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L'Île Bonaventure
et la mer

En collaboration avec le Biodôme de Montréal

Éditorial en collaboration avec le Biodôme de Montréal

By William Gagnon

Building engineer LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP ND, LFA, ECO Canada EPt

By William Gagnon

Building engineer LEED AP BD+C, LEED AP ND, LFA, ECO Canada EPt

Environment | Society | Case file

Espace pour la vie.png

Imagine you are walking through a forest by yourself in the woods, with your earphones on, lost into some deep thoughts.  Suddenly, a bear appears a few metres ahead and it’s running towards you. Your body gears into a reaction, survival mode that we call fight or flight.   This is how various animals fled from predators, and survived.  This fight or flight mode is a constructive unpleasant emotion : it’s allowed us to evolve and survive up to this day.


Now you’re on the bus home reading the news.  Melting glacier. Rising sea levels. Increasing carbon dioxide levels, and politicians stalling more than ever.  You’re getting this very uncomfortable feeling. Depressed, anxious, sad, outraged : Ecoanxiety is also a Constructive Unpleasant Emotion; but you need to know what to do with it. However uncomfortable it might make us feel, however annoying it might be (we have a strong tendency to avoid thinking about it), we as a species need to figure out ways to react to it.  It might just save our existence on this planet. 


Watching the slow and seemingly irrevocable impacts of climate change unfold, and worrying about the future for oneself, children, and later generations, may be an additional source of stress (Searle & Gow, 2010). Albrecht (2011) and others have termed this anxiety ecoanxiety. Qualitative research provides evidence that some people are deeply affected by feelings of loss, helplessness, and frustration due to their inability to feel like they are making a difference in stopping climate change (Moser, 2013).

Now humans are faced with the threat of extinction -- yet we are slow at running away from the danger.  We are bombarded with negative news on a daily basis and this is causing a lot of anxiety. We are slowly building a set of emotions that is helping us as a species survive this existential threat, and ecoanxiety is one of them: it’s a constructive unpleasant emotion, if you know how to channel it. 


Some of us have an easier time expressing it, like Greta Thunberg; she is very open about her Asperger’s syndrome that allows her to see only black and white. In her TED talk, she explains that it is one of the reasons why she is speaking up about climate change.


Prolongement des Appalaches dans les eaux du golfe, l’île Bonaventure et le rocher Percé,

cette majestueuse cité rocheuse.



– Inconnu

Vents et embruns

Pour moi, la mer c’est le vent, le froid qui fouette les sens et les embruns qui couvrent le visage de fines gouttelettes d’eau de mer au goût de varech et d’iode. Ce sont les hautes parois rocheuses d’où l’on peut contempler l’infini vertigineux où flottent les goélands grisés de hautes voltiges. Voilà la mer que j’aime et qui m’habite, la puissance des éléments qui me font rêver d’aventures et de trésors, les trésors de la mer. 

Photo1; 1988S AG22; 08-18; Percé $$$$ 2400 net2.jpg


nom masculin

(provençal embrum, de embrumá, bruiner)

Pluie fine formée de gouttelettes d'eau de mer projetées dans l'air à partir d'une surface agitée (surtout pluriel).

Not alone 

In a meeting in Toronto with Innovation Norway, Alana Prashad shares with me her experience of dealing with two chronic immune diseases.   Her body gets triggered when she is exposed to high levels of stress — climate change news, populist politics, and other bad news. 


Our conversation drifted away from green, clean business in the Norwegian trade context to a discussion about ecoanxiety, and turning it into something meaningful: 


Alana tells me that she had to find ways to uses her anxiety about the state of the planet, and turn it into something good; she tells me that she tries and sees beauty in desolated landscapes: plastic floating in oceans, rising sea levels; she finds in these bleak images the elements that are worth fighting for — the beauty, the little bits of light in the darkness, the “okay, what do we have”.  


Again — action alleviates anxiety.


In Alana’s case, she had to quickly get adapted because she was becoming very ill.  


Now Alana is aligning her work on fighting climate change through Innovation Norway’s business development agenda.  I thought this was very inspiring — turning ecoanxiety into climate action. I was stunned. I left our meeting empowered, and convinced that we’d change the world together, somehow. 

La colonie


Avec sa colonie d’oiseaux marins, rassemblant plus de 200 000 oiseaux nicheurs de 11 espèces différentes, le parc est le plus important refuge d’oiseaux migrateurs en Amérique du Nord.


Sur l’Île Bonaventure en période estivale, on peut admirer de très près ces magnifiques oiseaux marins, venus ici pour se reproduire. Sa colonie de fous de Bassan (116 000) est la plus accessible au monde.


Un incontournable joyau faunique!

Fous de Bassan et vent du large

Pendant six ans, j’ai eu le privilège de partager la vie de ces oiseaux marins. J’ai vu les adultes installer leur nid, pondre leur œuf unique, puis incuber, couver et nourrir les oisillons à tour de rôle. Les fous de Bassan sont d’excellents voiliers en mer. Ils savent utiliser la force du vent avec une efficacité hors du commun. Ils peuvent parcourir des centaines de kilomètres s’il le faut pour trouver les bancs de poissons nécessaires pour nourrir leur petite boule de duvet, leur petit resté au nid.

Photo6; 1987 0R04; IB 08-20; Banc Américains $$$ 2400 net.jpg

Aligning career and climate action into one


If you don't believe you can bring change to an organization or project, chances are you won't. But if you share your concerns with the team with confidence and clarity, they will be well received - in most cases, in my experience, these concerns are shared by others. However, it takes a lot of courage to share them. 


I believe we need to de-stigmatize mental health before we can deal with climate change. I believe that this is why we should consider climate change as a multifaceted issue, and be careful to consider only one measure (greenhouse gas emissions, for example). 


Regardless of the area in which you spend most of your time, there is a way to find an alignment between work, play and climate action. I hope these resources will give you some inspiration.

Create your New Story — and don’t let anyone crush it

In a job interview for a private engineering firm, I ask what kind of projects I would spend my time on. Big firm, big bucks: my salary was going to double. The office associate tells me that they have “lots of projects” in the oil and gas sector, but that they were also “trying” to promote renewable energy. 


Uneasy, uncomfortable, I reiterate that I am not interested in work with anything that is even just remotely connected to the oil and gas sector.  

The HR manager then jumps in and she asked if I had ever worked on something that did not perfectly matched my values. 


“Yes.”, I replied.  


“So what did you do?”.  


“I quit!”


It’s important to create a new story for ourselves, and not live in the past.  The Great Transition is now. The Green New Deal is now. Renewable energy is now. Reversing climate change is now.  Don’t waste your time and career on something that is not worth it. What kind of future do you want? Write it down, and enact it. 


I turned down the job offer (and left before the end of the interview) with a strong sense of empowerment.  My mind was set on not letting myself be tempted by the financial gain, and I was really proud to leave this place feeling 100% aligned on my values.


Create your New Story, and don’t let anyone crush it.

Des essaims de petits oiseaux de mer

À la blancheur du prince de ces lieux, les hordes de guillemots marmettes et de petits pingouins opposent le gris ardoise et le noir de jais. Cette multitude niche en groupes compacts dans les fissures de la falaise. Des nuées de ces petits oiseaux de mer viennent frôler les bateaux qui nous amènent voir la spectaculaire fête de la vie dans toute son abondance.

Voilà le secret, l’abondance.

Une abondance estivale de plancton et de poissons qui permet de nourrir une multitude, un lieu de choix pour assurer la relève, le spectacle de la vie.

In memoriam : Gilbert Bourget 1949-2019, naturaliste à l’île Bonaventure de 1984 à 2017.

.0 Daniel à EMBRAPA.jpg
Daniel Sauvageau
Éducateur-concepteur scientifique au Biodôme de Montréal

Green Building engineer, Environmentalist

William is experiencing the impacts of the climate crisis in his community of Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, in the Canadian subarctic region. As an engineer, he leads the work for the Northern Centre for Sustainability, a space designed to support emerging entrepreneurs in achieving sustainable development objectives. The building aims to become the most sustainable building in the circumpolar North and the first building in Canada with negative carbon emissions. 

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