Facing the storm

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We’re coming out of a long, hard winter here in northern Ontario. Elders tell me that this winter is similar to what they experienced growing up decades ago. The snow came early to the north and right across most of Canada. It has also taken its time leaving and it seems that spring is a month behind schedule.

In many ways, the long winter was good for the Cree of James Bay, as the ice road held up better this year and everyone had more time to move around and out of towns along the coast in vehicles and snowmobiles. Regions in southern Canada and the US also experienced severe snowstorms and longer-than-usual winters. A lot of people concluded that this was proof that global warming is not a threat.

According to many scientists, however, these colder, longer and more violent winters are the result of global warming. Studies show that abnormally warm Arctic temperatures produce severe winters further south. Warmer temperatures in the Arctic cause the jet stream to swing south, sending cold air masses to regions that normally don’t have harsh winter conditions. These same scientists predict that as global warming persists there will be more development of extreme winters that feature bomb cyclones and polar vortexes. These weather pattern changes produce very big storms and cold weather in areas where people are not accustomed to them.

Luckily, we in the north are already well prepared for winter weather with equipment, well-insulated buildings and a long history of dealing with the cold and snow. However, as these weather patterns continue to change from the burning of fossil fuels that contribute to global warming, people in southern Canada and into the US may have to deal with harsh stormy winters that they are not prepared for. That happened several times during this past winter and could very well be the norm now in coming years. With rightwing governments in place to the south of us that continue to deny global warming things don’t look very good at all.

Up the James Bay coast, the changes in weather are obvious. In the high Arctic there was warmer weather this year and that has an effect on the polar ice cap, the glaciers and in turn all of the animal life in the far north. The Elders I talk to say things are getting very confused and upside down. Some people even warn of coming of another ice age. They also note that coastal areas throughout the world will be experiencing flooding leading up to this development.

Personally, I prefer to believe the majority of scientists and Elders who are warning us about global warming over fossil-fuel proponents and rightwing political representatives who spend millions trying to convince us there is no problem.

Unfortunately, when I think about situations like this I realize that our earth and humanity must continue to struggle in a world where a very small group of super-rich billionaires control more than 50% of the planet’s wealth. Most people on earth live in terrible conditions with no clean drinking water, poor housing and insufficient food. On top of that we continue to burn the fossil fuels that are threatening our very existence.

What hope do we have to turn around this reality of greed by few to the detriment of many? I don’t have high hopes but I know one thing for sure: we should not be supporting rightwing governments that do the bidding of the very wealthy while everyone else suffers. Hopefully some day, we can start viewing our world through the eyes of all of its inhabitants rather from just the wealthy and powerful few.

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