Super Hero Leaps For Climate Action

Last year a hole had to be cut in the ice, but for the second annual Leap in Red Lake For Climate Action, the lake was ice-free. The water was still very cold, however, with temperature  hovering around 4 degrees Celcius (39 degrees Fahrenheit).  The leapers were supported by the Cold Water Rescue Team from the Goldcorp  Red Lake Gold Mine, as well as a local rescue diver and a lifeguard. The community came out to cheer on the brave souls willing to “chatter for change”. The event was organized by the local Green Committee in partnership with the Red Lake Indian Friendship Centre and the Red Lake chapter of Citizens Climate Lobby (CCL).

The sun was shining, and an enthusiastic group of volunteers showed up willing to leap for climate action, including the first public appearance of super hero  CCL Man. Before jumping into the frigid water, each leaper gave the reason behind their wish for action on climate change. Those reasons ranged from sons & daughters, nieces and nephews, patients, to fruit trees and Gaia herself. Prior to the leap, one of those present spoke about the importance of the land that gives us life, and recognized that we were on traditional Anishinaabe territory. Then one of the participants, a family doctor, had this to say before we took the plunge:

Anyone who has lived here for a long time will have noticed that our weather is changing.  The days when we had two or threeweek spells of -30 in winter are all but gone.  Our springs start earlier and falls go later.  As well, we’re getting more extreme weather—like the flooding several summers ago and the long hot summer last year.  This year’s ice break up in Howey Bay was, as I understand it, the earliest on record, although 2 years ago was the record before that.  Our March weather this year set high temperature records for 9 different days, sometimes obliterating the previous records by over 10 degrees C.  2010 was another such year when another 5 days in March hit all-time records.

This is not just a phenomenon peculiar to our community.  Across the globe there has been unprecedented extreme weather—floods, droughts, record heat waves causing huge damage and loss of life.  Globally, the 1980s was the hottest decade ever recorded until it was beat out by the 1990s, which in turn was surpassed by the 2000s.  Although there are cooler and warmer areas, overall our global climate is clearly warming.  Scientific research into this has been very extensive and gone on for decades.  By now, though you might not know it from media reports, there is virtually unanimous agreement among the thousands of scientists worldwide who study climate that our climate is warming because of manmade emissions of so-called “greenhouse gases,” primarily carbon dioxide which is a by-product of burning fossil fuels like oil, gas or coal.

Furthermore, science tells us if we don’t stop this process soon it will begin to accelerate through natural mechanisms beyond our control till at some point in the future much of the earth could become too dry and hot to live in.  They’re telling us that we are perilously close to that tipping point even now and that we have less than 10 years to start getting serious about changing course as a global civilization.   We’re beginning to see the reality of climate change already but this is only a hint of how severe things will get if we don’t act.

Good news:  all the technologies we need to transition from the problem-causing fossil fuels to non-polluting energy sources already exist.  We just need to roll them out.

Bad news:  the industries with influence and money and power are the ones with a vested interest in keeping things as they are—the oil, gas and coal industries.  They would rather continue to make money than  protect the world for our children and grandchildren, and they are using their influence to lobby our government leaders to maintain the status quo.

Our current provincial government, whatever else you may think of them, has been very progressive in their Green Energy Act which encourages development of renewable energy to provide us all with power.  Our federal government, unfortunately, has been listening to the fossil fuel interests and has been trying hard to suppress the science on climate change in order to get away with developing the Alberta tar sands.  This behaviour needs to stop, if we are to maintain a livable planet for our children and their children.

A lot of people are committed to using less fossil fuel energy—“reducing their carbon footprint”—and this is important, but by itself it won’t save our global climate because not everyone will choose to live that way.  What’s required is that we change our economic system to charge industries that currently use the atmosphere as a free garbage dump for CO2 and instead reward industries that use or provide energy from non-polluting sources.

Even though they are a small minority, the voices of the fossil fuel interests are loud in the halls of power.  If we care about the future for our children we need to make ourselves heard above that noise.  I would encourage everyone here to get involved by contacting our various government representatives to let them know how important this issue is to us and asking them to act.  Until our politicians understand that ignoring the health and safety of their constituents will get them voted out of office, very little will change.  Please get involved and speak up.

Thanks again for coming out.  Let’s have some fun.



The world needs more Climate Heroes. Citizens Climate Lobby can help you become one, too. To learn more about CCL, participate in the monthly CCL Introductory Call, held the first and third Wednesdays of the month at 5:00 PM Pacific, 8:00 PM Eastern. That means you can tune in this week, May 2nd, so that you,too, can become a climate hero.

This call is for people who are new to CCL and would like to know more about us, what we do and how we do it. Participants on the call will receive all relevant information about starting or joining a CCL Group. Email Mark Reynolds for more information.

Leap In the Lake For Climate Action

I’ve been rather busy lately, and one of the reasons is that I’m helping to organize an event to focus some attention on the urgent need to address climate change, while there is still a window for action.  So, this Saturday at 11:00 a.m., a hardy group of souls, including me, will be jumping into our local lake and raising money  for a good cause – our local Emergency Shelter’s local food initiative – at the same time.

For those of you who don’t live in northern Ontario, this may not sound like a foolhardy thing to do at the end of April.  However, when we committed to doing this back in March the odds were not good that the ice would be gone on the lake, although the average ice break-up day has been trending earlier over recent decades.  Last year, the ice was gone on April 20th, but the average ice-free day is May 7th.  This year it’s been a cool spring, and the ice is still quite solid.  This is what the dock looked like on April 12:

Town docks, April 12.2011

If the weather had stayed spring-like, we would probably be jumping into open water.  However, that wasn’t the case.  This is what the lake looked like 8 days later:

Town docks. April 20th.2011

There’s actually less open water!

So today I have a dedicated crew (thanks Perry, Chris, and Jordan!) who are going to get out on the ice and cut us a hole to jump into.  Then on Saturday, a local scuba diver trained in ice diving is going to be on hand, along with the local gold mine’s ice rescue team, just in case there’s an unexpected problem (thanks Ed and Mo!).

We are also going to have some guest “Celebrity Leapers”.  Graham Saunders, a meteorologist and lecturer at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay as well as author of “Gardening in a Short Growing Season” is making the 7-hour drive up to Red Lake to participate in the Leap in Red Lake as well as the local Earth Festival that is happening on this weekend.  Graham, who is also the President of Environment North, has been a guest blogger on 350orbust in the past.  Also making the trip from Thunder Bay is Peter Rosenbluth, the Northern Connections Coordinator for Ontario Nature.

I extended the invitation to participate in this local event to each of the candidates running in the federal election – Greg Rickford is the incumbent CONServative MP, Roger Valley is the Liberal candidate, Tania Cameron is running for the NDP, and Mike Schwindt is the Green Party candidate.  I haven’t heard anything back from Rickford’s office, despite several emails.  Mr. Valley declined the invitation but is supposed to be sending a delegate from his campaign team.  Ms. Cameron’s campaign manager told me she had another commitment that day, although I see that on the Facebook event page she is now signed up as “attending”.  And Mike Schwindt, the courageous Green Party candidate, has been an enthusiastic supporter, and willing “leaper”, since he first heard about it.

So, wish us luck on Saturday!  And even more important, consider creative and fun ways to raise the issue of taking action on climate change in your community.  Together, we can do this!

Thanks to Dimitris, Marlene, Suzanne, Perry, Catherine, Kaaren, Eleanor, Kelly and Donna who have stepped up to the plate in an amazing way to help make this event happen.  As well, Miigweech to the Red Lake Indian Friendship Centre for offering their space, and hot chocolate, on Saturday morning.  And, of course, a big shout out to all the “Leapers” who are crazy enough – and committed enough – to take a leap for a really good cause!