Scott Harris’s Green Legacy

The following tribute to Scott Harris appeared in the Chronicle-Journal (Thunder Bay) on February 14, 2024. 

In January, one of the most dedicated environmentalists in Thunder Bay passed away. This news has saddened the environmental community. Scott Harris was a long-standing board member of Environment North and we will miss him - his kindness, his insights and his humour.

Scott Harris joined Environment North near the end of 2006. It was the same year that Environment North had become a more active organization again. In the fall Environment North had arranged for an extended showing of the film An Inconvenient Truth for the general community and also for high school students. Thousands attended. It was the emerging climate change crisis that prompted Scott to become involved.

The following year Scott was a key organizer of two public climate conferences organized by Environment North together with other partners. The conferences were a novel opportunity for the public to learn about the likely impacts of climate change for Northwestern Ontario directly from the scientists doing the research. Equally important there was discussion of solutions. But this was just the beginning. Scott assisted in numerous other events and campaigns over the years.

In 2008 Scott joined the board and he frequently held the position of president or vice-president of the organization. He helped to organize many of Environment North’s public presentations and regularly attended various meetings in the community on behalf of Environment North. He would easily engage community members in conversation on environmental issues.

Scott Harris wrote several articles for the Chronicle Journal on behalf of Environment North. One frequent theme was that he believed local grassroots efforts could bring about positive changes. Scott did wear many hats and was involved with a number of organizations including the Superior Renewable Energy Co-operative, the Environmental Film Network, the Thunder Bay Chapter of the Council of Canadians and Citizen’s United for a Sustainable Planet. He was also a long-term member of the Fort William Rotary Club.

The Environmental Film Network was active from 2007 to 2017, showing documentary films every month as well as hosting an annual environmental film festival. Scott volunteered at most screenings. As a retired teacher and principal, Scott had a special interest in increasing the awareness of climate change among young people. In 2013, he had a central role in arranging for the Environmental Film Network to show the film “Chasing Ice” in many local schools. The film follows photographer James Balog to various places in the Arctic. It is an entertaining, exciting and educational account of the impact of climate change on glaciers.

In 2014, the Thunder Bay Chapter of the Council of Canadians were engaged in the Blue Dot Campaign. In March 2015 Thunder Bay City Council adopted the Blue Community Water Commons Framework and became the 17th Blue Community in Canada. The framework includes banning or phasing out the sale of bottled water in municipal facilities and at municipal events.

Scott was interested in solutions to minimize his own carbon footprint. In 2011 he installed a solar hot water heater in his home that provided most of the household’s hot water needs for 9 months of the year and supplemented by natural gas in the coldest months. He described the system as providing “monetary and mental dividends”.

Scott contributed to a number of multi organization campaigns such as “Save the Experimental Lakes Area”, stopping the Energy East Pipeline and most recently opposition to nuclear waste disposal. He would put up posters, contact key players, give interviews, write articles and write letters. Scott would also participate in peaceful protests - sometimes carrying a sign, sometimes even singing a song as a member of the Wonderful Core Band.

One board member commented that Scott was always sending words of encouragement and positive thoughts. All board members would agree that Scott was very supportive whether by words or by actions.

Scott hoped people would care about the environment especially for the sake of future generations. It was thoughts about the world his children and grandchildren would be living in that inspired him to do what he could.  Article by Graham Saunders and Kerstin Muth, members of Environment North.