Grand Falls-Windsor -
Given his surname, one shouldn't be surprised that Carl Duivenvoorden's parents emigrated from Holland, the land where dikes were built to reclaim land from the ocean and flooding.
And one could describe the Al Gore-trained speaker as being like the "little Dutch boy" in one tale, who stuck his finger in a crack to keep a dike from breaking and flooding the countryside.
The little boy's task may have been fictional, but he was acting the way Duivenvoorden says people should be in reality - fighting a real crisis.
And that crisis is climate change.
"There is no shortage of signals coming from our planet," he said at a presentation to students at the College of the North Atlantic Nov. 30. "But as my grandmother said once, you can't change the whole world, but you can change a corner of it."
His visit was facilitated by the college and the Newfoundland and Labrador Conservation Corps.
Holding a number of interests and jobs over the years, including as a promoter of Canadian seed potatoes internationally, the speaker and consultant was motivated to campaign to halt the climate crisis by a combination of extensive international travel with his business and by the birth of his first son Paul in 2001.
After that came Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth" documentary and book, published in 2006. He called on 1,000 "climate change messengers" to deliver his slideshow to audiences in their home communities. One of them was Duivenvoorden. One of the first Canadians selected, he travelled to Nashville in April 2007 for three days of intense training led by Gore and a team of scientists and environmental educators.
According to Duivenvoorden, whose family has been working to reduce their ecological footprint, individuals can make a difference but everyone needs to make a commitment and take action against climate change.
The idea of trying to reverse climate change can be daunting. If one wants to see an example of a changing climate gone wrong, surf the web for references to the planet Venus, where about 500 million years ago, its surface was apparently lush and covered with ocean. Then after that, something happened. Greenhouse gases ran amok and the end result, ultimately, is a planet shrouded with clouds of sulphuric acid and a surface temperature of almost 500 C - hot enough to melt lead.
Earth isn't at that point yet, but Duivenvoorden pointed to signs that climate change is real and happening right now. The average temperature of the ocean is rising - a fact which may be linked to the increase in hurricanes. Earth isn't helped by a rising population (7 billion as of now) or the extraction of non-renewable resources to accommodate that population.
He also pointed to the clearcutting of rainforests by governments and industry who want to get at resources and find that the trees are in the way.
"The rainforests are the lungs of our planet," he said.
Science and technology have also contributed to the looming crisis, he added. Science has saved countless lives and technology has enhanced those lives, but has also resulted in threats like nuclear energy, which has been used for atomic weapons instead of safe, clean energy.
"We also see it in agriculture. At one time, agriculture was a pretty straightforward thing. Now it's on a much larger scale, to the point it's starting to change the planet's ecosystem. Fisheries is another example, and Newfoundlanders know well the extinction of commercial species, like the codfish."
He delivered the message in Botwood, too, where he spoke to Grade 7 to 9 students at Botwood Collegiate. He said the talk went well and hopes they will be motivated to act.
Duivenvoorden admits that those concerned about climate change have major challenges ahead. Some glaring examples include the warming Arctic, where polar bears are threatened by the disapparence of the ice they need to live and hunt on. And thanks to climate change, pieces of the Antarctic ice mass the size of Prince Edward Island have broken off in a very short time - again, climate change, causing rising temperatures, is suspected.
"We have big challenges ahead of us, but we also have the technology to fix those problems."
On a local level, climate change warriors can find that collectively, even small acts can make a difference, he added. For example, idling your car for more than 10 seconds wastes fuel; avoid drive-thrus whenever possible; compost, choose local food, use energy efficient devices; make sure your home is well insulated; waste less energy by turning off lights.
Of course, it's not surprising that he recommends driving less, carpooling when possible and if you're lucky to be in a place where it's available, using public transit.