Climate Change: (Why) Do You Care?

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Blog Action Day occurs every Oct 15 and is an event where bloggers around the world simultaneously write about one cause to help spread awareness and open discussion around that topic. I signed up for this year’s topic, climate change, a few days ago and have been struggling with what to write about.

What can I say about this topic that hasn’t been said 1 million times before? I could write about the current state of our environment, rising CO2 levels, a rising global temperature, melting glaciers, our path to spoil our drinkable water, deplete our oil reserves, kill our oceans, and surround ourselves with toxins, but the only people who would read that are people who already believe in climate change. I would be preaching to the choir.

While I personally believe in man-made global warming, depending on who you talk to, it can be a controversial topic. So rather than write about the facts and figures and explain the need for massive change to take place, I instead pose this question.  Why do you care about climate change? Or why don’t you? I asked myself this question, and the answer is multi-faceted, but ultimately boils down to an enjoyment of the outdoors.

The reason I signed up for this Blog Action Day is because this is a topic I firmly believe in. But why do I care about global warming? This is what I will write about, in hopes it makes a few people take a closer look at the ‘Great Outdoors’.

Old Faithful, Yellowstone Park

I had a fairly normal childhood, played a lot of sports, had good friends, etc, but didn’t really think about the environment, or the lasting impact were are having on it. Very recently, these factors have opened my eyes:

1) The Outdoors Spending most of my childhood time playing organized/ competitive sports, I never really got into ‘nature’ much. Playing soccer outside is one thing, seeing a harbour seal curiously approach you while scuba diving is another. The connection to nature in the latter is far more impactful. One day in early June 2007, I went on my first real hike, with my wonderful girlfriend. It was a cold, foggy, rainy, rainy (very, very rainy) day and we spontaneously decided to go up the Stawamus Chief. We grabbed lunch at White Spot in Squamish while deciding if we wanted to brave the elements and head up. Luckily we did. We were literally the only people on the mountain. We passed a tourist couple in the early stages, who were heading down because of the rain. I was blown away by the solitude, the ability to forget about work, school, etc, and just enjoy the time with my girlfriend, and appreciate the mountain and my surroundings. Getting the top was amazing, and looking down on Squamish through small breaks in the fog, it seemed like we were on top of the world, even at a modest 700m. I’ve been hooked on hiking ever since, and likely will be until the day I die.

Hiking up the Chief

Since that hike, I’ve also discovered kayaking, scuba diving, snowshoeing, back country camping, I continue to learn more about the outdoors all the time, and want to take on new sports like rock climbing. These activities have had the greatest impact on my appreciation of the environment.

School: As a business student at SFU, I was lucky enough to meet some friends who were involved with Net Impact whose ‘mission is to inspire, educate, and equip individuals to use the power of business to create a more socially and environmentally sustainable world.” Through joining the club, and a random series of events, I landed my current job with a company that hopes, through software, to change the way organizations manage and communicate their progress towards a better future.  At SFU I also watched The Corporation, in which Ray Anderson, CEO of Interface-Flor spoke of a book that changed his life (the Ecology of Commerce), and the direction his company has taken in the proceeding years to financial prosperity while minimizing environmental impact. Which brings me to my next point:

Giant Plumose Anenome in Howe Sound

Books: I read the Ecology of Commerce by Paul Hawken after listening to Ray Anderson in that movie. That book, in two words – life changing. The book was already 10 years old by the time I read it, but I have never since doubted the impact of business on the environment. Paul Hawken’s book has sent me reading many more great ‘environmental’ books, including, Natural Capitalism, Cradle to Cradle, Plan B 3.0Collapse, Blessed Unrest, and Last Child in the Woods, with many more on my ‘to read’ list. Other good books, not of environmental nature, but ones that I have read with an outdoor/ adventure theme – Into Thin Air, Into the Wild, and South.

Documentaries: If you haven’t seen any of these, I recommend you watch them (I’ve linked each to a YouTube Trailer), because they have all helped me to see how diverse and inter-related the problem of climate change and our global environment is.

  • A Crude Awakening – Looks at the implications of a world economy built upon petro-chemical derived products and transportation, and what will happen when our oil reserves are gone.
  • Flow: For Love of Water – Great movie, which looks at the increasing privatization of our world’s fresh water sources, and their depletion.
  • The Last Continent – Story of a Canadian expedition to the South Pole to research the effects of climate change. Awesome cinematography.
  • Home – a must see.
  • The Future of Food – This movie was shocking for me. Looks at how large companies like Monsanto use the law to force farmers to use their products, and the implications on human health.
  • The Cove – A new one about the annual dolphin slaughter in Japan.
  • Sharkwater – Elephants kill more people than sharks each year, yet we kill millions of sharks so we can add their fins to soup. This movie depicts how the top predators of the ocean’s food chain is going extinct, and the possible implications.
  • Planet Earth – A brilliant TV series by the BBC with some of the best wildlife footage I’ve ever seen.
  • Up the Yangtze –  Looks at man’s ability to greatly alter the natural environment with the damming of China’s largest river, the Yangtze, and the resulting displacement of 1.24 million Chinese.
  • Who Killed the Electric Car – An inside look at the events which set back the development of electric cars.
  • An Inconvenient Truth – Do I need to say anything for this one?

The final thought I have is that at times when you’re watching these movies, reading these books, and otherwise educating yourself on the state of Earth’s environment, things can seem hopeless. The documentaries in particular can be down-right depressing. It’s terrible to see the things we are doing to our oceans, our drinking water, our air, our valuable natural resources, the chemicals we expose ourselves to, our reliance on oil, and how things will come tumbling to a bitter halt when these actions catch up with us. For me, getting outdoors is the antidote, the inspiration, to fight for our environment, because it makes it real.

I am far from an activist. You couldn’t even call me an environmentalist. I don’t ride a bike to work (yet), my son wears disposable diapers, I’m not perfect. But I have come leaps and bounds in a few years with regards to how I look at our environment, and the actions I take. Its amazing how a shift in your thinking, and taking one small step, will led to more and more small steps, which will add up to a change in the way you look at the world. I think when I look back on my life in 10 years from, I won’t believe how wasteful I currently am. The same way my son’s generation will look back on us and say ‘how could they have done these things?’.

I’ve already taken a lot of small steps: My house has CFL’s, I started composting, my shower has a nice low-flow shower head, I use a reusable coffee mug to avoid wasting a cup each day, I hang-dry laundry when weather permits, I weather-proofed our house doors and windows, I choose to buy things from companies with good corporate social responsibility when possible, I try to use reusable shopping bags, I transit to work, I do my best to buy eco-friendly products, and so on. But best of all, none of these changes are really a sacrifice, they are easy, often save money, and in most cases are more enjoyable than the less eco-friendly alternative way of doing things (for example, you couldn’t pry my stainless steel coffee mug from my cold dead hands, and I now shudder at the thought of using a crappy disposable cup).

I also try to encourage people to get outside more through this website.

Getting outside, whether it be walking in a park, hiking, snowboarding, kayaking, or wing-suiting into a freaking canyon, is the best way to appreciate what we have, and what could be losing in a generation or two. Until you appreciate nature, you won’t see the value in these small actions, because I know I didn’t.

Because whether or not you believe in global warming, there is MUCH room for improvement to how we treat the environment, and the effort is worthwhile. A healthier environment and healthier eco-systems only mean healthier people, lower rates of asthma, cancers, and still-births. It means more efficient companies, which make sustainable profits using materials that can be re-used indefinitely, while giving back to the communities in which they operate. It means a future we can be proud to leave to our children.

The implications are very real. Glaciers are melting, clean drinking water is becoming more scarce, toxins are in everything – our fish to our children’s toys, and the oceans are dying a slow death by plastics and our over-consumption of its inhabitants. In the end, even if climate change is a farce, we will only have a better economy and better lives if we take care of the environment first.

Finally, here’s a look back at some environmental focused posts I’ve had over the past year or so, and if you’ve managed to read this whole post, thanks!

  1. 11 Million Salmon missing….
  2. Shark Finning: International Problem Comes to Vancouver
  3. Earth Day around Vancouver
  4. Canadian Navigable Waters at Risk
  5. Upper Pitt River Still in Danger
  6. Stand Up for BC Rivers
  7. Good News for BC’s Great Bear Rainforest
  8. My original post on Environmental Sustainability

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Sites That Link to this Post

  1. World Blog Action Day on Climate Change – Corey Burger | Nov 12th, 2009
  1. VancityAllie says:

    Great post Karl, can tell you put a lot of work into it. It’s something that affects us all. We really need to think about it more often.
    .-= VancityAllie´s last blog ..A WEEKEND AT THE WICKANINNISH INN =-.