Jerome Dupras: Protecting nature through art and science

Jerome Dupras is one of the keynote speakers at Park People’s upcoming Heart of the City Conference taking place in Montreal, June 12-14, 2019. Jerome Dupras is the bassist in the well-loved Quebecois band, Les Cowboys Fringants, and Head of the Laboratoire d’Economie Ecologique at the Institut des Sciences de la Foret Temperee.

Dupras is unique in that his dedicated commitment to preserving and protecting nature lives at the intersection of  art, science, and activism.

Art and science share the stage


Jerome Dupras is not only a talented scientist and Geographer, but he’s also a bassist in a super-famous Quebec rock band.

Here’s how he makes sense of his dual-careers as a musician and scientist: 

Like music, science is a form of art. In science, like in music, you need to learn the basics and to practice a lot. To be innovative in art and in science, you need to be creative to make an impact. Breaking the boundaries between art and science is where the innovation ‘sweet spot’ lies for me.”.

In his career with Les Cowboys Fringants, Dupras uses the powerful platform afforded him to promote his message about the important and often overlooked value of preserving and enhancing nature. As a scientist, he’s used his artistic mind to develop creative research approaches that build people’s appreciation for and understanding of the ‘pay off’ that comes from investing in nature.

Making the economic argument for nature

Dupras and his team have developed a proprietary formula for measuring the economic value of natural infrastructure such as trees, rivers and flowers.

By finding ways to measure this value, Dupras has given nature a leg up in discussions that pit nature against  industry. More trees means less development, right? Sound familiar? Well, Dupras’ formula proves otherwise. As a result of his team’s open-source formula for quantifying nature’s economic value, municipalities have implemented tax credits for forest conservation and have justified planting more trees because of the pollination and natural water filtration services they provide.

Dupras and his team are committed to supporting grassroots, community-based groups by providing them with technical help to implement the formula.

 “I am really proud to see that our research is being applied,  allowing more people to preserve and cultivate natural infrastructure. It’s a model we want to see spread. The more people that use it, the better.”


Using music to cultivate the next generation of activists

In 2016, Dupras’ band Les Cowboys Fringants created a Foundation to support activities to help spread their message about the importance of nature. With support from fans, La Fondation Cowboys Fringants planted 375 000 trees to celebrate the 375 anniversary of Montreal. The crowdfunding effort was tied to album sales and funded the entire effort including a stewardship strategy.

“A tree planted now will be mature in 20 to 25 years,” said Dupras.“This is a gift to the children, both today and for the future”.

The Foundation also supported a program to teach songwriting to high-schoolers to help them use art as a platform for activism. Over 18 months, students from high schools across Québec wrote songs to promote environmental activism, all culminating in the release of 2 albums featuring students songs performed by well known Quebec artists:

It is an empowering process for budding student  who sees they started with a blank page and now their song and message is being performed  by a famous artist”.


Don’t miss your chance to hear from Jerome Dupras at the Heart of the City Conference in Montreal, June 12-14. He’s one of many dynamic speakers and presenters committed to the leveraging the power of parks across Canada. See you there! 


6 reasons you don’t want to miss Canada’s National City Parks Conference

You don’t want to miss Park People’s Heart of the City Conference in Montreal happening June 12-14th. It’s a must-attend event for municipal leaders whose work intersects with parks. This includes park planners, parks and recreation staff and departments who engage in community development through city parks.

The Conference is the only national event that brings together all of the stakeholders who are invested in the future of city parks across Canada. Keynote sessions, hands-on workshops and highly interactive tours will showcase the leading issues happening in city parks across Canada, all against the backdrop of Montreal, a city beloved worldwide for its innovative approach to green spaces.

Here’s why you need to be there.


1. Municipal leaders and park leaders together.

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There are events for municipal leaders and events for community leaders, but very rarely do those two universes join together. Because the Heart of the City Conference is a national conversation with parks at the core, the Conference will connect municipal leaders with community groups, nonprofits, and funders. It’s a rare opportunity for 200 of the country’s leading park stakeholders to learn from one another, network and build relationships that will shape the planning, partnerships, design, and programming of city parks, long after the Conference is over.

2. Reconciliation in focus:

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The Vancouver Park Board is dedicated to strengthening relationships with Indigenous peoples. Rena Soutar, the first Reconciliation Planner at Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation is a Keynote Speaker at Heart of the City Conference and will bring the city’s Reconciliation efforts into focus. Soutar says: “We are now in a prime position to…demonstrate what a decolonization process within a Reconciliation framework can look like in a public institution.” Learn how Soutar is breaking new ground by applying Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission principles to Vancouver’s parks.

3. A keynote speaker who is a rock star and a Geography professor

Jerome Dupras is both bassist for the band Les Cowboys Fringants and an academic focused on quantifying the economic value of nature and biodiversity. A musician who returned to academia after finding fame on stage, for Dupras, these two worlds blend seamlessly together. In fact, his band started a Foundation, with funds from ticket and album sales directed toward grassroots environmental initiatives.   

Dupras’ research undercuts the idea the economic and environmental interests need to be in opposition. In fact, for Dupras, they go hand-in-hand. His open-source model for qualifying nature’s value has been utilized by numerous groups, citizen and municipal led.

His scientific work was recently recognized by the Government of Quebec when he received the Quebec Emerging Science Award. He continues to be involved in several conservation and greening projects, including being Co-Founder of the Green Belt Movement and spearheading the planting of 375,000 trees for the 375th anniversary of Montreal.

4. Networking against the backdrop of world-class parks



Start your Heart of the City Conference with a private tour of Montreal’s beloved mountain, Mont Royal, with  Les Amis de la Montagne. We’ll converge on the mountain’s Beaver Lake Pavilion and take in a view of this grand city and park which welcomes 5 million users annually.

Enjoy lunch at TOHU, home to North America’s first circular performance space dedicated to the circus arts. Tour the space and Frédéric-Back park, a former quarry, and dump, now being transformed into a dynamic urban park which will be Montréal’s second-biggest green space. The project has been called the “most ambitious environmental rehabilitation project ever undertaken.”

Another reception and tour will take place in La Fontaine Park, highlighting the how local communities were meaningfully engaged in the development of the park’s most recent Master Plan.

5. Targeted workshops to shape your work in parks:

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Interactive workshop sessions, led by experts from across Canada, will address the most pressing issues in city parks. Participate in workshops featuring creative governance models, tools for evaluating park use and impact, and how parks can be built to address the climate change. You’ll work with experts from organizations across the country including Calgary Parks, the City of Winnipeg, the Vancouver Park Board, Gehl Institute and many more. Community park groups from across Canada include Stanley Park Ecology Society, Quartier des spectacles, Spence Neighbourhood Association,  MABELLEarts and many more.

6. Tour the city with the “heart of green:”


Park tours are an important focus of the Heart of the City Conference, as Montreal is widely recognized as a city with a “heart of green.” Tours will span projects of all scales; from small community-led initiatives to large scale iconic parks.

For example, a tour of Grand Potager will focus on how the unique partnership between the Municipality and a non-profit organization has led to the creation of an urban agriculture resource centre housed within municipal-owned greenhouses.

You can tour Circuit Jardins, a series of gardens around Montreal’s downtown core that have transformed underused and vacant lots into re-naturalized places for people. These gardens are equal parts green infrastructure and social infrastructure, providing places for some of Montreal’s most marginalized residents.

Choose from more than 10 tours over 2 days.


Heart of the City Conference is hosted by Park People, the organization that supports and mobilizes people to help them activate the power of parks to improve quality of life in cities across Canada.

Generously supported by: 

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The Conference is generously supported by TD Bank Group, through its corporate citizenship platform, The Ready Commitment. Through this platform, TD is helping to open doors for a more inclusive and sustainable tomorrow so that people feel more confident – not just about their finances, but also in their ability to achieve their personal goals in a changing world. As part of this, TD is committed to helping elevate the quality of the environment so that people and economies can thrive, by growing and enhancing green spaces and supporting the transition to a low-carbon economy. To learn more about The Ready Commitment visit


Park Summit 2018: A Serious Look at Play

Ralph Waldo Emerson got it right when he said: “It’s a happy talent to know how to play.” This year’s Park Summit presenters have this talent nailed down. Each has a unique ability to cultivate playfulness among targeted audiences to reach particular goals.

Yes, it can feel odd to speak so seriously about play, but creating intentional outcomes using play requires serious planning and consideration.  As speakers from both Montreal and Toronto demonstrated, it’s critical to determine what you want to achieve through play to deploy it most effectively. The presentations our Park Summit speakers shared offer many lessons for those of us trying to figure out how to use play to create impact-both among park and public space users and the key stakeholders who make decisions about how space does, and does not, get used.


The act of seduction

Marie-Hélène Roch, Founding Member of Ruelle No 13 project, a white laneway in Montreal’s Villeray neighbourhood, spoke about creating a space that entices people to play during cold winter months. She said:

“Together we’re trying to create a cocoon that’s conducive to gathering.”

Sometimes the snowy laneway is a cocoon formed of active play like hockey or fort-building, and other times it’s a cocoon of warm, delicious food that seduces people to leave their living rooms and come outside to break bread.


Marie-Hélène highlighted the seductive powers of food in particular when discussing Ruelle No 13 project’s participation in Restaurant Day, a worldwide festival of people organizing their own pop up food events in shared spaces. Bringing Restaurant Day to the snowy laneway helped Ruelle No 13 lure people into the space to enjoy the benefits of gathering together and experiencing new possibilities for their shared, underused space.


Be present for play

Janelle, from Green Change at Toronto’s Jane-Finch Community Centre, has her own take on what it takes to entice people to play together. In short, Janelle’s strategy is: just keep showing up. When Janelle was trying to activate Oakdale Park, a large, but underused park in the Jane-Finch neighbourhood, she made a point of being consistently present in the park. Being in the park, day in and day out, allowed people in the neighbourhood to get to know Janelle, and eventually engage in conversations and build trust.

Gradually, Janelle was able to connect with neighbourhood kids who had a vested interest in the park’s success. The kids collectively worked on securing a shade structure for their park. With Janelle’s guidance, the kids collected data, built prototypes and spoke to the local City Councillor to advocate for the shade structure. Spoiler alert: they got it!!

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Janelle treats children like “park royalty” because they know their park and understand its inner workings more than we ever give them credit for. This approach to kids allows Janelle to tap-into their wisdom, energy and unique perspective, and harness it to make the park better for the entire community.


Building home through p

Lisa Dietrich, a volunteer with CultureLink’s NEATWalks (Newcomers Explore and Appreciate Toronto) program, focused on the importance of active engagement in public spaces to build a sense of belonging among newcomers. As Lisa said:

As soon as we physically engage with –maybe even shape– our environment, it changes our relationship with this space. Active engagement creates a sense of control over our environment. And with this control comes a sense of security, of ownership, of belonging.

As Lisa emphasized, “active engagement” can be as simple as throwing rocks or as complex as an organized scavenger hunt. These experiences help build newcomers’ relationship to a new geography and establish a new sense of home.


Making the pitch for play

Caroline Magar, Development Coordinator at Montreal’s Les Amis du Champs des Possibles, had advice on how park groups can “play well with others.” In particular, Caroline’s presentation underscored the importance of understanding how to influence stakeholders and build a shared vision of a public space.


Les Amis du Champ des Possibles has transformed a Montreal rail line into a semi-wild place where people can experience nature in a high-density neighbourhood. However, historical contamination has limited the groups ability to host formal events in the space.

Caroline has taken it upon herself to become an expert on contamination issues and how to remediate the land in order to have credibility among key stakeholders and make informed decisions about the land’s future. Embracing the more scientific and technical dimensions of the project has been a tremendous help in turning an unusual and inspiring space into a public place where people can safely experience the wild.


Help people see themselves in play


Finally, in her keynote presentation, Mouna Andraos, co-founder of design studio daily tous les jours, shared how her projects deliberately diverge from conventional ideas of play in order to appeal to audiences who may otherwise be reluctant to join in the fun.

In fact, Mouna specifically took aim at the word ‘play’ because it’s a term that is generally associated with children. In her experience, the term can undermine the seriousness of creative endeavours, like those of her firm. The large, public installations that Mouna and her team create using cutting edge technology in public spaces utilize unexpected adult colours and are situated in public places not generally associated with play. These interactive installations are able to seduce adult audiences because they are unlike other objects we conventionally associate with play.

For example, one of the firm’s installations, entitled Hello Trees!, invites people walking along a busy promenade to stop and send a message to nature that is then translated into beautiful sound and light patterns travelling along arches that connect the trees above, providing a canopy for participants below.  As explained on their website:

The result is an immersive, light animated, crowd-sourced concerto. It is a poetic exercise that encourages slowing down and engaging all the senses with the nature that surrounds us.


Hello trees! from Daily tous les jours on Vimeo.

Mouna’s presentation highlighted that creating new ways to play requires having systems in place that support creative exploration and collaboration. She specifically pointed to the Quartier des Spectacles district in Montreal, which created a centralized permitting department to provide a one-stop-shop for artists, park groups and community groups to secure the permits and permissions necessary to activate the space. The simplicity of this model allows groups who may not otherwise be willing or able to go through multiple bureaucratic processes to bring their vision to life.


All in all it was an awesome Park Summit. Thank you to the 400+ people who attended and who work diligently to activate the power of parks in Toronto, Montreal, and across Canada. Also, thanks to the many presenters and our moderator Christina Hug, who made us look so good.

A very special thank you is owed to our Presenting Sponsor, TD Bank Group, who has supported the Park Summit from the start and makes it possible for us to host this incredible event.


You can access available presentations and relevant media below:

Thank you to the Park Summit Presenting Sponsor


Thank you to our Sparking Change supporters for helping underserved park groups attend the Park Summit



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