Making Headlines: Optimistic Earthlings

Authored by S. Riesco.

Originally written for my Environmental Science course, Geography 101 in November of 2015. I thought it was worth sharing… Enjoy!

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Climate change, sustainability and our action or inaction on a variety of issues linked to these topics has been front and centre in the media over the past three months. The focus is on recent extreme weather events, such as BC’s summer drought, and the upcoming climate talks in Paris, scheduled to begin November 30th. At the surface, our situation appears bleak. We are told we are unprepared, currently unwilling or unable to meet the challenges of prolonged drought, forest fires, flooding and temperature extremes that are now characteristic of a rapidly changing climate. As a nation, Canada will fail to meet targets for reduction of carbon emissions, and as a global community, we face an uphill battle in trying to adapt to a changing world while concurrently mitigating the inevitable human, economic and environmental impacts. But it is not all bad news; there are good people, doing good things and making positive change happen! Understanding and awareness of our impact on and connections to Earth’s natural systems is growing and with it hope, opportunity, teamwork and innovation, all of which bring us closer to a sustainable future.

Christopher Pollen’s article, Climate Change vs. Crescent Beach explores how various B.C. communities on the coast are approaching the problems associated with climate change in general and rising sea levels in particular. Installing perforated storm sewer pipes, raising homes, roads and dikes, are all strategies in use, whereas ‘managed retreat’ – where government opts to buy out property owners and abandon a site to the sea,” remains as a last resort. Through research and planning many communities hope to avoid disaster, unlike Copenhagen, which “became a leader in urban flood control” in the wake of catastrophe (Pollen n.p).

“‘Green buildings are the easiest, fastest, cheapest and most effective means of addressing global warming.’”(Royal Architectural Institute of Canada Centre for Architecture qtd. by Ball n.p). David Ball’s article, Could More Affordable Housing Also Curb Climate Change? details the success of various affordable housing projects across the country in achieving greater sustainability, with a focus on Ottawa’s Beaver Barracks. The author illustrates how a change in approach –encouraging retrofits and renos rather than constructing replacement units, and eliminating garbage chutes, for example, can lead to significant positive changes. These include innovative, vastly more efficient designs, greater awareness and community engagement, reduced carbon emissions, and overall increased sustainability (Ball n.p).

CBC News’ writer Emily Chung pulls details from a new report released by the Council of Canadian Academies that “suggests that if the federal government and provincial governments have the will to cut their emissions significantly, the tools they need already exist.” (Chung n.p). These tools include nuclear and hydropower, biofuels, electric vehicles, carbon capture, carbon tax, and cap and trade initiatives (Chung n.p). In addition, the report drew attention to the importance of creating accessible language and education as it relates to the public discourse on climate-change and climate action (Chung n.p). And perhaps most important was the acknowledgement that while technology and education will certainly aid in the fight, climate change is a complex problem, that will require some varied and unique solutions: “Carbon capture and storage might be the best option in Alberta and renewables like small hydro and wood waste might be the best in British Columbia…. We had to tell people about the real world and the real world’s not simple” (qtd. in Chung n.p).

The theme of using technology and innovation to move towards a more sustainable future is continued by Joel Schlesinger’s article on alternative energy. As it turns out Alberta, while home to one of the world’s largest source of carbon emissions, the tar sands, is also home to “‘one of the largest biomass plantations in North America.’” (qtd. in Schlesinger n.p). The fact that the this plantation is planned and managed so successfully, integrated with other systems and designed to function within and improve existing infrastructure, (Schlesinger n.p) is fantastic and something that I think is central to the development of a cleaner, greener tomorrow.

Fresh water is an essential resource on which all life depends, and although here in B.C. we are blessed with large quantities of it, it is only recently that we have come to realize how important it really is, and taken steps to protect it (Shaw n.p). Rob Shaw sheds some light on our province’s historical, current and future water laws in his article, New Law gives B.C. more authority involving water use. The article illustrates a shift in consciousness from the historical frontier mentality of limitless possibility to one of better science, efficiency and regulation. Coming into effect January 1, 2016, “new groundwater rules will require users to measure and report the amount of water they pump from the ground,” closing a centuries-old loophole, and the first step towards a more water-conscious future (Shaw n.p).

In reading the articles above, I was struck by the ingenuity and adaptability of the human race. I believe these qualities, complimented by science and fueled by hope, have and will continue to ensure our survival. Climate change is a challenge and sometimes the negativity, doubt and inaction that we are faced with every day is enough to bring one to tears. Yet, we should not give in to denial or hopelessness, nor sit waiting for the inventions of tomorrow to solve the problems of today. We should remember that we have our communities, we have science, and technology and the tools and ability to make a difference today– these articles prove that. There is hope for the future; we should not give up.

 

 

Works Cited

  • Ball, David. “Could More Affordable Housing Also Curb Climate Change?” The Tyee. 20 November 2015. Web.
  • Chung, Emily. “Canada Could Slash CO2 Emissions with Existing Technologies, Proven Policies.” CBC News. 27 October 2015. Web.
  • Pollen, Christopher. “Climate Change vs. Crescent Beach.” The Tyee. 11 November 2015. Web.
  • Schlesinger, Joel. “Fuel Made from Plants Is like ‘Running on Solar Energy.’” The Province. 26 November 2015. Web.
  • Shaw, Rob. “New Law Gives BC More Authority Involving Water Use.” Vancouver Sun. 14 September 2015. Web.

 

 

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