Smoky air blankets Blackburn Park in Salmon Arm on July 1, 2021. (Zachary Roman - Salmon Arm Observer)

Smoky air blankets Blackburn Park in Salmon Arm on July 1, 2021. (Zachary Roman - Salmon Arm Observer)

COLUMN: Herons dropping dead in our climate coal mine yet another warning

In Plain View by Lachlan Labere

Despite the record high temperatures we’re experiencing this summer, talk of climate change seems to get the cold shoulder.

Perhaps it’s because people are already exhausted from more than a year of heated disputes around COVID-19, and don’t relish wading into another weighty topic.

Or maybe it’s because once again, we find ourselves in a summer of severe wildfires, which have already destroyed homes and forced evacuations. It’s difficult to focus on the big picture when your province is on fire.

While some detractors of COVID-19 and efforts to fight it argued, “I don’t have it, no one I know has it, it’s not real,” the heat dome that brought temperatures exceeding 40 C to B.C. can’t be denied.

Wildfires grow in number in the province as tinderbox conditions persist.

The BC Coroners Service announced a sudden spike in deaths believed to be connected to the extreme heat.

“The 486 deaths currently entered represent a 195 per cent increase over the approximately 165 deaths that would normally occur in the province over a five-day period,” chief coroner Lisa Lapointe said on June 30. That number has since risen.

Days after our provincial government was being called out for giving away more than $1 billion in fossil fuel subsidies, Green leader Sonia Furstenau noted the heat dome is “exactly the type of extreme weather scientists told us would happen as a result of climate change.”

“Climate change is a public health emergency and we need to treat it like one,” said Fursteneau.

Read more: PHOTOS: B.C. wildfires as seen from space

Read more: Heat wave dubbed ‘dangerous,’ ‘historic,’ bakes much of Western Canada

What does it take, what has to break, before we accept we’re in the midst of something that affects us all that requires action sooner than later? If not for ourselves, then for our kids and future generations. And for our forests and oceans and all the species we share this planet with that I’m sure would rather avoid extinction.

Despite the various comforting positions used to explain/deny our changing climate, there is scientific consensus that world temperatures are on an upward trajectory, and it has been understood for decades, by governments and even fossil fuel companies, that CO2 emissions are a contributing factor.

Sure, the world’s wealthy may be able to ride out future recurring heat domes in their environmentally controlled living spaces or their luxury underground doomsday bunkers, but civilization as a whole requires leadership unafraid to connect the dots and take important actions now. Like setting more aggressive, short-range emissions targets and protecting our old-growth forests (you know, the things that absorb carbon and help us breathe).

On June 30 it was reported eight herons had died in Vernon as a result of the extreme heat. This alone should be a warning sign, that we need to stop shrugging off this climate coal mine.
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