How Is All This Sustainable?

Editorial: By John Swartz

I’m not a tree-hugger. I never use to pay much attention to the natural world except looking through a lens at it. In a room with people like Bob Bowles, members of WMAC and EAC present, I’m the least knowledgeable person about the environment. But, I’m not ignorant or stupid and I’ve been seeing things that are disturbing.

Where were the leaves on the trees? Saturday, long weekend, downtown, one tree has leaves. My neighbourhood now looks a little green, but the Thursday before the holiday I wondered when the tees would start to turn green. They were late this year. I don’t think they are too healthy either. Last year a tree in the back yard was oozing something. For the first time the flowers dropping on my car left goo and I noticed the leaves were smaller; same for the other trees I checked.

Left Terry Fox Circle, Right Grace Avenue

The photo on The left was taken May 17, 2013. the one on the right May 19, 2019. Yeah, something is not right.

There’s a few other things I’ve noticed, or experienced. Every Christmas since making Orillia my home I noticed the temperature was -25 (or darn close). It’s just a thing I took note of because of the date. In 2018 it was -5 and I felt bad for the kids because there was only wisps of snow laying about..

January 21 the main water pipe feeding my place froze. Climate change deniers would say, “see, that’s yer global warming for ya.”

In more than 20 years there was not one instance of frozen water pipes, even the one time the furnace went out for a couple days. I discovered a spot with an un-insulated  gap between the foundation and the frame, it was obvious with all the daylight shining through once the wallboard was removed to get at the frozen pipe.

It was perplexing. Why in so many years had this issue not presented itself until now? It didn’t take long to realize why, no snow. You see, normally there would be a couple feet of snow insulating the gap and this year we wouldn’t get snow for another week and we got all the missing snow in about 36 hours.

Does that sound normal to you?  It doesn’t to me.

A few weeks later, with little precipitation, we got hit again in a big way. Then things tried to warm up several times, creating an excessive amount of water laying about, unable to get to catch basins and unable to be absorbed into the ground like a normal spring because without December and January’s snow the frost had sunk in much deeper. Can you say Potholes? We had more than a fair share this spring, and they kept coming back every time the temperatures went up or it rained.

In 2014 we lost dozens of trees in Couchiching Beach Park to a nasty and freak storm like had not happened before. How do I, and you know? Those trees were as old as the hills, that’s why.

You don’t have to be a rocket surgeon to know something is wrong with the weather and seasonal changes. The stories, reports, graphs, and charts tell us quite clearly normal is a thing which happened back in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s. For many of us we are going through something very different. There were tornado’s in the American Midwest during the winter!

Anyone who isn’t on board at this point will never be on board (likely to be swept away at some point by violently rising waters) and quite frankly should remove themselves from the discussion (or be ignored) about how we deal with what appears to be inevitable – we have to make some serious effort to change a few things.

Smart people already are, like your insurance company. Risk managers throughout the industry recognize the climate is changing and are getting out of coverage for weather calamity or charging more for coverage. The folks at the Mariposa Folk Festival have had two, sudden, major storms to contend with in the last 15 years and in the last few started a rainy day fund so the festival wouldn’t be blown out of business.

The City is taking stock of a few things because if they didn’t your taxes will be affected negatively. Heck, its hard to predict the cost of snow removal because none of the forecasts pan out. In fact, I check the weather reports most days – they are always wrong, and have been for two or three years.

Yeah, I get weather isn’t climate, but with the climate changing toward the warm side it has an effect, and it’s on the weather, and the habitat of plants and animals. In case you didn’t notice, the latter two are part of the food chain, our food chain.

I’m not going on at length to vent, there is a point, and it is to encourage you to do two things. If you haven’t already, registered for the Sustainable Orillia (SO) launch Friday evening and Saturday, do it. I believe, and polls also indicate, most of us are concerned and worried about what is happening.  We can, here in Orillia, make efforts to rectify some things, and preserve some things that haven’t been adversely affected yet.

Sustainable Orillia is the mechanism to do it. A committee has been meeting since last year to sort out what the groupings of daily life are, who are the key players in what SO calls the sectors, and how do we as a community start to work toward keeping things chugging along in a responsible manner. This weekend is the going public part of it. Many people have ideas, or are aware of things to share based on experience. We need to share and we need to work together.

I do not think it’s too late to make corrections. I have seen the planet repair itself in some remarkable ways, granted on a smaller scale. There may be many contributing factors to why the climate is warming, but there is no doubt carbon dioxide is one of the factors, and it has been proven that’s on us. Almost every part of our existence creates CO2, something our great grandparents and their parents, and so on, never considered because CO2 is a byproduct of our industrial age.

We have the technology and know-how right now to do things differently and maintain most of our lifestyles, we just need the collective will to do it. I think its time.

Of course, there are people who can’t get involved in SO from the beginning. Don’t worry, you will have your opportunity, SO won’t end May 26. In the mean time, The City of Orillia has a survey you can fill out online. It will be up until June 7, but don’t everybody wait until then and crash the server, do it now.

For more about Sustainable Orillia, here’s a bunch of stories.

(Photos by Swartz – SUNonline/Orillia)


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