Within Our Children’s Lifetime

EDITORIAL COLLECTIVE − The place where we see and feel climate change is right here, in our own homes and local community. What the whole Earth is experiencing now will continue and worsen for a very long time. As hard as it is to say, this is our children’s future.

“Greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere continue to rise, ensuring that these changes will be felt for centuries beyond 2100, the current benchmark for projection. Estimating the effects of past, current, and potential future emissions to only 2100 is therefore short-sighted.” – Climate change research and action must look beyond 2100.”

Global Change Biology, 00, 1-13.

The longer view

Most current projections of climate change end in 2100. This limits our understanding of its unfolding, compounding impacts over time. This horizon shortchanges our children. For their sake, we need a longer horizon and greater imagination.

A hundred years is not that far off in climate change terms. It’s sobering to consider that if you are, say, 75 years old now, your adult children will be roughly entering their retirement years in 2050, and their children (your grandchildren) will be approaching middle age. Your great-grandchildren will be in their 20s and 30s, living in ways unrecognizable to us today. They may have had to move far away from you and each other because the place where they live is also moving.

Future climate modelling sees temperature and precipitation dramatically hotter and stormier everywhere, Ontario not excluded. This is not “crystal balling.” It is necessary, science-informed work, vital for planning to meet the unprecedented changes coming to every aspect of our lives. Locally, we have had some early warning signs of climate breakdown, for instance, last summer’s local smoky air from immense forest fires in western Canada. Peterborough. Ontario, with its share of large forests, has yet to face such events.

All of us are children of our geography.

Geography determines a lot about climate and climate change. The geography of the Peterborough and Kawartha area has been characterized as “the land between.” It is “a globally rare and nationally unique bioregion in southern Ontario.” lying between the southern edge of the northern Boreal region and the St Lawrence Lowlands to the south.

Peatland that makes up most of the soil in Canada’s boreal zone absorbs and sequesters a lot of carbon – the “C” in CO2. Already, winters in the boreal zone are two weeks shorter than a century ago.
The predicted northward shift1 in both those two bioregions as the planet warms will necessarily affect us here in “the land between.”

Boreal zone

Farmers and city-dwelling gardeners, cottagers and vacationers know that the nature of our local geographic area is highly determined by its temperature range, soil type and the amount of light and water unique to it. These form the nourishing niches for the survival of specific and familiar plants and animals. This is our local biome.

But biomes are shifting with climate change.

One recent climate change scenario suggests that 52% of Earth’s land will have changed biomes by 2100. (“Projected future climatic forcing on the global distribution of vegetation types.”)

BIOME refers to the community of plants and animals that have a common adaptation to a particular environment specific to an area. Also known as a “major life zone”

The kinds of trees beloved of our southern Ontario urban yards and parks will be gradually replaced by other species. Manicured lawns may become a thing of the past. What will be suitable for our backyard vegetable gardens, our community gardens? Will the local water table and drinking water quality be affected? What will farmers be planting? What will we be teaching in our schools? How will we remain peaceful communities through this novel and prolonged period of profound upheaval?

Plant and animal species naturally migrate. Humans may have the choice to migrate or remain and adapt. The changes that either choice entails (and that are already beginning) will stretch into the coming generations of our descendants. What is familiar will gradually be replaced. We must begin to adapt now.

How are we preparing for these shifts?

Locally, municipal governments have climate change action plans. City of Kawartha Lakes Healthy Environment Plan aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as does the City of Peterborough’s Climate Change Action Plan 2.0. Haliburton County Council adopted a Community Climate Action Plan. Many organizations ranging from land trusts to “greener living” to community gardening are at work on adaptive and simpler living. Homeowners are installing heat pumps. Is this enough? No.

Degrowth is one path. It won’t be easy.

Degrowth aligns economic activities with Earth’s ecological boundaries and finite resources, not GDP to ensure the well-being of both present and future generations.

Resilience will be the mark of our success; that is, finding ways beyond piecemeal sustainability to build capacity for communities to absorb disturbance and reorganize through times of loss and change in fair, flexible, and peaceful ways.

The Greenzine will be using both degrowth and resilience as touchstones in understanding and responding to climate change. As Nature’s biomes – our local life support systems – evolve with and into their new conditions, so must we humans, individually and as communities.

Our children and grand- and great-grandchildren are in line for a very different world. Let’s be able to look them in the eye when they ask “what did your generation do?”

Within Our Children’s Lifetime © 2024 by the Editorial Collective at The Greenzine is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 

  1. Science Daily, Earth’s coldest forests are shifting northward with climate change. February 24, 2022 ↩︎

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