Don MacIver

Don MacIver is a living example of the adage “think globally, act locally.” By day, he’s a world-travelling Environment Canada scientist, expert in climatology, meteorology and biodiversity.

November 18, 2008 | | Local Heroes

Don MacIver: One of our 2008 Local Heroes

The Nobel Peace Prize? Sure, But Also Mayor Of Amaranth!

Don MacIver is a living example of the adage “think globally, act locally.” By day, he’s a world-travelling Environment Canada scientist, expert in climatology, meteorology and biodiversity. By night, his conquest turns more domestic. As mayor of Amaranth Township, he’s fixing roads and setting budgets. Somehow, in-between, he also operates a hundred-acre beef farm.

Though Don won’t tell us which phone booth he uses to change capes, there is clear evidence of his super-human attributes.

In the fall of 2007, along with 2,000 colleagues, including former U.S. vice-president Al Gore, he was a co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize for his contributions to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. This group, made up of experts from over one hundred countries around the world, provides assessment of research relating to human-induced climate change, its impacts, and potential mitigation or adaptation strategies. “They’re the scientific body, and the United Nations is the political body,” Don says. In simple terms, they’re the folks who are trying to do something about global warming.

Don was an early contributor to the IPCC, becoming involved in 1990. That initial assessment work led to a series of world conferences during the 1990s where scientists began to ring the alarm about global warming. Don says a 1998 conference in Costa Rica “shifted attention. We began to ask ‘What are the impacts?’ We have to adapt now, because it takes years to change direction, and for people to change their lifestyles. Over that time there are also new political leaders, new agendas.”

Ironically, Don’s local political involvement also has its roots in the weather. “In 1993, I lost my barn to lightning. The community held a big party and really rallied behind me. After that, I felt it was time to give back. I looked at what was going on in Amaranth and at the county, and saw a need for change.”

One battle Don took on was the proposed Dufferin County landfill. At the time, Dufferin had spent two-million dollars getting the project approved. Don and other determined objectors fought on, however, and these days, the stillborn corpse of that proposal lies in a filing-cabinet crypt.

For Don, that decade-long struggle, like others, was about persistence: “If you go back to the basics, make sure you understand the data and information, and then persist, you can educate people to make different decisions.”

He takes a similarly hopeful attitude in the face of seemingly long odds when it comes to global warming: “Change will come through kids and education. Look what happened with recycling – it was the kids who got it first. The same will happen with climate change.”

Our not-so-mad scientist/politician describes his Nobel win as “Very rewarding. There’s no money or career advantage – nothing tangible, but it’s a tremendous legacy, even if I wasn’t seeking it.”

Don MacIver says it was issues close to his heart that shaped his career, “but it was the community that taught me leadership.”

About the Author More by Jeff Rollings

Jeff Rollings is a freelance writer living in Caledon.

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