Having lived in Australia for four years, I have watched with horror as fire has devastated large areas of Australia. Some of my friends had to evacuate their homes. Fires burned less than 10 kms.. from where we lived. People died and homes were lost. Three years worth of drought has left large portions of the country tinder dry.
Most heartbreaking is the fate of the koalas. Much of their habitat, the eucalyptus trees, has burned. Thousands of koalas died, so many that scientists have now named them a species threatened with extinction. One particular koala, Lewis, caught everyone’s attention. Lewis had been caught in a fire and was left clinging to a tree for dear life. A woman in her car, seeing the koala’s predicament, ran to the animal, took off her shirt, and carried the badly injured animal to safety. Lewis was taken to a vet’’s office, but after a few days at the hospital, Lewis had to be put down. He was just too badly injured and was in too much pain. Lewis became a victim of the great fires.
This all leads to a debate about climate change. Deniers will say that Australia has always been prone to drought. Australia has always had bush fires. Nothing has changed.
Other weather stories have filled our tv screens the past couple of months. Venice was flooded and many great artworks and antiquities were damaged by high tides. The Bahamas was all but destroyed as a category 5 hurricane stalled over the island for days. Again deniers will say that floods have always happened in Venice. The Caribbean get hits by hurricanes several times a year.
The fact is though, these wild weather events seem to be happening more and more often. These wild weather event also seem to be more and more extreme. Scientists are now saying that the five hurricane levels may not be enough. They might have to add a Category 6 hurricane as storms seem to get more intense each year.
As Canadians we like to complain about the weather. It is either too cold, or too wet, or too windy. Farmers blame the weather whenever their crops don’t come in as well as expected. And slowly we are beginning to realize that what we humans do does effect our weather. Deforestation, industrialization, pollution poisoning, mass urbanization, over consumption, all affect the weather. Deforestation leads to mud slides as trees no longer absorb flowing water. Industrialization and pollution cause changes to our environment as demonstrated by the fact that our inner cities are always a few degree warmer than the outlying suburbs. Overpopulation stresses our world as cities take up valuable farmland, forests, water reserves, and animal habitats. Our consumer based society tells us to buy, buy, buy, yet our landfills are filled to overflowing and huge plastic islands kill more and more sea life each year.
Our climate has always been very changeable in Alberta. The coldest of winter days can vanish in an instant when a chinook blows through. Summers can be very warm or quite cool. This past summer was much too wet. Other years are ones of extreme drought. Living in Alberta means living in a place where every 10 minutes the weather changes. But this variability in the weather has become more intense over the past few decades. Alberta is not alone. The world has seen more drought, more extreme heat, bigger blizzards, more dangerous hurricanes, and more floods. Our climate is changing. Now some of this can be traced to natural fluctuations in weather. The world has always known drought, wind, temperature change and floods. However, human activity also plays a part in these changes (at least according to 97% of scientists). We must make changes now or else there will be more Lewises who will die clinging to a tee. Blessings.