A Climate Crisis Question: How many boats are there in Dover?
As I left for Quebec City, headed for the Federation of Canadian Municipalities Conference, I couldn’t help think about the many issues that I had been dealing with in my first few months as a Councillor. Some of these issues were simple, and had been easily resolved. Whereas others were much more complicated and still required a lot of time and energy. However, throughout my trip to Quebec, I seemed to be continually reminded of one issue in particular. An issue that does not necessarily have a single solution to it, but rather many required solutions; dealing with the Climate Crisis.
In fact, it can be very overwhelming to think about. Whether it be using plastic wrap, getting fast food packaging, driving a car, or throwing out old appliances. It seems everything one does, in this day and age, in some way, contributes to the environmental problems we are facing. For me, it certainly can be frustrating when I know that I’m contributing to a problem that I want solved.
It seemed only fitting, that after arriving in Quebec at the Conference Centre later that day, that the first booth right at the entrance to the big trade show, would be the Canadian Centre for Climate Services. As I found out, this is a newly created government body that was established to address climate issues throughout Canada by educating the public and conducting research.
After a few minutes of talking, a member of the centre brought me over to a computer screen, to see the 100 year climate forecast for every town across the country. They asked where I was from and before long up popped Orillia’s Average Annual Temperature, past present and future:
Annual Average Temperature for the City of Orillia
1951-1980- 5.9 degrees Celsius
1981-2010- 6.7 degrees Celsius
2021-2050- 8.5 degrees Celsius
2050-2081- 10.5 degrees Celsius
2081+ -12 degrees Celsius
The representative continued to break down the numbers a little more. They said that heatwaves over 30 degrees would become the norm within the next few decades. By the year 2090 the number of days over 30 degrees Celsius would be 70. This was in stark contrast to the year 2004, when the number of days over 30 degrees Celsius was just 11.
However, most frightening of all was the representatives final comments to me. She remarked that Lake Couchiching is a very shallow lake and it could be at risk of drying up by the end of this century.
I couldn’t help but stop for a second. This was a terrifying thought. What would that mean for our drinking water, our tree canopy, our environment, our livelihood as a city? What future do we have if the centre of our town dries up on us?
In that moment, it was tough to think of the positives, to look beyond and see something other than a future of gloom and destruction. However, as the conference continued on, I began to realize that despite the significant problems we are facing, despite the mountainous hills that we have to climb as a society, that there is hope at the end of the tunnel.
By day two of the conference, I was sitting amongst over 150 other Councillors and Mayors from across Canada who were discussing ways to address the plastic problem and climate change issues that were facing our cities. It was very clear from these discussions that we, as a country, were taking this issue seriously. That there was, in fact, work being done in different ways and at multiple levels of government.
I was again inspired hearing many of federal leaders speak at the Federation of Canadian Municipalities. Each and every party leader mentioned the issue of climate change in Canada and spoke on ways of tackling the issue.
As a Councillor, I do not align with a political party. However, I thought it is worth mentioning one profound moment from leader’s speeches: Elizabeth May, Green Party Leader, suggested that few examples in human history came close to our present fight against Climate Change. However there was one example she thought could be considered:
“We don’t have a precedent unless we go back and look at World War 2; back to May 1940… The entire British army was stranded on the beach at Dunkirk. The allied forces had no defence system. They were sitting ducks for a German invasion led by Hitler… The Navy couldn’t rescue the men at Dunkirk because the coastline was too shallow for the Navy vessels to reach the soldiers. The Luftwaffe was strafing overhead. Somehow, Winston Churchill asked the question: “How many civilian boats are there in Dover?” … 832 was the answer. 832 civilian boats in Dover.” She said
May continued. “Those boats rescued not only 220,000 British soldiers, they rescued a couple tens of thousands more French soldiers . So now I ask myself, in 2019 what’s the equivalent of the question how many civilian boats are there in Dover? And the answer I always come to is Canadians doing things at the local level. I want to call out and ask how many clubs would want to plant trees? How many church groups would like to put solar panels on their rooves?... Because right now we are a people with no less courage and no less determination, no less sense of moral responsibility than our parents and grandparents. We are the same people, we are family, we look after each other, and right now that means all hands on deck to preserve a livable world for all of us.”
With that, the message to myself and many of my fellow council members was clear, in many ways we needed to together take action. And although the challenge looks insurmountable, our local government, our local organizations (in Orillia we are fortunate to have many already involved in this issue), and even individuals, together have great capacity to change our future for the better. To continue our work towards a more healthy and beautiful world.