Common Waters: Climate, Conservation & Community

Common Waters: Climate, Conservation & Community

On September 27th, 2019, Toronto communities came together to join forces in the global climate strike, sparking inspiration and motivation throughout the city. 

In direct response to the successful strike, Surf The Greats and Water First teamed up and brought the Toronto community a night full of environmental discussion last week.

Organizations and activists in the environmental field participated in a PechaKucha presentation. Speakers included John Millar from Water First, Cecilia la Rose from Fridays for Future, and Krystyn Tully from Swim Drink Fish. An engaging panel discussion followed the presentation, moderated by Kelsey Scarfone from Environmental Defence.

Common Waters Panel Discussion at Surf the Greats

These three individuals brought distinct perspectives in each of their presentations, but all building upon the main idea: the power of community.

John Millar is the founder of the charitable organization, Water First. Through education, training, and meaningful collaboration, he explains how the organization supports First Nation communities by working on water projects. A main part of their mission is working alongside young indigenous kids and adults to support future generations entering the field of water science. John explains the importance of all of their diverse projects. But at the end of the day, he emphasizes that his work has taught his organization how community development is a 2-way street. Knowledgeable in education and water science, he says their organization is pointless without meaningful and ongoing First Nation community engagement. John explains the importance of learning and understanding First Nation communities where both ends can benefit from one another.

Common Waters moderated by Kelsey Scarfone from Environmental Defence

Cecilia la Rose is a 15-year-old environmental activist in the Friday for Future global movement. They have reached 221 countries and carry out weekly climate strikes. These are largely powered by young individuals who are pushing for science based climate action. Cecilia works on a National scale for the movement in Canada. She emphasizes the importance of the voices of indigenous communities and acting on a local level. Every strike around the world is for different reasons, as climate change effects everyone in different ways. She explains the diversity is necessary, but everyone’s goal is the same. This is what brings the world together. When individuals see and feel the effects of climate change locally, it brings a whole new perspective for action to be taken and expanded. How can a single person do something for the planet? Cecilia responds with, “do something for your community.” Friday, November 29th is the next global climate strike. Change starts small.

Krystyn Tully from Swim Drink Fish at Common Waters

Krystyn Tully is the co-founder of the charitable organization, Swim Drink Fish. Through science, education, and technology, the organization operates several initiatives to create safe waterways. Krystyn is working to build a movement of people who are connected to water. The results of climate change have a much stronger impact on our waterways compared to land. In our lifetime, freshwater species have declined by 83%. When nature suffers, so do humans. Krystyn explains the vicious circle that has formed. People are disconnected from nature and they aren’t spending time outside. They don’t understand environmental issues and therefore don’t know how to protect it. This results in fewer places being available for people to connect with nature. She emphasizes the importance of community, and how we have the power to come together to create change. Communities rely on knowledge and inspiration from one another. Every single person has the ability to act as a mentor to change someone’s perspective. We are only as strong as our network and community.



Following these inspiring presentations, Kelsey moderated an active panel discussion between the three speakers. The audience was extremely engaged, and endless intelligent questions were asked for the panel to discuss.

The takeaway theme that dominated the night was the emphasis on community being the key tool for environmental stewardship. Voicing the indigenous communities and breaking down barriers is important for development. Staying positive, hopeful and taking action now is crucial.   

Water First Common Waters at Surf the Greats

There are many local issues that the Great Lakes are currently facing that aren’t completely discussed in the media. Sewage pollution, Asian Carp invasions, algae blooms from agriculture runoff, nuclear power plant pollution, and most predominantly micro plastic pollution throughout the Lakes.

Climate change is overwhelming. But the most helpful way we can act is within our own communities. Start local. Whether it’s participating in climate strikes, writing to your local government, reducing your plastic use, or attending environmental based events. No matter how small it is, any action is better than none. Don’t underestimate the power of community.

Common Waters Pecha Kucha at Surf the Greats

Surf The Greats would like to thank everyone in our community for making this empowering event a success. A very special thank you goes out to all of our organizations and panelists that contributed to the night: Water First, Fridays for Future, Swim Drink Fish, Environmental Defence, and Ace Hill Brewery for the refreshments. 

And thank you to our amazing community who came out to support this event. Without you, none of this would be possible here at Surf The Greats. We are creating change in this community, no matter how big or small. Stay positive and keep on shredding.

Words by Allegra Smith-Herriott / Photographs by Daisy Enright

Allegra Smith-Herriott

A Toronto based student, Allegra is currently attending Ryerson University studying Sport Media. Growing up living between a hemp farm and the waters of Georgian Bay, her life is strongly centred around the outdoors and environment. Allegra is constantly immersed in sports, sailing, all things health and fitness, while trying to inspire the community. Ambitious in journalism, her dream is to travel the world following her passion for writing, sports, and the outdoors. Find her on Instagram.