Zack Gross
Zack Gross

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Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny is Us!

Brandon Sun “Small World” Column,  Monday, October 28 / 19

Zack Gross

No matter how the election went last week or what the current configuration of Parliament looks like, there can be no denying that we have delayed and/or denied dealing with climate change for far too long.  Even the phrase “climate change” is an indication that we don’t really want to call it what it is - “global warming.”

NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh used the phrase Mr. Delay and Mr. Deny in the nationally televised party leaders’ debate, in reference to the Liberal and Conservative leaders, and he got a good laugh from the audience.  That is likely an indication of the truth of his words, but they don’t just apply to a few folks at the head of our political parties.  We are almost all guilty of doing things like we’ve always done even though the science say that will lead to disaster.

Change comes hard.  We are, from top to bottom, not prepared to alter our ways.  We need corporate and government heads to make those tough decisions and we need citizens to accept what is needed and make changes at the level of their own family lifestyles.  We need an active citizenry to push our private and public sector decision-makers, who have in the past only thought about money and votes. 

As well, given that the horse has already partly left the barn, we need to be better prepared to deal with extreme weather events which now occur on a regular basis.  The “storm of the century” has become the “storm of the decade” or even more frequent.  What happened in Manitoba this past month is an excellent case in point.

Meteorologists predicted that Manitoba would experience an Alberta Clipper followed by a Colorado Low.  We would have two days of beautiful weather followed by a weekend of what might be rain, snow and wind.  The Clipper would do as it usually does and whip through quickly, while the Low would potentially sit on us for a while.  Precipitation amounts were predicted anywhere from 10 to 20, to 50 to 60 cm. 

What we received, at least in some areas, such as the Interlake (particularly the northern and western Interlake), Winnipeg, and the area around Portage La Prairie, approximated the direst predictions.  Rain, wind and heavy wet snow blanketed these regions in particular, with the worst impact being felt by the power grid, followed by the road system.  Around 1400 hydro poles came down in the Interlake and 1300 around Portage, plus hundreds more around the province.  Winnipeg experience a “tree apocalypse” which will take a generation to recover from.  Farmers lost crops and feared the worst for their cattle.

Possibly one key reason why our leaders and their followers don’t take action on climate change is that we’ve seen the impact of global warming on “other” people, but haven’t experienced it ourselves.  We’ve seen people flooded out down in the U.S. or in South Asia, and hurricanes hit Central America and the Caribbean, but we only go there for vacations, not to live.  We see Europe hit with killing heat waves and Australia and California battling massive wildfires, but again that’s not us.

But now, it is us, too.  People we know – maybe even ourselves – have now experienced trees falling onto our roofs, garages or cars, water filling our basements, and our roads being washed out.  People we know – maybe even ourselves – have been out cleaning up our yards, including our favorite trees, and shopping for and installing pumps and generators for fear of a recurrence of the kind of storm we just had.  Manitobans more and more are battling floods, fires and tornadoes.

We have taken the time and trouble to help our family, friends and neighbours, and have been helped by them – getting groceries for those unable to get out, lending equipment like saws, generators, and vehicles to carry away debris. There is no denying that people in Manitoba have pulled together in dire circumstances, but is that enough?  Don’t we need to also pull together to make the changes that would help us avoid the continued and worsening affects of climate change?  In our schools and places of worship, in our service clubs and local political party constituency associations, we need to discuss and take action toward real tangible change.

Now, Mr. Delay, whoever that might be, would say “We need to study this problem further” or “We shouldn’t over-react.”  Mr Deny would say “Oh, this is just a weather pattern that will settle down again.”  They might say that economic growth comes first (some good people would argue that changeover to conserving technologies is an economic opportunity), or that we shouldn’t take action until we are sure that every other country is doing something too.  They might be thinking, “I’m enjoying my comforts and my routines, so I’ll let the next generation deal with this.”

It is gratifying that the environment is now at the top of almost every election poll in many countries around the world, not just ours.  Real action on climate change must be next on our agenda and our leaders and their citizens must be prepared to move forward on this.

Zack Gross is a long-time international development activist who survived a “learning experience” during our recent major storm.

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