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The Climate Action Blog

Musings on the catastrophic effects of climate change from Climate Action members


Updated: Feb 13, 2023

Science tells us that the world has undergone 5 or 6 periods of glaciation, and that human civilization evolved during the period as the earth warmed at the tail end of the last Ice Age.

There is now a growing awareness that human activities are speeding up the natural warming of the planet and leading toward even more rapid global warming. Daily we read reports about loss of biodiversity and species extinction due to climate change.

1972: As a non-scientist, I find it helpful to take a look at the beginnings of this slow rise in climate consciousness, because I was a young mother in my thirties when it first grabbed my attention. I had an active toddler, and a baby on the way, when the first world conference to make the environment a major issue occurred: The United Nations Conference on the Environment took place in Stockholm in 1972.

A report commissioned by the secretary general of the conference states that the increasing concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere could see the earth’s temperature rise by 0.05C by the year 2000.

In 1975 I moved with my small family to a small forested 11-acre lot high on the Oak Ridges Moraine and proceeded to learn how to become somewhat self-sufficient, growing vegetables and keeping some chickens and rabbits.

In 1988, NASA scientist Dr. James Hansen confirmed, in a presentation to congress in USA, that it was 99% certain that the warming trend was not a natural variation but was caused by a build up of carbon dioxide and other so-called greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. His research found that global warming would cause more heat waves and droughts and would lead to more extreme rain events. He came under considerable pressure to change his testimony.

In that same year, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) was established to provide policy makers with regular scientific assessments on the current state of knowledge about climate change.

In 1990, my first-born child turned 20, and the First IPCC Assessment Report underlined the importance of climate change as a challenge with global consequences and requiring international cooperation. It played a decisive role in the creation of the UNFCCC, the key international treaty to reduce global warming and cope with the consequences of climate change.

2023: Now I am a grandmother of 4, ranging in age from 11 to 20. It has been a little more than fifty years since I became interested and alarmed about the pace of climate change, and the ability of the general public and politicians to look away or deny its existence.

COP 27, and the IPCC sixth Assessment Report landed with a thud last November. I wonder how many of our policy makers, politicians and movers and shakers of industry have bothered to read the IPCC AR6 Summary for Policymakers.

Facing the realities of climate change can be overwhelming. Media in all its forms reminds, warns and shocks us multiple times daily about climate disasters, pending doom and the lack of commitment by many in power, private or public, to act with the greatest of urgency. It’s like the Aesop’s tale; many of us are ants working hard and planning to try to prevent rougher, sparser times ahead while those we think have greater power to make change are the grasshoppers enjoying life in the moment without full acknowledgment of the cause and effect it will have. It can be disheartening, enraging and depressing to witness this; moral outrage fuelling much of these emotional states. I am in the rank and files of people who feel these things, however, I am making a concerted effort to shift my mindset. Here is what I have been doing mentally and cognitively in case it might be useful:

I limit my exposure to the bad news. By that, I don’t mean burying my head in the sand. Catch the headline but forgo the images. Visual content is very impactful. We all know what devastation looks like and while I can still be very much sensitive to the problem and support needed, I don't have to be bombarded with traumatic images. Research shows that these tragic images can have a lasting impact on the psyche. I read print material instead so that I can temper my exposure while getting certain information;

I seek out good news stories to balance the negative ones. Those stories do exist, they just aren’t as sensational for mainstream media. I can find them daily and this CANA website is going to start providing the links to these global and local good news climate stories;

I keep the faith. Hope is found in your heart, and is a crucial influencer of the belief systems of the mind. The good news stories will help with this as well as historical articles that show change over time. In the 1980s we could not see if action taken to restrict CFCs would be enough to save the ozone layer yet we see now this action is working and full repair is now only decades away, instead of disaster. We only really began in the mid 1990s to acknowledge that fossil fuels are the most significant culprit to greenhouse gas emissions whereas few took NASA’s James Hansen seriously in 1988 and there are claims that ExxonMobil scientists knew as early as 1977. Either way, fossil fuels have had their day, the writing is on the wall now;

I remind myself that while I may only be able to influence others, I can control my own actions. While I feel outrage at the political and conglomerate cover ups that eventually reveal themselves one way or another, what is more important is what we do with the information now. Howard Zinn, an American activist once wrote that ‘the future is an infinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of all that is bad around us, is in itself a marvelous victory.’ (You Can’t Be Neutral On A Moving Train). The past is important but with climate change, what we do now is even more so;

Richard Wagamese wrote that ‘yes’ is a very powerful word; there are many ways to say ‘no’ and provide obstacles why something can’t happen. Yet, to say ‘yes’, to tell myself ‘yes’ in his words ‘becomes the most spiritual word in the universe…And your world can change.’ (pg. 71 Embers). I focus on empowering myself and saying yes;

Small circles of influence. While I still write letters ad infinitum to all levels of government, companies and individuals in leadership positions, I keep grounded in trying to effect change in the closer circles around me. I created a hard copy nonpartisan petition against the Ontario government’s Bill 23 and Greenbelt amendments, tapped into my own spheres of family and friends and then placed myself at local venues that had great cross sections of the community. I gleaned some 570 signatures in two weekends. That was better than just my own feedback. Across Ontario there were like minds in their small circles and over 15000 voices and hundreds of organizations, First. Nations bands, and businesses are still resounding together;

I use strategies to strengthen my patience as change takes time and while there is certain great urgency in respect to slowing climate change within the next two decades, ensuring that the sense of urgency doesn’t overwhelm me is a key component for my own well-being. I meditate if only for minutes a day. When feeling overwhelmed, I ground myself, take essential calming breaths like 4-7-8 and do a quick body scan to relax the stressed muscles. Then I remind myself to have faith. I also need to have wisdom about what I can change now. While I still say ‘yes’ with all my heart that something can be done, I also remind myself that there are many steps and hurdles along the way. With patience comes fortitude to be able to last the journey;

I try to be kind to myself while facing those hurdles - financial, physical, emotional and social hurdles. I take on what is realistic, sustainable and where I can see the results in a shorter period of time. Once I learn more and I have what is needed to tackle a bigger wish list item, I proceed. As Maya Angelou said ‘ Do the best you can do until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.’

I find ways to have a sense of purpose. I get active, but what is manageable for me. That will be the topic of the next blog. What do individuals do that is manageable to fight climate change?

If you are feeling a greater sense of despair about the environment, climate change, or anything else in your life, please know there are people to help. Talk to a trusted friend, a doctor or call 310-COPE, 1-833-456-4566 (Talk Suicide Canada), Wellness Canada Together 1-866-585-0445 or text WELLNESS to 741741 (adults) or 1-888-668-6810 / text WELLNESS to 686868 (youth). There is also and via 1-800-668-6868 or by texting 686868.

Our oceans are under dire threat from container ship spills and other pollutants

coming from seafaring vessels. Little has been done to protect our oceans and

marine life. It's past time for enforceable regulations and a budget to match.

Please read the article below from the Toronto Star: Plastic everywhere' from B.C. ship spill (Toronto Star), Dec 26, 2022 and refer to the excellent book, Sea Sick by Alanna Mitchell (2009) that describes our "Global Ocean in Crisis".

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