Matt Bakker: Making a difference

The footprint humanity is leaving on the environment is an issue that we have all heard about, read about, or seen over the past couple years, and this is for one reason: It is not going away. For many, it is easier to recognize than the poverty and disasters in third world countries, simply because this issue is right here, at our doorstep, waiting for us to make a change.

Someone who knows this better than most is Matthew Bakker, a second year Global Stewardship Student and environmental activist. Bakker feels that the concept of sustainability is the passion that is driving his everyday life, affecting everything from the food he eats to his dream to see a more sustainable and holistic society. This perspective is not something new to him, but rather, one that he grew up with his whole life. “A childhood spent outdoors taught me the value of every living thing and their roles in life,” Bakker said, “But I really catalyzed into action when I heard the stories about the destruction of the Brazilian rain forest and polar bear habitat in the arctic while in elementary school.”

Like many activists who start at a young age, Bakker’s passion for the subject of sustainability has only deepened throughout the years. In March 2009, he started the goBeyond teach-in at Capilano, encouraging students to speak up about environmental issues and simple solutions. This teach-in happened during regular Capilano classes, and it involved posing a question to the students about how they could limit their own environmental impact, and then students would come up with ideas together of how that could happen, for example, finding ways to limit their everyday use of water or electricity. This semester, Bakker’s passion has taken on a new initiative: A Sustainable Valentine’s Day alternative.

All throughout February, sustainable flowers will be available for purchase at the CSU and from The Treehouse on February 9th and 11th, in hopes of highlighting the environmental impact of cut flowers (often shipped long distances and accruing major carbon footprints) and providing students with a sustainable alternative, Cyclamens, which are flowering houseplants that are grown locally and will not be thrown away once they wither. “I hope this keys people into the impacts of their purchases and sheds some light on ethical and sustainable purchasing practices,” Bakker said.

Bakker’s optimism is hard to miss, but he still mentions that there are difficult parts that come hand in hand with activism. “The sheer size of this issue is the hardest thing,” he said. “Some people feel it's daunting and beyond their control so they simply don’t get involved or brush it off.” It seems to me like much of activism is like this – the issues are so big and so pressing that often we are unsure of how to start or where to begin. Bakker also mentioned that he gets disheartened with the apathy he sees among many of his peers and politicians, which is something that every activist can relate to.

Bakker stated that the reason environmental concerns are such a big problem is because it is so difficult to reconcile all the different views held by individuals into a single plan of action. “I've heard the problem of environmental sustainability described as the perfect problem because to solve it we must take into account every facet of human existence,” Bakker said. Perhaps the reason why citizens are increasingly choosing to start their own activist initiatives is not because of apathy, but rather, the fact that if they were to branch out to a bigger group of people, it would be harder to make a plan of action. The fine line between citizen activism and government involvement is a hard one to draw. Perhaps the world’s problems are too massive to simply leave in the hands of our citizens, yet too complex and emotional to leave with the government. As Margaret Mead once said, “Never doubt that a small group of committed citizens can change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.” Change starts small and grows big – whether you are a government minister or a committed citizen.

// Krissi Bucholtz

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