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Premiers Remarks At The Arava Institute For Environmental Studies In Israel

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Premiers Remarks At The Arava Institute For Environmental Studies In Israel

Office of the Premier

I'm in Israel as part of a trade mission from Ontario.

We have with us over 40 businesses, hospitals and university representatives and we're here to build stronger ties.

Along the way we're doing something equally important -- we're just getting to know one another better.

We have a lot in common, but there are some differences.

In Canada, history is something you study in textbooks. Here, a textbook is written in the land itself.

In Canada, the land is large, our story is brief. Here, the land is small and your story is epic.

I have a simple message to our students here today and that message is this: You have much to offer the world and our world needs you.

We need your energy.

We need your vitality.

We need your enthusiasm.

We need your restlessness.

We need your impatience.

Above all, we need your idealism.

We need your marvellous capacity to see beyond the here and now to the what could be.

My generation is too often mired in seemingly insurmountable social, economic and environmental challenges.

We need your help to see the possibilities for us.

We need you to lift us up so that we too can see those possibilities.

You see, life can have a corrosive effect. It can wear you down. It can rob you of your idealism.

Don't let that happen. Idealism is the most precious asset that you bring to building a better world. Too many of the older generation have lost theirs.

This institute is built on idealism. It brings students from different nationalities and different faiths together based on the shared understanding that we are at our best when we work together.

I studied biology for four years, then I went to law school and got into politics, but there is a certain unforgivable arrogance about our species -- we refuse to recognize at times our interdependence.

We'll never do as well, and be as well, until we recognize we are in this together. We've got to work together.

This is a simple, fundamental human ideal; we work best when we work together.

I learned that growing up. I kind of grew up in my own kibbutz; we were ten kids at home, two parents.

I'm going to set the scene for you. Dinner at night: five kids on the bench on this side, five kids on the bench on this side, my father at this end, my sainted mother, when she had time to sit, at that end.

And my father was a big, physically-imposing, intelligent, PhD university professor kind of a guy.

He'd look all the kids in the eye and say, "Kids remember this: no one here is as strong as all of us, nobody here's as smart as all of us."

That's a powerful lesson that I have never lost sight of.

Of course, you're going to need more than your idealism and working together to succeed for yourselves and for our world. You're studying science as I did.

Eighty years ago, a philosopher by the name of John Dewey said "every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination."

These days, our world needs both imagination and audacity desperately, whether it's a global challenge like climate change, a regional challenge like the recent oil spill in the U.S., or even a local challenge like a shortage of water.

Our world needs those with audacious imaginations.

There's a certain irony here; we humans are the solution to the problems our planet faces, but we're also the cause and only we are equipped to fix the damage that we have done.

Once I had a great conversation with a woman by the name of Roberta Bondar, Canada's first woman astronaut.

She was up there in the space shuttle and looking out one window, she saw the blackness of space and she said, "All I could see was blackness and dead light."

You and I find ourselves on this side of the atmosphere, so when the starlight comes through it kind of twinkles. Folks have written about that for thousands of years, but on the other side of the atmosphere it's just dead light.

Then she looked out another window and she saw this fragile, tiny blue ball.

She says she was possessed with this idea she wanted to grab humanity by the scruff of the neck and say, "I've been out there. To the very best of our knowledge, there is no other place anywhere that sustains life. This is it. This is all there is. So, we had better look after this planet."

I thought that was a great, great and profound observation.

For me, it seems the most obvious place to start caring for a planet is water.

You know, when we search for life on other planets, you know what we look for?

We just look for water. It's the stuff of life. It's the foundation for life.

Here on Earth, it's essential to our human lives as well.

But here's another cruel irony: in a world -- I think it's about 65 per cent covered by water, 97 per cent is salt, two per cent is frozen, one per cent is accessible fresh water.

My home province of Ontario is blessed with an abundance of fresh water. We have, if you can imagine this, more than 250,000 lakes.

Then there are rivers and there are streams.

All together, my province has about one third of the world's freshwater.

In fact, the word Ontario comes from an Iroquois word -- the Iroquois are one of our Aboriginal peoples -- meaning sparkling, or beautiful water.

I don't have to tell you that here, in this part of the world, and elsewhere, freshwater supplies are under a lot of strain and it's only going to get worse for all of us.

They tell us that over the next 20 years, world demand for water is going to exceed supply by 40 per cent.

The interesting thing is that even though Ontario and Israel's circumstances are very different, our conclusions are the same -- we've been talking to some businesses here.

We've both made water conservation and purification a priority, recognizing both the fundamental challenge and the tremendous opportunity before us.

In this country, you've developed tremendous expertise in water conservation and water efficiencies. This drip irrigation technology just happens to be one of those.

Well, a few weeks ago back in Canada, our government introduced a new law for Ontario -- we call it the Water Opportunities Act.

It's going to serve as an important part of our strategy to become more water efficient ourselves and develop a strong industry in Ontario developing and exporting clean water technologies and services.

It's our goal to become North America's leader in the clean water industry.

And that goal derives from two things.

First, a sense of responsibility and stewardship based on our understanding that water, like everything in our natural environment, doesn't belong to us, we merely hold it in trust for our children.

And, second, we realize that you simply cannot have a strong 21st century economy without a mature and responsible environmental policy.

It's true that recently our world has been caught in the throes of a global economic recession.

And it's easy and tempting to think of the environment as some kind of a frill, as some kind of an add-on, something you attend to only when you can get to it, only when times are good.

But the hard fact is this:

The economy is a wholly owned subsidiary of the environment and we should never ever lose sight of that fact.

In Ontario, we're working to strengthen the economy and protect our environment at the same time.

So, in addition to that Water Opportunities Act, we've also launched something we call a Green Energy Act.

In one year, we've secured $16 billion worth of new investment in clean energy, harnessing energy from the wind and the sun.

What does that mean?

It means 36,000 jobs.

That's important to 36,000 families.

The Green Energy Act is making Ontario the fastest growing place in North America for clean energy.

One reason that we are driven to succeed here is that we have committed to shutting down our coal-fired generation, all of it. And when you do that it really drives your race to innovate and harness energy from renewables.

Last point I'll make about what we're doing in terms of some good things in the environment.

We've set aside 225,000 square kilometres of a great forest that we have in northern Ontario. It's an area ten times the size of Israel.

We set it aside forever. You know why, because there is this great big lung that is serving humanity.

Everyday it's inhaling carbon dioxide and exhaling oxygen, and we feel a sense of responsibility to protect that land for people everywhere.

And that's really what it's all about.

It's about each place, each of us, doing our part.

I have been inspired by the good work that you are doing here at the Arava Institute and I urge you to keep it up.

The world needs you -- it needs your talents, your enthusiasm, your audacity, your creativity, your idealism and your leadership.

And I'm going to invite you to come to visit us in Ontario some time. We're global citizens.

Your nationality is important. You belong to the human family. Come and visit us.

Ontario is blessed not only with tremendous natural spaces, but with a very diverse population.

Toronto, our provincial capital, is the most diverse city in the world.

Over half the people living there were born outside the country.

Half of the 250,000 people who immigrate to Canada every year come to Ontario -- 125,000 new people every year, to one province.

This magnificent diversity helps us understand a fundamental truth, one that I know that you will understand and appreciate -- the truth that inspires this very institution, one spoken to by the world's wisest people, all across the countless centuries that have come before our own time and that truth is this:

What matters most among people everywhere is not the colour of our skin.

It's not the language that we speak.

It's not the traditions that we cherish.

It's not the culture that we inherit.

It's not the power that we wield.

It's not the wealth that we accumulate.

What matters most among people everywhere is what we share, it's what we have in common -- it's our humanity.

Our differences make us interesting.

But what's important is what we have in common and that's our humanity.

If you and I were to knock on 100 doors in any part of the world and if we were to ask families what's most important to you, I believe those families would all say the same thing.

They would say, "We want a good education for our kids.

We want good healthcare for everyone in the family.

We want good jobs so we can enjoy a good standard of living.

We want to live in a world that is at peace.

And we want an environment that is safe and healthy."

Those simple, fundamental, human aspirations are shared by people everywhere on this planet.

On behalf of all those people, I say, thank you for everything that you are going to do to make a better life for yourself and for them.

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