Time to act
By Sue Tiffin
Published July 19, 2018
The message Brian Kelly, sustainability manager for Durham Region, shared at the Environment Haliburton! presentation on July 5 was a dismal one. Current changes to our environment due to climate changes are locked-in, and without immediate, drastic change on a global level, we are likely facing the eventual end of human civilization as we know it.
We see the residents in our municipality working individually or in collaboration to make conscious choices often – look to last week’s Times for a story about business owners and farmers’ market vendors working toward increased sustainability, to the CHA for their ongoing work in raising awareness about and implementing healthy shoreline programs and to Environment Haliburton! themselves for sourcing guest speakers and bringing the community together to share ideas.
But though we can potentially mitigate some of the changes we are already facing with our individual actions, we need our elected officials to acknowledge the reality of climate change and prepare our communities to adapt to extreme weather.
If not, we face dire circumstances, like in Quebec during the heat wave earlier this month in which dozens of people died, in some cases due to lack of infrastructure.
We need our municipal and county leaders to do what they can to get on top of the climate change issues locally. We can hold them accountable if they do not do their due diligence in planning and preparing for what science tells us is inevitable. That is why it was hopeful to see so many elected officials and senior municipal staff representing our county at Kelly’s talk, taking his message seriously.
We know that with a climate adaptation plan, our municipalities can reduce energy consumption, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, lower energy expenditures, stimulate our economy, improve air quality and produce jobs.
We know that as climate change wreaks havoc on our communities, every municipality in Ontario is going to have to upgrade and replace a significant amount of its aging infrastructure to update it for what one scientist calls the severe, pervasive and irreversible weather patterns of today. It’s going to be costly, so it’s going to take full collaboration in our community to plan well, and act quickly.
As our current provincial government works to cancel and reverse environmentally-minded programs without acknowledging climate change or announcing alongside these cuts any transparent replacement plans, the correct response from our elected officials should be less about simply accepting these irresponsible cuts were bound to happen and more about holding leaders accountable for their actions.
Like Durham Region, we can have a vision, community targets and collaboration to design and implement a plan. We can even piggyback off of the work they have already done – Kelly suggested numerous times that the template is there for us to use. But we need to get started in working together. It’s already too late.