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Winners (alphabetical) > Lynn Oliphant The Craik Sustainable Living Project

Gold winner
Lynn Oliphant The Craik Sustainable Living Project
Photo: Green Party of Canada
Lynn Oliphant
The Craik Sustainable Living Project

Sustainable Living, 2005

Beneficiary: Saskatchewan Eco Network, $5,000 award

"Canada is poised to be a leader in sustainability. If it can't
happen here, it can't happen anywhere."

A retired professor, a raptor expert, a bluegrass musician, a Green Party candidate, a specialist in straw-bale house construction — Lynn Oliphant is many things. To the citizens of Craik, Sask., however, he's the man who's helping save their town.

A zoologist by training, Oliphant came to the University of Saskatchewan in Saskatoon from the United States in 1971 to teach at its veterinary medicine college. He arrived with strong ideas on the environmental challenges facing the human community, and these only intensified over his 28-year career.

But Oliphant's long-term involvement in a peregrine-falcon recovery program proved to be the turning point. "I realized that you cannot fix environmental ills in isolation," he says. "No amount of single-species rescue can address the harm we do day to day. There's only one species we need to manage — the human species. Before human impact, everything else was taking care of itself."

Reducing that impact became Oliphant's mission. In the late 1990s, he and a few likeminded people formed the Prairie Institute for Human Ecology PIHE) and began to share and explore ideas on sustainability that had been deemed too radical for the university lecture hall.

The PIHE message resonated with the people of Craik. Like other rural communities, the town was in decline due to drought, low grain prices and a livestock-industry crisis. "Rural communities die because of economic leaks," says Oliphant. "First the money goes, and then the people follow."

Tiny Craik, however, is not prepared to go quietly. Under Oliphant's guidance, the town is reinventing itself as a sustainable, alternative community. Straw-bale housing, low-input greenhouse food production, community-supported gardens and energy-efficient retrofits are all on the agenda. The year-old 557-square-metre Eco-centre, with restaurant and meeting rooms, is the town's hot spot for education and demonstrations on sustainability. Upcoming: an eco-housing development, an environmentally friendly golf course and hemp cultivation and production for a Vancouver company called Hemptown Clothing Inc.

"Canada is poised to be a leader in sustainability," Oliphant says. "We're well educated. It's still roomy here, and we have tremendous resources. If sustainability can't happen here, it can't happen anywhere."

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Last updated: 2005

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