At a recent screening of the new film This Changes Everything shown by the local chapter of the Council of Canadians I noticed something very encouraging. There were not enough chairs.
Almost twice as many people showed up than the organizers expected. This told me that the number of people in our community that can see the elephant in the room is rapidly increasing.
People want to know what to expect in the future and want to know what we can do about climate change.
Climate change is here and it really is going to change everything. The thing is, we have a very good idea about how it will change things here in our community.
It makes sense for us to get ready for the changes that we know are coming.
About a year ago a group of us started meeting to figure our how to protect the most vulnerable in our community from the effects of climate change. In doing that we will all benefit from being in a more resilient and cooperative community.
We are calling our group the Cowichan Climate Change Collaborative Project and we are using the principles of collective impact to connect local resources.
A good example of collective impact in our community is the Cowichan Stewardship Roundtable, where all levels of government, conservation groups, First Nations and local industries have made great progress in protecting and improving the health of our watershed ecosystems.
Our group has inventoried local resources including governments, NGOs, industries, clubs and volunteers from every walk of life in our community. We want to create awareness, connectivity and momentum to address the challenges we face.
Our research has revealed the climate changes we can expect and some valuable metrics about our community.
We are expecting an increase in summer droughts and more precipitation in the fall, winter and spring months. We will have more severe storm events and much less snowpack. Our growing season will lengthen and our frost-free period will increase.
We also learned that four in 10 children in Duncan and Lake Cowichan live in poverty, one in five families have inadequate housing and three in 10 people are living with chronic anxiety or depression.
We have goals to enhance our water security, food security and energy security.
We will soon tick the box for water security. We believe we will have a new weir that will increase our summer water storage significantly by 2019, maybe sooner. Increased summer water storage will enhance the health of our lake and river ecosystems wile providing ample water in the summer for community use, agriculture and industry.
Today, we are only using about half of our agricultural land and about 90 per cent of the land we are using is growing food for cows. Clearly we have a lot of potential, with increased water storage and longer growing seasons, to grow more food for people in our valley. As food costs continue to rise due to the drought in western North America and increasing transportation costs the business case for local food production will steadily improve.
Climate change will bring increasingly severe storms and we are overdue for a major earthquake. Either of these scenarios have the potential to seriously damage our infrastructure, including ferry terminals. If the ferries ever stopped running, our stores would start running out of food in 72 hours.
The Cowichan Valley is already leading the province in new solar power installations. We need to keep this momentum going and consider large community-based installations that will reduce our dependence on an aging infrastructure to keep the lights on.
We could produce much of our power requirements in the summer when we have long days and increasingly abundant sun and rely on existing hydro installations to get us through the dark and wet winters.
It now appears unlikely that our political leaders will be able to make the changes required to meet the target 2 degrees C temperature increase that science tells us is about all we can afford. I guess that’s the bad news.
The good news is that we are very lucky to live here. We have abundant pure fresh water, lots of suitable land to grow food and the potential to become much more energy self-sufficient.
We also have abundant human resources; all of you are included in this, and the ability to address these issues. We can create a resilient and sustainable community if we are willing to face the reality of climate change.
We all want nothing but the best for our children. Now is the time for us all to come together and create a sustainable and resilient community. It’s going to feel good and we can have fun doing it too.
Parker Jefferson is with community group One Cowichan