By: Marco Ovies, Features Editor
I was disappointed this weekend after watching multiple news outlets talk about the heatwave without a single mention of the climate crisis. Additionally, conversations about how unhoused folks are dealing with extreme temperatures seem to be non-existent. Addressing ways to keep (middle class) citizens safe and reporting on record-breaking temperatures is important; however, it seems we are ignoring naming the climate crisis as the cause of these record-breaking temperatures and refusing to acknowledge it as a serious issue we need to take action on.
From June 25 to 29, there were over 100 reported deaths linked to the heatwave. Additionally, there were 486 unexplained deaths during this time period. According to BC’s Chief Coroner Lisa LaPointe, this is a 195% increase over the number of deaths that would usually occur during the same timeline.
In addition to the amount of deaths, there was an overwhelming amount of 911 calls — 55% more than a normal weekend in June, E-Comm’s Jasmine Bradley told News 1130. E-Comm is the company in charge of handling BC’s 911 calls. On Saturday alone, there were over 8,000 calls and 1,850 dispatches. To put it in perspective, there are only 1,440 minutes in a day, meaning there was a dispatch every 45 seconds.
These are record-breaking numbers for BC, alongside record-breaking temperatures. And it’s only expected to get worse from here on out. During an interview with News 1130, UBC Professor Dr. Steven Sheppard said, “It’s pretty clear that this is part of the trend. It’s been projected and expected, and quite frankly we’re seeing around us — this decade especially — heatwaves, droughts, things like that are becoming more frequent. It’s very consistent with the climate change projections.”
Lytton, BC also was decimated by a wildfire in “minutes” after the heatwave, according to a town councillor. MP Brad Vis stated on Facebook that 90% of the village had burned down, including the town centre. BC’s Wildfire Service Fire Information Officer Erica Berg said high winds in combination with scorching heat gave the fire the opportunity for this explosive growth. But again, there was no mention of the climate crisis.
While some people have been prioritizing the fight against climate change, a lot of work still needs to be done, especially with others dismissing the impact of climate change. This includes BC Premier John Horgan, who recently said that “fatalities are part of life.” He then essentially victim-blamed those who died, saying, “it was apparent to anyone who walked outdoors that we were in an unprecedented heatwave and again, there’s a level of personal responsibility.” This completely overlooks unhoused people and lower-income folks who cannot afford air conditioning or those who do not live close to a cooling centre. I live in Newton, BC and saw no advertising for these cooling centres.
What’s worse, the record of deaths Horgan talked about is expected to increase as coroners receive more information. Any amount of death is tragic, but over 100 in one weekend is not something we can dismiss as coincidental. If we continue to avoid talking about the climate crisis, it will continue to get hotter, and the number of deaths will increase each year. How many more people do we need to let die before we take the climate crisis seriously?
Horgan’s response also overlooks the reality that 100 companies are responsible for 71% of all of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions. Instead of holding these polluters accountable, governments are unfairly putting the onus on the individual. Additionally, cutting down our old-growth forests is not helping Canada reach its Paris Climate Agreement carbon reduction goals. At the forefront of these companies and decisions is our Canadian governments who, instead of forcing companies to reduce their carbon footprint or deciding not to cut down old-growth forests, are pinning the blame on us.
These 100 companies should be mandated to reduce their carbon footprints, but time and time again we see governments pointing fingers at their citizens instead. This is seen by the recent toll implementations for driving downtown or increased paid street parking around the city.
While it’s important to look at ourselves and integrate green solutions into our lives, it is even more important to hold our local politicians and government officials accountable for their actions. If they don’t take action against the climate crisis, it’s just going to get worse. People are dying. It’s time to wake up.