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OPINION: Planet Earth may become terminal

['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']
['Perspectives with Shirley Hallee']

Perspectives with Shirley Hallee

I have been writing this column for 16 years and I have covered a wide variety of topics...everything from human rights, politics, women's issues, and the impact of corporate greed on the little guy.

One area of focus in my writing has been related to the environment. In fact, the health of planet Earth has continued to be a very real concern; and a large number of my columns have pointed to the ways mankind has continued to ignore the fact that climate change has become climate crisis.

Young and old have come out in large numbers to protest the lack of action to counter the human impact on planet health and sustainability. It is notable that there is no part of our world that has not been impacted. While Stephen Harper was still in office I wrote about Boom and Bust economies with specific reference to the Athabasca oil sands. At a time when we must move away from fossil fuels, the production of crude oil from that region continues...and the cost to the environment is being ignored.

Huge amounts of water from the Athabasca River are used to process the bitumen into crude oil. The greenhouse gas emissions are significantly larger for extraction and processing of bitumen than for conventional crude oil. Reclamation of the land areas to their original state is difficult due to the chemicals in the tailing ponds. The effects on air and water quality impacts on humans and animal life. This is an area of First Nations peoples and there are concerns regarding the level of emissions of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) which can be released into air, water, and soil.

Mercury has been found in the snowfall in that region and the people have been warned to consume less of the hunted meats...such as moose. There has been a 30 per cent increase in cancers in the Fort Chipewyan area...and this increase is linked to the consumption of wild food.

Ellen Page and co-producer Ingrid Waldron are drawing attention to environmental racism with their film, There's Something in the Water.

Areas of Nova Scotia have been impacted by the dumping of heavy metals and the impact of manufacturing processes on bodies of water. Native peoples and blacks tend to be most impacted by environmental carelessness. However, the remainder of the population is also paying a heavy price for man's indiscriminate willingness to trash planet Earth.

Wealthy people likely will have the resources to survive the effects of climate change...even though it is their corporate business interests that is creating much of the problem.

Scientists have issued a report to the UN, indicating that we need to think in terms of climate crisis, rather than climate change. According to that report we have just 11 years to make big changes before the problem becomes irreversible. Carbon emissions must be cut by 45 per cent by 2030 and then go down to zero per cent by 2050. There were 6,000 research studies referenced in this report. The scientists have done their homework.

It is interesting to note that the most ardent naysayers regarding the climate crisis are those in the fossil fuel industry. Rather than investing in sustainable energy it would seem there is a wish to extend the dependence on the products that are creating the problem. As reported in The Guardian in October of 2018 Britain is pushing ahead on fracking, Norway is moving toward oil exploration in the Arctic, and the German government wants to tear down the Hambach forest to dig for coal.

As of 2017 U.S. President Trump announced plans to open federal lands...which means National Parks...to oil and gas exploration and drilling. He is also seeking to open Arctic waters to offshore oil and gas drilling...reversing President Obama's policy that prevented exploration in areas with ecological catastrophe risks.

The oil, gas, and coal industries have wealth...and money speaks. We are encouraging young people to protest against the industries that are impacting on the environment, but we must do more. The adults in the room must demand legislation that protects this planet. We need to clean up our act...and we can use our country's voice to pressure others around the world to act...NOW.

Shirley Hallee is a freelance writer living in Amherst. Her column appears weekly in the Amherst News.

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