Blog: Faces of CELA with Julie Cayley

Blog posted by Pelly Shaw, CELA Communications Intern

What’s your role and how long have you been involved with CELA?

I’m currently a member of the Healthy Great Lakes Advisory Committee, and though it’s been less than a year that I’ve been involved specifically with that, I’ve been interacting with CELA for a number of years throughout my career. My background is in environmental science and policy.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental policy?

Probably just my personal love and connection with nature and water in particular. It’s always been personally really important to me. I grew up in Toronto and as I went to school and wanted to get into the environmental sector, I started to appreciate more and more what was happening on the landscape, and then felt I needed to be engaged in policy to try to influence it for the better. Instead of a cottage when I was growing up, we had a farm. So we would go to the farm on the weekends, and I just loved the open space and the forests and the river and being connected with the livestock and food production, but at the same time with the environment around me.

What kind of farm was it?

It was a mixed crop farm, and now also has my horses.

So I’m guessing you ride?

Well I don’t get time anymore, now I just feed them and clean up after them. I have them instead of children! They are geriatric now, my oldest is actually 32, and they were both born here. The youngest is 28. They are my mom’s grandchildren so they’re not going anywhere. Their names are Damyan and Tica. She chose to be born when I was travelling in Costa Rica for two weeks, so she became Tica.

What do you find the most rewarding part of working with CELA?

I think the brilliant minds I get to connect with. Whether it’s the folks from CELA itself, or the people that they bring around the committee tables, the diversity and the brilliance is amazing and that’s really important to me. I love that I get the opportunity to connect with these people.

What do you think is Canada’s biggest environmental challenge?

We’ve certainly got some huge competing interests right now, but I think it’s a bit of complacency. People need to be prepared to make hard choices if we really want change. I’m not sure we’re there yet.

So how do we approach that, how do we get people to be willing to make change?

I think there’s still a lot of work we need to do in helping us all see the connection between our actions or the way we live and their impact on the environment. Whether it’s water quality, or the environment as it relates to our health, I think helping people see connections is certainly how we help all of us have a better understanding of the need to put the environment first. I think also, people need to understand that it’s not at the detriment to the economy, it’s putting our health and the economy first as well.