While we may have forgotten the climate change crisis during the last several months, it has become clear that climate change has not forgotten us. The smoke we saw and smelled over the weekend was not just from the fires in British Columbia and the United States, it also came from some burning in our own backyard – near Whati and the Snare hydro plant.

On Monday, fire crews checked out cabins in the Yellowknife area to make sure they were safe and the fire warning jumped from moderate to extreme almost overnight.

Let’s hope this is not the start of what’s to come.

Though we feel safe in the North, we are not immune from the effects of climate change. In fact, in her address to fellow Canadians last week, our new governor general focused on two major themes; reconciliation and climate change. In the case of the later, Mary Simon went to great lengths to explain how the Arctic was being so seriously impacted by changing temperatures and she would know after seeing the effects on her people.

Indeed, while we managed to enjoy a return to a bit of normalcy over the weekend with gatherings at Ramble and Ride, hand games in Hay River and family BBQs, we were acutely aware of excessive heat and smoke making it difficult for some to breath. We survived the fires of 2014, but we are always aware that with the changing times, that could easily happen again.

Of course, all of this is a manifestation of the way we live our lives.

Sadly, I learned last week that our recycling is no longer going south as the market for plastic has disappeared. Instead, it is going to the landfill where it is buried and will remain until we can figure out a solution or a fire breaks out sending more toxic gas into the air. Shipping plastic to the dump is not the fault of municipal governments who are dealing with the plastic nightmare, but of consumers who refuse to change their lifestyles and businesses who are more interested in their pocket books than tackling the climate crisis. This also does not mean that we must give up the recycling practices we have been working on but recycling is not the only answer. Changing our habits is.

If we are ever going to get the environmental crisis under control – and some fear it is too late for that — we must change our ways.

Though many of us missed it, July was plastic free month in which 300 million people from around the world committed to not using single-use plastic. They encouraged local businesses like Walmart and Independents to stop handing out .25 plastic bags, and others such as Tim Hortons and McDonalds to switch from plastic cups to compostables.

We must do the same.

If we care about the survival of those we hope will come after us, and that includes the land and animals as well as our own species. We must exert pressure on these businesses to get off plastic and take more responsibility ourselves.

Koo does to Shoppers Drug Mart and others like them for taking this initiative on their own and refusing to hand out plastic bags.

Let’s remember that pre-COVID, the Liberal government said it would ban single use plastic this year. No one likes the heavy hand of government telling them what to do, and if we don’t want that, we must swear off plastic on our own. In that way, we take control of our own lives and what businesses do and are doing to us. We need to take the lead…and not be pulled along kicking and screaming for something that could, in the end, save our lives.

Plastic may have been designed to make our life easier when it was introduced not that long ago, but now it is killing us. It is killing our underground water streams, our oceans, our trees, birds, land animals and of course, ourselves.

No one is going to save the world for us.

This week, as we go forward, how about we avoid single use plastics and send a message to big business. Take your reusable bags and coffee and cold drink cups to the store or coffee shop and in that way, we are reclaiming our lives and our futures.

We can save the planet; one single-use plastic container at a time.

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