Federal election candidates 'eerily silent' on climate change, says Cape Breton task force

·3 min read
A climate change rally held in London in February 2019. Environmentalists in Cape Breton says there has not been enough discussion on the federal election campaign trail about important environmental issues. (Shutterstock / Ben Gingell - image credit)
A climate change rally held in London in February 2019. Environmentalists in Cape Breton says there has not been enough discussion on the federal election campaign trail about important environmental issues. (Shutterstock / Ben Gingell - image credit)

A Cape Breton group says there's been little discussion about the environment during the federal election campaign despite reaching a critical point in the fight against the impacts of climate change.

"It's eerily silent. Eerily silent," said Janet Bickerton, a member of Cape Breton's Climate Change Task Force.

"I'm just amazed at how little conversation there is about climate. I just think it's so overwhelming."

The task force was formed last November and is made up of individuals and organizations concerned about environmental degradation.

'We need to say what matters to us'

Bickerton said many people are feeling anxious about the impacts of climate change to the point that they're blocking it out of their minds.

Erin Pottie/CBC
Erin Pottie/CBC

"It's almost so big that people feel muted, that you barely hear a conversation about it," she said.

"That is really most concerning because what we have is our voice ... We have power in our voices, but we need to come together. We need to speak and we need to say what matters to us."

Pushing for discussion

Group members want the climate to be prioritized in the lead-up to the Sept. 20 vote.

Bickerton said eligible voters should dig into how political parties plan to tackle environmental issues, and use that information to inform their choice at the ballot box.

"[For] most people in my generation, eco-anxiety has been second nature to us," said task force co-ordinator Suvir Singh, who is in his early 30s.

"We've been overloaded with information about how climate change is really affecting our lives and a lot of us don't have the platform to do a lot about it."

Rally planned for Friday

Singh said people who want action on climate change can attend a rally planned for downtown Sydney on Friday. It is scheduled to begin at 4 p.m. AT outside the Civic Centre.

The executive director of ACAP Cape Breton, a Sydney-based environmental non-profit, said the island is already seeing the impacts of climate change.

Kathleen Aikens said the rally follows an August report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that was later described by the United Nations' secretary general as a "code red for humanity."

Panel experts warn that continued sea level rise is already irreversible for centuries to millennia, but there is still time to lessen climate impacts.

"We are facing sea level rise at nearly twice the rate of the average global sea rise," said Aikens.

"We are facing extreme weather events like storms, flash flooding and major precipitation events. There's also coastal erosion both from these extreme weather events as well as a lack of sea ice."

Acting before it's too late

Task force member Albert Marshall said now is the time for governments to find solutions before time runs out for future generations.

The Mi'kmaw elder suggested the province develop a land-based training program in public schools where young people spend more time in nature.

"We have to somehow find a way to amplify our voices by reminding the government and the policymakers that we have actually exhausted the current capacity of the system," Marshall said.

"We have reached a point of no return."

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