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GREENINGS: Not sure what’s worse, climate crisis or denying it? (Summer 2019)

July 16th, 2019 · No Comments

Act local to address the reality of climate change

By Terri Chu

Here’s a question for you: What’s more depressing, the ever-worsening predictions we hear from climate scientists, or the daily news of continued denialism from the Trumps and Fords of the world? If you live on Toronto Island, you are probably too busy to contemplate. The floodwaters are rising as quickly as forests are burning and communities are being evacuated in other parts of the country. This is real life, and this is climate change. What can we do about it?

We’re better off facing our new reality head-on: relocation from flood and fire-prone areas is going to be a fact of life as our planet heats up.

Well, when we talk about Toronto Island in particular, we see city councillors calling for more action to protect houses on the island while engineers offer what looks like a collective eye-roll. 

The cost of controlling lake levels would likely cost billions. We’re better off facing our new reality head-on: relocation from flood and fire-prone areas is going to be a fact of life as our planet heats up. As writer Bill McKibben says, the world is shrinking.

It’s been said for decades but for me, the best way to focus energies is by acting local. 

The Annex Residents’ Association (ARA) has recently added an environmental mandate to its parks and trees committee, which I proudly chair. 

We will be engaging in projects and programs designed to reduce the environmental impact of living and doing business in the neighbourhood, watching over the well being of our precious green spaces, and making sure new developments don’t increase flood risks in the neighbourhood. 

Every time a new parking pad gets added in the neighbourhood, we lose ground water absorption capacity and increase the run-off to our century-old sewer system. 

Every time a tree comes down, we lose canopy coverage, its evaporative cooling effects, and capacity for water absorption. 

Even if we can’t knock sense into either end of the political spectrum, we can try to control the things that happen in our own neighbourhood. 

On the top of the ARA’s list is increasing our neighbourhood tree canopy coverage. 

The triple hit of wind, ice, and wind storms brought down a lot of trees in the spring of 2018. Our tree database shows an estimated loss of 10 per cent of neighbourhood trees. That’s a staggering 1,000 trees. 

You can see the holes in the tree canopy on sunny summer days. Streets that used to be shady are now in full sun all afternoon. 

Premier Ford has canned a program that would have planted 50 million trees in Ontario by putting even city-funded tree planting programs on hold. 

We’re on our own now, so having strong community support is more important than ever. Let’s not only replace those 1,000 lost trees but make sure we can make up for the trees we are expected to lose in next 20 years.

Environmentally speaking, political action is the most powerful. A carbon tax will do a lot to reduce carbon emissions (when done right). 

A policy to respect local land formations in land use planning will go a long way towards flood prevention. 

However, in the absence of sane policies, the rest of us must act locally to keep our wits about us and vote like hell when elections come around. 

Join the ARA environment committee to get involved and don’t let the depressing news get you down. We can at least make a difference here: parksandtrees@theara.org.

Terri Chu is an engineer committed to practical environmentalism. This column is dedicated to helping the community reduce energy use, and help distinguish environmental truths from myths. Send questions, comments, and ideas for future columns to Terri at terri.chu@whyshouldicare.ca.

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Tags: Annex · Life