U of S professor signs climate emergency declaration, motivated by daughters 'afraid for their future'

Irena Creed is one of the 11,000.

Creed, the associate vice president of research and a professor at the School of Environment and Sustainability at the University of Saskatchewan, is one of the scientists from around the world who recently banded together to declare a climate emergency.

Creed has dedicated her career to planetary health. She said she finds motivation at home. 

"I have two beautiful daughters," Creed said. "They are increasingly afraid for their future. They feel a sense of hopelessness."

Creed feels a responsibility as a parent to "effect positive change." She said it's one of the reasons she joined with 11,000 other researchers and signed the Alliance of World Scientists declaration, warning that "to secure a sustainable future, we must change how we live."

CBC

The declaration outlines six areas where urgent change is needed, and it can seem overwhelming.

Global view, local focus

Creed said she has a global view, but much of her research in fresh water ecosystems is focused at home and includes monitoring the health of the Saskatchewan River Basin. She said provincial government policy does not escape her critical gaze.

"They [the provincial government] are not doing enough," Creed said.

Creed is a relative newcomer who arrived in Saskatchewan convinced that the birth place of Medicare would again prove to be a national leader and find real solutions to cut greenhouse gas emissions and to address climate change. That optimism has since faded.

Look at the youth mobilization that occurred across the planet. - Irena Creed

    

Saskatchewan is taking the lead in a fight with Ottawa over whether the federal government has the jurisdiction to impose climate policies, like the carbon tax. Saskatchewan is now readying a Supreme Court challenge, with a hearing expected to happen in early 2020.

Creed said the province should abandon the fight. 

"I think that we need to embrace the federal carbon tax," she said.

"Climate action is going to cost money and climate action is going to hurt in some ways…and so I think there's a reluctance to take action but if we don't take action now the cost is only going to escalate in the future."

Creed said Saskatchewan is in a good position to be a leader in renewable energy, citing her work with climate scholars from across Canada.

"We did an analysis of energy potential across the country. It's remarkable what the energy potential for renewables is for the prairie region."

In a province rich in non-renewables like oil, natural gas and coal, policy change to protect the environment is a tough sell. In Saskatchewan, farmers are also reluctant, worried about negative impact on their industry.

"I think that they [farmers] are among the most vulnerable to what the climate change impacts would be, and that vulnerability perhaps makes them want to not accept what is happening," said Creed.

Supplied by the University of Saskatchewan

Out of the mouth of babes

Creed remains hopeful the tide can turn and that all sectors of the provincial economy can begin working together to mitigate the impact of climate change. She said the stakes are high and that a failure to act will cost lives.

In the same way that Creed is motivated by her daughters to speak out, she said we can all look to young people to set a course for a healthier planet and a better future.

"Look at the youth mobilization that occurred across the planet. Look at leaders like Autumn [Peltier] and Greta [Thunberg] and other young people around the world who are demanding more from those who can vote and more from our governments."