The Faces of CELA: John Jackson

Q&A with John Jackson

Blog posted by April Weppler, Engagement Co-ordinator on October 29, 2019

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

I have been a board member of CELA since March 1998 because of my experience as a client of CELA and because of my broader environmental policy and activist work over the past 35 years. I’m also a member of CELA’s Healthy Great Lakes Advisory Committee, the Legal & Priorities Committee, and the Personnel Committee.

What inspired you to get involved in environmental law and public policy?

My work in the environmental field began when I was living in Windsor where our community was downwind of the Fermi Nuclear Power plant in Monroe, Michigan. One of the units at the Fermi plant had a partial nuclear fuel meltdown in 1966. We formed Downwind Alliance to oppose nuclear power plants.

I also at that time became involved in occupational health issues in Windsor, especially those related to asbestos, diesel emissions in the salt mines and plants producing plastics. I began working with community groups concerned about dump site contamination and waste disposal facility proposals in their communities.

As we discussed the problems, we came to realize that communities all across the province were experiencing the same barriers. We formed the Citizens’ Network on Waste Management to work at the provincial level for legislative and policy changes. Through this we hoped to be able to avoid other communities from having to confront the same problems that we did.

What’s the most rewarding part of working/volunteering with CELA?

CELA is unique in that it works at the provincial and federal level for policy and legal changes while also working with local communities to provide them with legal support as they address local struggles. Being part of this is very satisfying. Being involved with CELA also deepens and broadens my knowledge of what is happening in local communities and at the provincial level.

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

There isn’t one issue that is more important than the others. It is essential that we have people across the basin working on a wide range of different issues.

The challenge affecting all issues is to make governments, industry and the public realize that we cannot and should not even try to manage nature. The system is much too complicated for us to ever do that; the challenge is to switch our focus from managing nature to managing human activities to reduce and minimize our negative impacts on the natural world.

How do you think we can best approach this challenge?

We have to change the language, e.g., refuse to use terms like “resource management” and focus on changing human behaviour.

When you’re not working on Great Lakes issues, what do you like to do?

Go out and walk and sit in natural settings. Cook meals for company at my house. Explore family history.