When I was a kid, a long time ago now, the big environmental story imprinted on my impressionable mind was litter. Our teachers taught us it was wrong and could harm animals that ate or became tangled in pieces of discarded trash.

We waged anti-litter campaigns with great zeal, at first nagging our parents not to toss garbage out the car window. With that battle quickly won, we’d chase after pedestrians who littered, handing back the offending item with a cheeky “you dropped this.”

Litter was not the world’s biggest environmental problem even then, of course. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring had already been published, but my parents and teachers didn’t seem to know that the rampant use of DDT and other pesticides was wiping out birds. If they did, they didn’t tell us. Maybe they didn’t quite believe it or rationalized pesticide use as a way to combat world hunger.

Then came Love Canal, a carcinogenic chemical dumping site in the U.S. linked to birth defects. It was a huge, shocking story for our American neighbours but seemed miles removed from anything going on here in Canada where the air, water and land seemed so pristine.

That wasn’t true, either. We were poisoning our own rivers for the sake of industry, too — the Wabigoon, Athabasca and St. Lawrence, to name just a few. We were also well on our way to an acid rain problem that knew no borders, killing aquatic life and vegetation. We didn’t hear much about those problems, at least not at first.

It took a long time — too long — for mainstream media to uncover the environmental and ecological devastation unfolding around us. It took activists and writers like Carson to raise alarms so loud they could no longer be ignored. Legions of environmentalists, activists and scientists pushed these issues to the front and centre of the political agenda. Only then were steps taken to mitigate the destruction. DDT was banned, and the eagle population has largely rebounded. Acid rain is largely under control, and the health of many of our polluted lakes and rivers has recovered.

Those problems pale in comparison to the challenges presented by global heating.

Back then, all but a few of the very most informed scientists were blissfully oblivious to climate change. For decades, it was written off as a debatable theory, perhaps because it was harder to see than an ocean oil slick or a toxic plume from a factory outflow. In frigid Canada, it seemed almost laughable. We all remember the winter refrain: “sure could use some global warming right about now.” What might have seemed funny even a decade ago certainly doesn’t now.

That joke might have persisted if people like my publisher, Linda Solomon Wood, had not started publications like Canada’s National Observer to educate us all. Even now, with global heating and extreme weather events beyond dispute, forces of industry and capital continue to slow-walk the clean energy transformation we need.

Fossil fuel companies still have the ear of government. Their lobbyists are working the back rooms at COP27. They are concocting new buzz words for gas. They are using the war in Ukraine to ramp up, not scale back, fossil fuel extraction. They are pushing back against our government’s efforts to reduce plastic consumption and encourage farmers to scale back fertilizer use. Banks are still funding fossil fuel developments, despite promises to go “net zero.”

Make no mistake, they will continue to do this and more to suck the last few dollars out of the sales of fossil fuel — an industry we all know full well, if left unchecked, is going to kill us. We at Canada’s National Observer are working hard to raise awareness of these issues.

We are at Parliament Hill bringing you up to date on what Canada is and isn’t doing to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We sent a reporter to COP27 — an expensive trip but essential for our coverage. We have journalists on both coasts with eyes on our oceans, trees and resource extraction efforts. We have writers in central Canada covering the intersection of climate and reconciliation with First Nations and youth, those hit hardest and longest by violent storms and fires.

We have some of the brightest, most climate-informed opinion writers weighing in on issues of the day. We are developing provocative podcasts to reach wider audiences. We are committed to investigative journalism so that when greenwashing and disinformation starts to sprout, we can uncover it as the weed patch it is.

This is difficult, expensive work, and we can’t do it without people who care enough to help us along the way. We are determined to ask questions that need answers and share information that needs to be public. It takes cash, and lots of it. So here we are with hands out, asking you to help in whatever way you can. Our problems are so much more monumental now than a candy wrapper out a car window. We need your financial help to carry on, and remember, no donation is too small. Together, we can push climate to the forefront of the political agenda. Together, we can make change happen.

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