Column: Shuswap bioregional approach could help prepare for uncertain future

Shuswap Passion by Jim Cooperman

There is no doubt we are immersed in a climate crisis, as already we are experiencing the impacts – floods, fires, storms and rising temperatures.

Due to the still rising CO2 levels and the activated feedback loops, including the release of methane, recent predictions are suggesting there could be a 5-to 6-degree rise in temperature by the end of this century.

The big questions for us now are what could we expect to happen where we live, what can we do to protect ourselves and what can we do to make a difference?

The models show that decades from now, the climate here will be like Northern California, which means we could lose many of our forests to shrubs and grasslands. Thus, fire is our biggest threat here in the Shuswap and it is not a question of if, but when we will see another large fire threaten local communities.

There is another warm blob in the Pacific Ocean, which may be another reason why this year’s salmon return is so dismal. When climate change is combined with overfishing and fish farming, the demise of the Shuswap’s iconic salmon could come sooner than anticipated.

It is not only the glaciers in Greenland and elsewhere that are melting at increasing rates, so are Shuswap’s glaciers. This year, the Adams River changed its course in August when flows should be low, but glacier melt could be increasing the flow. The loss of Shuswap’s glaciers would result in much lower water levels in the fall and less water for communities.

Read more: Video: All ages rally in Salmon Arm to demand climate action

Read more: LETTER: Liberals, Conservatives weak on climate action

Read more: B.C. students empowered to ‘shift the vote’ this election

Read more: UN chief urges action to make Earth carbon neutral by 2050

Another major threat to the Shuswap is from flooding and landslides, due to the increased likelihood of intense storms and precipitation combined with the damage caused by logging, fires and roadbuilding. We have already witnessed such disasters, including those above Mara Lake, Sunnybrae and the North Shuswap. With its upper watershed devastated by a wildfire 10 years ago, the rapidly eroding streambanks of Newsome Creek threatens properties in Sorrento.

Perhaps the greatest threats due to climate change are those not yet considered. Germs locked in the melting ice could cause a global epidemic, or excessive heat and drought could devastate essential crops leading to malnutrition, disease and starvation.

Some years ago I switched my focus from environmental advocacy to bioregionalism, resulting in the publication of the first book about our region, Everything Shuswap. Bioregionalism, which is a lifestyle dedicated to one’s home place, is one way we can protect ourselves as the planet warms. The more we know about our home place, and the more we co-operate as a community, the better our communities will be able to cope with emergencies.

My generation has failed humanity; instead of following the ideals developed in the big era of change during the 1960s and 70s, never-ending greed has led to almost endless wars, no end of pollution, the decimation of species and forests, despot leaders in countries around the world and now the biggest threat to humanity – climate change. Sadly, it is now up to young people to make a difference and thanks to leadership from one young Swedish student, Greta Thunberg, changes may indeed be forthcoming.

Unfortunately, the obstacles to needed change are enormous, given the influence of the wealthy few who continue to profit from carbon pollution. Overconsumption is indeed at the root of the problems and until we see a rejection of the lifestyle that is threatening life on the planet, not much will change.

As long as the planes keep flying and people carry on with their meetings (including climate change conferences!) and vacations, as long as the container ships keep bringing more plastic goods from Asia, as long as we continue to fuel our lifestyles with coal, oil and gas, as long as forests continue to be cut and burned, and as long as the majority of farmland is utilized for meat and dairy – global temperatures will continue to increase. At best, we need to prepare for an uncertain future.


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