A last­ing le­gacy

Hus­band-wife team hon­oured for life­time com­mit­ment to en­vi­ron­men­tal causes

Winnipeg Free Press - Section G - - HOMES THE GREEN PAGE -

out the front lines of protest marches. Their arena was the board­room; they’ve helped usher in the city’s big bin/ re­cy­cling pro­gram, as well as changes in the Canadian forestry in­dus­try, in­clud­ing bring­ing tree-hug­gers and log­gers to the same ta­ble. They’ve made too many pre­sen­ta­tions to count at Public Util­i­ties Board hear­ings in Man­i­toba. “There are ba­si­cally three things that we do: re­search, write and make pre­sen­ta­tions,” Gar­lich said. The cou­ple, mar­ried for more than 55 years, met as uni­ver­sity stu­dents at Yale in the days of pres­i­dent John Kennedy and the Amer­i­can Camelot. By the time the Viet­nam War had split the gen­er­a­tions, Gar­lich, from Oak­land Calif., and Miller from Chicago, had mar­ried and were living in New Haven, Conn., look­ing for a way out. “Peter was not a draft dodger. We had two chil­dren, and we were in the po­si­tion of hav­ing to pay taxes to sup­port the war, and we didn’t sup­port the war,” Gar­lich said. Miller had a job of­fer at a col­lege in Mis­souri. “We de­cided we’d much rather live in Canada, and I con­tacted ev­ery uni­ver­sity in Canada and said, ‘Here I am. I’m a new phi­los­o­phy grad­u­ate,’ ” Miller said.

Win­nipeg’s United Col­lege, now the Uni­ver­sity of Win­nipeg, had a job and the cou­ple moved here in 1967. A de­tailed ink por­trait of the fam­ily by Gar­lich shows the cou­ple and one of their chil­dren bun­dled in win­ter clothes in their first Win­nipeg home dur­ing Canada’s 1970s en­ergy cri­sis. It still hangs in their kitchen. “There are a lot of peo­ple who get en­thu­si­as­tic about a cause, and then they get dis­ap­pointed,” Gar­lich said. “And they go away. We just didn’t go away.” Miller added: “I see my­self as a con­trib­u­tor to some­thing much larger than my­self. I don’t see my­self as some­one who did this or did that. That’s the gov­ern­ment. The gov­ern­ment takes the credit.” Man­i­toba’s green plan, To­mor­row Now, is one ex­am­ple, said Miller, who cred­its Con­ser­va­tion Min­is­ter Gord Mack­in­tosh with the heavy lift­ing. “To­mor­row Now is a pol­icy that re­flects a lot of our think­ing,” he said. For­mer Tory en­vi­ron­ment min­is­ter Glen Cum­mings was equally piv­otal to re­cy­cling in Man­i­toba. Miller said a fel­low pro­fes­sor re­cruited him to start one of the city’s first sus­tained re­cy­cling ef­forts. It be­gan with lit­tle con­tain­ers on pro­fes­sors’ desks. “There was no re­cy­cling back then,” Miller said of the pe­riod in the 1980s. The cam­pus ef­fort paid off, lead­ing to de­bates led by the Op­po­si­tion NDP dur­ing the Tory ad­min­is­tra­tion un­der for­mer pre­mier Gary Fil­mon, and fi­nally, the city’s re­cy­cling pro­gram. It only took about 20 years or so. “It has to be sus­tain­able if it’s go­ing to have any ef­fect,” Miller said. “It has to be more than col­lect­ing cans; it needs to be in­sti­tu­tion­al­ized, and we knew the city would have to have curb­side pickup. I spent most of my time talk­ing to gov­ern­ment so that they would have the poli­cies, the in­cen­tives and the frame­work to do it.” The en­vi­ron­men­tal­ist who nom­i­nated Miller and Gar­lich said the cou­ple has had an enor­mous in­flu­ence on Man­i­toba’s en­vi­ron­men­tal foot­print. “It is no ex­ag­ger­a­tion to say that Man­i­to­bans all across the prov­ince have ben­e­fited from the ed­u­ca­tion and ad­vo­cacy un­der­taken by Peter and Carolyn,” en­vi­ron­men­tal ac­tivist Randall McQuaker said in the an­nounce­ment rec­og­niz­ing their con­tri­bu­tions.


Ded­i­cated en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists Peter Miller and Carolyn Gar­lich were hon­oured re­cently with the fifth an­nual Anne Lind­sey Pro­tect­ing Our Earth Award by the Man­i­toba Eco-Net­work.

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