David Miller stands on the dock near a fishing boat

photo credit Greg Locke

A\J: What gives you hope in your environmental and social justice work?

David Miller: What gives me hope is having had the privilege of seeing environmental initiatives that work, and consider social justice and economic issues at the same time. Those are the lasting solutions. But it also means that you have to build the solutions in that way, by thinking about social justice and the economy, not just the environment in isolation.

 

What does faith mean to you in an environmental context? 

DM:  Well, to me there are very clear lessons from the Bible. I think if you look at it, whether you’re a person of faith or not, if you read the Bible and accept its importance, it’s very clear that all of these issues are linked. So I think there’s a very strong connection between faith and environmental issues, beginning with the social justice aspects of course.

 

In the Papal encyclical on climate change, and in Naomi Klein’s LEAP initiative, this notion of caring for each other and the Earth, is accented. How are you reading this, and how does this dovetail with your own work? 

DM: Well I think it’s an interesting observation and its something that I agree with. We are seeing more of that kind of thinking, and I think it’s really because people are starting to realize that these environmental issues are social justice issues, and in the social justice world, love and human connection are really, really important. 

 

In “Earth in the Balance” Al Gore talks about the environmental crisis as a spiritual crisis. What does spirituality mean to you, in terms of the environmental crisis? 

DM: I think, for me personally it is, in at least two different ways. One is, I think we have allowed these environmental challenges to fester because we have become disconnected from each other and from our natural environment. Secondly, for me, where I find great peace is when I am canoeing in the wilderness or going for long walks in beautiful places. Where I live, on the Humber River, that connection to nature is a spiritual connection – it produces peace and contemplation. I think in both of those ways, the fact that as a society we’ve perhaps lost the idea that there is a spiritual connection with nature that’s causing us not to solve the problems. For me personally, I feel that spiritual connection very, very much. 

 

As head of WWF-Canada, are you working with your staff in a sense to inculcate that reconnection with nature?

DM: Very much so. We have four pillars to our strategic plan, and one of them is about nature connecting communities. So we are systematically undertaking initiatives to help Canadians reconnect with nature. 

 

Is there a book, a song or a film that may have been instrumental to your work in connecting with nature, in pursuing environmental advocacy and social justice?

DM: The New English Bible, the St. James edition. Secondly, the song “All Things Bright and Beautiful”. And the film Paddle to the Sea. I saw that film in grade seven, and it was absolutely instrumental in me becoming an environmentalist. Another book that was influential to me was called Minnow on the Say. It’s an adventure story about a boy and his canoe, set in the countryside, outside Cambridge, England.

Stephen Bede Scharper, a columnist for the Toronto Star, is an associate professor with the Centre for Environment at the University of Toronto. He is author of Redeeming the Time: A Political Theology of the Environment and co-editor of The Natural City: Re-Envisioning the Built Environment.

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