By Fred Larsen – Special to SUNonline/Orillia
Sustainable Orillia’s Sustainable Orillia Month is over. The activities – an All Electric Vehicle Weekend at ODAS Park, an Urban Planning Walk and the Path to Net Zero Conference were judged to be successful by SO’s volunteer group. These activities reinforced actions we must take to combat the consequences of climate change, where we are and where we must go. In addition, both supported the City of Orillia’s Climate Change Action Plan, due to be implemented in 2023.
Tragically, the month of September also ended with the devastation of many communities in PEI, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland when Hurricane Fiona arrived with its high winds and seas, sweeping land, boats, buildings – and even people into the sea.
The news is also brought stories of 2.6 million Floridians without power and many without homes any longer as Hurricane Ian left a trail of destruction across that state before turning north into the Carolinas.
What a year it has been in Canada and across the world. B.C. flooding in spring. heat waves and wildfires in European countries, widespread flooding in Bangladesh and Pakistan, displacing millions.
Scientists across the planet agree these events are made more severe by the additional heat that is gathering in the atmosphere and in the oceans as a result of human activities – summed up in the phrase, greenhouse gas emissions. The consequences we are seeing right now, in our time and not in some far-distant future – have been predicted for well over 20 years. It is worth noting Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, which raised the issue of climate change in a very public way, was released in 2006.
Warnings such as those raised by Gore have been multiplying every year since and yet our government leaders across the world have been very slow to act. In the words of Greta Thunberg, their reaction has been mostly “blah, blah, blah,” talk with little action.
Even more distressing is the reality that across the planet, including here in Canada, there are political parties and leaders who still refuse to recognize the enormity of the challenges we face. Equally distressing is the realization the oil industry has denied their responsibility or attempted to place blame elsewhere for the destruction that its carbon emissions are now clearly causing – and continues to do so
A very recent David Suzuki report notes, “global heating is increasing stress, depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicide among people who experience climate-related disasters, have their livelihoods threatened by them or simply watch the crisis unfold.” Doesn’t this last phrase describe most of us and our children?
The report quotes a mental health study which says, “efforts to tackle climate change will have greater benefits than expected, “because they will prevent or reduce adverse effects on mental health that have not yet been considered in policies and budgets.””
The same study notes, “Getting involved in actions to reduce or prevent climate change threats can improve mental health.”
While the efforts of Sustainable Orillia volunteers are commendable, recent events make it clear that the challenges of climate change call on all of us to take action. We at SO have said it before, but we must say it again – all of us must raise our voices and demand that our political leaders not only finally recognize the dangers that we are all facing across this planet, but also take action now.
Many people are doing their part as individuals to live more sustainable lives. But the consequences of climate change are a collective problem that requires collective responses. Will you get involved in the needed actions? Will you take action? Will you do your part – large or small?