Asper, Paterson to be honoured at JNF gala


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Gail Asper and Michael Paterson have more accolades than the average married couple. “Actually, Gail has received many honours, I have received very few,” Paterson says with a laugh.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 31/05/2022 (299 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Gail Asper and Michael Paterson have more accolades than the average married couple. “Actually, Gail has received many honours, I have received very few,” Paterson says with a laugh.

Asper has the Order of Manitoba and is an officer of the Order of Canada, among other titles, and was a driving force in establishing the Canadian Museum for Human Rights in Winnipeg. For years, Paterson has been at the forefront of water quality research in Manitoba, currently as chief research scientist for the International Institute for Sustainable Development.

Both do important work but they’ve never been honoured together.

That changes June 2, when the Jewish National Fund Manitoba & Saskatchewan will do so at its annual Negev Gala, recognizing their decades of contributions to the advancement of human rights and the study of the climate crisis — two of the most pressing issues facing the world at large.

This year’s gala, and others across the country, will raise money for the organization’s Climate Solutions Prize, a $1-million annual allotment awarded to the top innovative idea to curb climate change and advance research. Organizations partnering with JNF to deliver the award include Keren Kayemeth LeIsrael and Israel’s Peres Center for Peace and Innovation.

Climate change is a cause Paterson said is close to his heart as a professional ecologist, and one that can’t be ignored by anybody.

“I feel that everybody should care deeply for the environment, because it’s so important to us,” he said. “One of the greatest threats we face is climate change, so anything we can do to help mitigate that (must be done).”

Many of the climate outcomes which were predicted and questioned at the start of Paterson’s career are now “completely evident,” he said. “The things we worried about as environmental scientists are sadly coming true.”

According to the Climate Atlas of Canada’s report for the city of Winnipeg, the hottest days for the years between 1976 and 2005 reached an average of 34.4 C. Between 2051 and 2080, that average is projected to reach 39.5 C.

Average precipitation could increase by nearly 17 per cent in the spring, as at this moment every Manitoban being reminded of the detrimental impact of an overly wet spring. Climate change brings with it an increased chance of extreme weather, such as flash floods, drought, storms and wildfire.

Aside from political will to negate the long-term impacts of climate change, ongoing research and scientific intervention are considered crucial tools in the fight to save the planet.

That’s a key reason why Paterson and Asper said they were pleased to accept the honour from the JNF. The couple, married 38 years as of June 10, both felt it was a cause they could get behind. “When you’re married, you have to share values,” Asper said.

Even though they’re being honoured together, they won’t be able to attend the gala together.

For one thing, it’s being held virtually. For another, Paterson is currently at the Experimental Lakes Area in Ontario, working with the team on microplastics research, among other projects.

On the night of the gala, Asper will have a viewing party at home, while Paterson will hope his spotty Wi-Fi connection hangs on. Both are pleased to not have to get dressed up.

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman

Ben Waldman covers a little bit of everything for the Free Press.

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