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A planet worth protecting

By Nicki Cruickshank, Barrie Examiner

J.T. mcveigh The Barrie Examiner Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada s first female astronaut, talks with students after her presentation at Georgian College, Wednesday. Bondar was the keynote speaker at a high school environmental workshop.

J.T. mcveigh The Barrie Examiner Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canada s first female astronaut, talks with students after her presentation at Georgian College, Wednesday. Bondar was the keynote speaker at a high school environmental workshop.

Dr. Roberta Bondar, Canadian's first woman astronaut in space 18 years ago, had an up-close view of our planet only a select few ever get.

Collingwood teen Summer Levenick wants to follow in her footsteps after high school.

"I want to be an astronaut," said the Grade 12 student from the Alternative School in Collingwood. "Honestly, it's a dream I have in my head. To think she (Roberta) saw the Earth from space and saw all those images up there, I just can't believe it.

"I know I'll get there one day," she added.

Levenick was among a large audience that packed the theatre at Barrie's Georgian College to hear Dr. Bondar speak, Wednesday afternoon.

She was the keynote speaker for Georgian's inaugural Ecofair, and gave an eye-opening presentation on how our planet's changing and her intimate bond with the giant blue mass.

"When I was looking at our planet in space, it was just so huge. It's such a vast space," said Dr. Bondar, who was also the first neurologist shuttled into space in January 1992.

"What's not to be fascinated about? It's endless and space gives us a chance to see Earth as a whole, and in a completely different perspective," she said.

Seeing Earth in a new light, and being good global citizens was what Dr. Bondar, also a Canadian scientist and environmental educator, wanted to instil in her audience at the college.

"We aren't able to understand every little thing about the Earth in our short lifetime," she said. "But, if we don't think of the environment in a critical way, we'll never create positive change.

"We impact even a foot of space around us and we need to remember that and think about our Earthly footprint," she added.

"I want to inspire you to continue to learn about science, the environment and look beyond the known."

Dr. Bondar shared a slideshow of photos taken by herself and other NASA astronauts of the Earth's curve, close-ups of vast bodies of water, how thunderstorms look from space and the ice shield in the Arctic.

"There are very few of us who've been able to see that bigger picture," Dr. Bondar said. "What can we learn from looking at the world from a different per-s p e c t i v e? We need to keep asking questions, trying to learn more about the planet through science, and being aware of our footprint.

"We shouldn't feel guilty for having one, but we know we can't pour chemicals down the drain or throw pop cans on the ground and think the Earth will be OK by us doing that," she added.

Bradford student Matt Stergiou concurred with Dr. Bondar's remarks and found her presentation inspiring.

"The fact that she touched on the beauty of the planet and the fact that there's still hope to protect it was great," said Stergiou, who's in Grade 11 at Bradford District High School.

"I think students are getting more involved in protecting the environment, and we should."

Dr. Bondar said everyone should. But, she's amazed that many still don't care enough about the environment.

"I'm shocked at some places I've been to speak that have a low percentage of their population recycling and have no way of composting," she said.

"We have to understand the effects of our actions and learn to solve our own eco problems in our communities."

ncruickshank @ thebarrieexaminer.com



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