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GREENINGS (NOVEMBER 2016): Force the focus

November 18th, 2016 · No Comments

Draw attention to what really matters

By Terri Chu

Sometimes I wonder why, knowing what we know about climate change, there are people who continue to buy things they don’t really need for the sake of it. We have our share of green businesses in the Annex, but that doesn’t make us immune from replacing our perfectly functioning phones with newer ones, or falling for the latest fashion trends (none of which are sustainable).

The media, be it mainstream or what we like to call “social media”, plays such a big role in how we view the world and what we think is important. As I flip through my own social media feed, the sad reality sinks in of why measures to protect the environment have failed over the years.

“Witnessing the Standing Rock protest and how we, as a society, are responding to it leaves me with a pit of hopelessness.”

In one social media circle, Toronto moms are engaged in an asinine debate over the safety of our fluoridated and chlorinated municipal drinking water. In happy-land, some mothers believe they are doing their babies’ future a favour by buying them distilled water in single use disposable plastic for fear of exposing them to a chemical proven to reduce cavities. Further down the feed, photos and videos are popping up about the standoff between the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and heavily armed agents. The contrast between environmental concerns and realities could not be starker.

Two groups of people worried about their health and environment, yet one is facing a real threat while the other is worried their kids might not get enough cavities. No doubt both groups have the best interest of their children in mind, but what each group is concerned about could not be more different. This contrast epitomizes why we’ve failed to protect the environment despite knowing about climate change for decades.

The Standing Rock Sioux are galvanizing international support for their fight against the 1,885-kilometre North Dakota Pipeline, whose proposed route travels under the Missouri River, the tribe’s main source of drinking water.

Their concerns were never taken seriously, the media has barely acknowledged that they are fighting to protect something as basic as drinking water, yet ample air time is dedicated to causes like “could this life saving vaccine actually be responsible for a condition that medical science has already conclusively proved it isn’t?”

Witnessing the Standing Rock protest and how we, as a society, are responding to it leaves me with a pit of hopelessness. How can we possibly find the political will to deal with our environmental problems when the drinking water for an entire group of people, living, breathing human beings, is treated so nonchalantly while non-problems get the royal click bait treatment?

We are no different north of the border.

Now that Attawapiskat is out of the news, has the water situation there improved? Have we spared a thought for it? It seems one thing we have in common with our neighbours to the south is how abhorrently we treat First Nations people.

It’s probably too much to ask that the media presents real news and moves beyond “this year’s hottest Christmas toys” to report on the depressing realities of how climate change and pollution is already affecting people. This should not be relegated to the fringe news sites. Keep Attawapiskat in the news until the situation changes. Report on the water crisis. Unless environmental realities are at the forefront, those who don’t see it in our day-to-day lives will continue to ignore the issues.

An environmental activist once told me about his son, who asked “when is all this bad stuff with climate change going to happen?” Even he didn’t know it was already happening. I used to think it was the politicians who had the greatest impact on environmental policy, but now I realize it’s the media overlords.

If there’s one thing we can do, it is to annoy the heck out of our friends and share every piece of depressing environmental news we can every single day. Make the issues relevant and keep them at the tip of public consciousness. Unless the issues are actually understood, having governments take action that might be even remotely unpopular will be too much to hope for.

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths.



The school of the future (July 2016)

Taking action on climate change (June 2016)

Cloth diapers have gone from burden of the poor to luxury of the rich in one generation (May 2016)

Provide help or stand aside (April 2016)

Don’t fall prey to marketing (March 2016)



Tags: Annex · Life