We are so often asked, “What’s new at GBC?” And we’re proud to introduce the Near North Enviro-Education Centre (NNEEC). September 30, 2017 dawned and remained blue & gold throughout the day. The Grand Opening of the Centre at 140 Main Street in Sundridge presented an opportunity to explain its purpose to over 200 people who attended.

NNEEC will allow local citizens and their friends, businesses, government agencies, universities, colleges and schools to nurture and generate leaders aligned with three pillars essential to the viability of our rural communities.

The three pillars are:
• Environmental sustainability
• Rural economic viability
• Social diversity

Our plan is to empower rural communities to become models of sustainable living through education, information and practical, engaging learning opportunities focused on these three pillars. The principles driving NNEEC acknowledge the requirement to develop synergies between the concerns of the small communities where we live, work and play, and the broader focus of institutions, corporations and government in our shared responsibility to live sustainably in the 21st century.

NNEEC is designed and built using many state of the art technologies including: solar power, geothermal heating and cooling, composting toilets, building envelope design, green roof technology, energy saving lighting and more. The conference and learning facilities utilize audio-visual wireless connectivity. Many visitors took the opportunity to tour the building and to be introduced to the features that make this building a model of sustainability in many ways.

The Exposition portion of the day offered visitors several exhibits that demonstrated technologies now available in order to save on hydro, utilize the sun’s energy without overheating a home or school or factory. Exhibits also featured the growing and cooking of local foods. Two popular features were the Science North PopUp Planetarium from Science North in Sudbury and The Scales Nature Park exhibit of reptiles in Orillia. The all-day “Northen Innovation Symposium” involved 90+ people and included six thought leaders from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous communities who shared their perspectives and knowledge in each of the three pillars of NNEEC; rural environmental sustainability, economic viability, and the enhancement of social diversity. Following each pair of presentations by the Indigenous and non-Indigenous leaders, the audience broke into small discussion groups to consider how communities could embrace the changes and challenges in planning to become a model community.

The new Near North Enviro-Education Centre and GBC will eventually benefit through the sharing of information and leadership throughout the year. It will permit experts to be available on a 12-month basis with costs shared by NNEEC and GBC. In addition, GBCers will have an opportunity to promote the goals and objectives of NNEEC and to be a part of its achievements in the future. Further details with respect to ideas and action plans will be forthcoming in the year ahead. Keep checking back at www.nneec.ca.

Many thanks for the Grand Opening to: The Symposium thought leaders, moderator, and volunteers. Romano Marchi, NNEEC Executive Director, for key preparations over many months, and Robin Gibson for leading the media relations, news releases, silent auction preparations, reminders, details, etc. Sue Eckersley and Justina Armstrong for ideas, schedules and being on top of many changes and details. Sabrina Salhia for her efforts in transforming the camp dining hall for the celebratory dinner as well as her efforts toward the silent auction. To Negar Mahdavian for her ability to capture many key points in a single sentence. The Town Councils, corporations and individuals from the community who brought their support for NNEEC objectives. Special thanks to Doug Dokis, Indigenous Coordinator of ACTUA for his understanding and help as we begin the collaborative steps ahead with our First Nations, Métis and Inuit neighbours. A huge salute to Carolyn Bennett for being the star of the Grand Opening of this unique, rural Centre, one I hope will be an example for other rural communities across Canada.