Our home is on fire, once again. This year, over 150,000 people across Canada have been forced out of their homes due to wildfires, some returning to find their homes in piles of ash. Deadly floods in Europe, record-breaking heat in Southeast Asia and a rare hurricane making landfall in California have made it clear that climate collapse is happening right now.
Here at home in B.C., we have experienced our worst fire season yet and the worst drought ever recorded. Four firefighters have died fighting wildfires this year. All while those with the power to prevent such tragedies have sat on their hands, or worse, made decisions that contributed to the crisis we are in.
As a scientist, I’ve always tried to hold rational, pragmatic opinions on how we can address the most pressing issue of our time. I once believed those in power were just uninformed about climate solutions; if we could just hand over enough reports, studies and beautifully designed PowerPoint slides, policies would change accordingly.
What I’ve come to terms with — with the help of Geoff Dembicki’s The Petroleum Papers — is that those in power (read: fossil fuel executives and politicians) know what must be done to prevent the worst of climate change. They just won’t do it.
Since countries started holding annual climate conferences in 1988, emissions have experienced what can only be described as malignant growth. Governments continue to push emissions reduction goals further into the future and fossil fuel companies show no signs of slowing down, seemingly dead set on burning every last bit of carbon before their time runs out.
I’ve noticed something arise recently in the climate activism community as we collectively doomscrolled past videos of people’s communities consumed by flame. We are fed up with 20-year targets and patchwork solutions. There is a deep, simmering fury and a ravenous appetite for action. I once felt this in 2019 as I watched Greta Thunberg give her now famous “How dare you?” speech. Which is why on Sept. 15, I will be joining the Vancouver Climate Strike.
Protest has always been a transformational force behind sweeping policy reform. The militant tactics of the suffragettes between 1913 and 1914 gave women the vote. The cardboard signs of Vancouver’s original Pride parade in 1978 preceded the legalization of gay marriage. The blockades at Clayoquot Sound and later Fairy Creek ushered in a renewed public zeal for old-growth forests.
When we flood the streets, we remind those in power who put them there, and who can remove them.
So at 1 p.m. on Sept. 15, you’ll find me alongside thousands of others in front of Vancouver City Hall. Schoolchildren are marching for their future. Parents are marching for their kids. We’ll march for the lives lost in Lahaina. For the farmers watching their fields wither during yet another drought. For the 619 who died in B.C. during the 2021 heat dome.
What I’ve come to terms with is that those in power (read: fossil fuel executives and politicians) know what must be done to prevent the worst of climate change, writes columnist Auston Chhor. They just won’t do it.
We’ll march for an end to fossil fuels, demanding governments to leap — not tiptoe — into an equitable, fossil-free future.