Climate activists held a candlelight vigil in Vernon in honour of those who died this year from extreme weather in B.C. worsened by climate change.
Some 20 people came together for the vigil outside the office of Vernon-Monashee MLA Harwinder Sandhu at 5 p.m. Monday, Dec. 13. Similar vigils were held across the province Monday night with the hope of spurring government action on climate change. Vernon’s vigil was organized by Climate Action Now!
The group was assembled by Mary Stockdale, a local climate activist and professor at University of British Columbia Okanagan.
“We have gathered this evening because of the horrible loss of life this year caused by the unprecedented climate events like the heat dome, the fire that destroyed Lytton, the massive floods from the atmospheric river, and the resulting mud slides,” Stockdale said.
“Well over 600 people died this year in B.C. as a direct result of climate change, 595 of them because of the extreme temperatures during the heat dome. Countless other animals, both wild and domestic also perished because of the extreme heat, fires, and of course the flooding that devastated the province more recently. We know that more tragic effects are on their way in the years to come, but we also know that if the government acts more aggressively now, we can mitigate some of the possible consequences of climate change. So that is why we have gathered here at our MLA Harwinder Sandhu’s office.”
Sandhu was invited to the vigil but was unable to attend due to short notice. Sandhu instead asked her executive assistant to attend on her behalf.
As part of the proceedings, attendees had a chance to share their own stories of loss related to the effects of climate change this year. Eli Pivnick, a retired teacher and former biologist, reflected on the connection between fires, clear cuts of old growth timber, and floods and mudslides.
“The rain that we received at the end of November was clearly a highly unusual event, but the volume of precipitation alone doesn’t explain the full impact that we experienced,” Pivnick said. “Our logging practices are partly to blame. Without intact mature forests to absorb the rain and hold the soil in place, slides were much more devastating than they needed to be. And then because fires changed the nature of the remaining soils, well, we see what resulted. We can’t continue this way. We can make different choices.”
The vigil concluded with a moment of silence for “the many lives that were lost.”
“It’s just so sad,” said Stockdale.