PHOTO: RENE JOHNSTON/TORONTO STAR
IT’S CLEAR THAT CANADA, LIKE THE REST OF THE WORLD, IS FACING A CLIMATE CRISIS.
From melting permafrost in the north, to ninja rain storms in our cities, to the shifting shores on our coasts, we’ve seen the evidence: climate change is real.
We have the facts. So, what comes next?
With no single checklist to follow, no series of straightforward steps to take that will make it all go away, it’s hard to know what to do.
But there are some strategies that will help safeguard our homes, our communities and our country. People are working on them every day.
We hope this handbook will help you find your own path forward.
In it, you will meet people and community groups working to combat climate change — and finding comfort and purpose in their efforts.
You will learn ways you can help in the fight, whether it’s by monitoring first-hand the effects of a warming climate or taking steps to reduce your own carbon footprint.
And you’ll read tips on how to talk to kids about the climate crisis and how to query your federal candidates on climate issues ahead of the October election.
Most important, you’ll hear directly from people who are thinking about climate change every day. Like many of us, they are scared and sometimes overwhelmed by the scope of the problem. But they also have a lot of hope that humanity can overcome it.
After all, we’re in this together. So, let’s get started.
Steve Easterbrook is a computer scientist who spends a lot of his time contemplating the state of our planet.
Fifteen years ago, he decided to see if his considerable skills in software engineering could help improve climate models. That was his initial way to make a difference.
Fast forward to 2019 and Easterbrook is at the helm of the University of Toronto’s School of the Environment.
It’s a job that requires a panoramic view of climate change. Easterbrook believes that now, more than ever, scientists have to go beyond explaining the consequences of a changing climate. Scientists must also take a moral stance and advocate for the planet.
Time is up, he says, for staying neutral.
But rather than focusing solely on the impending climate catastrophe — what he calls the “doom and gloom approach” — Easterbrook says it’s important to communicate the hard facts alongside some hope that things can and will get better.
“We know the human spirit can rise to the challenge in the face of extreme adversity,” he says. “We know that when we mobilize as a society we can do amazing things.”
Q: You say the most important thing people can do to act on climate change is simple and something we can all do, starting today. What is it?
A: Talk to the people around you about climate change. Talk to your friends, your family, your neighbours. We tend not to do this because we don’t talk politics with friends; we talk sports and weather. But if you are deeply worried about climate change, talking about it with other people is therapeutic; you see that other people share your concerns. You kind of form this little self-help group. There is also a perception that not many people rank climate change high on their list of concerns. But all the evidence shows that a very large number of people actually do care. But because we don’t talk about climate change much, nobody notices. Talking to the people around you sounds like such a little thing but I think it’s massive.
Q: You say the second-most important thing we must do to act on climate change is to get politically active, whether that’s joining a protest group, writing to our MPs or making it a core part of how we vote. Why is this so crucial?
A: A lot of sources of greenhouse gas emissions don’t come from anything we as individuals have any control over. They come from government policies. So things like: Is the government investing in renewable energy or in fossil fuel energy? Or what standards are being set for cleaner vehicles and greener buildings? If we are not pushing government to act fast to change these kind of policies, we are missing a big piece of the puzzle.
Q: What would you say to someone who votes in elections but is hesitant to do more politically on climate change?
A: I’ve talked to politicians who see the scale of the (climate change) problem and they tell me they need to hear from people in order to push through bolder policies. If there isn’t a clear message from the voters, then nothing changes. So if we are not raising our voices politically, engaging in those political actions, then the politicians aren’t hearing our demands.
Q: You also advocate for local and community action to combat climate change. What can this look like?
A: Join neighbourhood groups. Get involved in the BIA. Find people who are improving local parks. Any kind of project — neighbourhood solar panels, planting trees, whatever — join it and get involved. Working with other people in your community is so immensely powerful.
Q: Because it has, as you say, an amplifying effect to create lasting change?
A: Yes, but there is another component. A certain amount of climate change is inevitable; we’re already experiencing it and we have to be prepared to help each other. If there is flooding, what will matter is the community coming together to deal with it. In parts of the west where there will be massive wildfires, the community response will matter. When we get together as a community, we strengthen our relationships, making us more resilient for when we have to help each other after a disaster.
Q: So much about climate change is scary. Why is having hope so important?
A: Hope motivates people to act, despair doesn’t. And there is a fair amount of despair when you grasp the big picture. The philosophy that I’ve come to is that no matter how bad things look, we have to act as if there is time and that we can fix our climate. There is still so much to play for. So, we have to act. We have to take bold action.