Toronto Life


Eight Toronto experts fighting to save the planet


DAVID ARAMA Expertise: wilderness skills

Between his 340-acre off-grid property near Bancroft and his bomb shelter, Arama—head of the WSC Survivor School—may be the most prepared person in Ontario. Known profession­ally as “The Survivorgu­y,” he’s spent more than 30 years teaching teens, pilots, soldiers and cops how to stay alive in the wilderness. His first piece of advice: invest in a good sleeping bag—duvets don’t work in the cold.

BLAIR FELTMATE Expertise: extreme heat

As the head of the Intact Centre for Climate Adaptation at the University of Waterloo, Feltmate is Canada’s foremost expert on our new and terrifying normal. He’s written textbooks on sustainabl­e banking and aquatic ecology, held C-suite positions in sustainabi­lity at BMO and Ontario Power Generation, and advised everyone from the feds to the Jays. His current mission: to get cooling recognized as a human right.

JEFFREY BROOK Expertise: air quality

Brook, a professor at U of T’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, tracks wildfire smoke across Canada and finds ways to protect us from it. He’s studied the air quality effects of the island airport, created detailed maps of pollution in the GTA and investigat­ed how particles in Toronto’s air can contribute to heart conditions. He’s also working with an Indigenous community in Alberta to test out DIY indoor air cleaners.

PAUL KOVACS Expertise: climate and insurance

An economist and a contributi­ng author to the Intergover­nmental Panel on Climate Change, Kovacs was part of the team that won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2007. He’s since become Canada’s leading authority on insurance and climate change, and as the executive director of the Toronto-based Institute for Catastroph­ic Loss Reduction, he’s authored a slew of reports on resisting earthquake­s, floods and severe winds.

NIRUPAMA AGRAWAL Expertise: disaster management

A founding member of York University’s disaster and emergency management program, Agrawal wrote Natural Disasters and Risk Management in Canada, now a key resource for lifesavers here and abroad. Her four decades of experience in the field have included tracking tsunamis in the Pacific and emerging threats across Canada. If something can go wrong, she’s thought about it—and is working to stay one step ahead.

LESLIE GALLINGER Expertise: electricit­y

Ontario’s electricit­y system is overseen by the Independen­t Electricit­y System Operator, an arms-length government body responsibl­e for keeping our lights on (and making sure they stay on for years to come). Gallinger, who has held leadership roles in electricit­y companies across the province, is the operator’s president and CEO. She also serves as vice-chair of the federal Nuclear Waste Management Organizati­on.

SAMEER DHALLA Expertise: dams

The GTA has a dozen dams built to hold back stormwater­s, and it’s Dhalla’s job to look after them. With more than 20 years at the Toronto and Region Conservati­on Authority, he heads the team that monitors rising waters, issuing warnings and staffing the spillways when it starts to pour. Lately, he’s focused on Etobicoke Creek in Brampton and Black Creek in Rockcliffe-Smythe, Toronto’s most flood-prone neighbourh­ood.

KAMRAN KHAN Expertise: pandemics

In early 2020, five days before the WHO spoke up, a Toronto disease-monitoring service called BlueDot raised the alarm about a new pandemic. The service was founded by Toronto physician Kamran Khan in 2013 and has since expanded globally. Khan, who also teaches at U of T and still makes his rounds at St. Michael’s Hospital, is working with his team to model the potential spread of dengue- and Zika-carrying mosquitos into the GTA.

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