As noted in an accompanying article, Sustainable Orillia’s “Sustainable Orillia Month” is drawing to a close. The activities—an “All Electric Vehicle Weekend” at ODAS Park, an “Urban Planning Walk,” and the “Path to Net Zero” Conference, both on the weekend of September 24-25, were judged as successful by S.O.’s volunteer group in that both activities reinforced actions that we must take to combat the consequences of climate change. 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 came to an end with the devastation of many communities in PEI, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland when Hurricane Fiona arrived with its high winds and seas, literally sweeping land, boats, buildings—and even individuals—into the sea.
As I write, the news is also carrying stories of 2.6 million Floridians without power—many without homes any longer—as Hurricane Ian leaves a trail of destruction across that state as it heads north into the Carolinas.
What a year it has been in Canada and across the world! B.C. flooding in the spring. Heat waves and wildfires in European countries. Widespread flooding in Bangladesh and Pakistan, displacing millions.
Scientists across the planet agree that these events are made more severe by the additional heat that is gathering both 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—now, in our time and not in some far-distant future—have been predicted now for well over 20 years. It is worth noting that Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth,” the book and film that raised the issue of climate change in a very public way, was released in 2006.
Warnings such as that 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 parties and political leaders who still refuse to recognize the enormity of the challenges we face. Equally distressing is the realization that the oil industry has denied their responsibility or attempted to place blame elsewhere—and continues to do so—for the destruction that its carbon emissions are now clearly causing.
A very recent David Suzuki report notes that “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 that says “efforts to tackle climate change will have greater benefits than expected, ‘as they will prevent or reduce adverse effects on mental health that have not yet been considered in policies and budgets.’”
The same study notes that “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 for all of us to take action.
We at S.O. 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?