Of all the election issues, climate change should be top of the list. We have heard the dire warnings over many years and this last report sounding the red alert that the window of opportunity is narrowing drastically for the world to react.
In 1962, Rachel Carson, an American marine biologist and conservationist, wrote a book called “The Silent Spring.” It was one of the earlier alerts to the effects of climate change, although many Indigenous groups had been observing changes to weather patterns years before. A group of us, all recent immigrants to Canada from the late-1950s and early-1960s from wartorn Europe and heavily rationed Britain would get together and discuss the challenges we had settling in a new country. One of our group, a great reader, had picked up Carson’s book and shared it with us. One part in particular stuck us all at the time as being quite ominous. It was the declining bird population she had observed off the New England coast and “the silencing of bird song” A warning which we all paid attention to. We had all grown up during the Second World War. Making do, saving, rationing, reusing were habits we were accustomed to. My partner’s father in Saltcoats fed his family of seven during and after the war on his vegetable and potato patch, fruit trees and hen run supplemented by an allotment. At primary school, paper being scarce, I learned in kindergarten with slate boards wiped clean after each story, sand trays where we painstakingly traced our letters sheets of newspaper used for art projects. My feisty Scottish grannie had me tear up newspaper used as toilet paper.
These habits of a lifetime are hard to lose. My husband from Germany arrived in Canada in 1958. He owned only three cars in 30 years. A very large and ancient eight cylinder quickly replaced by a Volkswagen bug which transported two children and a dog all over southern Ontario. His last car was a small Honda Civic.
To all of us then, Canada seemed to be expanding continuously. The modest wartime houses being replaced by ranch styles and split levels in the 1970s. Highways were being widened and built to satisfy the demands of more and more cars and trucks. The QEW widened followed by the 401 and 407 to the north till we all ironically said that that most of southern Ontario from the lake to beyond Milton would soon be paved in concrete.
Alberta awash in oil ignored the warnings and the tarsands (seen from space) and coyly renamed the oilfields, fuelled our need for fossil fuel with more pipeline being built to feed the factories, industries, trucks and cars. Warnings from scientists, environmentalists concerning the thinning ozone layer, glaciers slowly melting, many species and plants disappearing were acknowledged at one level but we seemed unwilling or unable to do much about it.
At the beginning of the 21st-century warnings became louder and activists more vociferous. There are all kinds of answers available but governments have to make the very hard choices to execute them. A couple of years ago my partner and I were in Central Scotland, the industrial heartland of the country. On many slopes were multiple wind farms their huge blades turning slowly. Scotland has also become world leader in the development of wave and tidal energy. It is the centre of the European Marine Centre in Orkney with the world’s largest tidal stream turbine. There is one being developed in Nova Scotia on the Bay of Fundy, so small steps are being taken, but are they too little too late.
In the last five years in almost Biblical proportions we have witnessed more floods, fires, droughts, earthquakes and plagues.
And for myself I try, still try, to reuse, recycle and pass on, to be reused again. Habits ingrained these many years ago. Let us hope we do not sit and watch “as Nero fiddles and Rome burns.” The recent article The Spectator by Grant Linney (Aug. 26) clearly shows what we have to do.
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