Our History

 “Sustainable development is the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Sustainable Cobourg

The 2007 International Panel on Climate Change 4th Assessment Report (IPCC AR4) put ‘Climate Change” on the map.

It was the largest and most detailed summary of the climate change situation ever undertaken, produced by thousands of authors, editors, scientists and reviewers from dozens of countries citing over 6,000 peer reviewed scientific studies.
In December 1983, the United Nations (UN) Secretary-General, through a course of extensive public hearings, developed a broad political concept of sustainable development.

“Sustainable development is the kind of development that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs”.

Ralph Torrie, a resident of Cobourg, had been involved with the 1987 United Nations Brundtland Commission where the most accepted definition of “sustainability” originated. Because of the ground swell of concern about Climate Change here in Cobourg, Ralph Torrie ran in the 2008 40th Federal Election to highlight the urgency and the findings of IPCC’s AR4. The results showed that people were concerned about this issue.

With that momentum, “Citizens for a Sustainable Cobourg” a non-profit organization was conceived in 2008.

In 2009, they applied to the Ontario Ministry of the Environment for funding to tackle the province’s Green House Gas (GHG) reduction targets of 6% below 1990 levels by 2014. With that funding the Cobourg Go Green Center was created in a little storefront next to Lakefront Utilities office on Decision Street.

The Mission:

“… to organize or participate in the local environmental projects, to educate and increase the public’s understanding of the environment and its importance, develop and offer programs promoting the protection and preservation of the environment and conduct and disseminate research relating to the environment”.

A decision was made to have an “arm’s length” component to the organization to be able to freely lobby the Town or Province on environmental issue. This resulted in a split and the creation of 2 entities:

  1. “Go Green Together” the store-front, practical hands-on help and support component for citizens, funded by Provincial Government incentives and Climate Strategy partnerships.

    2. Sustainable Cobourg” an advocacy organization with a broader more cultural trans-formative vision, to be built as a membership organization that charges a yearly membership fee and maintained a website presence.

    On September 10 2009, we became a separate entity incorporated as Sustainable Cobourg founded by 3 Richards:

    Richard Homme (since deceased)
    Richard Nonnekes (cycling Advocate)
    Richard Tyssen (public policy)

There are 8 Advisory groups created to research and develop policy, organize activities, advocate around various issues and coordinate public events:

  • Climate Emergency
  • Town Hall
  • Bicycle Action
  • ECO Action
  • Electric Vehicle
  • Digital Innovation
  • Youth Ambassador
  • Food Action

Advisory leads are designated and monthly Board of Directors meetings shape the direction of Sustainable Cobourg.

The Board of Directors supports the Advisory groups’ initiatives always with the lens of sustainability.

We learned that we are stronger when we form partnerships. We now have several Corporate Members and Partners whom we support with direct links from our website.

Known as a “go-to” organization for Climate Change/Emergency and Sustainable information, we continue to champion sustainability by initiating and participating in a range of projects.

Integrated Community Sustainability Plan (ICSP) and Climate Action Plan vision
Tannery District – (since 2012)
Cobourg Community Garden (since 2015)
Grow the Greenbelt – (since 2016)
Sustainability 101 – Lunch and Learn (since 2016)
Sustainable Building practices (2016-2017)
Conference presenter (2017)
Student Sustainability Champions (2018-2019)
Venture-13 Fireside chat on Sustainability (since 2019)
Presentations to County and Town (since 2019)
All Candidates Forums
Climate Change presentations
Yearly Earth Week and Tree planting events

In conclusion:
We are small but mighty.

Sustainable Cobourg continues to grow in membership and is forging a change from “non-profit “ to “for-benefit” thinking as we move away from a “bottom-line” mentality to the more sustainable “triple bottom line” thinking. ‘People Planet Profit’ (John Elkington)

According to an ancient indigenous legend that became part of the David Suzuki ‘Blue Dot’ movement in the early 2000’s the hummingbird story resonated with me as i was entering the political realm for the first time. It simply captured what I, and many others concerned about our planet’s future, were facing. It is an allegory.

Over the course of many days, an enormous forest fire spread over the Great Bear Rainforest of the Haida peoples.The animals too were alarmed and terrified and started to flee to the great water. The grizzly bears thundered with their young cubs, fearing for their safety. The grey wolves travelled side by side with the Sitka deer, the cougars with the mountain goats. All suffering from the smoke and the floating embers surrounding them. A young bear cub, noticed a little hummingbird flying into the fire. It called out to it to warn the little bird that it was in grave danger.

“Why are you flying the wrong way?” it shouted.

Upon opening its beak to give its answer, some droplets of water fell to the scorched ground.

“I am doing what I can to stop my home from disappearing by carrying what I can from the big water in my beak”, it replied. “The forest is my home. It feeds me and shelters me and my family. I am grateful for all the forest has done for me. I am part of it and it is part of me. I know I cannot put out this fire but I must do my part.”

“But you are just a little hummingbird’, responded the bear cub. “What can you do?”
“I’m doing the best I can,” it replied.

Did You Know?

Packed into standard shipping containers and placed end-to-end, municipal solid waste generated in one year would wrap around the globe 25 times. This is unsustainable! What is your community doing to target waste reduction? - un.org

Adopting sustainable practices, whether large or small, can have significant impacts in the long run. If every office worker in the United Kingdom used one less staple a day by using a reusable paper clip, 120 tonnes of steel would be saved in one year.

So far in 2022, Depave Paradise has depaved 15 asphalt pavements! Since 2012 this group has completed 80 projects across 32 Canadian cities covering 76,384 square metres of unused paved surfaces into beautiful community green spaces with native grasses, flowers and trees. What an amazing sustainable action to capture carbon, a Greenhouse gas, and create a welcoming ecological ‘paradise’ for our monarchs and bees and of course, for us. Well done. This is a project of Green Communities Canada.

In 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity put the precautionary principle to work.

In 1987, the Brundtland Report consolidated decades of work on sustainable development.

The First World Climate Conference happened in 1979 and opened up the science of climate change.

"How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world." - Anne Frank