Viewpoint: What legacy will we leave?



Recent enormous participation in climate marches led by young people around the world have been portrayed by some as primarily ignorant children who haven’t the capacity to understand, who are instead escaping school or even being led by alarmist groups and/or educators.

Some of our society’s current level of discourse and critical thinking rates failing grades. As a B.C. educator, I know that what these young people today are learning (required in B.C.’s new curriculum) is now up to date but may be disturbing to us older generations. Taking to the streets to object to political inactions — in fact continued actions — that destroy nature and these young people’s hopes for a future is an understandable response.

The latest International Panel on Climate Change’s report, which looked at the impacts to oceans from melting glaciers, notes that waters have soaked up more than 90 per cent of the extra heat generated by humans over the past decades. When CO2 is dissolved in water it forms carbonic acid. This impacts fish, coral, and of course humans. Greenland and Antarctica’s rate of glacier loss has doubled and tripled over the last 10 to 20 years.

“The blue planet is in serious danger right now, suffering many insults from many different directions, and it’s our fault,” said Dr. Jean-Pierre Gattuso, a co-ordinating lead author of the IPCC report. “This will have widespread consequences for low-lying coasts where almost 700 million people live and it is worrying.” The only chance of averting the worst of the looming consequences of unfettered economic growth, addiction to fossil fuels and massive waste, according to the IPCC, is “deep, rapid cuts in carbon emissions that require 45 per cent reductions by 2030.”

These young people are taking to the streets because many of our politicians, supported by voters, are still insisting that addressing the causes of climate change is not as important as continued economic growth. The federal Conservative party leader couldn’t be bothered to attend or respond to the marches. The Liberal party leader, and current PM, was booed by a record 500,000 protesters in Montreal, for among other things, forcing a tax-paid pipeline on an unwilling populace, claiming that the impacts of continued economic growth in the oil industry will help fuel climate actions, but of course in the wrong direction. Voting for either of these two parties is a vote to condemn our children and other species’ futures. Is that the legacy we want to leave?

As Pope Francis asserted, it’s time to “leave behind the modern myth of material progress.

“It is not enough to balance, in the medium terms, the protection of nature with financial gain, or the preservation of the environment with progress. Halfway measures delay the inevitable disaster. Put simply, it is a matter of redefining our notion of progress. A technological and economic development which does not leave in its wake a better world and an integrally higher quality of life cannot be considered progress.” (Pope Francis’ 2015 Encyclical)

The writer is a former Salt Spring resident who now lives on Lasqueti Island.

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