Good Sunday Morning!
Let me start with a mea culpa.
I was brought up short last Sunday morning for forgetting to make note that July 20, 2020 – an auspicious date – is the 149th anniversary of British Columbia joining Canada. On July 20, 1871 B.C. became the sixth province in Canada. Happy Birthday!
Even writing those words brings up a huge dose of internal distress; of awareness of colonialism and oppression. Any time we mark a major historical event for Canada, we mark a moment of oppression for indigenous people. What could reflect colonial powers more than the name “British Columbia”? The derivations of the names is worth considering. “British” is pretty obvious. So too our capital city – Victoria.
I practically hear “Rule Britannia, Britannia rule the waves!” as I contemplate the name of my home province.
But I only recently discovered that “Columbia” derives from Christopher Columbus. Columbia was an early term for the 13 colonies of what is now the USA. Christopher Columbus and his men were personally responsible for slaughtering and enslaving the indigenous peoples of the Caribbean.
In the context of reconciliation and examining our history on Turtle Island, the names we take for granted are salt in the wounds.
The climate crisis has been pushed off the front pages by COVID-19, but it is raging around the world. Much of Bangladesh has been underwater, as Indonesia experiences devastating floods. The heat wave in the Arctic continues. Fires in the forests of Siberia, worsened by heatwaves, continue releasing massive amounts of carbon that further warms the atmosphere. These “positive feedback loops” as they are called, are an increasing concern to scientists.
“Concerns are also growing that the high temperatures are worsening positive feedback loops by melting heat-reflecting ice and increasing the range and intensity of wildfires in Siberia, which is home to the world’s largest forest.
The season’s fires started unusually early, in April, and have been detected further north than ever before. According to the EU’s Copernicus satellite monitoring service, Siberian blazes released 59 megatonnes of carbon dioxide in June, the highest amount on record.
Nasa says some embers smoulder through the winter in peatlands and then flare back to life in the spring. The dangers of such “zombie fires” is increased by warmer temperatures. The melting of the tundra also increases the risks of a release of methane, a highly potent greenhouse gas. Since the middle of June, the extent of the fires has more than doubled to more than a million hectares.
The Arctic is warming faster than anywhere on the planet, but the trend towards more extreme conditions is apparent elsewhere. At the start of the year, Australia had unprecedented bushfires and Antarctica registered exceptionally high temperatures.”
The connectedness of all these events is a key omission in the little coverage the climate emergency is still receiving. Extreme heat in the Arctic has implications far beyond the Arctic, forcing extreme climate events all over the world. We really need to determine what temperature is required to keep the Arctic cold enough to keep most of the permafrost frozen. Maintaining that temperature is critical for the survival of the planet as a whole. The methane locked in permafrost is more than the equivalent warming force of all the fossil fuels burned since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution – four times more! It is unlikely much life on earth could survive the release of all the methane currently stored in the permafrost.
Would people rally to the call to keep the Arctic cold?
Also knocking climate news off the front page this week was the WE scandal currently gripping national politics. It has all the things missing from the climate emergency; things that the media really like to cover. It has celebrity, money and a juicy set of stories of ethical wrongdoing. It just is a very small matter in the scheme of things.
I was in the Finance Committee, by Zoom, when Minister Morneau testified. I was amazed he could have overlooked owing $41,000 for three years, yet I do not doubt that he honestly overlooked it. Watch this news clip to witness my efforts to balance being fair, while calling out this black and white case of ethical failure.
And with that, I wish you a very happy rest of your Sunday!
Happy last week of July. Stay well and stay safe.