Climate Crisis

As we watch the news from out west these days, we are horrified at the sight of drowning cows being towed down rivers behind rubber dinghies, and travellers stranded in their cars between mud slides, waiting all night in the pouring rain for helicopters to make daring rescues on the side of a cliff. But that is BC and this is Toronto. Nothing like that would happen here, would it?

Those of us who are older will remember the devastation caused by Hurricane Hazel back in 1954 when the Humber River overflowed its banks, destroying bridges and homes, and killing 81 people. Or, if you think that’s too far in the past to be relevant, just go back as far as July 2013 when Toronto received over 120 mms of rain during rush hour. Who can forget the picture of the GO bus disgorging passengers into a rowboat, or the Ferrari drowning in an underpass? How immune is Toronto from climate change, and are we doing anything about it?

First of all, Toronto is well-positioned. We are not located near mountain ranges which tend to alter rain patterns, and we live close to a lake which can help moderate extreme temperatures. According to predictions, Toronto’s biggest climate risk is for high heat, over 60 summer days of temperatures above 30 degrees celsius. Lake Ontario can help with that. At the very least, we can all go swimming, and I assure you those Lake Ontario water temperatures are chilly, even in July!

Most important, Toronto has developed several climate change initiatives. After Hurricane Hazel, new policies were written that forbid housing in the river valley. All along the Humber now are parks and playgrounds instead of homes. Too bad that BC didn’t consider this option when the government drained Sumas Lake back in the early 1900’s and built on the lakebed instead. Now all those dairy farms are gone.

According to climate change research, the biggest emissions in cities come from buildings. Old buildings emit gasses through their natural gas heating systems, and then let the heat escape through leaky windows. A complicated but effective strategy for Toronto sets out goals of new buildings with zero emissions by 2030. In a blog post last February, I wrote about Toronto ‘s 2009 green roof bylaw, which states that any new building over 2000 square meters Must have a green roof. There were over 700 such roofs at the time of writing.

Toronto is also into electric vehicles. The TTC is on track to purchase 300 electric buses next year. City council has recently approved a plan to allow businesses to use cargo e-bikes for deliveries, and a plan to build 3000 charging stations by 2025 with another 10,000 by 2030. In an attempt to get us out of our cars, there are bike lanes springing up on major city streets such as Bloor, and more bike rental kiosks now wait for riders along busy pedestrian travel routes.

So, with all this positive energy around, how can we help? Many of us feel useless and even guilty as we watch our planet fall apart. But, as Greta Thunberg reminds us, we are “never too small, (or too weak or too old), to make a difference.” Here are some to consider:

Turn down your thermostat a couple of degrees and put on your tacky Christmas sweater instead. Leave your car at home and walk to the store with your grandson’s wagon for your groceries. Put food scraps into a composting bin; add a few worms and soon you will have high-grade soil for your garden. Make some modern art for your living room with all your used covid masks.

OK maybe that last one is a bit far-fetched. If you have some better ideas, send them out to our readers.


3 thoughts on “Climate Crisis

  1. Well said, Sue. Thank-you!
    FYI When I lived near Downsview Dells Park, there were “The Caves” where we played. Piles of concrete formed into “caves” during Hazel. Maybe a bridge or overpass before the hurricane.
    Very, very sad about BC floods and slides.
    Why do people build on floodplains anywhere, much less drain a whole lake in a drainage basin. I wonder if some engineer back when shook his or her head in protest and was not heeded. Nevertheless, the farmers’ plight is heartbreaking.
    Small things…yes I do try: avoiding paper towels, tissues; using cloth instead. Hey, whatever happened to hankies?
    HUGE compost pile here on the farm is easy.
    Eat vegetarian mainly and buy unpackaged goods. There is lots of styrofoam trays and plastic out there though.
    I am amazed to fill a blue bin each month with paper not of my own choosing.
    I do apologize for my car though. 😦
    Wish I could afford electric.


  2. Greetings Sue, I very much appreciated your perspective and words about the present-day BC floods and the tragic story of Hurricane Hazel (I was too young to remember!). I love your idea of sharing tips on making a difference. Maybe you can publish a book with 1001 tips! Walking to nearby amenities is a good one. Most often when I’m going further for errands and using the car, I combine errands or plan a visit with someone who lives further away in addition to the errand. Focus on buying mainly locally-produced food. Electrify everything in due time. e.g. old gas furnace replaced by a cold climate heat pump which can provide heat and also air-conditioning at less cost. I believe more affordable electric cars will come, and there are excellent savings with EVs. It is a great photo of the young child with the poster! Thank you for sharing. Greetings to Peter.


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