Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Category: Climate change Page 2 of 6

Are We Grateful Enough For What We Have?

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on January 1, 2018.

As I am writing this, approximately 8,000 homes in the Fraser Valley, possibly more, are still without power due to extreme winter weather. Kamloops is under a thick blanket of snow too, and it’s not over yet. It’s started snowing again this morning.

No complaints from where I am standing. I love winter and its beauty renewed by a fresh layer of snow every couple of days. I am also aware that if you have power and a decent amount of food in the house, it’s but too easy to call it charming and snuggle with a book and a cup of tea until you feel like poking your nose out. Which you might soon enough because shoveling notwithstanding, the white fresh powder is fascinating and there’s nothing like a walk in the deep snow with red cheeks and eyes swimming in the surrounding white wonderland.

Again, if you have all you need. We do, and that is to be grateful for. But what if power goes out, or you’re stuck on the road somewhere? Not fun. If there’s one thing that became more evident than ever in the year that we leave behind is how comfortable we have become with having our necessities taken care of. Clean (enough) air, running water, hot or cold, power, food available in stores. Shortages due mostly to extreme weather conditions bring out the question though: what if we did not have this, even for a short while?

In one of his essays, George Monbiot, a British writer, and political and environmental activist, mentions a sobering quote he heard during a talk: ‘Every society is four meals away from anarchy’. Food for thought indeed, no pun intended. It goes for more than just food I’d say, and the concept is surely worth a closer look by all of us.

What better time than now?

At the end of the year it’s good to pause and consider whether our levels of gratefulness match the life we live, more so when the daily news provides an insight into the realities of life without the comforts we’re often taking for granted. All of us who are not struggling with poverty, or other harsh realities that hack at one’s peace of mind and overall well-being, are we truly thankful for what we have?

Imagine, for example, if there would be no running water and we had to go back to melting ice or snow, so we can have drinking and cooking water. Forget laundry machines, dishwashers, daily showers or baths, or hot tubs. It sounds preposterous and yet…

Much like the Fraser Valley residents have experienced and some still do, imagine having no electricity in your home at all, even for a couple of days. Is that enough to bring up our gratefulness to the point where we ponder carefully over how we use resources to prevent waste in the year to come?

Same goes for food. We had plenty of headlines and investigative pieces on food waste in Canada and we have had the report on poverty come out with dire numbers. Can we learn from the two and bring the numbers to zero in both cases? It can be done, it should be done.

Looking back at what 2017 brought, there is much to consider in terms of blessings. From the easily forgotten blessings of everyday life, to the dramatically increased needs in situations of crisis (floods, wildfires, power outages), we have it good. Not perfect, as many can attest after dealing with extreme situations, but good.

We have heartful people around us, willing to open their homes, wallets, and arms to embrace those in need, we have creative minds that can help a community evolve, and we have, above anything else, freedom to express our opinions. We have a health system that allows for people to be given care without having to sell their homes to pay their medical bills, and we have access to information and knowledge, as well as services of various kinds. Room to improve on all of these you say? For sure, and just as well we have the choice to help influence some of those changes by choosing to change the world around us for the better, from our immediate one (yourself) to your immediate community and the community at large.

The list of blessings is a long one, and our gratefulness should match it. We are better for it when we are thankful. To recognize that is to be humbled, and in doing so, is to be lifted above simply taking everything for granted, and instead responding to the obligation to give back in any way we can. Even by being kinder towards those around us, family, friends, or strangers, and by creating a positive ripple with each of our actions.

Happy New Year to all!

The Simplicity Files: Christmas Is Better With Books

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, December 18, 2017.

Following a friend’s recommendation and because Thursday evening was a commitment-free day for the entire family, we went to see one of the movies at the Paramount theatre, ‘The man who invented Christmas.’ I did not know exactly what to expect, but because my friend warmly encouraged me to see it, I trusted that it will not contain much of the usual syrupy type of seasonal fare, as I do not care much for that.

The theatre hall was almost empty, but it made no difference. There was much to be charmed about in the visual story unfolding on the screen: the mystery and cruel roughness of times past, friendship and family values, justice, and not in the least, the struggle and beauty of creating a book. In this case, A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens.

The book was to be not sappy, but uplifting and humbling at once. It was supposed to give you reason to see beyond the ordinary. Well, it does, and the movie did too. When the movie ended, we lingered in our seats a while longer. Our little guy had a sweet mysterious smile plastered to his face; his brother’s eyes were smiling too. The movie had none of the present-day fare; no speedy cars jumping over bridges, no product placement and no consumerism overload. It had so much more.

It was a declaration of love for books. How ironic, the cynics among us will say given that it was still a movie. Yes, but its substance thick and meaningful rather than gossamer-like and unable to hold past the doors of the theatre, which is the case with many of the fluffy productions nowadays.

We need to be reminded of books and their ability to have us spellbound. We need everyone to wish for a book come Christmas time, no matter the age. We are told that good parenting comes with lots of reading. If we are to instill a love for books in our little ones, we ought to read to them. I’d say this is but a paragraph of a larger thesis: If we are to build a good life, we must put books in it, and reading. Lots of it.

One can argue that like much else, there is an abundance of books already. True. Walk into a bookstore and you’ll be overwhelmed. Some are better than others, and it is true that some subjects are strange rabbit holes indeed. Then again, taste is a finicky beast. What a luxury though, to be able to read… What a privilege that reveals itself through reading and has the capacity to reveal so much more and thus take us to where we can see far enough to make our collective life better.

Such is the magic that books bring about. The kind of world they build inside our minds and the kind of impression they leave upon our hearts cannot be matched by anything else. They provide a place where you find your deepest sorrows resonating with others’; and you find yourself connected and you find inspiration. The same books speak differently to different people and words burrow differently into our thoughts, but they are ultimately reminders of the most basic and pure humane features we all carry around.

I know stores abound with things to buy, and the Christmas music make us move slower through the aisles and pick up one more item that seems to be the perfect match for that person in our life… Loud and colorful advertising transforms our desire to save some of our hard-earned money into pure mush. It is but once a year, we say. But is it? One after another, they lead to the sad remark the cashier at London Drugs made a couple of days ago as she was ringing the many garlands for the lady in front of me. ‘These are so nice, but I don’t like Christmas anymore. When all is done, I’ll be broke again for the next three months…’

Truly a place that was never intended for any of us to be in. Buying beyond our power, even when the gifts are intended for our loved ones. Fewer things and more presence, wouldn’t that be a better way to celebrate for all? The fewer things can maybe contain a book or two. They do not even have to be new. A book never loses its lustre even when its pages get old.

There are still a few used bookstores around in Kamloops that have mountains of books of all kinds. Tomes of magic that never deliver less than expected. Magic like the kind found in books you will snuggle to read on a snowy day (yes, we’re all hoping for a white Christmas,) magic that lights up your children’s eyes as you turn the page following yet another adventure in a read-aloud-together kind of book.

We can run towards books when in search of joy, or quiet, or solace from life unfolding too fast or too cruel at times. The stories they hold within give us hope, make us search for better ways in life, or inspire us to think and see beyond limitations. They challenge us, and they give us freedom. They deliver us from the daily grind, and give us permission to reinvent the way we experience and give joy.

Here’s to hoping you’ll make them part of your holidays.

Merry Christmas!

Why A Different Approach Is Needed This Holiday Season And Beyond

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, December 11, 2017. 

Last week, the conservation group Sea Legacy (co-founded by Canadian-born photographer and marine biologist Paul Nicklen and his partner Cristina Mittermeier, also a conservationist, photographer, and writer,) released a video of a starving polar bear, aiming to draw attention to an issue that is not new but is getting increasingly worrisome: the impact of climate change on wildlife and the environment, human life included, since we are, truly, but a piece of the big puzzle we call life.

The video was shared on social media, and the heartbreaking reality the Sea Legacy team was confronted with was discussed in the news. In a nutshell, shorter winters and the melting of the sea ice causes more polar bears to go hungry, as they are forced to spend more time on land instead of replenishing their reserves by going after seals, an activity for which they need sea ice.

Other scientists concur. Nick Lunn, a researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada, recently warned that climate change may be wiping out the subpopulation of polar bears near Churchill, Manitoba, in 20 to 40 years. Occurrences such as a bear swimming underwater for more than three minutes (almost three times longer than normal) while stalking his prey, only points to the same issue: increased starvation, which also causes many hungry bears to walk into cities in search of food. Aside from climate change, polar bears and other Arctic creatures are affected by persistent pollutants which affect their nervous, digestive, and reproductive systems.

The reactions to the photos and video of the severely emaciated bear were diverse, and some, to be honest, rather shocking. Some called it tragic, and vowed to change their ways to reduce their carbon footprint, others said these conservationists are opportunists trying to push their own agenda (I have a hard time with the ridiculousness of such statements) spreading fake news about the climate, while this is a perfectly normal reality, i.e. wild animals starving to death or being diseased. Yes, you can shake your head.

The bleeding hearts accused the team of being cruel and filming the bear instead of feeding it (as if that would save it, or the rest of the bears threatened by the same fate.) Others went as far as to say that this kind of news ruins their weekend.

The reason I picked this topic to write about is because of the incoming reports on wildlife disappearing at a rate we are not prepared to accept. According to the WWF conservation group, we have lost approximately 60 percent of wildlife since 1970 (which is not that long ago) and by 2020 (which is too darn close) we will see two thirds of them gone. Due mostly to human activity, the WWF report said. Alarmists, some may conclude, yet other studies and direct evidence brought by scientists and conservation photographers point to the same.

Recent reports by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) draws attention to a few species that are either endangered or threatened due to human activity interfering with their natural cycles, or altering their habitat, which drastically decreases their numbers and in some cases, such as the great northern Caribou herds, pushes them closer to the tipping point (a nice way to say extinction.) Add some species of salmon to the list too, some of trout, migratory birds, and Monarch butterflies. The list is long and getting longer, and the main culprits are interrelated: climate change and human activity.

While I wholeheartedly agree that this cavalcade of troubling environmental news is upsetting (including the ever-increasing plastic and garbage issue,) more so as we approach Christmas, it is important that we not only talk about it all, but that we keep talking about it once the new news is old news.

In many retail stores the lineups are a sight to behold already and seasonal merchandise is choking the shelves. Some of it, mostly plastic, will add to the landfills, soon after the season’s over. We can hope (and help as much as we can) that those who truly are in need, such as the 18.3 percent of children who find themselves below the poverty level in British Columbia (17 percent Canada-wide), will have their needs taken care of. Past the Christmas season too, until no child is found to live in poverty – now that’s a good wish to wish and help come true.

Aside from that, if we can take the stories of our ailing world to heart and give the gifts that matter the most to our loved ones, which are time and presence, while reducing our consumption and material gift footprint to a minimum necessary (donating instead to those in need for example,) I can see that as enabling a much-needed Christmas-and-beyond miracle: our own survival in a world that needs us to pay attention to more than immediate comfort and the next thing to buy.

We can shrug or ignore reports of wildlife suffering or disappearing because of human activity and climate change, or we can start a long-awaited conversation that may see the tide turning in favour of life. Choosing the latter has no dire consequences; on the contrary. It means choosing a better future. Choosing to continue to ignore the signs we see everywhere – animals disappearing, extreme weather phenomena, severe wildfires, that is akin to playing Russian roulette at a time when playing games is not something we can afford.

We Are All Guardians Of Our Breathing Space

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on November 13, 2017. 

If you hike to the top of Peterson Creek Park on any given day, more so on a cold one, you’ll see a blanket of yellowish, dirty air draped over the valley.

This is not new or unexpected. The surface inversion well-known to these parts increases the effects of air pollution. Whatever is released into that cold air trapped close to the surface, be it vehicle exhaust, mill emissions, or wood smoke, it all stagnates and makes our breathing air a lot worse than it should be.

There is no clear answer as to what is in the yellow plume. Winter smog is a terrible beast made worse by inversion phenomena, but knowing what we breathe in would be good. You can’t fix something if you don’t know where to start or how complex the issue.

It would be nice to know how much each polluting source adds to that yellowish layer. There is no heads-up information about mill emissions or slash pile burning. That affects some people more than others. It is unsettling to be exposed to air pollution by various industries in or around town, and not know when that will happen. Of course, when it does, people notice, but there is something to be said about habituation. Except that in case of our breathing air, it is not in our benefit at all to accept it as is.

On top of notifications about mill emissions and slash burning, there should be information sessions on how air quality is made worse by the inversion and a low venting index. If psychologically it is easy to shrug off the memory of many socked-in days when a better day comes along, and the valley air looks clean, our bodies react differently, as the perilous effects on health are compounded.

Air pollution is a real enemy to human health, and an increasing body of scientific evidence points to it. Short- and long-term effects of air pollution are real and, for the latter, deadly in many cases. The reluctance to recognize them as such have to do, I am willing to say, with the invisible nature of this threat. Should dirty water pour out of out taps, few if any would want to drink it. The air we breathe should be no different. It is true that industrial pollution accounts for much of the bad air in town. But some of the dirty yellow plume is caused by residential activity, be it driving or wood burning.

City traffic has been increasing over the years and that means an increased volume of exhaust gases. Adding to that is the unnecessary idling. There is no need to idle cars for more than 30 seconds on a cold day. Nor is idling while stopping to chat, or while running into a store for some quick shopping, or to keep warm while waiting. Just more toxic gases.

As for wood smoke, whether from residential use or slash pile burning (an environmentally unsound and health-costly solution for all the logging leftovers,) it tends to linger for a long time, which is exactly why in areas where inversion is present wood burning should be reconsidered. A recent study by a team at McGill University concluded that wood smoke increases the risk of heart attack in people over 65 by 19 percent. Residential wood heat accounts for 15 percent of PM2.5 in British Columbia, likely higher in areas like Kamloops where inversion is present.

Wood smoke is a mix of approximately 200 compounds, including particulate matter of various sizes, powerful cancer-causing and mutagenic agents. When it comes to particulate matter, the smaller it is, the deeper in the cells of respiratory tract they get. Not exactly what we want to have in our immediate environment for months at a time. As always, children and unborn babies are at highest risk due to their developing bodies. As for the elderly and those who with chronic respiratory diseases, life becomes a few times more dangerous just by breathing, and the constant irritation of the respiratory tract makes them prone to longer and more debilitating seasonal infections.

Interior Health recommends that wood burning should be done on those days when the venting index is good, which is close to 100. On a regular ‘socked-in’ day, the said index is a mere 10, which is classified as poor. Venting indexes can be found at http://www.env.gov.bc.ca/epd/epdpa/venting/venting.html. It’s an eye-opener for sure, along with air monitors present around town (www.purpleair.com.) Tomorrow is forecasted to have a good venting index, by the way.

I know I am not the only one wondering about this. And I know that when there’s a will, a solution, or many, are found. We ought to find the will to reconsider the way we think about our air, and we ought to change our habits to help keep our air clean. At the same time, we ought to be able to get the industrial polluters to realize that pushing potentially harmful gases and particulate matter into our breathing space is no longer an option. Accountability is not a volatile concept.

Summers will be smokier, we are told. If some of that will be unavoidable, long-term exposure during other seasons can and should be avoided for all the right reasons. The most important one being that nothing matters if breathing is impacted.

Why We Ought To Take Another Look At Our Water Consumption Habits

Originally published as a column on September 3, 2017 on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News. 

If your summer fun includes going to the beach, on the shores of either the South or North Thompson Rivers, you likely noticed the receding water line over the last few weeks, more so on the first. From one day to the next, the river grows thinner and shallower.

There is enough river still for people to swim in and paddle, enough for dogs to play fetch, and even for motorized water vehicles, if that’s your flavour, but that is not good enough. The summer has been hot and dry, which means that those of us who wanted their lawns green and lively had to increase the water usage to keep the green going. How much more could that account for, you may wonder? According to the city’s records, Kamloops residents used one billion litres of water more this year than in 2016 (‘Water usage up in Kamloops, not nearing drought levels,’ August 24, 2017 on CFJC Kamloops News.)

Numbers like that make me dizzy. Divide that by the number of people living here and you get even dizzier. Yes, that comes to 10,000 litres per person! Unless that is a mistake. I hope the billion was in fact a million, which is not good either, but better than the many scary zeros a billion comes with. Say what you want, in a world where many do not have access to clean water (or water altogether!) such numbers are beyond indecent. They are downright shameful.

The conclusion of the article was that though the province is experiencing severe drought conditions in some areas, here in Kamloops we are doing fine provided the next month will not be a dry one. Right. Psychic powers notwithstanding, no one knows what the future brings; ultimately, it is not just about the water plant having enough to fill the pipes. It’s about the big picture, which yes, it does include us, but it includes so much more life, which if threatened, will end up affecting ours.

It’s about the watershed that should hold enough water for returning salmon for example. Salmon River, Nicola, Coldwater River, and the Similkameen watersheds are currently under level four drought conditions. We are one level up, under very dry conditions, when ‘Potentially serious ecosystem or socio-economic impacts are possible or imminent and impacts may already be occurring.’ Increased water consumption compared to last year’s does bid well, nor does the description of the next level down. (The South Thompson was at a level four just two years ago.)

Level four drought conditions are defined as ‘extremely dry conditions’ with water supply ‘insufficient to meet socio-economic and ecosystem needs.’ And it is the last step before ‘loss of supply’, and if that is not enough to make us mindful, I don’t know what will.

Where to from here? Voluntary water reduction is what we’re being asked for. Some of the things I see on late night walks with the dog point to the very opposite.

School fields are being drenched every night, and so are the areas outside the surrounding fences. That our children deserve the best regarding outdoor activities on school grounds is true, but reducing daily irrigation when the water levels are dropping dangerously may serve a better, more meaningful purpose: learning about the world they are inheriting, its many problems and that the solutions are within reach. Most of the time, the solution revolves around reducing consumption; in this case, water. Dry grass may not be pretty, but we need to steer away from looks after all, and speak openly about how to make our lives more sustainable.

The same goes for any kind of lawn in Kamloops. Keeping them ‘dormant’ may just be what we need to do so that the watershed is not depleted to the point of irreversible damage on the ecosystem. In the end, it is not about paying less, which is often how municipalities make water conservation through meter installation appealing to residents. It’s about understanding the deep impact our water consumption habits have on our immediate environment and on our not so distant future.

It’s about water we depend on. Living on the edge may sound attractive in many contexts, but not when it’s about water. We have to be mindful of our blue gold way before it gets ugly (hopefully it never will.) With a city and its surroundings dry as tinder, making sure we have enough water for what residents need, for what wildlife needs and for potential firefighting if need be, that seems both sensible and necessary at once.

If this was money in our savings account, we’d make sure we have more than ‘good enough’. Water conservation may just be more important than saving money; for obvious reasons. Please do your part and urge others to do the same.

 

Why We Need To talk About Salmon, And Soon

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, August 28, 2017. 

It happened during the eclipse that more than 300,000 Atlantic salmon escaped from a U.S. fish farm in the San Juan Islands. They are now found in the coastal waters of southern British Columbia, and no, they are not just another fish happily swimming alongside native species.

Fish farming is a sore topic in our province, especially on the coast; it has been for a long time. As with most controversial topics, opinions vary, and though science is available to back up findings, it is often pushed out of sight because of conflicting interests.

A recent study published in the Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatics revealed something that should have us all worried. Fisheries and Oceans Canada cannot verify the status, whether healthy or threatened, of more than half of the province’s wild salmon populations.

This is worrying because it comes at a time when the wild salmon are facing serious threats: warm waters due to climate change, which allows for different predators and a shifting in the type of zooplankton they feed on, two types of deadly viruses that are found in farmed Atlantic salmon along the coast, as well as lots of sea lice. That’s on top of a whole lot of waste and antibiotic residue, which trickle into the coastal waters on a regular basis. In the interior, they are facing warm rivers and depleted watersheds. That ought to affect the native salmon. It does.

Alexandra Morton is a biologist and tireless activist who has been fighting hard for the last 40 years to document the state of fish farms along the BC coast, and relate to the public and press the effects these farms had on the wild salmon populations. These effects are many, and they are affecting more than just wild salmon, due to their interconnectedness to other marine and coastal wildlife, and the local Indigenous populations whose lives have been deeply intertwined with the iconic fish for thousands of years.

Before the loosened nets let out the hundreds of thousands of U.S.-farmed Atlantic salmon, Ms. Morton was already making public shocking footage of salmon farmed off the northern coast of BC, near Broughton Island. If you close your eyes for a second and picture the image of healthy salmon, what the video revealed was the farthest from that. The salmon were emaciated, many swimming around with hideous deformities, including tumours, open sores; they were covered in sea lice, all submersed not in beautiful pristine ocean waters, but murky and feces-laden, all resembling a swamp. Which not all could see, as some were blind.

That is food. Let that sink in for a few moments (no pun intended.) That is what grocery stores offer in their seafood department, and what people buy to cook for their families. Because eating fish is a better alternative to other types of meat, right?

Escapee farmed fish were found to spawn in the waters of BC rivers even back in 2000 (they have yet to label as ‘invasive’.) That’s one type of threat. As of recently, the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Captain Paul Watson have joined Ms. Morton and the First Nations in the area, to help in their fight against the big aquaculture corporations, expose the truth and call for better governmental standards that will better protect the wild salmon and the unique ecosystem along the beautiful BC coast.

Not long ago, another insult became evident: some of the empty nets (or so deemed by the farm employees) held captive wild fish, such as wild salmon and herring. Lured inside the nets by the presence of organic matter, they stay trapped there until the nets are cleaned. Past that point, they are either dumped as useless catch or used as food for farmed salmon. Neither of these is good.

There are many wrong things about the way these farms operate. Yes, they offer employment to people in the coastal communities, and yes, they bring fish to the market, but the price is too high for what the fish is worth. Like in many other situations where natural resources are poorly managed, there is nothing but destruction in the future that these communities will face, once the respective corporations leave the area, but even now, while they are still there doing business.

The way I see it, if one is to profit from the resources that exist in a community, a corporation is morally (if not legally) obligated to do it in a way that proves respectful to people and the environment.

When it comes to wild salmon, we are walking on very thin ice at the moment. Many of the wild fisheries along the coast are once again at their lowest and have been closed for the second year in a row. Climate change is an ongoing threat and if the farms are allowed to operate the same way they have so far, it will not be long until we will see wild salmon on the endangered species list.

Again, some of it (a lot, to be honest) lies with the consumer. That’s us. We make choices with what we buy, and what we buy further shapes the offer. With no human interference, wild salmon would thrive to reach numbers that would ensure there is enough food for all that exist in the circle of life, long sustained by the humble yet powerful fish.

What can we do? For starters, boycott products that impact precious natural resources and the environment, and support those who are willing to go and fight for saving the wild salmon so much depends on. And speak up about it, whenever you can, all the way to when casting a vote for the next set of leaders.

Magic Is Better Under Clear Skies And In Clean Air

Originally published as a column in CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on July 14, 2017. 

It happened that we could not easily evade on my husband’s three days off work as most of the clean air destinations were booked. Plus the sky around here got clear on Friday, so we decided to stay and hope for the best.

On Friday night we drove to Greenstone Mountain, away from the still smoky city. We had dreams of sleeping under the sky where our little guy could breathe freely. It turned clearer the higher we got, but the wind picked up as well, blowing grass pollen, dust and everything else in swirls that were not kind to my youngest’s immune system. He braved it for a couple of hours though, during which we ate watermelon, listened to harmonica tunes, chatted, and laughed. The air was windy-dusty but there was no smoke.

It got dark and stars glittered high and jolly. Then the moon rose, a gigantic bright orange slice we could spot through tall pines swaying in the wind. We lay in the grass on our sleeping bags and watched the stars. There were shooting stars, many of them, some so bright they left long-lasting streaks on the dark sky.

We made wishes, we told stories and we snuggled close: us four, the dog, a whole lotta starry sky and the magic that swallowed us all. Beauty that humbles and an unmatched depth of gratefulness: for seeing the stars that we missed so much on so many smoky nights, and for strands of time we managed to separate from the everyday rush and braid with all those stories and harmonica tunes. The stuff that will hang around our hearts forever.

There is so much to see and do here. From wherever you are in Kamloops, you’re but minutes away from a place where magic grows in thick bunches or hangs from a sky seeded with countless stars on a clear night. There is but one caveat: you have to be able to see it all. And you have to be able to be out there without the risk of suffocating like my little guy does on smoky days.

I have no respiratory issues. On a bad smoky day, I stay mostly inside. If I venture outside for a bit, I get the odd shortness of breath which is unsettling. My youngest on the other hand, and many other people with respiratory issues, feels that heaviness all the time, less so when he is in the controlled environment of his room with the air purifier running constantly, but that’s no life.

Truth is, whether you have respiratory issues or not, clean air is a must. It helps us live longer and it keeps us outside, where we feel better, we are less stressed, and healthier. It’s something we’ve been taking for granted or not thought about much, until we have been confronted with the harsh reality of dense air pollution.

Which brings me straight to the latest on the issue of the Ajax mine. For the most part, summer has become an illusion in our beautiful city due to the wildfires. Adding a heap of exhaust and dust to the mix will only worsen the air quality. Many of you reading this would ask, and rightfully so, if ‘worsen’ is the right word. After all, at its worst so far, the readings were at a mind numbing 49 (on a 1 to 10 scale.) Could it get any worse? I don’t want to know the answer; not if we can have a say in it.

Upon reading the conclusions of the BC Environmental Assessment Office and the Canadian Environmental Assessment Agency regarding the Ajax mine, I shook my head and wondered how anyone could write those things with a straight face. No environmental agency, office, or employee can possibly say that Kamloops will not be affected by the mine.

We can discuss the degree of harm, as we have for years now, we can debate on percentages of mitigation of the ill effects, but we cannot go back to the ‘no significant environmental impact’.

We cannot live in a polluted world. The immediate and long-term effects of pollution are not to be taken lightly. A threat that is not visible is misleading, but its consequences are real, and often deadly.

That everything is a compromise in life is true. But no one should barter with people’s health. As for the assessors, I am ready to say that perhaps spending the last month in Kamloops while writing the conclusions of their study would have given them an accurate picture of what the place is like on a bad summer day without a mine in place yet.

A mine that will affect an entire community for a long time cannot be. We will be left staring at a handful of money wondering what happened to the life we were supposed to buy with it. Let’s not find ourselves there. There is no way back to where we can see a better future for our generation and the ones coming after once we get past the signing of approval papers. The mine shareholders and CEOs that will profit from the mine revenues (not high enough) will not be living here anyway. Disconnection from the consequences of one’s actions is one way of going through life, but a dishonourable one if I may say so.

There should be no ‘us vs. them’ either. A joined effort to find solutions for jobs needed in the community while aiming for a high standard of living, might just get us out of this years-long debate.

I am biased of course, but I simply cannot forgo the look in my son’s eyes as he is struggling for his next breath. That’s where argumentation stops and you start reconsidering the way you look at life and all its wondrous offerings. Nothing matters if you cannot breathe, not even magic.

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