January 13, 2020

Climate change isn't near, it's here—so, what can we do?

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Every aspect of the Australian wildfires depresses me. I'm saddened by the death of people (25) and animals (half a billion), I'm saddened by the ecosystems that have disappeared, and I'm saddened by the response from Australia's prime minister.

The fact that some people still refuse to believe in climate change makes me want to scream. I feel the anger and frustration raging inside of me with no outlet. I know I can make changes in my life to reduce my individual impact. I can use reusable bags, walk to work, take public transit, refuse to buy fast fashion—to name a few. Still, even if everyone in Canada did these things, we wouldn’t solve the crisis. It makes me feel helpless, which is further exacerbated when I watch world leaders and people with real influence and power dismiss scientific evidence and devastating weather events as nothing more than a coincidence or deep state conspiracy.

Canada is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the world. According to the report Canada's Changing Climate, the country's mean annual temperature is now double the global warming rate. It has increased by 1.7 degrees between 1948 and 2016, with higher temperatures in the north than the south, particularly in the winter. The report concludes that Canadians should expect more wildfires, droughts and, floods in the years to come.

This report aligns with the United Nations Governmental Panel on Climate Change, which released a report in October 2018, warning that if the world's global temperature exceeds 1.5 degrees Celsius within the next 12 years, the weather will significantly worsen.

We have already witnessed an increased level of destruction from weather events over the past decade: The Amazon rainforest fires, the Australian wildfires, the Alberta wildfires, the Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Dorian, Hurricane Maria and the 2019 Indian floods. While some world leaders remain reluctant to acknowledge climate change's role in these events, most scientists, urban flood experts and climatologists agree that it's the warming climate.

I think about the children who will grow up in a world like this. I debate with myself on whether I want to bring my own children into this world if we, including our communities and government, can’t address climate change in a meaningful way.

In September 2019, the Nadi staff striked for climate action at the Manitoba Legislature Building. We stood alongside other Manitobans demanding real, tangible measures to combat our warming climate. This event was one of several national and international events that concluded a weeklong movement championed by Greta Thunberg, Makaśa Looking Horse and others.

Standing on the grass, listening to young people talk about growing up and not knowing whether they would have a world to grow into was disheartening. Even while their anger and spirit were inspiring.

However, as I listened, I couldn't help but feel again another powerful bout of disappointment and frustration with myself and the generations that came before me. Thunberg’s speech at the United Nations echoing in my head:

"This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!

"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!"

Fortunately, in Canada, we recognize that how we operate must change. An online survey of 1,848 Canadians found 75 per cent of respondents said an energy transition would be beneficial for Canada in the long-term. At the same time, 70 per cent also said it was necessary, whether it's preferable or not. Even Alberta, the province of oil and gas, had 78 per cent poll on why the intent is to fight climate change rather than punish Albertan workers.

One of the most significant arguments against transitioning our economy and culture towards addressing climate change is money. What we must recognize, however, is that while we save a few hundred dollars now, our children, grandchildren and future generations will pay dearly for it later—if there is even a planet to live on. This aspect of climate change denial is what angers me the most: why don't we want a healthier, more beautiful world to live in.

How can we deny future generations that ability to experience life how we did because scientific evidence doesn't align with our false narratives surrounding climate change? When the President of the United States gleefully disregarded climate change because of a winter storm last year proliferates that narrative. What's worse, it emboldens climate deniers and has real-world consequences like exacerbate social issues such as mental health disorders, children, seniors, the chronically ill, pregnant women and postpartum women, the urban poor, migrants and those without a home. Is this really how we envision our future? Are we okay with this?

Climate change remains the number one issue for Canadians, which makes me hopeful that we can avoid a similar level of devastation that has taken hold of Australia. The big question remains how we can combat climate change through more than just small-scale changes or adaptation to our lifestyles.

Children shouldn't have to fix the mistakes of previous generations. Still, they have inspired me to approach my role in helping mitigate and address climate, differently. I can use my wallet to avoid companies and organizations that have harmed (and continue to harm the environment) and I can vote, which is the most significant form of change. It's my vote that can shift policies and regulations to protect the environment, impacting how the economy runs rather than impacting individualized businesses.

We must use our vote to demand meaningful change. We must use our vote to demand politicians and leaders transform how we operate and how large companies operate. We must demand that technology, design and innovation be invested in resiliency, sustainability and renewable energies.

There is no alternative view or facts concerning this. Climate change is a crisis and must be treated as such. The Australian wildfires may be the event we reference now, but there will be more, and they will be worse. If we don't heed these warnings, our children and their children will never forgive us. They will say, "How dare you.”