EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE − Climate change is not something “out there” somewhere else. Its catastrophic impacts are already being experienced, locally – in the city, on farms, in our homes, our economy and our bodies and minds. It should be next municipal Councils’ No. 1 priority from which all the rest are formulated and evaluated as the crisis unfolds rapidly over the next strategic 8-10 years – 2.5 Council terms.
Demands on city and county finances and employees will mount.
Increased taxes and other costs will show up in every line of municipal budgets due to declining air quality, hotter temperatures with resulting increased disease, injuries and premature deaths related to extreme weather events; food crop failures, and higher incidences of food- and water-borne diseases and allergens. These lead to mal/under-nutrition due to failing local agriculture and food accessibility, spread of diseases, strains on the workforce and economy.
The heat waves of the past summer and May’s bad derecho storm are due to climate change. The current rising cost of living is in part due to climate-disrupted food supply lines (droughts, fires and floods) and the impacts of COVID on the economy.
Federal and provincial refusal to tax excessive profit-taking by Big Oil companies means less money for municipalities and the more vulnerable people, including children, the elderly, the chronically ill, people with cognitive or mobility impairments, pregnant and postpartum women, and people with mental illness. If any of these are of lower socioeconomic status, climate migrants, refugees or homeless, they are the most vulnerable.
Extreme weather events can make mental illness and addictions worse for several reasons. Psychiatric medications can interfere with a person’s ability to regulate heat and their awareness that their body temperature is rising, which is associated with injury and death. People with mental health challenges are also more likely to live in poverty or have co-occurring substance use disorders, which make it harder for them to cope or adapt to changes. In addition, those with severe mental illness are more likely to be dependent upon the municipal and provincial social service infrastructure, and medication supply chains that are often disrupted in disasters. Being homeless only makes all that truly disastrous.
Prolonged, drastic weather events (forest tires, droughts) raise levels of anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress, domestic violence, alcohol and drug-taking with higher use of hospital emergency departments. Children are harder hit by disasters than adults and are more likely to have ongoing trauma-related symptoms after a disaster.
Fire departments and ambulance services get stretched to the breaking point. As do other municipal responsibilities like Public Health, Police, Disaster Management, Housing, Recreation, Parks, Water, Electrical Utility, Land Policy, Transit.
Municipalities have responsibilities in all of those areas and must start yesterday to adapt to and mitigate the local climate impacts.
Every voter should be thinking seriously about our future together through this long emergency we call the climate crisis.
We need to choose municipal councillors and mayors who truly understand the urgency of making climate change THE priority lens of every decision. We citizens must understand that putting our taxes to work on the climate emergency as THE priority is an investment in community cohesion for survival through the coming crucial years to 2030 – not that far away.