“Real heroes are all around us and uncelebrated”, said Peter Capaldi in an interview with the London Evening Standard. Capaldi is the twelfth actor to play Doctor Who in the legendary British science fiction series about a time travelling alien adventurer. While we’re pretty sure he wasn’t present when Conservation Halton started its award program in 1985 to celebrate and recognize local conservation heroes, Capaldi’s quote perhaps captures their essence.

Every year, Conservation Halton recognizes people and organizations who have made significant contributions to conservation in the Halton watershed. These are people who have taken action to do something on their property, or in their neighbourhood, or in their job to help the local environment.

They didn’t take the action to be celebrated or recognized as heroes, they just did something they thought was a good thing to do. Adding to the community grassroots feel and the sense that heroes are all around us is many of those nominated for a Conservation Halton Award were done so by a colleague, family, friend or neighbour.

The list of conservation heroes who have been recognized since their inception in 1985 is diverse and varied. It includes young and old, as well as groups like schools, scout and guide organizations, naturalist clubs, corporations, and government agencies.

Our heroes are also diverse in their accomplishments. Not all of them are doing the conservation equivalent of running into a burning building. In many instances, their actions have been about making their corner of the world better.

In 2015, Andrew and Marites Lee were given the Stewardship Award. They had been inspired and motivated at Conservation Halton’s Healthy Neighbourshed homeowner workshop program to implement a low impact landscaping project on their property. They completely revamped their backyard with a permeable walkway, native plants and a rain barrel. Their efforts and enthusiasm helps to divert our watershed’s urban run-off, and demonstrated that even if you live in a suburban subdivision, you still can have a positive impact on your local environment.

Perhaps one of the most rewarding things to see is the growing number of young people who are doing great things. To help nurture this trend, Conservation Halton added a Citizen Youth Award in 2012 to specifically recognize young people in the community. The winners have demonstrated leadership, quite often in activities at their school with the environmental or eco-club.

Jack Mogus Conservation Halton Award Winner

Others have taken a leadership role in the community. 16 year old Jack Mogus, the 2016 receipient, founded a youth-led organization in 2012 ‘Change by YOUth’ which spearheads environmental initiatives through volunteerism, opportunity and leadership. Jack began his volunteer work in 2011 when he helped organize a local shoreline cleanup in Oakville at the age of eleven. His dedication in helping to keep our waterways clean has now expanded to over 20 shoreline cleanups throughout Oakville serving as Shoreline Cleanup Site Coordinator in at least 18 of those cleanups. Jack has also been involved in numerous other community initiatives like tree plantings.

Not to be forgotten are the teachers and educators who ensured children had the opportunity to have the eco spark lit in them through school activities and outdoor environmental education. Ron Ballentine was honoured in 2012 with the Education Award for his contributions with the Halton District School Board for just. He brought the Ontario EcoSchools Environmental Education program to HDSB. Its success in Halton schools was due to Ron’s commitment and passion, from getting Board level support down to supporting individual teachers in their work with students. A number of these schools have been recognized at the awards, including Tom Thomson from Burlington in 2016, a Platinum Certified EcoSchool. Ron was also integral in launching the Halton Children’s Water Festival in 2006 which annually educates nearly 4,000 students about water.

Conservation Halton, by choosing to celebrate everyday conservation heroes is not only providing recognition at the awards night but also inspiring others, including those of us who work in conservation. As Hassaan Basit, CAO says, “The awards provide validation that there is a movement behind conservation in Ontario.”

So while we are confident that the Awards were launched in 1985 by our predecesors who saw an opportunity to recognize those deserving in the community, maybe we can say we had our own butterfly effect.

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Last modified: September 5, 2017

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