This appeared in a story in yesterday’s Globe and Mail newspaper. The study was produced by two major UK institutions about the likely effects on human beings from climate change.
“Climate change is a health issue affecting billions of people, not just an environmental issue about polar bears and deforestation,” commented Anthony Costello. A pediatrician, Dr. Costello is the lead author of the report and co-director of the university’s Institute for Global Health.
The authors of this study paint a stark picture of the future on this planet for all human beings, as they should. It ain’t gonna be a picnic.
I worked briefly with a group confronting the human impacts of climate change in northern polar regions, trying to find ways they might adapt to traumatic environmental changes, as they’ve done in the past. As they said, life on the land is all about adaptation to change.
They represented Indigenous peoples from around the Arctic: Russia, Alaska, Finland, Norway, Denmark, Greenland, Iceland, Sweden, as well as the Northwest and Yukon Territories and Nunavut, Canada. I came away from those meetings shocked by how badly the southern news media had failed in explaining how far climate change had already gone, or how it would affect the lives of their southern audiences.
There were accounts of villagers having to abandon their traditional territories because the herds they depended on had previously abandoned their own traditional areas as food sources disappeared; hunters and animals lost lives when changes in seasonal freezes and thaws created unusually dangerous conditions on lakes and rivers; flooding swamped formerly safe village sites; roads, airfields, buildings and homes built on permafrost sank as the earth defrosted; entire lakes disappeared literally within days for the same reason; unfamiliar wildlife, plants, insects and parasites appeared bringing with them unfamiliar or previous unknown diseases… The list of climate change impacts – on humans – went on.
Damn right, it isn’t only about polar bears. These weren’t projected impacts – they had already taken place. They expected worse to happen. The presenters brought pictures, quoted academic studies and government reports to back up their own Indigenous knowledge to emphasize that the lives and welfare of Indigenous northern peoples were already adversely affected by climate change. They told their stories to warn the rest of us of the coming storm.
But the southern media doesn’t seem to understand, or chooses to take the head-in-sand approach to climate change, or wait until some English dudes with fancy titles and letters behind their names say what Indigenous northern peoples have been trying to tell the world for some time. Climate change is affecting peoples lives and health right now – by affecting food sources, introducing new or unfamiliar parasites and diseases, changing migratory patterns, drying up lakes or creating flood conditions, changing seasonal environments, shifting the ground beneath them.
On the other hand, of course, the media is inundated by knuckleheads like this and their particular brand of… um… knowledge?
Robert Bland from Calgary, Canada writes:
Climate Change. I’ve experienced it first hand!
Several years ago, I left Toronto to live in Uruguay, South America for a couple of years. The climate was probably 5 to 8 degrees warmer and there were most certainly local viruses, germs, bacteria and insects that my body had never encountered before and had no resistance or immunity to.
Despite experiencing this radical climate change overnight, I adapted and learned to live in a beach setting quite easily. No sickness, illnesses or bad effects whatsoever.
Out of personal experience, I tend to regard all of the doomsday articles put out about the calamities of climate change as just a sort of speculative bad fiction.
(sigh) We’re doomed. Bend over, pucker up, and… you know the rest.