Climate change challenges will never be solved with cat doors

The Way I See It
By Daniela Ginta
January 7, 2019 - 2:30pm
Image Credit: Albund / Dreamstime.com

IF YOU WANT A CHUCKLE, check out the amusing story of how a $2,000 cat door installed in a West Vancouver home can help fight climate change (embedded in the $3 million home it belongs to). To be fair, the article has some good information on passive houses, or net-zero homes, but you might find yourself jaded by the time you get to the part where the 11-foot windows are described. (Shipped from Europe, they were.) Carbon footprint applies to the whole product and the processes involved in building it, no?

A good conversation starter nonetheless. Climate change requires action, and energy efficient homes are a good start. They need not cost millions, though; financially feasible ones already exist, including here in Kamloops, so the conversation will only get better from here on.

The difficult part is having the majority of us think the same: believing climate action is needed, to make things happen. Online, people wrestle and often insult each other over their political sympathies and, lately, on where they stand on the climate change issue, forgetting that should the worst predictions become reality, we’re all going to feel it the same way.

Just say pipeline and oilsands — you might as well poke at a wasp nest with a stick — and you will drown in controversy and toxicity – pun not intended. We are still divided over the construction — and reality — of the Kinder Morgan pipeline, or natural gas pipelines. Everyone has their right to an opinion, but the consensus among scientists is that we don’t have all the time in the world to argue about pipelines; actually, we have little time. Burning more fossil fuel is only going to make it go a lot faster. While we cannot simply switch to renewables overnight, we can come up with a better plan than doing more of the same and hoping for the best.

We drive cars, yes, but a lot of the fossil fuel is used to manufacture stuff — including unnecessary stuff destined to become garbage from the get-go. We ship said garbage across the globe, transport it across continents only to ship it back across the world as garbage to poor countries for sorting and recycling, if that. A vile full circle indeed. It’s the constant economic growth that somehow does not fit well with the whole climate change action. We simply cannot have it all, not with all the useless extras being made, sold and shipped, and shipped again. Becoming wiser about how we spend our resources is a must.

We were told we have twelve years or so to act to reduce greenhouse emissions. Depending on where you get your news from, you might or might not hear of all the environmental bad news that plagues our world. Then again, a lot has been happening locally and country-wide to make us consider our options. Storms, out-of-control wildfires, flooding.

And yet, in the U.S., more fossil fuel companies are being given green light to conduct business. Some will explore off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean, others in Alaska. Coal burning is picking up again, courtesy of the Trump administration, and the air quality and mercury pollution standards are getting weaker to accommodate that. One’s person air is everybody’s air. And we need it clean.

As for where Canada stands on the urgency of doing something… well, it is not stellar. Alberta still has a lot of oil left in the ground and they intend to get it all out because… money. It’s not about whether pipelines are safer than trains. It’s about the overall price we pay for taking oil out of the ground and burning it. Some exploratory methods, such as in situ oil sands operations, are particularly noxious when it comes to green house gases. (Natural gas is pumped into the ground to get the oil out.)

Natural gas exploration is linked to increased seismic activity and other disturbances to the land, visible and invisible, that are long-term and some possibly irreversible (such as the disappearance of the caribou). Ideally, we want our leaders to see that and act accordingly. Unyielding to corporations and recognizing that people’s health and the environment come first.

It really all comes own to this: we are at a point in history when we have enough information to make informed decisions about the future. There are worrying facts about our world, such as plastics everywhere, including in our food (as microplastics), and ever-growing mountains of garbage; the shortage of clean water, or lack of, due to low precipitation or storm-caused flooding; wildlife extinction and the expansion of pests. A mere sampler.

There is good news in this landscape though. The technologies to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions already exist; they are getting more performant and cheaper, too. Yes, there is an environmental price associated with most things we manufacture, renewable energy devices and electric vehicles included, but it’s the final result that counts. We ought to be able and willing to choose the lesser evil.

Bottom line: There are solutions, and more are coming. They are not going to make big corporations rich (oh wait, they already are), but they can help us all stand a chance. And we can stand that chance when we decide collectively that what matters most is life and the future of our children.