By Guy Dauncey
Published in Take 5 Magazine, September 2021
The heat dome. The billion local dead marine organisms. The drought. The intense forest wildfires, also happening in California, Oregon, Turkey, Greece, Sicily, Sardinia, France, Algeria and Siberia. The fear. The smoke. The dark red apocalyptic skies. The evacuations. Entire towns like Lytton being burnt to the ground. The sudden destructive floods. This year’s drought in the Prairies looking to be the worst in Canadian history, with July temperatures three to four degrees warmer than normal and precipitation among the lowest on record.
Yes, this is what the climate crisis looks like, and this is just the beginning. The seven hottest years in recorded history have all happened since 2014. No amount of climate denial can change that. It’s not caused by population growth: it’s caused by our use of fossil fuels, our destruction of forests, our harmful methods of industrial farming, and by eating meat. Every alarm bell needs to be ringing.
So, what must we do? We need to act with the same urgency that our parents and grandparents did during World War II. Here in British Columbia our electricity may be renewable, but we contribute to the crisis whenever we burn oil in a car or truck. We need to find ways to drive much less, and if you can afford it, switch to an electric vehicle, making use of the $8,000 incentives. A new EV has a range of 400 kilometers, saves $1,000 a year in running costs, requires minimal maintenance, and once you’ve driven one, you’ll never look back.
Politically, we need to urge our elected politicians to make it much easier to get around on foot, by bike, by electric scooter and by bust and to stop assuming that the solution to every transportation problem is an expensive new road. It is far cheaper to support a regular hourly bus service from Nanaimo to Victoria than to widen the Malahat or carve out a new route.
We also contribute to the crisis whenever we heat with natural gas. The solution is to replace it with a heat pump, which will also provide welcome cooling during a heat wave (you can find incentives at www.betterhomesbc.ca), and reduce the energy leaks that make a home expensive to heat. If you live in an apartment or condo, you’ll need to urge your strata council or landlord to do the necessary upgrades.
Politically, we need to urge the government to ban the use of natural gas in new buildings. All natural gas in BC is produced through fracking, and the methane emissions make its climate pollution as bad as coal. The same applies to Liquefied Natural Gas, making it the worst possible kind of development. We need to urge the government to stop being so blind, stop subsidizing fossil fuels, and start getting serious about the climate emergency.
We also contribute to the crisis whenever we fly, whenever we buy excessive stuff, whenever we bank with one of the big five banks that still invest in fossil fuels and whenever we eat beef or pork—the global livestock industry produces more climate pollution than all of the world’s transportation. So, switching to a credit union, consuming less stuff and eating less meat are all part of the solution. And growing much more local food to be ready when California’s food supply dries up.
Destructive logging is another cause of the crisis, so we need to do everything that we can to protect our forests, which store carbon, cool the climate and nourish nature. Locally, we need to form Climate Action Groups, as people have done in Chemainus, Duncan and Nanaimo. The West Coast Climate Action Network will help us to work together. In the federal election, we need to vote for the candidate who brings the strongest sense of climate urgency and the best policies to address it—which do not include buying oil pipelines, subsidizing fossil fuels, supporting LNG or cutting down old-growth forests.
This is a global crisis—whatever we do in BC will have no effect unless people also act in America, Europe, China, India, Indonesia and Russia. Instead of fearing an awful, dystopian future, we need to imagine a new ecological civilization in which we live in harmony with Nature, the way Indigenous peoples have always lived, and we need to work to make it happen.