The Guardian (Charlottetown)
Apply COVID lessons to heal our planet
While the pandemic has rightfully garnered most of our attention over the past year, it's important that we not lose sight of other important issues.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it's that life — and the way we are able to live our lives — is fragile and can be disrupted quickly. While the scale of time is not the same, hopefully, we can apply this lesson to the issue of climate change. This planet is also fragile and we are negatively affecting it at an increasing pace.
April 22 marks Earth Day, and events will be held across the globe to bring attention to the impact we have on the planet. The first Earth Day was held April 22, 1970, to highlight environmental concerns and it has grown by leaps and bounds since then.
The theme this year is “Restore Our Earth,” which is appropriate because we have passed the time of recognizing that there is a problem and need to focus on solutions to repair the damage we have done to our home.
Because our impact is felt across the planet, solutions also need to be applied across the Earth, not just individual countries. This remains a major challenge for all of us.
In Canada, one of the major focusses recently has been on the impact of fossil fuels, which form a major portion of our economy. While most of the major parties have recognized the need for change and developed plans to address the issue, the Conservative Party of Canada has been resistant to forming a coherent plan. This appears to be changing; last week, Conservative Leader Erin O'Toole announced a plan that sets a price on carbon and has been recognized by environmental experts as a credible plan for Canada to meet its obligations in this respect.
While it isn't yet clear if the Conservative plan will be accepted by all members of the party — a major base of the party is in regions heavily dependent on the oil and gas industry — it does give hope that all federal Canadian parties now recognize we must have a plan to transition our energy industries to sources that have less impact on our environment.
In this region, one area that has been experiencing the biggest impact of climate change is Labrador, and this past year has been particularly difficult. This has been one of the warmest winters in history in Labrador and the Inuit communities along the coast have had to deal with a lack of sea ice, which affects their safety, as many use the sea ice as a form of transportation and access to a vital food source, seal. They have been forced to adapt and have adopted, in conjunction with Memorial University of Newfoundland, a new technology called SmartICE which allows them to better gauge ice thickness. This program may be adopted across northern Canada in the future.
This Earth Day, and throughout the rest of the year, programs such as SmartICE point the way forward as we adjust to the changes happening on this planet. As a northern country, Canada will be among the first to feel the impacts of climate change and it will be within our northern communities — who have contributed the least to climate change — that the most severe impacts will be felt.
Those of us in the rest of Canada, and across the rest of the world, will need to take more assertive action if we are to stem the change and heal what is broken. Adaptation and innovation are the tools that we will need to move into the future; these are the tools that we have been using to adjust to the pandemic and they will be even more necessary for the climate crises that is sure to last much longer than COVID-19.