"Our house is on fire" (September 20. 2020)

Good Sunday Morning!

I keep hearing Greta Thunberg’s voice in my head: “Our house is on fire.”

When I first heard her words, I internalized them as metaphorical. They increasingly feel literal.

We have been breathing smoke. Here on southern Vancouver Island, we have been in a pea-soup thick fog of smoke. The fires in California, Oregon and Washington are our house on fire in real time. Yesterday, for the first time in days, I could see Haro Strait and the near reach of sand called Sidney Spit. A friend in Nova Scotia sent me pictures of the skies above her home. The smoke has reached our east coast.

The raging house on fire was evident this spring with fires in Siberia in the Arctic Circle. Now the Amazon is on fire, but so too is Brazil’s extraordinary wetland, the PantanalThe Pantanal is one of the world’s treasures. Due to its extraordinary biodiversity, it is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And, to emphasize the obvious- it is a wetland. It should never be so dry it can burn. But an area four times the size of the California fires has now been lost – 25,000 square kilometres. Usually, it is the moisture from the Amazon rainforest that keeps the Pantanal well-watered. But that is no longer the case. The Amazon is too dry. The Pantanal burns.

The Guardian maintains a page, updated regularly on fires around the world.

When I had a video conference meeting with the prime minister this week – part of his round of meetings with Opposition Parties before the Speech from the Throne – I reminded him of exactly where I live.  “Remember where you were that time you fell out of the kayak with cameras rolling?” It was on Sidney Spit. He laughed. He knows our part of the world well. And then I told him that living on the waterfront in Sidney, I could not see all the way to Sidney Spit for the smoke.  From the change in his face, I would say he was shocked.  Then I told him, I couldn’t see the water at all. Hearing about bad air quality on the news is a little different from visualizing a familiar place. Our house is on fire.

This is not a time to delay action on the climate emergency.  

But somehow (and not drawing this conclusion from speaking with the PM) the media messaging seems to be that climate action is not on the cards for this week’s Speech from the Throne.

Here is the Prime Minister’s Office phone number. 613-992-4211

If you feel like it, please call and leave (clearly and respectfully) a message about the imperative that the Speech from the Throne commit to real climate action. At least, it must commit to living up to the Paris Agreement commitment that Canada will table a significantly improved target within 2020; one that meets our fair share of the IPCC requirement that globally carbon dioxide emissions must be reduced by 45% below 2010 levels by 2030.  The Green Party’s best estimate is that that requires a doubling of the current target – from 30% to 60% below 2005 levels by 2030.

Just like COVID 19, this is about doing what is required. Science dictates action on the pandemic and science dictates action on the climate emergency.

Fortunately, for climate, unlike for COVID, we already have our prescription. For climate, we do not have to hunt for a vaccine or a cure. We have a wide range of measures that are economically smart, socially helpful, and commercially available to build a resilient, equitable and healthy society.   We need to invest in renewable energy, energy efficiency retro-fits for buildings, an enhanced electricity grid and a major push in tree planting. We called it “Reimagining Our Future.” 

As the fires circle the globe, I know many of us feel a gnawing sense of despair.  PLEASE, do not give in to it. Buck up! Chin up! We have work to do! Keep Calm, Stay Green, and Carry On!

Really missing so many friends and the chance to have group hugs!

Love.

Elizabeth

PS

Important article on the fake NDP Old Growth announcement

https://www.focusonvictoria.ca/forests/27/ 

And my recent article in Policy on what to expect in parliament this week:

https://policymagazine.ca/the-throne-speech-matters-now-more-than-ever/


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