In 2019 the City of Halifax made two radically different proclamations, so diametrically opposed to one another that, in the eyes of many, each disqualified the other. First, the city declared a climate emergency, joining the vanguard of Canadian municipalities recognizing the dire state of atmospheric chemistry and the urgent need to correct it, and second, they committed to buying upwards of 150 diesel buses from then until 2023, ensuring that all additions to their transit fleet for years to come would be patrons of fossil fuels.
A storm has broken over Delhi, one of toxic particulate matter previously shrouding the world’s most polluted city. In fact the late Indian March saw the clearest urban landscapes some of her residents have ever known, and farther north, those in the city of Jalandhar beheld the nearby Himalayas for the first time in decades.
In a recent column I expounded on the encouraging fact that Canada’s electrical grid derives 67 per cent of its juice from renewable sources, chiefly hydroelectric, wind and solar in descending order. If you include nuclear, which is carbon free though not renewable, the number jumps to 82 per cent.
Carbon dioxide (CO2) comes up a lot these days, in politics, in media, and increasingly in daily life, a trend I hope continues as the urgency of global warming overwhelms our inaction, but just how we perceive this CO2 and its climatic counterweight, oxygen, is very nuanced, and very important.
It was too cold even for insects, the glassy surface of Lake Superior faithfully reflecting a ruby sky as the sun rose over Pancake Bay Provincial Park, crisp beams of light cutting through the branches of old growth maple, birch, oak, spruce and pine. The mist burned away and birdsong swelled to fill the open chambers of this lakeside wood. I was alone.
In 2010, we Canadians committed to protecting 17 per cent of our lands and fresh water as part of a global push to mitigate mass extinction and climate change. This undertaking gained speed in recent months with February’s $1.3 billion federal budget promise to exactly this effort.
The Memory Lane Heritage Village of Lake Charlotte, Nova Scotia, is a living museum faithfully portraying rural life through the 1940s, with the exception that everything is solar powered.
The farm of Darlene Sanford in western PEI has converted sunlight into steak for as long as it’s been in the family, harnessing this renewable resource to grow all of their own grass and most of their own grain, feeding beef cattle which in turn feed the world. But since September of 2014, they’ve been converting sunlight into something a little more versatile – electricity.
The harm we’ve done our atmosphere is one of the most thoroughly studied phenomena in human history, the subject of international scientific inquiry and consensus for decades now. The same ironclad scientific methodology which allowed us to reach the moon, land rovers on Mars, exchange our thoughts by way of smartphones and internet, split the atom and computerize our economy is telling us, without a shadow of doubt, dissension or ambiguity, that we are killing our planet, and that the hard won privileges of modern living – security of food, water, home and civility – will be the cost.
Let’s go back to 2013, when our provincial government, in partnership with numerous stakeholders, created the Parks and Protected Areas Plan. It was an inspired document, identifying huge tracts of land which were ripe for formal protection either as wilderness areas, nature reserves or provincial parks, most of which were mapped, surveyed, studied and consulted upon ahead of time, gift-wrapped and, in most cases, simply awaiting a order in council to make them official.