Thursday, October 15, 2009

Blog Action Day 2009 - Climate Change

Just in time for Blog Action Day 2009 comes this piece of news: Canada's rivers are at risk due to climate change and growing demand for water.
Canada is blessed with a huge supply of fresh water but this WWF-Canada report concludes that "...even seemingly remote northern waters like the Mackenzie are at risk. As temperatures rise, and industrial water withdrawals and interest in hydropower increase, we must start planning now to protect river flows to ensure water security for the communities and economies that depend on them." We are sowing what we have reaped, of course. Years of criminal inaction by our government has resulted in Canada being dead last in the world at meeting its paltry Kyoto commitments.
From the seat of my kayak I can offer anecdotal evidence that the climate is changing. Spring and Autumn used to be full-fledged seasons, now they are short three-week transition periods between Summer and Winter. Winters seem to be milder, although some may argue that as they recall last December's month-long barrage of below zero temperatures and snow. But that was the first significant snowfall in the region in 12 years. In the 1970s and early 1980s, I remember that we would get at least one or two good snowfalls every winter; now, we don't get snow at all. Summers are warmer and dryer, and I'm not the only one who thinks so.
Readers of this blog will know that my old van finally died a few weeks ago. I'm struggling with the decision of what to replace it with, or to even replace it at all. I don't want to be limited to one put-in, namely The Gorge at the bottom of my street, but traveling the island with our big kayaks requires a vehicle of some heft. Not an SUV necessarily, but something more than the fuel efficient environmentally friendly car that I should be aspiring to. I find myself feeling tremendously guilty when I look at cross-overs or mini-vans. I want to Do The Right Thing, but I don't want to sacrifice My Lifestyle to do it. I've already decided to never fly again, the carbon footprint from a jet plane is just too huge, yet I can't help but feel jealous when co-workers tell me stories of the week they've just spent in New York or of their Mexican vacation even though I know of the environmental damage wrought by their flight, and that they are either oblivious to it or just don't care.
But this is just the beginning of this kind of hard choice that we all are going to have to make if we are to survive. As Churchill said, we are entering a period of consequences.
I've been hearing about the so-called "greenhouse effect" since I was a child in the 1960s. Climate change is not a new issue, but has been dismissed as something future generations will have to deal with and solve, but the effects of climate change are with us today. The future is now. The time to act was 20 years ago.
We and our leaders have ignored it at our peril.


  1. What are you doing next Saturday, for the International Day of Climate Action ( If I can swing it, work-load-wise, I'll hop on a train or bus for Ottawa to help Fill the Hill:, one response to leaderly myopia being to go and stand (or jump up and down) right in front of them. If not, I'll find a local event.

    Would you consider a portable kayak? Being car-less and shed-less, I've tried out several folding kayaks, with the help of the patient rep from Kayak Canada, I have my beady eye on a Pakboats XT15. I tried out the larger boat in the same model, the XT16, a single/double convertible, which felt very stable (unlike the narrow, v-shaped Swift, which I loved for the speed but which felt very twitchy on cold October waters!), tracked like a knife and moved as briskly as my Kestrel. I spoke to a couple who were taking one on holiday to the west coast. The XT15 is narrower than the XT16, so I can hope for more speed. Weight is about 34 lb for the boat alone, so the weight of the boat and pack will be appreciable, and I'll probably have to tack on a set of folding wheels. There's some set-up and tear-down time required, which I can anticipate being fun in mid summer and much less fun in December, particularly after a paddle. On the other hand, aside from car-freedom, it makes one-way paddles possible - paddle with the current, haul the boat out, and ride the bus against the current. :-)

  2. PS, and of course "going commando" is not obligatory: 3-4 people and 3-4 boats can fit in a standard car (albeit one with a generous trunk), instead of 2 cars/vans/trucks. Having the boats inside will improve the aerodynamics and therefore the milage as well.

  3. Alison makes a good point! Consider folding or inflatable kayaks. I love using mine, and I take them on the bus or toss them into friends' cars when we're carpooling.
    For that trip to Saltspring, we even considered taking all three inflatables in the minivan that Bernie and I booked from Victoria Carshare Co-op. But John & Louise didn't want to paddle that weekend, so I just put my little inflatable in the minivan -- just in case! It was so good to have it along, and it took up hardly any room. If we'd put kayaks on the roof, we'd have been obliged to paddle that day, even with our cough & cold symptoms.
    I've never seen the Pakboats Alison has been trying, but now I sure want to try them.

  4. Here's a link to pakboats:

    Interesting suggestions, people, and I find the pakboats intriguing, but on the other hand I have $2800 invested in a very boat boat that I really really like, so it's difficult to imagine myself getting a different kayak, short of winning the lottery (which I didn't this week -- damn!). The good news is that with winter on the way, there's no real rush to make any decisions.

    Doesn't look like much happening in town for the thing on Saturday, although there's something going on at Centennial Square, so I may head down to check it out -- on the bus! :)