Climate change is widely recognized as a contributing factor to this year’s drought and alarming forest fires. The blanket of smoke reminds us that the effects of climate change are here now, as emphasized by scientists everywhere and organizations like the UN and the OECD. Although El Niño is also feeding the fires this year, we can expect a lot more extreme droughts in the future. This is worrisome for our beautiful forested town and the rest of our province’s stunning forests.
But this isn’t just about our town and the loss of B.C.’s natural wonders. Although fossil fuel proponents often accuse their opponents of a callous disregard for jobs and people, climate activism goes far beyond mere tree hugging.
Climate change action is also about social justice, as highlighted by Pope Francis in his recent encyclical. The world’s poor and future generations will suffer most from the extreme weather events, rising sea levels and ecosystem breakdown caused by our heedless fossil fuel consumption. This makes climate change an ethical issue with humanitarian implications.
Because of this ethical dimension, business as usual is no longer an option. Although the analogy may seem extreme to some, the abolition of the slave trade in the 18th and 19th centuries exemplifies a similar ethical imperative. Like fossil fuels, slavery drove massive economic and industrial growth in western European nations and the U.S., financing infrastructure, universities, great architecture and more. Abolitionists were faced with overcoming huge opposition from financial elites, along with the entrenched view of slavery as normal and legitimate. Nowadays, no one would sympathize with the pro-slavery groups who insisted the economy needed slavery. Depending on slavery for economic growth just isn’t an option anymore.
Similarly, the ethical implications of climate change demand an end to continued dependence on fossil fuels for economic development. To me it’s simple: putting short-term gain ahead of our ethical obligations is unacceptable.
These fires should be a wake-up call for our happy valley, and in particular for members of my generation. I urge Canadians of all ages to consider climate change as a top election issue this fall, regardless of their political stripes. Climate change is here and it’s time to put our differences and apathy aside to fight the status quo, tooth and nail.