By Jim Poling Sr.
Autumn is a time for action. The animals of the forest know that, and supposedly so do we humans.
But the animals are much smarter. They see signs – fading leaves, cooler mornings, shorter days – and they jump into work preparing for the challenges ahead.
They gather food to ensure they will have fat and energy to get them through to spring. They haul in denning and nesting materials as protection against the killing cold.
They do whatever is needed to meet the challenges to themselves and their young.
We humans see signs but spend more time talking about what should be done, instead of actually doing it.
An example: Last week the Prime Minister said we have “an unprecedented opportunity” to build a better Canada. He didn’t say, as he shut down Parliament, what he thinks is “better,” nor how we might achieve that, or when.
It was yet another example of political yip yapping, devoid of any specific action, or even plans for specific action. The Prime Minister isn’t the only one talking the talk and walking the walk unaccompanied by real action. Politicians of all political stripes are guilty.
This autumn, the official start which is only days away, might be considered one of the most important in modern history. That’s because it is possible, even likely, that the next year is not going to be better.
Sorry to be so pessimistic, but take a moment to reflect on today’s world. Although you might not see it when you step into your back yard, our world is increasingly seriously threatened by the two Big Fs – fire and flood.
Recent scientific reports predict that parts of the world, especially coastal areas, will experience catastrophic flooding in the near future. The European Environment Agency has reported that flooding increased significantly between 1980 and 2010 and will get worse. It predicts that European flood losses will increase five-fold by 2050.
While parts of the world fight flooding, others are burning uncontrollably. In the last year fires have burned 11 million hectares of Australia, killing almost three dozen people and burning more than 2,000 homes.
As I write, large parts of California, and British Columbia, are on fire. (One part of my family is sitting with bags packed as smoke seeps into their home on the outskirts of San Francisco).
The main factor in these fire and floods is climate change. The world is getting warmer – scientists say the northern hemisphere is the warmest it has been in 1,000 years.
Researchers have said that the amount of shrinking of the Arctic ice cap last year was shocking, and likely the biggest loss of ice in centuries.
Greenhouse gases, natural and human caused, are the main contributors to climate change. In recent history, human activity has been the largest.
The fires and floods caused by climate change are not simply individual, isolated events. They create other problems – more extreme weather events, more disease, severe economic strains, political upheaval and cultural clashes.
Research indicates that if you are disturbed by this year’s Covid-19 pandemic, wait until you see the next 10 to 50 years. Upheavals caused by climate change are expected to cause more epidemics and pandemics. Major viral outbreaks are no longer once-every- 100-years events.
Politicians around the world, but particularly in North America, have to stop talking the talk and take immediate against these threats. They have to get serious and get their constituents serious as well.
What’s required is a massive citizen mobilization and communication effort similar to what was seen during the Second World War.
People need to be convinced that the future is threatened and everyone needs to work together to eliminate, or at least lessen, the threats.
It’s not that we all need to start buying electric cars immediately. It’s not that we must shut down polluting industries today.
But we need everyone to become aware of the threats and start accepting life styles that have less impact on the environment. Governments and politicians are the ones to get us all working together.
If politicians – Liberal, Conservative or whatever – can replace talking the talk with real action, Canada next year might not be any better, but it certainly won’t be any worse.