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17 June, 2018

Give a Damn

On June 12th I was honoured by the Jewish National Fund of Windsor at their annual Negev dinner. It was a great honour and a special evening surrounded by friends and community members.

Proceeds of the dinner will go to supporting the renewal of the Givat Hamoreh Forest in the Lower Galilee which was devastated by fire in 2016. As a recent Climate Reality Grad, I know the important job trees do taking carbon out of the air and putting oxygen back in, so the project was one that I embraced enthusiastically.

I chose “Indifference” as the topic of my speech. You may remember that I posted “The Dangers of Indifference” back on May 14th. In May my post talked about the indifference that allowed the Holocaust to occur, but in my Negev speech I also talked about how it causes people to ignore, climate change, poverty, racism, major issues in the Middle East, etc.

I summed it up with a call for all of us to focus less on “ME” and much more on “WE”.

Here is the text of my short speech on the dangers of indifference at the Negev dinner.


  • Thank you.
  • Shalom. Good evening everyone.
  • It is very special to be honoured by the Jewish National Fund at its annual Negev dinner
  • Especially since the recognition is here in Windsor
  • I left Windsor 48 years ago; but I am still a blue-collar Windsor boy at heart.
  • My wife Colleen and I have a beautiful spring - summer - fall home on Boblo
  • I continue to work closely with the University of Windsor’s Odette school of business to create future 21st century leaders
  • And I help the university’s facility of Human Kinetics invest in the health and fitness of the university’s students
  • I actively support Essex Regional Conservation.
  • Colleen and I were delighted to be recognized by ERCA in 2013 as recipients of their “Clifford Hatch Conservation Foundation Award”
  • And I still have some of my closest friends here in the city - - thank you for coming tonight
  • Back when I was running the Maple Leafs a Windsor Star reporter once asked me what was the difference between Toronto and Windsor?
  • I told him “they don’t boo me in Windsor”
  • Thank you for that.
  • Today Windsor / Essex is a very important place for me.
  • Because I know Windsor helped me realize my dreams and exceed my wildest expectations
  • Again, thank you JNF for this recognition
  • And thanks to Diana Swain from CBC’s “The Investigators” for being our key note speaker tonight
  • Diana is a good friend. Wicked smart, candid and has strong personal values
  • Retired CBC broadcaster Robert Fisher once said this about Diana’s show “The Investigators”
  • “It’s a show that goes into the corners with its elbows up and that is a good thing”
  • Shameless plug here: Investigators being moved to Thursday 7 pm in the fall.
  • Well earned
  • Diana, Thank you for coming to Windsor
  • I would also like to thank the Ciociaro Club for hosting this event tonight and for being a Wind-sor club that believes in being inclusive for all
  • When JNF came to me with the invitation to participate in this celebration they showed me 3 possible recipients for the funds
  • I quickly picked the Givat Hamoreh Forest rehabilitation project as my preferred choice
  • As you have learned a fire broke out in this forest in 2016 and destroyed 275 acres of wood-lands and forests
  • The funds raised tonight will go towards making the forest healthy again and even more inclu-sive for all
  • I chose Givat Haoreh because forests are an important part of eco systems everywhere - in Israel and right here in Essex county
  • They breathe life into our atmosphere by sucking up carbon dioxide and exhaling important oxygen
  • A single acre of forest can pull six tons of carbon out of the air and put four tons of oxygen back in every year
  • And if the science doesn’t impress you enough you should also know this
  • Studies have proven that walking in the woods can lower blood pressure, boost mental health and improve memory.
  • So those are some of the reasons why I care about the treatment of our Ojibway Park, the low natural coverage in Essex county
  • And why I hope our Federal government will help Windsor city council protect the Ojibway Shores
  • For years now, I have been worried about the effects of climate change
  • Last October I graduated from the Al Gore Climate Reality course in Pittsburg
  • Tonight, I am proudly wearing my green circle graduation pin
  • I didn’t take the Gore course because I needed to be convinced climate change was real
  • Hell, I had figured that out
  • I took the course to learn more about it - things like
  • World temperatures increasing almost every year. The earth just had its 400th straight warm-er than average month.
  • A streak that started way back in December 1984
  • Rising ocean levels that threaten coastal communities
  • Dramatic ice loss in the polar regions
  • Much more violent storms
  • The phenomenon of “rain bombs” Windsor is already experiencing more intense heavy rain storms
  • And I learned the absolute need to reduce carbon emissions going into the atmosphere
  • So, a key takeaway tonight? “the best carbon capture is a tree .. and when scaled up it’s a forest”
  • Recently Colleen and travelled to the city of Berlin
  • Now, we did that specifically to better understand the rise of Nazism and the Holocaust
  • Specifically, the factors that lead to the slaughter of millions of Jews, gypsies, gays, com-munists, soldiers and political opponents
  • The trip definitely got me thinking and it caused me to write a blog for my website - entitled
  • “The Dangers of Indifference”
  • The dictionary defines indifference as: “lack of interest, lack of sympathy or concern, viewing issues and people as unimportant or insignificant”
  • The late holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel expressed it far better
  • And I quote;
  • “What is Indifference? Etymologically the word means ‘no difference’.
  • A strong and unnatural state in which the lines blur between light and darkness, dusk and dawn, crime and punishment, guilty and compassion, good and evil”
  • Wiesel went on to say ‘of course indifference can be tempting - more than that, SEDUCTIVE
  • It is so much easier to look away from victims. It is so much easier to avoid interruptions to our work, our lives, our dreams, out hopes’. End quote
  • So yes, I worry about the INDIFFERENCE many have to the critical investments we need to successfully fight climate change.
  • I worry that 10% of Canadians still do not believe Global Warming is happening
  • But also, that 23% do not think WE humans are causing it
  • Personally, I can’t imagine not fighting for the health and well-being of future generations
  • As Proverbs 13:22 says “ a good person leaves an inheritance to his children”
  • My thoughts on the indifference that enabled the Holocaust to happen got me thinking about some of the other examples of indifference in Canada today
  • INDIFFERENCE to poverty
  • Did you know that Windsor is #1 in Canada when it comes to poverty?
  • One in four Windsor children (24%) under the age of 17 live in low income families
  • INDIFFERENCE or even outright hostility to immigration
  • Canada has been built on immigration, but despite that 35% of Canadians think we take in too many immigrants.
  • Too many immigrants when over 300 million people across the world have been displaced from their homes due to war, famine and disease.
  • INDIFFERENCE to prejudice that affects people of different ethnicity, religion or race
  • Hate crimes are up against Muslims, Jews and gays across Canada
  • INDIFFERENCE to reductions in city services because people want to keep their taxes low
  • Reductions in basic services that often affect the most vulnerable among us.
  • It is important that you know that great livable cities cost money
  • And INDIFFERENCE over what is happing in the Middle East
  • I don’t pretend to understand the complexities of the Israel - Palestine conflict
  • The roots of it go back centuries
  • I also understand that there is much debate in the Jewish community about the situation
  • But no matter what the long-term issues are
  • No one should be INDIFFERENT to the bloodshed and shooting deaths of civilians, members of the media, first responders and even young children
  • There must be a humane solution that affords peace, safety and dignity for both sides.
  • And I could go on and on about many more examples of indifference in countries around the world including Canada
  • Recently I read an article from Paul Piff, a social psychologist at the university of California
  • He has written extensively about compassion and I am going to quote him because I believe indifference and compassion are linked
  • Piff believes that: we are experiencing a compassion deficit in society today
  • And he thinks that a decline in community connectedness
  • And our increasing use of technology have altered face to face interactions
  • and both are raising social inequality
  • He concludes that the solution to this lack of compassion - and too much INDIFFERENCE
  • Is not an ALL or NOTHING solution
  • Instead it is about what EACH (all of us in this room) can do a little more on a daily basis
  • Frankly a little less focus on ME.
  • And much more on WE
  • And one thing we canNOT be is silent
  • Silence is Indifference’s best comforter
  • Silence is its fertilizer to grow
  • In closing tonight one last inspiration found in an old Chinese proverb
  • “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago.
  • The second-best time is now”
  • Thank you to JNF and to all for your attendance tonight

Give a damn for a much better world - don’t be indifferent.

Richard

Passionate city builder

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