At the end of the world, we still have time to change the ending
In the last week of June, Victoria experienced hell at a temperature of 39.8°C, which broke the record of highest temperature registered in the area, set high in 1995 at only 30°C. This record-breaking weather was part of a deadly heat wave that devastated most of western North America. B.C. reported 719 deaths during the heat wave. The death toll of BC’s marine animal population is believed to have been more than one billion. Mussels, clams, and other invertebrates filter the water in the sea, so their death will affect the water quality in the area.
Heat waves like the unprecedented one in June will be common concurrences as our climate crisis continues. Their impact will include death, health problems, and the worsening of pre-existing conditions like heart problems and respiratory diseases, such as COVID-19.
When the coronavirus pandemic spread across the globe, we had to beware an invisible threat that was not global warming. Social distancing and quarantining for days or weeks at a time felt akin to living in a fictional dystopian world.
The world came to a full stop, but the climate crisis did not slow down for us. In September of 2020, COVID-19 face masks were not enough to protect us from the wildfires coming from the U.S. Victoria was the city with the most smoke in Western Canada, which earned it a dangerous rating of 10+ in the province’s Air Quality Health Index (AQHI). The smoke-filled skies and hazardous air quality was a warning of what is to come in the near future.
It started looking like the end of the world, but COVID-19 didn’t set it off. Our ecological crisis has been going on for much longer than that. The World Health Organization (WHO) predicts that climate change will affect infectious disease occurrence and has contributed to an increase in new infectious diseases, like COVID-19. Climate-induced natural disasters and catastrophes, including pandemics, will become more frequent.
As fall of this year approaches, COVID-19 restrictions will continue to loosen, and we will all be returning to a somewhat familiar sense of normalcy — no masks and no social distancing. Will then be a better time to address, with the same urgency as we did with the coronavirus, the climate crisis? What normalcy are we returning to when the world is already burning?
I’m a part of the generation that grew up watching 2012, The Day After Tomorrow, and WALL-E. Whether the world was consumed in flames, ice, water, or human debris, all of these films ended the same: a few lucky survivors remained and the planet we knew succumbed to irreparable damage.
My generation rightly feared the worst — that fiction would become our reality. We began getting conscientious about the ways we could help our planet: we practiced our three Rs, bought second-hand items when we could, turned off the water and lights we were not using, marched into the streets to protest, and volunteered to pick up the trash in our community.
We thought our daily efforts would amount to something big, like delaying global warming. Our wildest dream? To stop it in its tracks to buy ourselves and future generations the time we deserved.
What a beautiful lie. The ones capable of making a real difference don’t even acknowledge the consequences of global warming. If they do, they preach we will have time later to address those issues. These capitalist giants pursuing oil, gas, and coal, and those in the richest 1% of the global population hold the power and control to decide our fate, and they’re already planning to escape into space.
When the ocean burns and Texas freezes over in the same year, did it really make a difference to use bamboo straws and take reusable bags to the grocery store?
The future we feared is already becoming a reality. According to UVic climate scientist Faron Anslow, the recent heat wave would have been “virtually impossible” without the influence of human-caused climate change.
Pollution, overconsumption, burning fossil fuels, and deforestation are human activities that harm the environment at a global scale. The vast evidence of the damage done, Anslow says, is indisputable. He confirms what we have known all along: the extreme temperatures and events happening today are a direct cause of harmful human activity.
When all of our efforts seem pointless, we need to give ourselves space to mourn. We have to let grief take hold of us because nature is agonizing. Acknowledging our grief renews our sense of responsibility to continue caring for our community, those human and non-human entities with whom we share this space.
We also have to get angry. We have to rage against those few in power who are calling the shots and causing the most vulnerable to die out. We have to be afraid that we’re already living the end of days in slow motion. It is too late to stop the consequences of climate change, but it’s not too late to avoid the worst effects of it. We must continue our efforts. We have to keep redefining the way we consume food and energy; protecting the land we live in, including its human and non-human entities; and using our voices to urge and demand change from local and national organizations that hold the capacity to create change at a larger level.
The end of days is already here, but we get to choose its ending.