How to stop worrying and fight climate change

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I’D lay bets that just the mention of “climate change” makes a lot of you want to turn the page or run for the hills. “It’s too depressing,” I can hear you say, “Too big a problem. There’s nothing I can do about, right?”

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Opinion

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 27/08/2021 (357 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I’D lay bets that just the mention of “climate change” makes a lot of you want to turn the page or run for the hills. “It’s too depressing,” I can hear you say, “Too big a problem. There’s nothing I can do about, right?”

Well, stick with me, because the story I’m about to tell just might prove you wrong.

The story begins 10 years ago, when I was researching a film about the impact of climate change on the world’s oceans, called The Changing Sea. I did an interview with a Halifax oceanographer, and what he told me then has stayed with me ever since. “Mark my words,” he said. “Within a decade, the top news stories, worldwide, will be about the global climate.”

Turns, out he was right.

Winnipeg has spent most of the summer trapped under a dome of blistering heat and smothered in the smoke of forest fires. Add in catastrophic floods, and it’s been much the same in the rest of the world. In short, it’s been the worst climate year on record, and the International Panel on Climate Change recently announced that a global 1.5 degrees Celsius temperature increase is “inevitable.”

And yet despite what I know and the predictions I’ve heard, I still find myself shocked by the extreme weather we’ve been experiencing. The question is, why am I shocked? I’ve researched climate change, spoken to dozens of climate scientists and, in some small way, have even helped sound the alarm.

Perhaps it’s because predictions don’t hit you in quite the same way reality does. Until climate change indisputably arrives on your doorstep, some part of you continues to believe that it won’t happen here.

The fact we can’t deny it any longer could be a very good thing, according to geographer and environmental scientist Ian Mauro, executive director of the Prairie Climate Centre. It might even be the golden opportunity we’ve been waiting for. As he puts it, “The climate catalyst has finally arrived. Things are now so bad that people will react.”

Mauro, like many climate scientists I’ve met, is an optimist, and he and his team at the Prairie Climate Centre have been inspiring people to find practical ways to respond to the crisis for close to a decade. Their online Climate Atlas of Canada is designed to inform Canadians about the future impact of climate change in their neck of the woods and provide them with the tools they need to address it.

So, on days when I’m feeling depressed about our governments’ glacially slow response to climate change, I fire up my computer, visit the centre’s website and watch a couple of their videos, to remind myself that there are lots of people out there who are acting now to slow the rate of climate change. People such as Montana First Nation member Vickie Wetchie, general manager of Green Arrow, a solar energy company initiated when the Alberta First Nation’s oil resources dried up. Or Troy Stozek and Don McIntyre, Manitoba cattle ranchers who “farm carbon” using a rotational grazing system that protects the grass, feeds the soil and allows it to capture and store more carbon.

Each story is inspiring, and God knows, between the pandemic and the climate crisis, we could all use a little inspiration these days.

In fact, even the pandemic is a source of inspiration for Mauro, because as frightening as it has been, it’s taught us something vitally important: we can change and change quickly, and not just in the way we socially interact. As Mauro points out, our entire economy was restructured, virtually overnight, to keep people safe. And if we can do that to slow a disease, we can do it to save the planet.

So, what can you do while you’re waiting for the switch from a carbon-based economy to a sustainable one? Well, consider choosing a candidate in the upcoming federal election who puts climate action at the top of their “to-do” list. You might also consider getting involved in local projects that make your community more climate resilient — from tree planting and active transportation to building community gardens.

That’s what I did, and I can tell you first-hand that local action doesn’t just build community resilience — it also builds a of sense resilience in yourself.

So stop worrying, put on your big-kid pants and do something, no matter how big or small, to help slow the rate of climate change. That way, when your grandkids ask what you did to avert the crisis, you’ll actually have an answer.

Erna Buffie is an author, filmmaker and interim chair of the Trees Please Coalition. Find out more about The Prairie Climate Center and The Climate Atlas of Canada at: https://prairieclimatecentre.ca/

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