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Forest fires. Flooding. Drought. Algal blooms in our lakes. Extreme temperatures. People dying in heat waves.
Climate change and its effects have been headline news this year more than ever. The New York Times dubbed 2018 the “summer of fire and swelter.” 2018 is predicted to be the fourth-hottest year on record – and the three hottest before that were the three previous years!
So what are we doing about it? Nothing, it seems, at least in many places. The NYT commented that the unrelenting news is, “… revealing in real time how unprepared much of the world remains for life on a hotter planet.”
In Ottawa, on the sweltering Canada Day, the humidex made it feel like it was 47C. Montreal reached a record 37C the next day – and that wasn’t accounting for the humidex, which topped 40C. Thirty four people died in Montreal from “heat-related complications” that week.
What can we do? Or more importantly, what can Collingwood do?
I don’t know. Small municipalities are limited as to what they can achieve and whatever effect they can accomplish would be small. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, that we shouldn’t so something. Climate change, after all, is affects everyone. Those in government have a responsibility to make an effort and not simply ignore the problem.
Not just higher tiers of government, either. Surely there are constructive, positive things we can accomplish at the municipal level, even for a small town such as we are.
This is important because it is getting worse and the effects are cascading throughout every facet of our lives, as the NYT reports:
Temperatures are still rising, and, so far, efforts to tame the heat have failed. Heat waves are bound to get more intense and more frequent as emissions rise, scientists have concluded. On the horizon is a future of cascading system failures threatening basic necessities like food supply and electricity.
As your next Deputy Mayor, I will ask to create a think tank, maybe a regional one that includes our municipal neighbours, or maybe one based out of Simcoe County. We should reach out to people, organizations and companies to gather as much input about what opportunities we have to make a difference. Find out what others have done, and whether they can be applied locally. Hold public information sessions, ask what residents want us to accomplish.
(Yes, I realize the very notion of engaging the public has been alien to council this term, but we can go back to open and accessible government next term when we elect a new council).
But I don’t think simply creating bylaws is the answer (our existing anti-idling bylaw is a good example – few know about it, and it isn’t enforced anyway). Did you know we had water restrictions in Collingwood this summer? Here we sit on the shore of a huge body of fresh water yet the town warned residents to restrict when they watered their lawns (the message, it seems, was not well communicated, however). That’s the “new normal” we can expect in the future.
I don’t think it’s wise to simply sit back and ignore it: the problem won’t go away and is in fact getting much worse. The “new normal” is too dangerous. We should make some effort on behalf of our residents. What we do today may not help much now, but it will benefit the next generations a lot more than we realize.
We may be able to make changes to some our municipal facilities and buildings to better manage our energy use and lower our carbon footprint. We may be able to use alternate energy sources, too. I don’t know what’s really practical, or affordable, but I’d like to have a conversation about our options next term.
Collingwood was once a leader in so many areas. I think it’s time we get back to being in the forefront of issues, not lagging in the rear as we have been of late.
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