The first time I landed at Vancouver International Airport was June 2013. My earliest memory of that Air Canada flight landing was the view from the window seat – pristine water, lush green islands and somewhere in the middle of all that , the city of Vancouver. A few months later, and I would call this place my new home.
There is plenty I have learned to love here since that day, and there is not a moment that makes me regret my decision to move here. From new friends and a rewarding career, to being in the midst of some of the most picturesque landscapes on the globe, I would not have it any other way. But despite that, there is a side to Vancouver and the lower mainland that scares me.
It is the side that we might not be alive to witness, but surely a side that our future generations would live and breathe in. It is a side we hear about every now and then, and one that hovers at the back of our minds. Whether you choose to agree or disagree with it is another issue, but it’s there. So much so that even the provincial government came out with a report on it, titled ‘Preliminary Strategic Climate Risk Assessment for British Columbia’.
Gentle title? Yes.
Gentle predictions? No.
The report lists 15 climate change driven events and their associated risks over the next 30 years. 11 of these events were deemed to have potentially catastrophic consequences. Only one was ranked as low risk.
It is easy to toss the contents of this report on one side, or be largely apathetic towards climate change in general. We live in times where personal gratification is the singular motive that moves us forward. Anything beyond is deemed not worthy of our attention and time. The fact that the catastrophe of climate change is in the future, and not now, only adds to our indifference.
The wildfire warnings and water acidification at major Vancouver beaches among other things, are all too recent to ignore. Remember last summer, when the worst fire season in BC history made the lower mainland look like a set for a post apocalypse movie? If we remain on the same course we are now, what transpired last summer will eventually become a yearlong reality.
Then there this the federal political element to it all. Justin Trudeau, who for so long has attempted to convince us that he wants to tackle climate change, is taking steps that prove otherwise. By approving the Trans Mountain pipeline, he has ended up laying the framework for boosting climate change even further. The environmental risk posed by this pipeline far outweighs the benefits, with increased tanker traffic significantly endangering the orca population, and the risk of spills and leaks being a timebomb waiting to go off. This at a time the country’s east is already dealing with floods, and fires raging across forests. If irony had a face, it might resemble Justin Trudeau.
The economic element to it doesn’t make easy reading either, even for those who are still skeptical of climate change. Wildfires now cost millions of dollars, and to use the 2018 BC wildfires as an example, the total cost of suppression crossed a staggering $600 million. These are not figures conjured out of thin air. These are figures quotes on the provincial government’s own website.
The continuation of life as we know it, and the charm that gives Vancouver and British Columbia a deserved high ground, is at risk. We may be lucky enough to witness all that this province has to offer, but our future generations might not.
It is no more a question of how. It is only a question of when.