It’s time to act on climate change

Some years ago I visited Vancouver, British Columbia, for a conference. The climate was extraordinary. The people were friendly. If ever I was forced to leave the lower 48, I decided this was a place I’d like to be.

The last weekend of June, Vancouver was not a friendly place. Sudden deaths kept the police jumping, so many they had to call in additional staff. Relatives were visiting family and finding them deceased. One-hundred thirty deaths were attributed in Canada to the “dome of static high-pressure hot air stretching from California to the Arctic territories.” (Weather folks need to come up with a shorter name or an acronym for this new event; like derecho, or zud or haboob.)

Temperature records were broken all across the Western U.S. The average temperature in Portland, Oregon, over a three- day period was 112 degrees: 108 on June 26, 112 on June 27 and 116 on June 28. Seattle also had back-to-back days setting all time records. Even on the coast, Quillayute, Washington, recorded 110 degrees, 45 degrees above average and 11 degrees above the previous record high. 

The maximum body temperature a human can survive is 108.14 degrees fahrenheit. Lytton, Canada, recorded 121 degrees. When I saw that number, I wondered what residents in the area did to keep their bodies from becoming like scrambled eggs; their brains functioning. Elder bodies like mine slow down in the high 80s and 90s. 121 is unimaginable, and in a usually cooler climate at that.

It appears that Republicans in the Senate are prepared to vote to repair the roads buckled by the heat. But they are still reluctant to threaten the fossil fuel industry with an admission there is climate change and we need to do something about it. God forbid the climate emergency should be on the Republican agenda. Perhaps when the drought in the Midwest becomes so serious crops fail left and right, our South Dakota congressmen will be forced to respond, although then it will be too late for many of their constituents.

As we experience our own heat wave and continuing drought in South Dakota, I still tend to look toward Canada as a place cooler and inviting, should one need to immigrate. I wonder if Trudeau and others would react like our governor, if many of us started crowding Canadian borders. Would he call out the Mounties?

So now we will be sending South Dakota National Guard troops to Texas and the Mexican border, hired by a Republican mega-donor. (Maybe the Rosebud Tribal Council could hire the National Guard to protect their border?) Does our governor understand that many at the southern border are fleeing their own homes and nations because of climate catastrophes and the violence that occurs because of them? Does she have any comprehension of their history and how their northern neighbor has helped create unlivable situations of political, economic and climate inequality? (I recognize she doesn’t like to dwell on the underside of our history; “just the good things, please.”) 

There is a Catholic Worker house of hospitality in Houston called Casa Juan Diego. It is the only aid station for many in the Houston area. They write about how when the twin hurricanes of Iota and Eta hit parts of Honduras and Guatemala last year, it was flooded with requests for help. 

So many lives, homes, livelihoods were lost to those hurricanes. Hundreds lined up at their doors seeking aid to send home to family members and friends. 

What if the governor had sent the National Guard to help people in Honduras repair and restore their homes and small farms? Is it possible fewer folks would be at the Texas border? What if she were to ask her fellow Republicans (and mega donors) to get off the fossil-fuel bandwagon and bring down our carbon footprint, since it contributes big time to hurricanes, derechos and domes of static high-pressure air (DSHPA)? It is estimated that climate change will displace an additional 3.9 million people across Mexico and Central America by 2050. Get ready, Texas. Get ready, Trudeau. Get ready, Iceland? Alaska?

In 2019 alone, more than 33 million people were newly displaced bringing the total displaced to a record 51 million. 25% of those 33 million were because of natural (unnatural) disasters. From 2008 until 2018, the number was 253.7 million. How many at our southern border would love to stay in their own home if only we calmed the climate by reducing our carbon footprint and used our resources as an empire for help, not harm?

Pope Francis updates and quotes Isaiah in his Introduction to Pastoral Guidelines: “Come, let us talk this over if you are ready to listen, we can still have a great future. But if you refuse to listen and to act, you will be devoured by the heat and the pollution, by droughts here and rising waters there.” (Isiah 1:18-20)

It’s happening folks. Are we ready to listen, and act?