Blog: The Faces of CELA with Lawrence Gunther

Blog posted by April Weppler, Engagement Co-ordinator

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

I founded the charity Blue Fish Canada in 2012; focussed on water quality, fish health and informing and inspiring the next generation of conservation-minded recreational anglers. In late 2016 CELA approached me to be part of the Healthy Great Lakes initiative, which I felt was a good fit given that recreational fishing on the Lakes represents a $8-billion annual economic driver and contributes to the socio-economic stability of shoreline communities.

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

My masters in Environmental Studies from York University underscored the important role citizens play in shaping government policy, regulations and laws. As a person with a disability [blind] I also know first-hand the importance of advocating for human rights. CELA understands this human / environmental relationship, and is continuously re-defining strategies for advocating for better policies and laws that protect the environment.

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

CELA is skilled at channeling passion into effective action. Too often people find themselves frustrated because they don’t know where to turn. My personal experience as both a human and environmental rights activist has given me tremendous empathy for people seeking answers. CELA is skilled at supporting people to make sure their voices are heard in meaningful ways, while balancing the need to safeguard the environment for future generations.

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

I’ve produced well over 250 episodes of my podcast Blue Fish Radio interviewing people who spend considerable time in nature throughout Canada, and they all agree the climate is changing. Finding ways to reduce the rate-of-change is crucial, as is understanding how to respond to the changes already underway.

How do you think we can best approach this challenge?

It’s no longer about convincing people that the climate is changing and our lifestyles are responsible. People now want to know what we can do to slow down climate change, and address the changes taking place in the environment. We need to help people expand their lexicon beyond expressing concern over climate change impacts, to a focus on actions needed to achieve environmental restoration, and strategies for mitigating the environmental damage already underway.

If you were the Leader of the World, what environmental law or policy would you implement?

I would shift discussions over approvals of new commercial activities away from balancing economic interests against environmental harm, and require that identifying and significantly mitigating environmental impacts be included in the costing of any new projects. No longer can the earth tolerate irreversible destruction in the name of profits.

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

I enjoy being in the outdoors. Whether camping or hiking with my family and friends, or being on the water fishing. I’m always curious to check on how various fish populations and species are fairing, and when possible, sustainably harvesting a few fresh, wild, organic, free-range fish to feed my family – just as we have since the beginning of human kind.