Friday 11 November 2016

Blog Post 4 - Feeling overwhelmed and what to do about it

When I talk about climate change to friends, family, and people I’ve just met, I get a lot of different reactions. A common theme is feeling overwhelmed. I get it. How, on an individual level, are we supposed to counteract the effects of climate change? As it turns out, there are actually lots of daily changes we can make at the individual and community levels that can help reduce the greenhouse gas emissions driving climate change.

Traffic backs up on South Access in Whitehorse. (Photo: Arnold Hedstrom/CBC News)      

One major source of greenhouse gas emissions, both Canada-wide and in the Yukon, is transportation. Despite the cold, snowy winters, Yukoners are finding ways to get out of their cars and trucks. Brave souls face the conditions year round on their bikes, switching to fat tires for the winter. Lots of people who live in Whitehorse’s downtown core or Riverdale walk to their workplace for an extra refreshing start to the day. I’ve even heard of people in the communities snow shoeing or cross-country skiing to work! The City of Whitehorse has also ramped up availability of public transportation to help people get around in a more sustainable and convenient way. Similarly, the Government of Yukon, along with the City, launched a ride sharing program earlier this year, designed to help commuters connect and walk, bike, or carpool together! If you haven’t taken advantage of this fantastic program yet, go check it out!

Yukoners also find ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by changing energy consumption. During the long summer days filled with sunshine and warmth, you’ll find few Yukoners turning up the heat or leaving the lights on, but it’s once again the winters where it gets a bit tough! But there are still ways to conserve energy. My dad has great fun sealing our double pane windows with a plastic film every fall, and then placing bets on how long it’ll take before the cat shreds the extra insulating layer to bits. Yukoners are also taking advantage of various initiatives, such as programs that provide rebates for energy efficient appliances, and programs for micro-generation set-ups.

A commuter faces the cold on a fat bike. (Photo: Ian Stewart/Yukon News)                                     

The Government of Yukon is also helping Yukoners adapt to changing conditions by, for example, testing road construction methods that preserve permafrost beneath Yukon highways, and by developing publicly-accessible flood hazard maps to better understand flood risks in Yukon communities.

BYTE youth showing their climate change films at the Yukon Centres Canada Conference in 2015. (Photo: BYTE)

I think one of the best ways to move forward is by engaging youth and encouraging them to lead. Many of today’s youth have grown up in the context of climate change, and for the most part missed the whole “is climate change real” debate. When I talked to Shelby Maunder, the director of BYTE, she described how the younger generation will be the one to tackle a lot of the immense challenges that climate change poses. If we can combine the enthusiasm and fresh ideas from youth with the knowledge and experience of older generations, we’re well on our way to finding creative ways to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change together!  

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