I remember the morning distinctly…waking from a dead sleep on the futon downstairs in the basement, my dog at my side, already sweating….to a wide eyed panic that it was morning already and I was probably too late to water my crops before the sun was too unbearable to be outside. It was day 2 or 3 of the heat dome, and sleep came late in the nights before, the house not cool enough to sleep until 1 am or so. The evening breeze had disappeared in favour of a second heat release from the house, streets and sidewalks once sun set, baking us all with a deep radiating heat.
I quickly ran out to water the garden before prepping cold meals for the fridge that we could grab and bring downstairs during the day. Like most in BC, we have no air conditioning or heat pump, live in a home almost as old as myself and we also face south, so our upper deck and living area are in full sun from dawn to dusk. By the second day, despite keeping the windows and curtains closed to the hot sun, and having a shaded gazebo and umbrella outside to also shade the deck, the upper floor of the house was intolerably hot. Dangerously hot in fact, and we retreated to the coolness of the basement with our pets for the duration. I don’t know what we would have done without the basement. Upstairs was so hot we felt nauseous after only a short time.
I ventured out mid day with littlest that day to check on the garden.I wanted him to fully understand how intense the heat was and showed him the how the leaves on the raspberry bushes were scorched,like someone had come by and burned them with a blow torch. The birds that normally create a din of song, were gone,somewhere less hot. It was eerily silent because everyone was either inside or at the lake or ocean and we could feel our skin burning,a prickly sensation that gave me goosebumps….we couldn’t take it anymore and fled back inside. It scared me. The missing birds? They didn’t return for nearly 6 weeks, in numbers far fewer than before.
Unknown to us at the time, people were dying by the hundreds, literally cooking in their homes, without air conditioning and some fearful of going out to a cooling centre because of covid. Over 600 died in just a few days we would learn much later. Littlest asked me: “How are we going to survive when I’m an adult, if this is how its going to be?” I looked at the expression on his face and nearly choked on my words. What could I say to give him hope?
“We will adapt. Maybe we won’t go out during the day, and have work and shopping at night, like many hot arid countries do now. It will be ok.” I felt like I was trying to sell him something I wasn’t even sure of myself… like this poem by Maggie Smith details so well…this place could be beautiful…
But then last weekend, an unprecedented and historic low pressure bomb cyclone developed and parked itself off the west coast of BC and the US. This storm was between a category 3 and 4 hurricane near some areas and we dodged a bullet because it didn’t move ashore and weakened.
Here,we saw the edge of one outer spiral hit hard for about 15 minutes and I have never experienced anything like it. The sheer volume of rain, sideways in the wind in sheets, hail, thunder, rotating winds and then a flood of water down our sloped road that jumped the driveway curb and flooded the garage. Within minutes there was a foot of water in front of the door as I stood soaked, in disbelief at how fast it happened, watching the water come faster than it could go down the drain. And an hour later? Sunshine between the bands as we sandbagged in case the second blast was worst.
So now we have had two completely unprecedented weather events, just 3 months apart. These storms are expected to continue all winter. I, like most islanders, am ready for anything but I would be lying if I didn’t admit I am worried what else may come… the real storm season hasn’t even started. Which is why I, like many others, was shocked at the lack of urgency in the provinces update to Clean BC. Fatalities from extreme weather events really will be a fact of life with this plan pushing even the most basic items (like stopping slash burning) to 2030.
The province didn’t take the heat dome warning seriously, the premier admitting he was more focused and giddy over ending the covid state of emergency and opening the economy for summer. And while the lack of urgency in this plan is alarming, it shouldn’t be surprising. After all, Horgan defended the LNG deal he signed BC to, in the midst of the 2018 wildfire crisis, by saying: ” BC is just 4.5 million people sharing the planet with seven billion others. We have to be realistic about our impact on the planet.”
Even George Heyman is now spouting this kind of nihalist view, saying on the Early Edition with Stephen Quinn that ” Even if we stopped all emissions today, we would still have climate change.”
Now, he isn’t wrong. Even if we stopped using fossil fuels and stopped all pollution right this second, we have already crossed the boundaries for reversing or mitigating the impact in many parts of the world, something the documentary Breaking Boundaries: The Science of our Planet details so stunningly well. Greenland is past the point of no return. Its melting at a rate that is unprecedented. But that doesn’t mean we should put off 10 years what can clearly be done immediately or within a short time. It is our moral duty to do everything we can to mitigate risks for our kids and grandkids, and to ensure we allow and help communities to prepare for extreme weather. We are woefully under prepared.
What bothers me most about Clean BC is that it still puts the burden of change on people like you, me and small to mid size business,specifically to make up for the emissions of oil, gas and other high emission polluters. There is also a basic disconnect between the reality that weather extremes impact our electrical infrastructure in a bad way, as was demonstrated during the heat dome. Transformers were blowing all over, not able to handle the extreme electrical load or the unusually high temperature. Wildfires disconnect rural and remote communities from the grid. We have a lack of basic, community centred solar or wind backup that would allow basic emergency infrastructure to function. We have a broken 911 system where people are dying before anyone can come. We have zero local food security in much of BC. Not many can afford air conditioners and rental owners for the most part, don’t care about upgrading.
And despite this all we now have Weaver, the formerly respected climate scientist, chiding those who don’t buy into this crap…trying to remain relevant in his new role as Horgan hype guy.
We are not ready for climate change, at all. And it is very sad to see a man who once rightfully chided the NDP for taking this route, to now boost it. This will be his legacy, the acceptance that “this is good enough”, that absolutely appalls me. More than ever right now, we need these voices, loud and clear and strong, to speak for those who can’t yet speak, who aren’t born or old enough to have a voice.
In July 2019, I wrote that the NDP climate vision was actually a mirage. In October of that year I called them out for giving themselves an award while continuing to expand gas production in BC. Nothing in this new plan update has really changed.
So in looking back in Hansard for discussion on climate change and LNG, I came across a speech in the house from Spencer Chandra Herbert., who I adore. This is the link to it, from 2014. What happened to this passion? This determination? https://www.leg.bc.ca/content/hansard/40th3rd/20141022pm-hansard-v16n1.htm
I wish these MLA’s who I know have young children, would find their voices again. We don’t have to stop every thing – we clearly need fuel and we clearly need plastics as much as some people think we don’t. But we do need to move faster on community emergency preparedness. We do need to have a discussion that the exorbitant cost of site C will make our electrical bills unaffordable,and we need a discussion on why we have doubled subsidies to industries that make up less than 4.49% ( oil, gas and mining) of our GDP. https://www.statista.com/statistics/608359/gdp-distribution-of-british-columbia-canada-by-industry/
From this data, we clearly see that oil, gas, and forestry no longer are the backbone of our province. We do not rely on them for revenue to pay for services, but we do rely on real estate unfortunately, which is why we won’t ever see affordability unless something radical occurs. Does that mean we toss those industries? No. the trickle down impact in some communities is massive, but we do need to make sure we transition and train workers in areas that are phased out, and that industry is sustainable – truly sustainable – in others. Pushing efforts to stop slash burning to 2030 is ridiculous. New home build regulations don’t need to take that long either. And Hydro needs to acknowledge that communities must have the right to build out their own smaller power sources like some have via solar farms, to ensure they stay connected when storms and fires take out electrical infrastructure.
We can’t just keep pretending this isn’t going to impact all of us, in one way or another. We can’t pretend that Hydro power is the most reliable power source in BC when we saw reservoirs run so low a couple years ago after a multi season drought, that we were forced to buy dirty power from elsewhere. The only thing Clean BC is, is a nothing burger that the NDP will punt here and there until the next extreme weather event happens. And when people are left to fend for themselves as happened during the Heat Dome, there will be hell to pay.
Some of us have not forgotten the tragic lessons provided by Mother nature during the heat dome, the biggest and harshest of which is that we are not ready for any disaster on a wide scale, especially right now. It was a wake up call that scared many to the core and yet most politicians just continue to act like we have time… until we don’t. The world is changing, and if we don’t ? She won’t miss us one bit.