in the centre of a triangle with health, the environment and the economy at each angle. Our survival within the triangle depends on the strength of its angles. Health and the environment form the base, which in turn and reciprocally supports the economy. Having dedicated our efforts to human health, we must continue to care for the population. We should however, also pay greater heed to the health of our planet. In turn, this will bolster the national and global economy.

We can already see promising partnerships developing as we increasingly focus on the climate crisis. Researchers across the country are working with industry and businesses large and small to ensure our infrastructure can withstand fluctuating climates, to design longer-lasting batteries for electric cars, to reduce our agricultural footprint and improve food security, and to develop options for generating clean energy. Canadian entrepreneurs have ideas and products that need validating. They are discovering that they can turn to their local institutions to bring their visions to life and their products to market. For example, through a partnership with a non-profit research centre, a softwood lumber company in Quebec developed a line of value-added engineered wood products, which opened up new, sustainable building design and construction possibilities, increasing revenue and jobs.

Canada’s strength in bringing businesses and researchers together to focus on such problems will be vital not only to our economic recovery but also to creating a sustainable world in which generations to come will flourish. We are making inroads and should be proud of the successes we have seen to date.

To build on these successes and explore other solutions to climate change, we require a strong educational foundation for researchers, expertise that will drive research and its applications, and the necessary infrastructure for experimentation and testing. We must encourage business, industry and communities to collaborate, and to support and to join the research enterprise. We need to focus on this important matter while adopting a global perspective.

The environment knows no borders, and we need to seek and to share expertise at home and abroad to deal with this problem that affects our lives and our livelihoods. With local focus and global vision, and an educated population with the tools and expertise needed to apply their knowledge, we will enhance our capacity to join world efforts and achieve our goals.

There has never been a better time, nor a greater need, for Canada to demonstrate its innovative mettle. This is the moment for our creative genius to shine. We have outstanding researchers and business leaders in every community, as well as a fine tradition of resourcefulness and innovation. Together, we can actively care for our population and our environment.

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