Climate activist and beekeeper named ‘enviro-heroes’
By Jenn Watt
A beekeeper and a student climate activist were honoured by the Haliburton Highlands Land Trust as this year’s “enviro-heroes” during a presentation at their office in Haliburton on Dec. 5.
Ron Lofthouse, an apiarist based in Haliburton, and Jurgen Shantz, a student at Haliburton Highlands Secondary School were lauded for their efforts to improve the environment and pass their knowledge and passion on to others.
Mary-Lou Gerstl, HHLT chairwoman, said the enviro-hero award recognizes “unsung heroes” who are making a difference in education or environmental stewardship.
She said Lofthouse had been chosen because of the instruction he provides in the Haliburton community around bees and their importance to the environment.
“Ron tells people about bees at every opportunity, whether it be farmers’ markets or craft shows. With three hives in his backyard, Ron is available to demonstrate to anyone who’s interested in learning how honey is taken or what the inside of a beehive looks like,” she said.
Lofthouse took distance education courses at Cornell University to obtain his specialization in beekeeping.
“We know the dire consequences we will face if they [bees] do not survive. The work that Ron Lofthouse does for his entire life has greatly helped in bringing attention to this wonderful and fascinating insect,” Gerstl said.
Lofthouse was not available to accept the award as he had volunteer commitments at the same time, driving patients to their medical appointments.
Shantz was also named an enviro-hero at the gathering, praised by the HHLT chairwoman for his work in mobilizing the community to take part in climate action protests, following the lead of Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg.
Besides organizing protests, he has also attended the environment and climate change committee of Dysart et al council and Gerstl relayed his message to local politicians.
“When asked how council can help with climate change, his message was go green, including solar panels, banning plastic water bottles and everyone must do their part. It is a message we must all take to heart,” she said.
She also read out a message from Dysart et al Mayor Andrea Roberts: “We need citizens, especially young people, to participate in making this world a better place. Giving Jurgen this award will help solidify and encourage his efforts and I have no doubt he will go on to great things in his career and personal life.”
The land trust’s open house included a mingling portion, including snacks, information about the organization’s recent projects and maps of areas that have been protected. Gerstl said the last year has included substantial donations and that they’re currently working on three grant projects.
Most recently, they announced Climate Action Fund dollars from the federal government that will be spent mapping and evaluating the Kendrick Creek Wetland Complex, representing 849-hectares of wetlands that flow from South Lake to the Irondale River in the Minden Hills area. Part of the complex includes wetlands from the Fred and Pearl Barry Wetland Reserve, which is protected by the HHLT.
The hope is that the wetland complex will be deemed a “provincially significant wetland,” which will enhance protection of the land. Wetlands help combat climate change because they are carbon sinks. They also mitigate flooding by absorbing storm water and slowing surface waters through vegetation. Many species at risk can also be found in local wetlands.