Commentary | Running out of time on climate change

Every great truth is fought with a great resistance. When we were told that we couldn’t fall off the Earth, we insisted that we could; when we were told that we weren’t the centre of the universe, we insisted that we were. When we were first told there were tiny little creatures that could make us sick, we laughed and refused to wash our hands. Today, some of us still refute the history of our own biology, as if evolution is something to be ashamed of.

It seems almost part of human nature, history we are doomed to repeat. Any time science makes us reflect on ourselves, the issue becomes less of a scientific debate than a psychological struggle to deny what we don’t want to believe. Despite the abundance of evidence, we build controversy to mask the fact that what we are really lacking is the strength to conquer our fears, to face facts, and to adapt to another scientific reality.

So here we are, right on cue, with climate change: one more unpleasant issue that reminds us that we are not the centre of the universe, and that we have to stop acting like we are. This time around, however, it’s different. Science has caught up to us whether or not we’re ready to accept it. We’re running out of time.

Climate change is not somebody else’s problem, sometime down the road. It’s everybody’s problem, right now, and if you think it’s only an environmental problem – think again. Climate change is not simply about penguins and polar bears; it’s about a global economy addicted to oil and the soldiers who die for it. It’s about farmers around the world losing their crops and their livelihoods to either too much or too little rain. It’s about oceans that have become so acidic that they can no longer stock the fish we need to eat or the algae we need to breathe.

Climate change is more than the mild winters and rainy summers: it’s the increase in droughts, floods, and hurricanes that we keep pretending are acts of God when the responsibility lies elsewhere. It’s about the spread of malaria-carrying mosquitoes in parts of Africa that were once too cold for their habitation.

Climate change is all of these things. If you can’t see the connections, then you haven’t been paying close enough attention. Destructive environmental behaviour has dangerous and long-term repercussions. We no longer have the luxury of ignoring this painfully obvious logic because it is costing us too much.

None of us are immune to the consequences of climate change; however, it’s those who least contribute to it that will suffer the most. Unless we acknowledge this, social justice will forever be lost in the growing poverty gap. We can’t draw borders on the global ecosystem any more than we can pretend that what affects you does not affect me. We are responsible not just to ourselves and not just to our children, but to the rest of the world.

We are past the point of talking about climate change as if it were only an environmental issue. This is about progress and change; it’s about an intellectual evolution. There is no other species on Earth working this hard to ensure their own extinction – why are we?
The time has come for a technological and economic revolution. Countries around the world have invested responsibly in clean energy while we continue to play in Alberta’s dirty tar sands. Governments around the world have employed thousands in expanding clean energy sectors while our government bickers about the logistics of insuring the unemployed, and mumble tired excuses for all of their bad decisions.

We have the tools we need for our own salvation – why do we cling to our caveman ways? Our leaders told us for years we couldn’t afford green technology because it would destroy the economy. Well, it collapsed anyway, and not because of change, but because of lack thereof – and the money we supposedly didn’t have to invest in a sustainable future was spent on bailing out a hopeless one.

As a society, we are ready to indebt ourselves for life to buy a house, but we won’t invest in our home for the sake of protecting life – why? The real inconvenient truth is that we are way past due for a revolution in our culture, and the really ugly truth is that we are endangering all life on Earth, and for some reason, we are choosing to do so.

All revolutions start in the mind, and they spread by word of mouth. So grab your friends and get down to Parliament Hill on October 24. Canadians are standing in solidarity with the rest of the world for a peaceful demonstration of a powerful message because the fight against climate change is a fight for everything that’s worth saving.

Our leaders will never learn to listen unless we learn to speak up – so come join us, and let’s make them listen.

Aisha Parkhill-Goyette has a BASc in Biology & Environmental Studies from Guelph and is volunteer for C-Day: Fill the Hill. For more information, write her at aisha.goyette@gmail.com.


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