A portrait of Dave Erb
A portrait of Dave Erb
Back to all insights
Industry Interviews

Climate change, hope, and action: A conversation with POW Canada’s Dave Erb

Marie-Josée Legault
Feb, 2024
5 mins

After founding POW Canada in 2018, Dave Erb left his position as Executive Director four years later to pursue personal projects. In February of this year, he returned to his previous role. We thought it’d be the perfect opportunity to sit down with Dave for a conversation about what’s changed in the Canadian landscape, how POW fits in and how he remains so hopeful and optimistic.

Dave Erb is known for his enthusiasm, positive attitude, setting big goals, and his egoless approach to leadership. Based in his hometown of Waterloo, Ontario, the 46 year-old father of two’s background is not what you might expect from a climate advocate and leader. And as we discovered, his vision for POW Canada is ambitious. 

Origin: Tell us about your upbringing and how it contributes to your view of life.  I recall something about funeral homes?

Dave: Yes, I actually grew up living in a small apartment above a funeral home where my dad worked. I joke that it was a quiet place but it was really hard to convince friends to come over. I ski raced at our local hill (Chicopee) and after high school spent two years in Whistler as a ski instructor. I eventually returned to Waterloo with two broken arms and an acceptance letter to the funeral service education program. During my studies I reconnected with my now wife Leanne, who I had actually met many years earlier at a summer camp. Eventually we were married and spent the next ten years working, Leanne as a midwife and myself at the funeral home while raising a young family. In 2006 I bought the funeral home, but the reality of being on call 24/7 eventually became too much with a young family, so I sold the business to employees in 2009. Since then, I have focused my time and energy exclusively on projects with positive social or environmental impact. 

Origin: You left a high paying job to start this non profit. What motivates you? What brought you back? 

Dave: Getting involved in the climate fight is a no brainer. I’m motivated by my kids. I spend a lot of time deep in the science and politics of climate change and am under no illusions that a successful outcome is a forgone conclusion. In 20 years, I want to be able to look my kids and grandkids in the eye and tell them I did everything in my power to make the world a healthier place. I believe POW and the broader outdoor community is uniquely positioned to play a pivotal role in climate advocacy. As people who care deeply about nature and live to adventure and explore in nature, we can also be the ultimate guardians and protectors of it. 

Origin: How do you feel the landscape in Canada has changed since 2020? It feels like we’ve seen so much climate change devastation in those years, with floods and fires all across the country. Do you think this is our new normal in Canada? 

Dave: To date, the scientists have been bang-on with their predictions. Now they are telling us this is just the tip of the iceberg for impacts. The fires we are experiencing in the West will migrate to the boreal forest in the east. The floods and extreme weather events will become stronger and more frequent. Our window for action is closing but the good news is that it’s still open. 

Origin: I’m a firm believer in the idea of being softer on people and harder on policies (full transparency: I stole this from Michael Mann). What do you think about this philosophy? 

Dave: Yeah, we’re not going to win this climate battle with individual actions. For decades special interest groups have been trying to shift the onus on individuals to lower their carbon footprint. That’s completely flawed. Government policy is definitely the most powerful lever we have, as it also influences the marketplace. As an example, Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act has provided the tax incentives needed to attract the capital investment for the renewable energy market which is exploding in the US. So, the role for individuals is advocacy and civic engagement: using their voice and their influence to advocate for systemic change. POW provides that opportunity. 

Origin: How do you stay hopeful and optimistic about the future? Any advice for those with eco-guilt and climate anxiety? 

Dave: Admittedly it’s really hard. But action is definitely the best tactic for me. Whether that’s volunteering with a climate organization, donating to the cause, signing the petitions or showing up to rallies, it’s really important to do something. As people who love nature, if we don’t use our voice to protect these places and experiences we love, who will?

Origin: What can we expect from POW Canada in the future? 

Dave: Two things. First, an organization that’s getting stuff done on the policy side. That means understanding the key moments and opportunities provincially and nationally that could actually move the needle on climate action. POW’s a small organization, so our strength lies in collaborating with other climate organizations and bringing out the voice of our membership to help win those campaigns. Second, grassroots organizing. When I first read about Jeremy Jones and POW US, I was intrigued by the unique approach to advocacy - gatherings with beer, ice cream, french fries and letter writing. We need more of that.  Research shows there’s massive opportunity for emission reductions at the municipal level which is where we’ll unleash the power of our volunteer led chapters.

Origin: What do you tell people who aren’t sure how to truly have an impact? How can the average person contribute to the fight against climate change? 

Dave: Get off the couch! Really, it’s about engagement. As noted, the easiest way is to engage with an existing climate organization such as Protect Our Winters Canada, David Suzuki Foundation, Stand, 350 etc. These organizations specialize in activating their membership base. Now is definitely the time for action.

For more information about Protect Our Winters Canada, please visit www.protectourwinters.ca or contact David Erb directly: dave@protectourwinters.ca