Thursday, August 26, 2021

Afraid, Disappointed, ....and yet still Hopeful

Photo of Lytton, BC, by Cole Burston, The Guardian


I am afraid. No, I am terrified.

We have spent the last 18 months living through a global pandemic. 

This summer, wild fires ravaged British Columbia, making this the worst wild fire season on record. At any given time, as many as 280 fires are burning in the province, and people in communities throughout the southern interior have been on evacuation alert, or evacuated from their homes for days at a time. 

The small community of Lytton burned to the ground during the heat dome earlier in the summer. In addition, as many as 570 people in BC died this summer as a result of high temperatures during the heat dome.

I live in a part of BC that is a rain forest. Yet, we are experiencing a level 5 drought (the most extreme level) and haven't seen more than a few drops of rain in two and a half months. The soil is rock hard, the local trails are closed because of fire risk, and the shrubs in our garden are dying. Rivers are running dry, salmon are not returning to spawn, and marine life has been decimated by high ocean water temperatures combined with extremely low tides.

People all around keep saying, "Get used to this. It's the new normal." But it's not the new normal. Things are about to get much, much worse. Because if we don't take action immediately and worldwide, we face the specter of of runaway, unstoppable global warming, according to the sixth IPCC report on the physical science of climate change. 

That's why I'm terrified.


We are currently in the middle of a federal election campaign in Canada. Two years ago, the Liberals under Justin Trudeau were elected with a minority government, and now Trudeau has called another election in hopes of obtaining a majority this time around. 

In a recent survey asking Canadians what they think is the most critical threat facing Canadians, more people cited climate change than any other issue, including government deficits, unemployment and the economy,  income inequality, and food security. Eighty-eight percent of Canadians said they have been personally impacted by climate change, and 78% said "they are very concerned about the negative impact of climate change on future generations." Between 73% and 84% of respondents recommended the following solutions: Industry adopting cleaner energy sources, increased use of renewable energy and clean electricity, use of new technology to offset carbon emissions, reduced fossil fuel usage, and implementation of government policies to support all these solutions. 

Yet, climate change has scarcely been mentioned by party leaders on the campaign trail. One exception is Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, who, unfortunately, has received relatively little press coverage. 

We don't have much time left to shift our trajectory away from uncontrollable heating of the earth. An election campaign is the ideal time to focus on the changes we want to see, and to elect leaders who will work to address climate change. 

So, I am disappointed. Disappointed and scared.

I am disappointed that the Liberals have made little progress toward meeting climate change goals during their two terms in office. Instead, they used our tax dollars to buy a pipeline. 

The New Democratic Party is a socially progressive party that I supported for years. Now led by Jagmeet Singh, the federal NDP has been silent on climate change policy and instead, seem to have put their efforts into propping up the Liberals. 

And, while federal and provincial politics are different, our provincial NDP party under John Horgan has been a huge disappointment on environmental matters. They have have gone ahead with Site C dam development in the northeast of BC, a liquid natural gas plant in the northwest, and spent millions of policing dollars to harass and arrest protestors at Fairy Creek, Canadians fighting to save one of the last intact old growth ecosystems on southern Vancouver Island (796 people arrested since May). This has occurred despite a forestry report they commissioned recommending a moratorium on logging stands of old growth, which the provincial NDP pledged to support last fall. 

The federal Progressive Conservative party platform under O'Toole, not surprisingly, recommends increased criminal penalties for Canadians who protest against pipelines or other "key infrastructure."

Aside from the Green Party of Canada, our federal parties are not taking the climate emergency seriously. 

Therefore, I now actively support the Green Party, federally and provincially. Rob and I went out a few days ago to put up some large Green Party campaign signs. As we wrestled with the big heavy signs, struggled to pound stakes into soil that was as hard as concrete, and tore our jeans on blackberry brambles, at one point we looked at each other and asked, "Where are all the young people?" 

In our electoral district, why are the people erecting the signs, running as candidate, and coordinating the campaign all old-age pensioners? Where are the people in their twenties, thirties, forties, and fifties? Have they given up on the democratic process? Are they too busy, too cynical, too alienated, or . . . ? I'm disappointed.

Still Hopeful

Yet, I am still hopeful. I am grateful to the many protestors at Fairy Creek, people of all ages, who have showed up week after week for the past year to protect the old growth. Some of those big trees are a thousand years old, and they are very effective carbon sinks. Old growth forests provide habitat for animals, including many on the endangered list. Only 2.7% of BC's old growth still remains, and once it's cut it's gone forever.

The RCMP arresting protesters at Fairy Creek, The Narwhal


I am still hopeful, as many of the younger people in my life are very involved in making the world a better place. They are working to raise awareness about issues of social justice, including violence against women, mental health support, and acceptance of racial and gender diversity. They work to improve public transportation, environmental health, and community planning to address climate change. Social justice and climate action go hand-in-hand.

Having seen the way the scientists, medical experts, and leaders at all levels from local to international have worked together to adopt public health measures to keep us safe and to develop a COVID vaccine in record time, I know that humans around the world can accomplish a lot in the face of an emergency. It gives me hope that we will attack the climate emergency with the same sense of urgency.

We still have a window of time, although it is shrinking rapidly, to avoid the worst consequences of climate change. 

One place we all can start is by getting involved in this federal election. Ask your local candidates how they will address climate change. Ask them about specific issues, like old growth forests, pipelines, raw log exports, job transition support for resource workers, and corporate subsidies. Get the climate emergency into the spotlight at campaign events. Learn what each party's platform says about climate targets. Volunteer to help out in the campaign of a party that has a strong record of action on the environment.

Still hopeful.