‘A passionate advocate for Great Lakes water issues and the overall environmental movement.’
By Patrick Robson
Posted August 15th, 2016 on Niagara At Large
“Picture a century of water.” – a lyric from Tragically Hip’s song ‘Something On’.
At the time of this writing, the Tragically Hip are on the last leg of their final farewell tour – in Hamilton, Ottawa, and then the final date in their hometown, Kingston.
This last show will be enjoyed by people across the country, and indeed the globe, and there is no doubt that the anticipation is great for this finale of a Canadian institution. Thanks to my sister and brother-in-law, my wife and I attended the show in London, Ontario, and we’re still buzzing from it.
This was not our first Hip show – far from it. We’ve seen them at least a dozen times in various Ontario locales, several times in Western New York, and even in Erie Pennsylvania, in a cool venue called Warner Theater. Every show takes one on a journey of uniquely Canadian stories, and it is this story-telling that speaks to all of us and warrants an Order of Canada, in my view.
However, there is another side to the Hip’s front man, Gord Downie.
He is a passionate advocate for Great Lakes water issues and the overall environmental movement. It is this passion that provided an opportunity to see and hear a different Gord Downie. To explain, it was October 3rd, 2013 at the Adam’s Mark Hotel in Buffalo, New York, and the event was the Conference on the Environment, hosted by New York State Association of Conservation Councils. Gord Downie had been booked to open the conference – and here’s how it was billed:
‘Although Gord Downie is best known for his music, over the years he has become a strong advocate for protecting the Great Lakes and for people’s water rights. As a member of Lake Ontario Waterkeeper, much of Downie’s environmental activism has been focused on the Canadian side of Lake Ontario. However, the health of the Great Lakes has no political boundaries, nor does our right to protect the largest source of fresh water on the planet.
Without question, the music of Gord Downie will be the highlight of the 2013 Conference on the Environment. Downie’s passion for the environment, translated into eclectic performance, will inspire the audience to examine our actions from a more ecological perspective as he explores what he considers “one of the great loves of our lives”—the environment.’
I consider myself very fortunate to have been one of a few hundred people who took in the event. Every attendee was mesmerized by ‘Gordie’s’ keen, exceptionally well-informed views on environmental management, degradation and the important work of groups across the Great Lakes Basin to draw attention to these issues and work on improvements.
His commentary was interspersed with acoustic songs that were pure Downie. Perhaps most pleasantly surprising was that, up to that point, Downie’s focus on the environment was generally below the public radar – or maybe it was just below mine.
In any case, it was a truly magical and memorable evening – a celebrity I had known to that point as a pure entertainer and story-teller in an alternative persona, lending their good name and piercing insights to something that is bigger than any of us.
So as this tour winds down, and if you’re feeling nostalgic, you can go on their website and see information on past shows, the play lists, and the lyrics and reminisce about your own past Hip experiences – and that will continue after the lights go down on the August 20th, 2016 show in Kingston.
It is my sincere hope that Gord Downie’s passion for the environment continues, through him and those he’s touched – Our world is better for it.
Patrick Robson is a resident of the Niagara, Ontario Township of Wainfleet, a Tragically Hip fan, and believes in good environmental stewardship for today and for future generations.
There are at least two venues in Niagara, Ontario where the final August 2oth show in Kingston will be streamed live on the big screen. The following links give details on the locations, etc. for those screenings –
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