An eminent Canadian scholar is the recipient of a major award for his exemplary global environmental education work.
The Canadian Network for Environmental Education & Communication (EECOM) has honoured Professor Emeritus David Bell for his significant contributions in environmental public education, research, innovations and legislation.
As Canada’s only national, bilingual and charitable network for environmental learning, EECOM works strategically and collaboratively to ensure Canadians are environmentally literate, engaged in environmental stewardship and contributing to a healthy and sustainable future.
Bell said the award is extremely gratifying because it comes from a group of Canadian educators who are passionately committed to strengthening environmental and sustainability education.
“They are concerned about making a difference for present and future generations,” said the senior scholar and former York University Faculty of Environmental Studies dean.
Merebeth Switzer, the Education Ducks Unlimited Canada national manager, nominated Bell for the prestigious accolade.
“It is difficult to summarize the contributions of an individual who has had such a long and illustrious career reaching such a broad range of audiences,” she said. “Throughout his career, David has devoted himself to provincial, national and international efforts to transform the decision-making practices, policies, institutions and culture necessary to support sustainability in the public, private and education sectors.”
The award was recently presented to Bell at EECOM’s conference in Ottawa.
The brother of former Metro Toronto councillor Bev Salmon, Bell is the chair of the Learning for a Sustainable Future, co-chair of the Education Alliance for a Sustainable Ontario and a faculty member of the Sustainability and Education Academy. He was also a member of the National Round Table on the Environment and the Economy and a Schulich School of Business Sustainable Enterprise Academy founding core faculty member.
“Throughout the balance of this century, humankind will face increasingly profound and complex sustainability challenges, the responses to which will likely determine the fate of our species on this planet,” he said. “Over the past two decades, I have increasingly come to the conclusion that the challenge of sustainability is fundamentally educational in the broadest sense of the term. In effect, we need to learn to live sustainably on this planet. While attending to the basic needs for food, water, energy and shelter of a population that will exceed nine billion within 30 years, we must ensure that we do not undermine the natural environment’s capacity to provide the ‘natural services’ that make human life on this planet possible.”
A political scientist by training, Bell received his undergraduate degree from York University in 1965 and his PhD from Harvard University four years later. He taught for two years at Michigan State University before returning to York in 1971, where he served as dean of the Faculty of Graduate Studies for six years and dean of the Faculty of Environmental Studies for four years.
He was one of the few Black deans at a Canadian university.
Juanita Westmoreland-Traore, Quebec’s first Black judge, was the first Black dean of a Canadian Law School – the University of Windsor’s Faculty of Law – while Dr. Gervan Fearon was the G. Raymond Chang School of Continuing Education dean prior to making history as the first Black vice-chancellor and president of a Canadian university.
The doctoral thesis advisor to late New Democratic Party leader Jack Layton and recipient of the City of Toronto 2007 Green Toronto Award for leadership in sustainability, Bell has served as a consultant and advisor to private sector companies, the three levels of government in Canada and the governments of China and Jamaica.
Bell’s father – Herbert McLean Bell – was born in St. Mary, Jamaica in 1897. When his parents found out that he enlisted in the West Indies Regiment before he turned 18, he was de-enlisted and sent to Boston to study engineering. Wanting desperately to serve in the military, he came to Canada and joined the First Depot Battalion New Brunswick regiment in 1917.
Bell was later transferred to the 260th Battalion in Siberia during the First World War, where he was wounded and sent back to a Halifax hospital to recuperate. Leaving the Army as a decorated war hero, he ran an automotive repair business for 24 years on Queen St. E. and later relocated to Church St. before passing away in 1953.