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Notes from the Trail: We can make a difference

Notes from the Trail with Nancy Vail
Firefighters wet down some vegetation along the access road to K’atl’odeeche First Nation earlier this month. Photo courtesy of GNWT

At this time of writing, the fire that caused the evacuation of Hay River and destroyed numerous homes on the Katl’odeeche First Nation is being held. And even though residents were allowed to return home, they know they may be forced to flee again depending on what the fire and wind decide to do.

In the meantime, the polls in Alberta have closed and in a vigorous and sometimes nasty campaign, the topic of climate change was rarely mentioned by either of the main parties. This, though we know climate change is the leading cause of wildfires there and in the North because of the hot, dry conditions it continues to create.

Nancy Vail Notes from the trail column standard Yellowknifer

The cause of climate change, as we all know, is the resource sector which continues to blow out emissions and destroy natural habitat around the world. Yet it is the party that acts as a lobbyist for the oil and gas sector that prevailed in the Alberta election because the economy is still so dependent on that revenue thanks to consumer demand.

We are having such a hard time changing our ways even though they are killing us.

The fire outside Hay River and some in Alberta, they say, were caused by people who failed to properly extinguish their campfires or carelessly tossed a burning cigarette into the bush. In fact, they say half of the wildfires in the NWT were linked to human behaviour. However, the main culprit is climate change and we are all responsible for that. To that extent, then, all fires are caused by humans – directly or indirectly.

We cannot point fingers at certain individuals without accepting our part in the current dry, hot conditions which are the main drivers of extreme weather events across this country and indeed the world.

A story in CNN late last week said that a drought continues to devastate the Horn of Africa leaving more than 20 million people facing acute food insecurity. These conditions were attributed to climate change which those people did not cause.

In addition, more than one third of Pakistan is underwater and flood waters threaten to create secondary disasters in the form of infectious diseases and starvation. More than 1,100 people have died from the floods, nearly 400 of them children, while millions more have been displaced, according to Pakistan’s National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA).

Pakistan is now front and centre the front line of the human-induced climate crisis. This, in one of the countries which contributed the least to climate change conditions.

The third world continues to pay the price for our lifestyle.

This is not just about being careful to put campfires out properly or not throwing burning cigarette butts out car windows. It is about changing our ways. A new initiative at the Yellowknife Farmers Market this year will be encouraging residents to give up plastic as part of a cross-country plastic-free campaign in July. For that month, consumers are asked to monitor, reduce and even eliminate their use of plastic so we can take another step toward curbing our appetite for fossil fuels and reduce the impact of climate change. We can do this. We must do this if we want to change the destructive trajectory we are on.

The market has been at the forefront of the pushing compostable products almost since its inception and it did that for environmental reasons. Yes, even a farmers’ market is political. The goal was to show that we can all do our part. We can make a difference. We can all do our part to save the planet. The compost program saw vendors in and out of the market switch to products that were not fossil fuel-based and now, during its 10-year anniversary, the market will be upping the ante. The message? One small behaviour change practiced by many can have a huge impact toward improving the quality of life everywhere. No more plastic bags. No more plastic cups. No more plastic utensils.

If we want summers that will not be characterised by smoke and fire, if we don’t want people losing their homes to it and in fact their lives, we can all do our part by this one small action.

Saving the world from the growing destructive impacts of climate change is up to each of us. Now on this slippery slope, let’s do our part.