What's so funny about biodiversity?

Photo: Special Guest – Emmanuel Belliveau
Environmental dinner has fun with a serious topic

It was a night to celebrate true eco heroes in the Greater Toronto Area. The Charles Sauriol Environmental Dinner for The Living City on November 3rd raised funds and lauded people and businesses aiming to create healthier waterways, sustainable communities and — especially in this the UN-declared Year of Biodiversity — regional biodiversity. And in an unusual move, the organizers brought in the Second City comedy troupe to help them do it.

The event, held at the International Centre and named for Sauriol, who spent most of his life working to show people the value of our natural resources, has raised more than $2,000,000 and inspired more than 10,000 attendees, and helped raise awareness about the protection of precious green space in the GTA.

And when you’re broaching environmental topics over an evening of speeches and explanations, there’s a risk of some guests, well, losing focus. “Biodiversity, on its own is hard to understand,” says David Love, executive director of The Conservation Foundation of Greater Toronto Area, “making it a difficult comedy subject. So we were excited to have The Second City shed some light and laughter on it. Education through entertainment helps people appreciate the wonderful natural ecosystems and understand the threat facing our local wildlife and habitats.”

Also keeping things lively was indie band The Wilderness of Manitoba; special guest Emmanuel Belliveau, best known as the handy and handsome designer and host of HGTV’s “World’s Greenest Homes”; and the launch of the venue’s new local, sustainable menu, created by executive chef Joe Levesque.

But the real stars were the award winners. The Greenspace Award went to the Glassco Family, whose tireless work has included securing portions of the Oak Ridges Moraine under conservation easements; planting, along with help from volunteers, more than 1,000,000 trees to be managed by the Forest Stewardship Council and, since 1995, running one of Ontario’s first certified-organic sheep farms.

The Living City Regional Biodiversity Award went to The W. Garfield Weston Foundation for Monarch Teacher Network – Canada, a program that uses a “train the educator” model to help protect the migratory monarch butterfly’s habitat over three countries.

In recognition of its leadership in Partners in Project Green: A Pearson Eco-Business Zone, Mississauga’s LoyaltyOne received the Living City Sustainable Communities Award. The project is an initiative to transform the area surrounding Toronto’s Pearson airport into a world-class region known for its competitive, high performance, and eco-friendly business climate.

Finally, the Living City Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Don Prince for his dedication to land securement for public benefit. Prince, attendees heard, has successfully completed more than 1,000 transactions to preserve more than 15,000 acres of land: negotiating land donations and convincing individual landowners to register conservation easements on their own properties.

The evening and awards are organized annually by the Oak Ridges Moraine Land Trust and Toronto and Region Conservation. You can read more about these organizations, the event and the award winners here.