A Canadian Perspective on Climate Change
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by Danny Little |
A view from our northern neighbor where the effects of climate change are already being felt quite widely.
Okay, first of all, we Canadians feel cheated. It was originally called “Global Warming” which caused great excitement up here in the frozen north. Was this the end of long, hard Canadian winters? Would we beat our shovels into ploughshares? Did this mean our credit cards would only be used to buy our insanely expensive gas now instead of scraping frost from our windshields?
Seriously though, we know mankind is hurrying the climate change process along, but on the other hand, we see the improvements we have made over the past fifty years in Canada and realize that we are serious about doing our part. For example, Nova Scotia has a far-reaching pesticide ban becoming law on April 1. We already have tough laws in place protecting our forests, lakes and streams and although, like the US, we are a race of consumers, we temper that with rules governing our waste, such as the use of clear garbage bags (and how many you can place at the curb) to ensure people are not throwing things into the landfill that do not belong there.
Upon seeing what acid rain was doing to our lakes, streams and rivers, we enacted more laws in order to protect them. Farmers were hit with tough new rules covering the types and amounts of fertilizers that could be used on their land. Our automotive safety inspections had exhaust measurements added to the checklist of items which must be passed before a vehicle is allowed on the road. Canada is a clean country. Maybe not quite “Disneyland” clean, but pretty close.
Our overwhelming concern is what flows across the border from the US into our air and waters and how powerless we are to do anything about that. Unlike the US, we see the results of climate change every day. Nobody in Canada is in denial about it. Our summers are noticeably hotter, but even more obvious, those massive piles of snow we lived with year after year have only been showing up now and then — lately, more then than now.
One of our major concerns is the massive volumes of methane gas stored below our tundra and what might happen if the warming trend picks up any more speed. If huge amounts of it are released into the atmosphere in a short period of time, the least of our (and your) worries will be a polar bear lounging around on a northern beach wearing a pair of sunglasses and drinking an ice cold Coke.
I guess we carry a sense of acceptance that changes in our climate will take place regardless of what we as Canadians do at this point. Having said that, we also have an incredible optimism that taking better care of our environment now will slow that change down so that as a race, we will have time to adapt and survive.
Canadians also realize that access to fresh water is soon to become a massive issue in North America. As the weather becomes warmer and water scarcer (don’t even get me started on “fracking” — what are they thinking?), will Americans give up their lawns and the seemingly endless pools you see when looking at any American city on Google Earth?
Canada sits on the largest reserves of fresh water in the world. We have huge deposits of … well, everything, from coal to uranium buried in our soil. As the CIA Fact Book http s://www.cia.gov/index.html notes, we are “a land of vast distances and rich natural resources.” (Although we do everything in our power to hide it, we are a bit smug about the whole thing.) We’re fearful of what will happen when a more powerful country decides they need our resources more than we do.
So you see that optimism I mentioned a while back is tempered with a bit of fear for our future. Not so much from what climate change will do to us — we’re a hardy people and we will survive. Al-though climate change does scare us, what others might do to us due to the results of climate change in their country scares us more.
Danny Little lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia. He is the author of the novels Unheard, Unseen and Conflict in the North.