It's been just over three weeks since raging floods wiped out countless homes and caused massive devastation here in Calgary and in Southern Alberta. It is nothing short of heartbreaking to consider what so many people are enduring, and what they have lost. The worst of it is that many of those losses can never be restored, replaced or rebuilt. But in the face of the worst disaster ever to hit this city, or indeed, this part of Alberta, our mayor, Naheed Nenshi, has been the voice of reason and reassurance.
With the realities of climate change becoming all too clear, an economic shift is needed, towards a more sustainable economy. While protests and concerns about actions such as fracking are important, and needed, there also needs to be a positive message on sustainable economic development.
Over 1,000 planners descended in Vancouver this past week at Infuse, this year's conference for the Canadian Institute of Planners. Most everyone can agree that climate change is occurring, with some debates raging over whether it is happening quickly or slowly. We reached a significant milestone this May when carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere surpassed 400 parts per million for the first time in human history. The question is no longer how we can stop climate change from happening, but what we can do to adapt and rebound from its effects, a concept called resilience.
It's been a wet blanket of a summer for many Canadians to say the least, which means summer playlists need a change of tune. In case rocking out to "Surfin' Safari" seems but a cruel joke, we created a list of soaking-wet songs that will have you blaming, kissing and taking shelter from the rain. If you can't beat it, you might as well sing about it, right?
When the flooding began in Canmore on the night of June 19th, nobody expected that the next few days would become such a nightmare for Southern Alberta. When the water finally began to recede, people transitioned from survival to recovery. Now, we're all learning to live with it. The financial devastation is going to be incredibly difficult for many to handle. Even for those who have policies with insurance companies who are covering some of their damage, the floods have obliterated any budget planning and savings for a lot of families. We've been told for years that many Canadians are carrying too much debt. Something like this increases the burden of that weight and some may break under it.
The 2013 flooding in the Province of Alberta, which resulted from excessive rainfall from June 19 to June 25 and the subsequent overflow of water tables across the region, was officially declared to be the "largest in provincial history" by Premier Allison Redford. In fact, it was so bad that it now has its own Wikepedia entry.
Like the floods recently seen in Alberta, many causes of debt disasters are not foreseeable and enact considerable emotional and financial devastation. Their onset can be rapid and quickly overwhelming, with the damage permanent or requiring years to repair.
The Alberta floods have washed away homes, lives, hopes and dreams. They came quickly and did away with places we loved, mementos and our sense of safety. But just as quickly, neighbours came to the rescue and strangers became life savers.
As the people of southern Alberta begin to put their lives back together, the question has become whether this historic disaster could be the result of climate change. The answer from scientists has been a resounding "maybe." Yes, record high temperatures in the north caused the weather pattern that brought about unprecedented rainfall at the foot of the Rocky Mountains. But no single weather pattern, no matter how rare, can be attributed to climate change. However, in the case of Calgary itself, there is another lesson to be learned -- it's time to start listening to scientists.
Sitting thousands of kilometres from my home province of Alberta watching floods wash over memories, friends and family I was numb. Over years of working to raise the alarm on climate change I watched hundreds of extreme weather events wreck coasts, communities and lives around the world, but now it was literally striking my home, and I was paralyzed.
It was a simple plan. I would have my very first mountain bike lesson on Tuesday and then, on Friday, head up to the Canmore Nordic Centre to sign in for Rundles Revenge. There would be a 25km mountain bike race on the Saturday and a 50km trail run on the Sunday.
Alberta is about to mop up a massive mess. Mother Nature has shown us, in no uncertain terms, who the boss is. The ferocity of the floods we are facing is mind-boggling. Tens of thousands of people are displaced, countless homes and businesses are damaged, and an infinite number of dreams, plans, and schedules have been washed away. It is devastating.
Can we say the recent flooding and extreme weather in Southern Alberta and B.C. were caused by global warming? Maybe not, but we can say we should expect more of the same -- and worse if we don't do something to get our emissions under control. As many scientists warn, climate change isn't coming; it's here. We may be able to adapt to and cope with some of its current effects, but it will become increasingly difficult if we continue to ignore the need to wean ourselves off fossil fuels, through conservation and switching to cleaner energy.