Photo credit: Clifford Skarstedt

Green Communities Canada’s (GCC) new Executive Director Brianna Salmon came on board in July 2021. After completing a quarter in their new role, Brianna shares thoughts on what working for GCC is like and what lies ahead for the organization: 

Q: After your initial months at GCC, what do you look forward to in your work with the organization?
Brianna: I think this is a critical time for climate action across the world and in Canada. I’m really excited to be in this role at GCC, having worked for more than a decade at GreenUP, a community-based GCC member organization. I know how important community leadership is to engage residents across municipalities and the country to address the global challenge of climate change. It’s essential that we collaborate across geographies and all levels of society to address the climate crisis and to support everybody including municipal, provincial, federal governments, and also individuals and businesses in taking action that’s within their agency. I feel excited about the potential that GCC has to enable vital local action in communities, in partnership with our member organizations. 

Q: How do you see GCC supporting the work of communities on the ground at this critical time?
Brianna: Community organizations and network members are the ones that are directly engaging with the people — thinking about and developing solutions that address the local context. That’s where the change really starts and where we can build the momentum that we require over the next nine years to 2030. However, there are many barriers to supporting local action. One of the major barriers across the environmental nonprofit sector is resourcing.  Many organizations support collective impact through advocacy and policy at the national level. But, I think GCC plays a unique role in supporting capacity on the ground that’s needed to enable meaningful, ongoing, and context-sensitive climate action initiatives. I believe we have a vital and ongoing part to play in bringing about and sustaining the groundswell of support that’s needed to address climate change. 

Q: You joined GCC around the time when the IPCC report was published. What are your thoughts on the report?
Brianna: The IPCC report, in many ways, tells us what we already know and reinforces the gravity of the situation. One of the things that it really stresses is that all governments need to be taking climate change seriously. In many countries, including Canada, we elect those governments. So, we need to make sure that everyone in our communities understands and recognizes the importance of prioritizing climate action. 

I think GCC has an opportunity to affect government policy through some of the relationships that we have and the advocacy work we do. However, we could also affect the composition of the governments through the work that we do in communities — by engaging people in the issues and helping them understand the impacts of climate change that they experience in their daily lives. Things like energy pricing and production, flooding, increasing droughts, food insecurity etc. I believe GCC’s work with communities and individuals is deeply woven together with the political aspects of climate change. 

Q: The IPCC report might add to the rising climate anxiety. Do you have any thoughts on how to stay focused on positive action?
Brianna: What many people could have felt when they read the IPCC report was despair. It’s a really complex global challenge and despite having a better understanding of climate change over the last 20 years, we have not come anywhere near taking the steps towards making the change we need. For those of us who have been working in the sector for a while that can contribute to a sense of hopelessness. But one of the things that has always helped me to feel more grounded through this climate crisis, was to actually engage with people who are involved in on-the-ground projects. It’s that connection to each other that can help us work through some of the sadness and despair we might feel around climate change.  

Q: You have been involved in the nonprofit sector for quite a long time. What program areas do you want to expand at GCC?
Brianna: There are many incredible folks working for GCC who are supportive of some high impact programs. The opportunity to learn from them and to support them in their work feels like a huge privilege. The transportation and energy programs address the two sectors that cause significant greenhouse gas emissions in most communities, while our green infrastructure programs support essential adaptation activities. 

One of the areas many of our members have identified is youth engagement programs. I think that’s an area where GCC can expand our programming. We’re thinking about how we can support the work that our members are already doing to engage youth in climate action solutions and how we can add value and resources to their work 

Q: GCC has moved to an online workplace format. What is it like, working from home and having staff and member organizations across Canada? 
Brianna: GCC is a national organization and it’s important that we have staff across the country who are aware of what’s going on in different provinces and who have experiences with the political landscape outside of Ontario. I’m glad that our staff are working across the country and that they’re tuned into the issues of focus in their communities. I’m also happy that our national mandate creates the opportunity for us to engage with a greater diversity of people who are drawn to this work for so many personal and professional reasons. I’m also grateful to remain in Peterborough, and to maintain my connection to GreenUP, a GCC member organization, and to their work on the ground in this region.