Far North Planner, Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry
Bachelor in Environmental Studies 2010
“[the] impression I had of York as a place of dynamic collaborations…ultimately made me decide that York was a community I wanted to be a part of”
About Jonathon Chretien
Jonathon Chretien was on cloud nine when he learned about the Faculty of Environmental Studies (FES) Las Nubes Project in Costa Rica. “Something just clicked for me when I read about Las Nubes. I recognized a strong interdisciplinary emphasis in how the Bachelor of Environmental Studies (BES) program and Las Nubes project were described; challenging students to look at complex problems from a variety of lenses. It was this impression I had of York as a place of dynamic collaborations that ultimately made me decide that York was a community I wanted to be a part of.”
The Las Nubes Project was created by Howard Daugherty from the Faculty of Environmental Studies, after a generous donation made by noted Toronto physician Dr. Woody Fisher to York University in 1998. With over 400+ hectares of rainforest in Alexander Skutch Biological Corridor, the Las Nubes project is engaged in multiple research and community engagement initiatives. In 2016, FES opened the Lillian Meighen Wright Centre, the landmark building of York’s EcoCampus, where York University students can immerse themselves in an interdisciplinary semester abroad program.
For Chretien, the “interdisciplinary” emphasis in FES and the Las Nubes Project was paramount in his decision to study in the BES program. His desire “to combine learning about technical aspects of environmental management while also gaining a better appreciation for the social dynamics at play” led Chretien to take courses in both the environmental politics and environmental management streams - courses such as Ecology and Conservation Science, Regional Governance, Ecological Economics, and Global Environmental Politics.
His course selection eventually led him to work alongside Daugherty and Professor Ellie Perkins for his undergraduate senior honours, titled “Life in the Shade: Economic and Ecological Sustainability of Shade Coffee Farms in Pérez Zeledón, Costa Rica”, work to which he credits informing “how [he] views [himself] and the impact [he] wants to have in [his] work”.
Chretien attributes to his BES degree the preparation he needed “to work in collaborative, interdisciplinary workplaces. In government, and this is particularly true for the Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, you work with people from across a wide range of specialties. From geographers and biologists to policy analysts and land use planners, an interdisciplinary background really helps when it comes to navigating discussions, building consensus, and weighing options.”
Currently a Far North Planner for the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry, Chretien works with First Nation communities in northern Ontario “that have identified an interest in developing Community-Based Land Use Plans with Ontario”. Similar to the Las Nubes Project, his work today is driven by cultivating relationships as he works in joint First Nation-Ontario Planning teams to identify appropriate land uses. This includes seeking areas with cultural and ecological values to be protected and areas suitable for sustainable economic development.
Ask Chretien what he loves the most about his work and he’ll say “the dynamic nature of every work day”. From travelling on site to remote First Nation communities to conducting policy research and financial reporting for his ongoing projects, Chretien’s days are full. But for him, “it feels good to be doing interesting work, sometimes as a facilitator and sometimes as a project manager, at the forefront of … new ideas for how people can work together to advance shared interests”.
Some parting words Chretien had to say: “The world is bigger than your hometown, opportunity can be found where your talents are needed”.
Written By: Abigael Pamintuan