It’s almost a decade ago that I got to interview a passionate young graduate student from White Rock named Thea Whitman.
She had just attended the 2010 United Nations Climate Change Conference that was held in Cancún, Mexico.
Whitman told me that the views that would deny the climate change phenomenon are no longer politically or scientifically acceptable. This was, of course, well before Trump called it a “Chinese hoax.”
For her, the main question was which solutions to adopt immediately. Continued high-energy consumption in the developed world and deforestation were two key issues Whitman believed should be tackled right away. This was well before Nova Scotia’s government concluded forests on Crown land were expendable.
Canadians need to be debating transportation issues too, Whitman said, and rethinking their requirement for personal autonomy, travelling in individual vehicles.
Climate change was already happening and the hardest hit are undeveloped countries, she said. The problem was that few people, aside from scientists like Whitman, were debating best options in 2010.
Whitman added that Canada is vulnerable in many ways from storm surges to the warming of the north. Back in April of this year, scientists in this country stated emphatically that Canada is warming up twice as fast as the rest of the world.
Today, Whitman is an assistant professor in soil ecology, soil microbiology, terrestrial carbon biogeochemistry and climate change at the University of Wisconsin. Even a decade ago she knew what she was talking about.
Back in 2002, there was an even earlier warning issued locally at an Acadia University panel on global warming. Geologist Ian Spooner suggested that he could envision the Valley floor at the bottom of the sea. The melting Greenland ice cap, he said, will force this loss of terrain, but the extra icy waters will lower the mean temperature.
Dr. Heath Johannesen, of Halifax, spoke about the economic costs perceived at the time, mentioning the $1 billion cost after the 1996 Quebec floods and the 1998 ice storm that cost Quebec alone $1.6 billion. We’re only seeing more floods today.
Johannesen predicted massive numbers of environmental refugees from low-lying places like Bangladesh. She called on us to consider the moral obligations of climate change in a future filled with smog alerts and devastating storms.
Engineer Tom Livingstone, of Kingsport, commented that what was needed was a measurement of the complete cost of our oil use: health costs, pollution costs, climate change, the loss of biodiversity and government tax breaks to oil companies.
Today we are only starting to recognize the immense taxpayer-funded hand-outs to industry. When, as a culture, are we going to recognize we have our collective head in the sand?
Novelist Louise Penny was in London this spring. She found herself walking for an hour because buses were cancelled due to climate protests in the city. Afterward, Penny wrote in her blog, “And with each step, I thanked them. It's difficult, I know. These disruptions. Upsetting and frustrating. Yes, many are inconvenienced. Yes, some of the protesters are looking for trouble, but the vast, aching majority are mothers, fathers, doctors, lawyers, construction workers, farmers, grandparents. Begging the rest of us, especially those in positions of power, to wake up. Before it's too late.”
As I write, good people have pitched tents to try and preserve the Corbett-Dalhousie Lake forest in Annapolis County from destruction. But first they are there for the nesting birds that no one should devastate.
British writer George Monbiot’s words keep rattling through my brain.
“No one is coming to save us,” he has stated. “Mass civil disobedience is essential to force a political response.”
Has the time not come? There was one rallying protest last month in Wolfville attended by students from three schools that brought a hundred well-intentioned people together. Surely more knocking at the doors of government needs to happen.
Former Advertiser and Register reporter Wendy Elliott lives in Wolfville.