What is a devoted environmentalist to do these days, given most of our efforts have failed miserably? Understanding of climate change has become mainstream, yet CO2 and methane emissions continue to rise. The number and severity of extreme weather events are increasing exponentially, sea ice and glaciers are melting quickly, oceans are dying as the temperature and acidity increase, and sea levels continue to rise.
For the third year in a row, this year is shaping up to be the hottest. Furthermore, each of the last 16 months has set a temperature record. The feedback loops are in overdrive – as wildfires produce yet more CO2, permafrost is melting and releasing more methane, and ice-free arctic seas are absorbing more heat. And the rapid warming occurring now is from CO2 emitted 40 years ago, yet it is rare you will ever hear this key climate change fact explained by any politician or mitigation advocate.
Looking at the alarming statistics, it appears that runaway climate change has begun. The earth’s climate is likely now at the beginning of the infamous hockey-stick graph and there is nowhere to go but up – high up and quickly. But do not expect to hear this bad news from most scientists or politicians anytime soon, as most are unwilling to admit there is no hope to reverse climate change.
Both mitigation and advocacy efforts are massive and growing enterprises. There are likely hundreds of organizations pushing for new energy technologies and other solutions. Certainly mitigation work should continue even if it will be too late.
But, really, should we go on butting our heads against brick walls trying to force governments to change? A case in point is that Canada finally has a seemingly progressive federal government and even an NDP government in Alberta, yet both are still promoting pipelines!
Here in BC, our provincial government is a veritable environmental outlaw, having long ago handed the land base over to industry. In addition to massive forest destruction, mining disasters, and salmon feedlot pollution, their mismanagement of BC Hydro and ongoing Site C dam devastation appear to be unstoppable, given the millions of dollars raised from industry to win another election.
So my advice is to avoid counting the stumps and despairing over the problems, and instead take more time to enjoy what we have before it is gone. We need to return to our bioregional roots and concentrate on making our lives as rich and meaningful as possible. For us that means more music, more dancing, more socializing, more gardening, and more time spent doing what we love most.
As well, we need to establish the base case for our bioregions by chronicling the status of where we live, so that decades from now others can better understand that changes that occurred. For example, local glaciers should be studied to determine how fast they are melting and how much they contribute to local watersheds. Bird migration patterns, stream flows, and vegetation growth trends are all key indicators that need to be documented.
Some experts are advocating for adaptation measures such as fireproofing forest communities and developing better water storage systems for dealing with drought. Making our communities stronger will also help in the long run. When the crunch comes our first line of defense will be how well we can cooperate as neighbours and friends to deal with the impacts.
A dedicated environmentalist and journalist since 1989, Jim lives with his wife Kathi on 40 acres above Shuswap Lake. Jim’s bioregional book, Everything Shuswap, is due out early next year.