By Fred Larsen – Special to SUNonline/Orillia
September 20, 2021 is shaping up to be a crucial date in Canadian history. A report of the International Panel on Climate Change has just warned time is running out for action to be taken to restrict climate change impacts. Hurricane Ida’s devastation of Louisiana and subsequent flooding in the American North East, reports of people dying in flooded basements or trapped in their cars, power outages, and property damage in the millions of dollars are sending humankind a message that we ignore at our peril.
As bad as these natural disasters are and have been, the IPCC report tells us that things will get even worse if we fail to act now. Our political leaders and we as citizens must realize that action cannot be put off any longer if the world we know is to be prevented from becoming much more inhospitable for human life.
The blinders we and our political leaders have been wearing for years have to come off now. The Canadian government has pledged to meet targets of CO2 reductions of 40-45% by 2030 – just 8 years away. Such pledges have been made in the past and none of the targets set by Canadians have yet been met.
Canadians must call on their political leaders to commit to and take serious action. There is no better time to make our voices heard than when candidates come door to door or meet, even on a zoom call, for debate and discussion of issues.
And there are a lot of issues in this election. Affordable housing has become more urgent; health care and long-term care have been spotlighted by the pandemic; reconciliation with our Indigenous brothers and sisters is a priority; and the economy requires attention from our leaders. Fiscal reform is a key issue, given the profits that some corporations and individuals have made during the pandemic. Our economy, a very uneven playing field, requires action from governments to ensure that those who earn enormous profits while other people struggle to make ends meet are required to pay their fair share in taxes.
In spite of the urgency of these and other issues in this 2021 election, Sustainable Orillia believes that the crucial issue of our time is the climate crisis. Each of the above issues will become even worse if humanity is unable to address the need to reduce emissions quickly over the next 10, 20 and 30 years. The climate crisis affects all of the issues and affects all of us, no matter where we live in this world.
Orillia may turn out to be one of the safest places to live, but even here we can foresee potential threats from fire, from droughts and the ensuing food shortages, from diseases, including possible future pandemics (and COVID-19 seems in no hurry to leave us at this time), just to name a few. We will also see increased migrations of peoples as the climate threatens various parts of the world including, as we can see even now, parts of the southern and eastern U.S. that are threatened by storms and flooding and parts of the western U.S. and Canada that are threatened by fire and drought.
All parties have talked about their climate change policies in this election. Some plans are better than others. No party, according to many scientists and environmental observers, has outlined a plan that is aggressive enough to deal with the needs before our country, the need to try to reduce emissions to limit the severity of the changes to our climate in future, but also the need to act now to mitigate the kinds of damage we are already seeing from the severe storms, drought and fire that threaten.
Aggressive action may not result, however, if we, as citizens and voters don’t express our willingness to be part of the necessary changes that are needed and needed now, all of us need to be ready to change our everyday practices if our actions are going to make a difference.
Sustainable Orillia has urged citizens before to raise their voices, to speak out, to demand our leaders, whether in municipal, provincial or federal governments, take action to meet the crisis we face as a consequence of the changes humans have unleashed on the planet’s climate. Right now we are in the midst of a campaign to choose a national government. In 2022 we will see campaigns to choose both a provincial government and a City Council.
Now is the time to raise our voices as never before. All of us need to call with one loud and urgent voice for action from our leaders.
Then we must vote for those who are listening. And hold them to account. And then we must support with our own actions the efforts made by our governments.
We believe the climate crisis is the priority issue in 2021. We must make it so for the party that ends up governing after September 20th.