Back to Normal?

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My recent articles focussed on COVID-19 and what it teaches us about life and living together on this planet.  There is an election happening south of the border this year. While I have not been glued to the TV during the Democratic Party Convention, I have seen highlights of Joe Biden’s acceptance speech. A commentary on the CBC news is titled “Biden reveals his general election weapon: Basic Human Kindness”.  I agree that encouraging Human Kindness is the kind of leadership we need. Such leadership is in stark contrast to what we have seen come out of the White House for the last 4 years. However, I do not want to focus on US politics other than to say that COVID-19 has brought to light the need to care for ourselves and our neighbours in ways that are kind and loving. How we live out our lives has a big effect on others.  Unfortunately, we are seeing a spike in COVID numbers due to behaviour that does not consider its effect on others. To keep COVID in check all of us must take care to follow the guidelines of our public health officials.

Back to Normal?Likewise when it comes to climate change, we need to be aware that how we live impacts our wellbeing in the long term as well as the wellbeing of those around us and of our planet. Some startling news came out on Aug. 21st. The headline read “Retail sales jumped 23 per cent in June, enough to get back above where they were before COVID-19”. In other words, we spent more in June than in the last month (February) before COVID hit us hard. Stats Canada reported that sales were up in all types of stores, but cars and car parts along with clothing and accessories led the way. These purchases are all things that drive our economy and fuel consumption. So although these stats are in the early days of recovery and may not continue at that rate, we are still returning to life as “normal” in terms of the way we live and consume. Our consumption is the most important driver of the economy and the fossil fuels we need to keep it humming. This, my friends, is truly unsustainable.

An article in The Guardian, also on Aug. 21st, stated that COVID-19 led to 9.3 per cent reduction in humanity’s ecological footprint compared with the same period last year.  This is good, but it appears that this reduction is only a “blip” in the overall pattern of consumption.  Based on work done by the Global Footprint Network, even with this reduction we are still consuming ecological resources at a rate that would take up the equivalent of 1.6 Earths. Another way of looking at this is by calculating something called “Earth Overshoot Day”. This is the day each year when we have used up the resources earth has to give us to sustain itself.  Going back to 1970 as the baseline there has been a steady increase in the day we hit this number. Last year it happened near the end of July. Thanks to COVID-19 we have pushed the day back to Aug. 22nd this year. However, if we go back to “normal” we will soon have erased this benefit and only continue to use up our Earth’s resources at an ever unsustainable rate. Without a so-called “Green Recovery”, we will never reach the Climate Change goals we need to survive.

What is happening in Canada? Our government is once again facing a crisis of its own doing. This time it has been brought on by the government awarding a large contract to the WE organization to give money to youth for volunteer work.  How has our government responded to this crisis? They have shut down (or Prorogued) parliament and any debate on this crisis and have announced there will be a speech from the throne in September. These steps are a way to reset the agenda and somehow shift the focus away from their missteps.  I wonder if this speech will indicate their desire to move towards a green economy? Will it outline measures that are compatible with a more sustainable life on earth for our children and grandchildren?  No matter what the government does, it is still WE THE PEOPLE that will largely determine a sustainable life on earth by the way we live and consume our resources.

As we come into the fall season and a chance to “reset” for ourselves, consider getting involved with the DI Climate Action Group so we can all work together in meaningful ways for the sake of ourselves, our neighbours and our planet. Stay tuned for more information coming soon.

Dr. Ron