He’s green and loving it
Ottawa city council member David Chernushenko, Artsci’85, is a committed environmentalist increasingly known for his positive message of sustainability and personal change. It’s an approach he calls “living lightly.”
David has had an interest in the environment from an early age. “I always loved the outdoors and hated to see waste,” he says. “Putting forward a hopeful message about the environment has become my life’s work.”
He credits his time at Queen’s for helping to broaden his horizons. “I took political studies with an eye towards journalism,” he says. “My interests were diverse back then, and my activities reflected that. I was involved with the Journal, CFRC Radio, and the cross-country ski team.”
David’s eclectic interests proved to be a template for his life post-university. He went on to work as a journalist in Japan, earned a Master’s degree in International Relations from Cambridge University, and established an environmental consulting business. He has also worked with such groups as the International Olympic Committee and Canadian Special Olympics to promote sustainability at sporting events.
He got involved in politics in 2003. “I was approached by the Green Party to run provincially in the riding of Ottawa South,” David recalls. “At first, I was reluctant; I’m not a partisan person. But then I looked at the Greens’ platform and found that I agreed with most of the ideas there.”
David didn’t win a seat at Queen’s Park, but he ran again for the Green Party in the 2004 and 2006 federal elections. He even challenged for the Green Party national leadership, which Elizabeth May eventually won.
After resigning as Deputy Leader of the Green Party in 2007, David turned his talents to documentary filmmaking. “I established the website www.livinglightly.ca, with the idea of it becoming the portal or ‘YouTube’ for people interested in the environment,” he says. “It’s a spot where people can share positive stories about living sustainably. Within that framework, I made the documentary film, Be the Change. The story focused on Ottawa residents and their motivations to live an environmentally friendly lifestyle.”
In 2010, he followed up on that initiative with another documentary, Powerful – Energy for Everyone. The film follows David to Europe, where communities are improving their economy and environment by accessing solar, wind, and biomass power produced locally. Using some footage from the same European trip and fresh material from Canada and the U.S., David recently finished a new film: Bike City, Great City (see bikecitythemovie.ca). This short documentary explores how a city can be made more sustainable by embracing cycling as a means of transportation.
In 2010, David also got back into politics when he ran for and won a seat on Ottawa city council representing Capital Ward. It’s a job he finds challenging and rewarding. “It’s hard to make change happen,” he says. “The trend around North America and in Ottawa is that
people are moving back to the core of the city. Through good policy on things like cycling and traffic-calming we can make that transition a very positive thing. I’m happy to be a part of this process.”