Archive | Environment

Authorities say 33 dead in Quebec as humidity and heat wave blanket Eastern and Central Canada

Posted on 11 July 2018 by admin

The number includes 18 in Montreal, which has been hit hard by muggy temperatures for several days

MONTREAL — Quebec health authorities say 33 people in the province have died from heat-related complications over the last few days.

The number includes 18 in Montreal, which has been hit hard by muggy temperatures for several days.

The officials gave the update at a news conference in Montreal this morning.

No deaths have been reported in other provinces.

The ambulance service that serves a large swath of the Montreal area has called on people to refrain from calling unless it is a real emergency.

Urgences-sante says it has been inundated by the volume of calls — 1,200 calls per day in Montreal and nearby Laval over the past four days, which is 30 per cent more than usual on busy days.

With the muggy temperatures expected to persist for at least another two days, authorities are urging people to remain vigilant.

Officials across the province advised people to drink plenty of water and check in on neighbours or relatives and, if need be, get them to a place where air conditioning is available.

Environment Canada says a heat warning remains in effect for an area spanning southwestern and northeastern Ontario through southern Quebec and into the Atlantic region.

On Wednesday, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau tweeted condolences to the relatives of the Quebec victims.

Police and firefighters continue to go door to door in areas identified as having people considered at high risk: those with chronic illness or mental-health problems, those who live alone and people without air conditioning at home.

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Green Ontario cancellation leaves homeowners, industry scrambling

Posted on 27 June 2018 by admin

Anxious homeowners were checking with their window installers Wednesday, after incoming premier Doug Ford announced he was cancelling the Green Ontario Fund.

Jimm Fox, marketing director for Nordik Windows and other brands sold in the Toronto and Ottawa areas, said installers such as his company had received phone calls from people checking to see if they still qualified for up to $5,000 under the now-cancelled rebate program.

The new Progressive Conservative government has set an Aug. 31 deadline for the installation of windows in order to qualify for the rebates, but some consumers will be left in the lurch.

The government will honour rebate applications that have already been submitted and those filed by Sept. 30 on work done no later than Aug. 31, according to the program’s website.

But the lead time for window installation tends to be 15 to 20 weeks, said Fox. If the government sticks to its Aug. 31 deadline, some customers who have planned for fall installation won’t qualify.

“We’re doing our best to encourage the government to extend the deadline,” he said. “We’re also doing our best to manage installations within the stated time period. It’s causing a huge challenge for us.”

The $377-million Green ON rebate fund was introduced by the Liberal government last year as a climate change initiative to encourage environmental building upgrades such as windows, thermostats, heat pumps and insulation. Ford announced Tuesday that the fund was being cancelled as part of the elimination of the cap-and-trade policy that was financing the program.

The fund has been a boon to Ontario’s window and door business, which is worth about $1 billion annually, but it has caused an “artificial bubble” in that sector, said Fox. Consumers, who are prone to delay a costly renovation like replacement windows, saw the rebates as an incentive to get the work done. So window companies have been swamped with demand from building owners wanting to take advantage of Green ON.

Rebate programs are always popular and Green ON was a particularly rich one. But rebates also disrupt the normal flow of sales, said Fox.

“They cause a bubble and then you get a corresponding trough after the program ends,” he said.

Fox did not rule out job losses when Green ON expires. But the fund was always going to end, he said. Likely, it would have been cancelled in the fall when the funds ran out.

Windows were among the pricier items that qualified for rebates, but other upgrades such as thermostats, insulation and heat pumps were also boosting the Toronto region’s $5.9 billion annual renovation business, said Samuel Lapidus.

Lapidus is president of Keystone Ridge Developments, a renovator and customer builder, and chair of the Renovator and Custom Builders Council of the Building Industry and Land Development Association.

The cancellation of Green ON “really just takes away tools to achieve higher energy-efficient homes,” he said.

Consumers will make up the loss by turning to less efficient windows and other products.

“The homeowner will go with the cheap, seven-day programmable (thermostat), but not the one the one that monitors your activity and reprograms itself,” he said.

The fund has not created new projects, but it has extended some renovations, creating employment, said Lapidus.

“It kept me on the job site weeks longer. It meant I was putting food on the table of many people because there were more people involved in the work,” he said.

The province could put that money back in consumers’ pockets by enforcing the deadlines for building permits in renovations, said Lapidus.

“A residential renovation (permit) must be issued within 10 business days and the municipalities are not living up to that,” he said.

Steve Dyck, president of Guelph Solar, said he is “thrilled” that the Green ON program is being eliminated because in created instability in his sector.

The Liberal government announced that it was going to include solar panels as part of the Green ON rebates. So consumers waited for that to happen, but it never did, he said.

“It was incredibly damaging to our industry to announce something and they didn’t actually have anything figured out,” said Dyck.

The Star was unable to get confirmation from the government by deadline whether rebates have been issued for solar panel installations.

“People can now decide if they’re just going to continue paying their electric bill or they can say, ‘I’m going to stay connected to the grid but I’m going to generate my own electricity and use the grid as my battery,” said Dyck, who has installed panels in about 500 homes since he started the business in 2009.

He said the government should price carbon and return the proceeds directly to consumers. Low-income residents could use the money to live; middle-income people could decide to make lower carbon choices, and affluent people and businesses would be incented to change their habits to avoid the expense of carbon pricing.

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Expect more hot, sunny weather in Toronto this week

Posted on 30 May 2018 by admin

If you haven’t pulled out the fans or cranked up the air conditioning yet, this might be the week to get to it.

Torontonians are in for a humid, sunny week ahead with occasional rain.

Monday starts off with a hot high of 31 C. Environment Canada says UV rays will be strong so don’t forget the sunscreen. It’ll cool down at night to 18 degrees, but it’s still going to be humid.

Plan on Tuesday being the perfect summer day with a tolerable temperature of 24 degrees and clear skies.

The rest of the week will gradually cool down. Look forward to temperatures between 23 C to 26 C for the rest of the week with a mix of sun and cloud.

Environment Canada is calling for showers from Wednesday night through to the end of the week.

 

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Frigid temperatures expected to continue for first week of 2018

Posted on 04 January 2018 by admin

Minus double-digit temperatures will stay for another week in Toronto. Some relief from the cold is in the forecast next week.

Toronto won’t be feeling any relief from the frigid conditions as minus double-digit temperatures are here to stay for at least one more week.

The city continues to be under an extreme cold warning for the first day of 2018. Monday began with temperatures hovering around -30 C with the wind chill, Environment Canada says. Temperatures are expected to rise to a high of -9 C, with a 40 per cent chance of flurries. It will also be windy with winds gusting to 50 km/hr. The low will be -19 C feeling more like -27 C.

The cold-snap, which shortened New Year’s Eve celebrations across the province, has also cancelled the annual Toronto Polar Bear Dip for the first time in 13 years.

Organizers said in a statement on Facebook that it was cancelled due to the icy conditions at Sunnyside Beach and the lack of resources to ensure participant safety. They are looking to reschedule the event in a later date.

On Tuesday, windy conditions will continue with a mix of sun and cloud. The daytime high will be -7 C and a low of -12 C. Minus double digit numbers will be back in the middle of the week. It’ll be cloudy with 60 percent chance of flurries and a high of -10 C on Wednesday. Temperatures will dip down to -17 C in the evening.

Temperatures will drop Thursday and Friday with an expected high of -15 C, Environment Canada forecasts. Evenings will be much colder with temperatures dropping to -21 C and -22 C, respectively.

The extreme cold weather conditions in the city that started over the Christmas holidays have also renewed calls from homeless advocates for the city to open every available respite centre including the armouries.

A relief from the bitter cold might be coming next week. The Weather Network predicts minus single-digit temperatures. It will be a high of -4 C for Monday next week and -1 C for Tuesday, they say.

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Toronto tells province that clear planning reforms are needed as soon as possible

Posted on 20 October 2017 by admin

City officials praised the province’s plan to reform the OMB at a committee hearing while asking for a clear transition plan as the city sees an uptick in development applications.

Toronto city officials told a Queen’s Park committee Monday that reforms to the OMB, the province’s powerful planning tribunal, can’t come soon enough, as the city continues to grow at an unprecedented rate and new development applications pour in at an increased pace.

On Monday, the city’s acting chief planner Gregg Lintern and Councillor Josh Matlow both praised a government plan to overhaul the long-controversial Ontario Municipal Board, which has not seen substantial reform for more than 100 years.

But there remain concerns about the limbo between new and old legislation as developers unhappy with the changes may be rushing to beat the government’s timeline to enact the new bill by the end of the year, a committee heard.

“These reforms have been a very long time coming,” Matlow told the standing committee on social policy.

He said the city has lacked the necessary tools to deal with unprecedented development and resulting growth that is currently taking place in his ward and in many parts of the downtown and North York

 “Over many years, ad hoc OMB decisions on individual sites in the Yonge-Eglinton area, which I represent, have set a narrative and have far too often created precedent for subsequent developments with little regard for wider context, or local needs for infrastructure and social services.”

While the Yonge-Eglinton area has been slated for intensification by the province’s growth plan, the area exceeded those density targets the year they were created.

That has left the city struggling to keep up with growth — local public schools are full, people are left waiting for the third or fourth subway on the Yonge line, and planners worry basic necessities like sewers and water pipes will reach capacity.

The province’s proposed changes to legislation were tabled in May, drawing praise from planners, councillors and residents. The bill passed second reading in September and was forwarded to committee for debate.

For more than a century, the OMB has had the final say in a wide range of planning issues and has the power to overrule council decisions.

Most significantly, the changes, if passed, would require the body — to be renamed the Local Planning Appeals Tribunal — to have more regard for local decisions. It would scrap a practice called “de novo” hearings, or hearings “as new,” that essentially allow developers and other groups to have what critics call a “do over” when a council decision doesn’t go their way.

Under the new rules, the OMB would instead consider whether a council decision was consistent with provincial and city rules. If not, the decision would be sent back to council.

“The changes proposed by the bill will enable municipalities to focus on adopting planning principles, what we call proactive planning, to address growth and change,” said the city’s acting chief planner Lintern. “Currently a large amount of municipal time is spent at the OMB defending council-adopted policies approved by the province but which are appealed by parties who may not support the decision of the locally-elected officials.”

Lintern said they are currently seeing an increase in applications and are requesting the province make clear a transition plan between old and new legislation.

That plan is currently underway, Attorney General Yasir Naqvi told the committee, one that “doesn’t impact processes that may be at the tribunal as we speak.”

That suggested a request from the city’s planning and growth committee headed to council next month that the new rules be retroactive to May is unlikely to succeed.

Naqvi said they hope to have new legislation passed by the end of the year.

The largest organizations representing developers also spoke at the committee Monday, arguing there would be “unintended consequences” in reforming the OMB and that providing more power to councils would see councillors pandering to local residents and “Not In My Backyard” (NIMBY) attitudes.

City officials said the new rules would actually force council to make a thoughtful decision that could be backed up by the city’s own official plans and policies as well as provincial rules, knowing that’s the basis on which an appeal would be judged at a reformed tribunal.

 

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City on hook for $1.6 billion to fix crumbling public housing

Posted on 06 October 2017 by admin

A revised repairs plan and latest Toronto Community Housing budget means city council is now solely responsible for $160 million annually for the next 10 years to close the budget gap.

The city is on the hook to close the budget gap for repairs to crumbling public housing, a bill totalling $1.6 billion.

The bulk of the repairs backlog, long known about and unaddressed, is now to be the direct responsibility of the city, as outlined in a 2018 budget tabled by Toronto Community Housing Thursday.

The plan approved means city council is now solely responsible for $160 million annually for the next 10 years.

An additional $810 million is required to fund a total $2.4 billion over the next 10 years. This is expected to be financed through debentures or further refinancing.

It is a plan that acknowledges the lack of investment from other governments to date and ensures no more public housing units close.

“At the end of the day, all levels of government have a responsibility to invest in Toronto Community Housing, but our TCH budget calls on the city to be our line of last defence, always,” said Councillor Joe Cressy, a member of the TCH board, after the vote.

He said it’s significant that the city will now have a dedicated capital budget line item for Toronto Community Housing. On meeting the need to prevent more units being boarded up, Cressy said: “I’m optimistic the political will is there.”

The revised plans follow a council direction moved by Cressy and passed in July that Toronto Community Housing “ensure that no additional housing units are permanently closed in 2018 and 2019.”

The original 10-year capital-repairs plan requested the city, province and federal governments split a $2.6-billion bill three ways.

The city, largely through mortgage and other refinancing, has contributed nearly $1 billion. But the other governments have never committed to that plan.

There remain few additional opportunities to refinance mortgages, the TCH board heard Thursday.

Sheila Penny, vice-president of facilities management, confirmed Thursday that the plan would ensure no more units are shuttered.

Toronto Community Housing was on track to close 400 units next year on top of 600 to be closed this year.

Today, in communities such as Firgrove in North York, there are residents packing their belongings into boxes, as more than 100 families are displaced from their townhomes because they are beyond repair and soon to be uninhabitable.

The repairs required are not superficial. They include roof replacement, new furnaces, elevators and plumbing problems.

TCH data provided to the Star earlier this year showed more than 30 social housing properties are already in serious disrepair, and 222 of 364 developments are ranked in “poor” condition.

The new plan would see $300 million in spending on repairs next year and in 2019, and $350 million through 2026.

City council could fulfil a request to pay the $1.6 billion through other governments, if they agreed to pay.

The federal government has announced $11 billion for affordable housing over 11 years, including social housing, but it is not yet known how much might be available for TCH and when.

The province has not responded to repeated pleas to contribute a one-third share and has not outlined social housing spending beyond $343 million promised over three years for energy retrofits.

Councillor Ana Bailao, a member of the board, said the new plan isn’t letting those governments off the hook.

“This is not the city saying the city is taking care of it,” she said, adding it will continue to work with its counterparts to secure more funding.

Tory’s spokesperson Don Peat said in a statement that “we are committed to moving forward on TCHC, not backwards.”

“The mayor has given TCHC clear instructions: no units are to be closed in 2018.”

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Mississauga Prepares for the Impacts of a Changing Global Climate

Posted on 06 July 2017 by admin

The City of Mississauga is developing a Climate Change Action Plan to help minimize and prepare Mississauga for the impacts of a changing global climate.

The Plan will include both corporate and community-wide actions to reduce or offset the impacts of climate change. It will also prepare the city for possible future climate scenarios. Completion of the Plan is set for 2019.

“Canadian municipalities have an important role to play in addressing climate change because more than 50 per cent of the population now lives in urban areas,” said Mayor Bonnie Crombie. “Climate change is a global priority but taking local action is crucial now more than ever. We have a responsibility to the environment, our economy and the quality of life for our existing and future generations.”

Mayor Bonnie Crombie added, “Developing the Plan is the first step in helping us realize our visionary goal of transforming Mississauga into a net-zero carbon city.”

According to climate projections, more extreme weather events such as intense heatwaves, increased rainfall, severe flooding and extreme winter storms are expected for the future.

“Mississauga has personally felt the impacts of extreme weather with recent storms such as the 2009 flood in Cooksville, the rain and windstorms of July 2013 and the ice storm of December 2013,” said Michael Cleland, Acting Director, Environment. “Over the years we’ve taken many actions both within our corporation and out in the community. We’re committed to doing more.”

The City of Mississauga is already contributing to the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (GHG’s) by reducing the amount of energy used for City operations. The City has a 5 Year Energy Conservation Plan to reduce energy and GHG’s by an additional one percent for the next five years with a total annual savings of approximately $575,000 per year.

Examples of climate change actions taken by the City, residents and businesses across Mississauga include:

• Greening corporate fleet – The City’s Greening Our Fleet program reduced greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking approximately 39 cars off the road per year. The program avoided over $500,000 in fuel costs between 2006 and 2012.

• Converting city-wide street lights to LED – Between 2014 and 2015, converting City street lights to LEDs reduced greenhouse gas emissions equal to taking approximately 150 cars off the road per year.

• Introducing a stormwater charge – In 2016, a new stormwater charge was introduced to better maintain and expand stormwater infrastructure in Mississauga.

• Planting trees – Through the City’s One Million Trees program, more than 250,000 trees have been planted by the City, its partners and the community.

• Diverting waste from landfills – Residents and businesses have helped divert waste from landfills through the Blue Box, Green Bin and the Municipal Hazardous and Special Waste programs.

• Attending awareness and educations sessions – Through City-run initiatives like Earth Markets, residents have learned more about environmental actions and green activities.

Next Steps

The City will be engaging residents, partners and other levels of government to create responsible and forward-looking solutions on climate change. To begin, a Stakeholder Panel will be created over the coming months and will include organizations that have a major stake in climate change action in the city.

Today at General Committee, Ward 6 Councillor Ron Starr was appointed to the Panel. He will be joining Mayor Bonnie Crombie along with Ward 8 Councillor Matt Mahoney, the City’s Chair of the Environmental Action Committee (EAC).

To stay-up-to date on the Plan and upcoming engagement opportunities, visit theclimatechangeproject.ca.

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Earth Day: A Movement of Action

Posted on 26 April 2012 by admin

Puninda Thind

Shouldn’t every day be Earth Day? Yes, I agree that we should be able to recognize the importance of the environment in our daily behavior. But, having that one day to commemorate Mother Nature allows us to collectively participate in the movement and discuss further steps. Environmental awareness is of vital importance especially in today’s day and age where we have realized that all systems are inextricably linked. Public health, ecological conditions and social well being are not separate entities and to find solutions to problems in any of these spheres requires an understanding and application of holistic approach.

Earth Day began in the 1970’s, a period of environmental enlightenment in the United States. Gaylord Nelson, a Democratic Senator and an environmental conservationist, started the event to educate the people about pressing ecological issues. Along with Hayes, a university student, they organized teach-ins on a national level and drove the protest movements against government inaction. The intention was to expand people’s understanding of ecology and enlarge the definition of environmentalism. During the 1960 and 70’s industrialization was paramount and the impact of air and water pollution on social welfare was becoming prevalent. Scientific research on the harmful effects of chemicals on human health was being carried out and it was during this time that Rachel Carson’s monumental book, Silent Spring, which outlined the hazardous impact of DDT, was released. The green awakening allowed people to see the linkages between the industrial world and human well-being. In America, a wide variety of significant legislation was passed during this time including the Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act and Endangered Species Act, as well as the establishment of the Environmental Protection Agency. Environmental laws provided protection of certain natural entities by instituting accountability for public goods.

Earth Day marks the advent of environmental movement in North America. In the 1990’s the event grew to include over 140 countries.  Events focusing on environmental education like community clean-ups, tree-planting, recycling activities are organized on the local level on this day. The theme for Earth Day 2012 is mobilization, a very apt subject in wake of worldwide political protests and uprisings which set the context of people fighting for their legitimate rights. The act of mobilization encompasses planning and cohesive action which is direly needed on a local, national and global front from citizens as well as the government.

With the pertinent issue of climate change in focus, the importance of such a day is made even greater. The basis of the movement has been education and action. Environmental issues are scientific and require empirical proof.  Such information needs to be translated to the general public so they can recognize the broader impact on their daily lives. Unless one connects the dots and become directly exposed to the effects of issues like climate change, it is highly likely that one will be motivated to act.

There are numerous environmental issues that people advocate for such as, stopping deforestation, pesticide use control, industrial management, air and water pollution, chemical disposal etc. Earth Day creates a unified platform for all activists to come together and realize the larger movement. Activities are organized all across the country to encourage citizen participation. In Mississauga, Earth Day Eco-Fest, E-Waste Drive, book swaps, clothing drive and park clean-ups brought the local community together.

Canada, being a developed nation, falls in the category of countries with mounting ecological footprints. The energy and water consumption per capita is fairly high and so is the abundance of natural resources. Our waste management program and focus on recycling has reduced the amount of residential garbage that gets discarded over the past decade. It is clear that Canada needs to continue on the path of environmental stewardship to regain its title of an environmental champion. So, let’s maintain the message of this special day throughout the year. The movement started with recognizing that there is environmental problems, spreading awareness about the issues, and now the next step is to act upon the knowledge.

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An Environment of Change: Small Steps to Sustainability

Posted on 07 December 2011 by admin

The people in the GTA rely heavily on the lake as source of drinking water. While we may not have reached an alarming stage yet, it is better to start making efforts to diffuse the probability altogether.

In an ideal world, there would be infinite freshwater and food to feed the entire population. There would be unlimited oil and coal supply so we could continue powering our vehicles and other countless dependable machines without harming the environment. Unfortunately, this is not the reality we live in. Resources are limited, and the population is growing at an accelerating pace. The world’s population just touched the seven billion mark last month, forcing us to rethink our interaction with the natural environment. John Bongaarts, Vice President of the Population Council reacted to this news by saying that this is “both good and bad news…while the world has proved it can accommodate so many without a complete breakdown, it is also experiencing environmental stress like climate change and growing agricultural needs.”

Our affinity for non-renewable resources is an unhealthy relationship waiting to crumble. Exploitation of natural resources, especially oil, has been a driving force behind the global political agenda since the last fifty years, having largely influenced foreign relations. Fossil fuel extraction and processing results in large amounts of carbon dioxide and toxic chemical emissions, which, in turn contribute to global warming and also cause air and water pollution.  The need to switch to renewable energy sources has thus become almost necessary.

Climate change is 21st century’s most pressing environmental issue, the effect of which has become evident through rising sea-levels and melting of the polar ice caps. Scientific research has shown that climate change can have dire consequences impacting agricultural productivity and water availability.

Food & Agricultural Organization of the United Nations projects that by 2025, 1,800 million people will face absolute water scarcity. Currently, 98% of the 925 million people that don’t have adequate amount of food live in developing nations. Such astounding statistics help paint a picture of the state of the world. As residents of a developed nation with abundant natural resources, it is very easy for us to take what we have for granted and have a blurred view of conditions in developing nations. It is important for us as global citizens to be aware that our actions have a greater impact.

Environmental problems like deforestation and water contamination may seem distant and irrelevant just because they are not happening in our backyards, but distance should not impede our ability to view the bigger environmental picture as an interconnected system. For example, if a company releases large amounts of toxic chemicals into water, it does not only hurt aquatic life, but can eventually land up on our plates as it makes its way through the food chain. Human health is inextricably linked to environmental conditions. We don’t have to look any further than Lake Ontario to look for evidence of environmental harm. Of all the Great Lakes, it is the most polluted, with deteriorating water quality and marine life health. The people in the GTA rely heavily on the lake as source of drinking water. While we may not have reached an alarming stage yet, it is better to start making efforts to diffuse the probability altogether. It should not be necessary to always make a human case, when convincing each other to take care of the environment; we, humans, are as much a part of the environment as trees and mountains. As residents of this planet, we have a moral duty to protect it.

What we should be aiming towards is the sustenance of our economic, social and environmental future, because all of these are inevitably linked. Businesses need to improve their practices to become more environmentally considerate, and governmental regulations must become more stringent. We can’t just rest our hopes on technological advancements to relieve us from changing our lifestyles.  As a society of consumers, we are defined by the type of phone we use or the brand of shoes we wear. Technology may have made refrigerators more energy efficient, but the number of refrigerators sold has remarkably increased too, undermining the intended effect.

What we need is a complete overhaul of behaviours and habits.  Recycling that piece of paper, that pop can, switching off the lights when we leave the room, not keeping appliances on stand-by when they are not in use, fighting the urge to buy the stack of plastic water bottles, using public transportation as often as possible—these are some easy, practical steps we can all take to reduce our collective carbon footprint. By getting involved in our community, opening up dialogue, buying locally, and ensuring that our homes are energy efficient, we can get started to move into a direction of building local sustainable communities.

Puninda Thind

Waterloo

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A Sinking Nation, a Beacon of Innovation

Posted on 11 May 2011 by admin

While developed countries are scratching their heads over how to reverse climate change or how to deal with it, Bangladesh already has a head start. From growing rice in saline waters to creating mobile homes, the people of this nation are calling upon every innovative idea to assist in survival.

Canada is a nation that is greatly responsible for rising levels of carbon emissions that has resulted in the flooding of Bangladesh. But rather than play the blame game, steps that Canada takes to stop or reduce climate will benefit Bangladeshis and indirectly avert the very severe effects of climate change on Canada itself in the long run.

Enjoying my coffee as I sit at my desk in Canada, the thought of a sinking landmass and of millions of people being uprooted seems rather far-fetched. The 10 to 30 million Bangladeshis who will become climate refugees by the year 2100 due to rises in sea level would argue otherwise. What’s more is that by 2050, a sizable portion of Bangladesh’s landmass will be submerged. So what does all this mean for such a small nation with such a large population (164 million to be exact)?

Climate refugees are people who must leave their homes due to an environmental issue. In Bangladesh this “issue” manifests itself in cyclones, hurricanes and flooding. Of course, Bangladesh is a country prone to chronic flooding but coupled with the effects of global climate change, this habitual flooding results in catastrophic events of nature that leave many without roofs over their heads. In fact, in 2009, Cyclone Aila unleashed its fury on Munshiganj, a village of approximately 35,000 people who are primarily rice farmers and fishermen. Not only did it destroy homes, and killed hundreds of people, in the long run it salinated the rice fields, destroying the crop and contaminating drinking water. It is very clear that a cyclone of this level is only a glimpse of what is to come if the deteriorating effects of climate change continue to take their toll on this small nation. Areas of Bangladesh that are most at-risk are the coastal villages bordering the major rivers Padma, Meghna and Jamuna.

In Western countries, climate change is still a hazy idea, something that we can worry about later. Our plates are already full with financial meltdowns, global terrorism, international revolutions etc. But looking at Bangladesh should tell Western countries that they need to make some more room on their plate for climate refugees. Of course, a majority of people of Bangladesh will cross the border over to India but a global surge in number of refugees will surely affect all countries. While the Western industrialized countries have been giving funds to Bangladesh and its various NGOs that are trying to adapt to climate change, money will not be enough. Especially, not when industrialized nations are the ones largely responsible for rise in carbon emissions leading to global warming.

However, in Bangladesh, while money is definitely helpful, it is ideas that are truly getting at the heart of the solution. Bangladeshis accept climate change and many understand that the land they are living on will probably be submerged in the not so distant future, but they are also doing everything possible to brace themselves, adapt and go with the flow (no pun intended).

While developed countries are scratching their heads over how to reverse climate change or how to deal with it, Bangladesh already has a head start. From growing rice in saline waters to creating mobile homes, the people of this nation are calling upon every innovative idea to assist in survival. If anything, the most terribly affected place has become a “thinkbowl” for solutions to climate change. Prone to natural disasters from what seems like the beginning of time, Bangladesh has become very good at dealing with all that Mother Nature decides to throw at her, bending like bamboo but never breaking.

The effects of climate change are not limited to sinking landmasses; there is an array of related problems. The top priority in Bangladesh is food security- having 164 million mouths to feed is hardly an easy task. The International Union for Conservation of Nature predicts that crop yield could decrease by 30 percent by 2050 due to damage to rice fields and loss of land. But all hope is not lost, for the answer to the woes could lie in “salt-resistant rice”. Recall the destroyed crops due to salination of rice fields by Cyclone Aila; well this could be avoided if salt resistant rice came to replace the normal kind. Also, cyclone warnings transmitted directly to cell phones (which are widespread, even in rural areas) continue to prepare more Bangladeshis for the nuances of the weather.

But what does all of this have anything to do with you and me? What does a submerged nation with bright ideas mean to Canadians like us who do not feel the effects of climate change as they do? The answer is that it has everything to do with you and me.

First, we live in a nation that is a part of a world undergoing climate change. Like Bangladeshis, it will not be long before Canadians, too, have to worry about flood dykes and food security.

Next, climate change whether or not it yields anything else, is sure to yield refugees, and Canada undoubtedly will receive many of them. To address such a mass migration will require global cooperation and Canada will have to take initiative to assist the people.

Third, Canada is a nation that is greatly responsible for rising levels of carbon emissions that has resulted in the flooding of Bangladesh. But rather than play the blame game, steps that Canada takes to stop or reduce climate will benefit Bangladeshis and indirectly avert the very severe effects of climate change on Canada itself in the long run. Finally, Canadians can assist Bangladesh in the face of impending disaster by supporting programs such as population control and education for rural people, things that will increase the chances of survival and adaptation to climate change. Whether it is donations or volunteering, every helping hand counts.

Cyclones and floods may ravage the nation almost predictably, but the spirit of the Bangladeshi people is one that is unwilling to give in. From the farmer who builds a home that can be easily disassembled and reassembled in a different place, to the NGOs that educate families about nutrition and birth control, Bangladesh is a place where hope is anything but lost. Catastrophes that would destroy other nations have only made Bangladesh stronger and more able to face the challenges of climate change. Thus, while this seemingly doomed nation is a wake-up call for world, it is also an example to be learned from. The resilience, not of the flood dams, but of the Bangladeshi people will soon be needed by Western nations and so we should learn from them. Here are a people who are, literally, doing everything to keep their heads above water.

Picture

Jute farmers harvest unripe stalks due to early flooding from rise in sea levels. Photo from National Geographic (http://ngm.nationalgeographic.com/2011/05/bangladesh/bendiksen-photography)

By Nazifa Islam

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