| Oct 16, 2008

Oct 16/08 - Sunshine Walk: Promoting Kyoto

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Feature Article - October 16, 2008 Walking on sunshine: Promoting KyotoBy Jeff Green

Dewal Afsal, Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu, Rene Abacher and Rita Bijons

The clouds gathered around Sharbot Lake on Tuesday morning, but at about 1 o’clock, the sun poked its way through, and along with some unseasonably warm weather and brilliant sunshine, a small but enthusiastic crew of walkers strode into town.

The Sunshine Walk was an idea that was brought to a gathering of the Toronto Climate Change Campaign last November by Dewal Afzal. Afzal came to Canada from Bangladesh over 30 years ago, and he has done a lot of different things since then, among them working with Bangladeshi immigrants to Canada.

In recent years, climate change is something that has come to concern Dewal greatly. Bangladesh is a very poor country; it is located at sea level, and has already suffered greatly from an increase in sea levels, so it is extremely vulnerable to climate change.

In 2004 Dewal embarked on a walk from Toronto to the Peace Bridge at Niagara Falls to deliver a letter, addressed to Jim Kerry and George Bush, to a climate change activist from Buffalo, New York.

“The letter was delivered, but I did not receive a response,” he said. “Last November when I addressed the Climate Change campaign I suggested that we organize a walk from Toronto to Ottawa to promote action on climate change.”

It took almost a year to organize the walk. A committee met each week, and eventually a group of four people, including Rene Abacher, Dewal Afzal, Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu on foot, and Rita Bijons on bicycle, with Alex Thomson as a supporting driver (in a rented hybrid car) left Toronto on October 4. They have travelled 30 km per day without fail since that time.

“We decided to go in early October because it was the best time for us, and it happened to coincide with the federal election,” said Adriana Mugnatto-Hamu when the Sunshine Walkers stopped for lunch at the Maples restaurant in Sharbot Lake on Tuesday. “We invited the candidates from each riding we have passed through to endorse the Kyoto Plus plan, and most of the candidates have met with us. In this riding, we got the endorsement of the Liberal NDP and Green candidates, although the Conservative did not respond to us.”

The Kyoto Plus campaign is supported by a group of environmental groups. It calls for more stringent carbon emission reduction than the Kyoto initiative, and for support for these targets by polticians. The targets for Kyoto Plus are as follows: “It is widely accepted that in order to prevent catastrophically dangerous climate change, the global average temperature increase above pre-industrial levels must be kept below 2degrees Celsius. In order achieve this, global greenhouse gas emissions must be stabilized and begin to decline before 2015, and be further reduced to less than 50percent of 1990 levels by 2050. This means that developed countries, including Canada, must reduce emissions 25to40percent by 2020, and 80to95percent by 2050.” (from Kyotoplus.ca)

In addition to asking for commitments from politicians the public is being asked to sign the Kyoto Plus petition by the participants in the Sunshine Walk.

A family dynamic has developed among the five people participating in the walk. Dewal Afzal, who is 63 and walks with the aid of a cane, said that it has been harder for him to keep up than some of the others, but the group has come through for each other.

“We have had really good weather,” said Rita Bijons, “and a good response. People have been receptive, they have been signing the petition, and we have been well received by politicians. We will be arriving at Parliament Hill on October 20 and some people are organizing a rally to welcome us.”

After lunch, the Sunshine Walkers met with Liberal candidate David Remington in Sharbot Lake before embarking on their afternoon walk. They were scheduled to arrive in Perth on Wednesday, and then continue on to Ottawa.

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