I became a father for the first time in May several years ago. Something about settling in the Shuswap, and about the strength and leadership of my wife, allowed me to believe that we could create a space where new life could be nurtured.
In deciding to get pregnant, we battled with the reality of where we find ourselves. Society has known about climate change for decades, but we haven’t yet demanded the political leadership necessary to address the issue.
Exposing a new life to the risk of a traumatic future of extreme weather events proved to be a real moral dilemma for us. In the end, we left it up to the universe to tell us if we were fit for the job.
My daughter provided an instant ray of hope upon her dramatic entry into our lives which now seem to have been a lot quieter back then.
She made all the noise she was supposed to, at all the times we were warned she would. We adjusted and accepted – she just watched us with trust and knowing in her eyes.
I expected to feel worried for her, or to start preparing myself for the day I had to outline for her the peril we find ourselves in. Instead, I was met with a sense of knowing in her eyes that I wasn’t expecting. She seems to know exactly what she was born into.
Mostly all she needs from us is some support and for us to get out of the way when she is ready to shape her world.
As June rolled around, we were just finding our feet in the new reality of a human that sleeps in less than two-hour shifts. I remember hearing that there was some unprecedented heat coming our way. As farmers, we stay in tune with the weather as best we can, and we have had short bursts of extreme heat to deal with in recent years. Our old farmhouse is relatively well-insulated, or so I thought.
We had never required a cooling system other than cracking our windows open. We could simply adjust our working day to get out of the fields early. By night-time, our home would have cooled off to a comfortable degree. We just had to watch our hydration and carry on as per usual.
Babies are comfortable and will sleep at temperatures up to 26 degrees Celsius, according to a baby monitor we possess. During the heat dome, we were unable to bring the temperatures in our home below 35 C at night.
As the reality of our situation dawned on me, I reached for my keyboard and searched local outlets for air conditioners. Everyone was sold out. Worry began to set in.
We phoned who we could think of and explained our circumstance. Thankfully, a connected friend knew of someone who may be willing to sell us a spare unit of his. By 10 p.m. the following day, we were cooling a room to a level our baby would sleep again.
The reality is that, in this northern setting, we needed a power-using machine to cool the natural air to a temperature where young human life could be comfortable. We then had to protect those young lungs from the polluted air caused by the forest fires our new climate delivers.
We survived the season and later took the opportunity to visit family in Vancouver. An atmospheric river caused such destruction to the highways between here and there that our family became stranded on the coast for a time.
Welcome to your new world, my daughter. I trust that you and your generation can handle this place – we will support you by joining Shuswap Climate Action (www.shuswapclimate.org).
Owen Madden is a farmer from Enderby