Growing up on a family farm does have it’s distinct advantages and disadvantages. On one side of the coin, on the farm through my dad I gained a real love and appreciation for nature. Which continues to this day. On the other side of the coin we never travelled, as we were always tied to the farm. Farming is a 7 day week, 365 day a year lifestyle. In 22 years of farming, my dad only got away overnight the year before he died of a heart attack at age 47.
We did get away for very short family excursions though. An afternoon here, an evening there. They would add up to maybe a dozen times a year. One of those outings was our church Sunday School picnic held at Oro Beach park on Lake Simcoe. About 10 miles from home, this was one of our longer “road trips”. The highlight for me was I got to go swimming (actually I waded out up to my waist) in the lake. This was my one exposure to being in a lake each year. Lake Simcoe is small, but big enough you couldn’t see the other side. I couldn’t fathom that much water. It always blew me away knowing this lake froze completely over in the winter.
I had the incredible experience of “swimming” in a lake. Wouldn’t it be amazing if I could walk on the lake when it is frozen? I asked my dad, but I knew what the answer would be even before I asked. Which was a no. If only there was a way. I attended a very small country public school called W.R. Best Memorial School. When I was 13 years old, while in Grade 8 there was a notice that the school was going to enter a broomball team in the Barrie Winter Carnival. The year was 1971. The tournament was going to be held right on the lake. I was buzzing. This could be my ticket to be able to walk on a frozen lake. Despite never having played broomball before or even knowing the rules, it wasn’t that hard making the team. Because none of my classmates knew the rules or played broomball before either. If you could hold a broom you made the team. It was that easy. With me being a hockey goalie, I was automatically chosen for the broomball team goalie.
Explaining to my dad that being the only one who knew how to play goalie, and that the team needed me, I was able to persuade my dad to drive myself and a couple of teammates to the tournament. I had already talked to another father who would bring us home at the end of the day. We played our hearts out, but got trounced in both our games by the bigger city schools who actually knew how to play broomball.
For the rest of the time we just hung out on the ice, taking the carnival in. There was so much going on. What blew me away was the ice was holding up all these people. Plus numerous vehicles. This ice had to be extremely thick to support it all. Those with well padded pockets were lining up for helicopter rides. The choppers landed and took off right on the ice. Right beside where our broomball games were being played there was a large ice track. This was where the motorcycle and snowmobile races were being held.
Large crowds of people had gathered to watch these races. But even as a 13 year old I found the high revving engines uncomfortably loud. Plus the air was thick with the nasty smell of unburnt hydrocarbons from those two stroke engines. It was not a very pleasant experience at all. I didn’t clue in at the time, but looking back I recalled that any event that drew any crowd at all at that winter carnival was centred around fossil fuel engines. They offered the speed, noise and smell which people craved. No one cared about cheering on a bumbling team of 13 year old, country hick, farm raised broom ball players, as they valiantly attempted to score one goal against the opposition in two games. But were unsuccessful. That was my one and only experience of attending Barrie Winter Carnival when it was held on the ice.
I find that the elderly are living history books. A year ago I conducted a funeral a 97 year old who was highly respected within the community. Because of COVID precautions, instead of a visit, I had a long phone chat with his wife of 75 years to gather information for my funeral message. She mentioned that as a young man, her husband Charlie used to work in an ice harvesting crew where the ice was shipped all over. This was in a time period before most people owned refrigerators. Ice harvesting continued up to as late as the 1950.s. I was extremely intrigued. This whetted my thirst to learn more.
In doing some research. I learned that the ice industry in Barrie was enormous. Lake Simcoe ice records have been kept all the way back to 1852. This is very unusual for most lakes. Which shows how far back the ice harvesting industry goes in Barrie. A July 9th, 2020 article by Ian McInroy in Barrie Today mentions, “The lake ice froze solid and it was an easy harvest. One thing that Lake Simcoe had going for it was its reputation as the purest ice that could be purchased. It was in demand all over Ontario and even into some American states.” There were several ice harvesting companies. The biggest ice-harvesting companies worked out of Belle Ewart in Innisfil, because there was a spur line for the train. Ice was packed in sawdust insulated train cars and shipped all the way to the United States.
Su Murdoch, a heritage consultant based in Barrie and co-author of the book “Beautiful Barrie” says “All around the bay there would be ice houses, some of them larger than others. Locally, people cut ice for the same reasons; they needed it for refrigeration. It was just one of those things you had to do. They’d be cutting with a big circular saw and the bigger companies had actual conveyor systems. You’d hook (the block of ice) and load it onto the conveyor and run it to the shoreline. A smaller production would probably be loading it onto a horse-drawn sled and bringing it to shore. The ice houses were obviously big. It’s better to store a lot of ice in one spot because it keeps itself cold.” Su Murdock adds, “It was delivered after being stored in the big warehouses insulated in sawdust. The ice would be stored all through the summer. It was well packed and kept until the next winter when you could get fresh ice.”
The cool thing about ice harvesting was that it was all natural and fully sustainable. The only energy used was human muscle power plus feeding a team of horses. Homes in Canada built before electricity or refrigeration usually had an unheated room at the back of the house of what was known as a “back kitchen”. This is where many homeowners would choose to put their ice box or cold cabinet. In that unheated back kitchen, the ice would last longer in the cooler months. These cabinets were simple, solid and other than doors had no moving parts. They were created as pieces of furniture, admired and handsome, and were built to last generations. History Is Now Magazine has an article titled “The Story of Ice Before Home Freezers.” It mentions that most cities and towns had a delivery man called “The Iceman.” He would drive in on a horse drawn ice wagon, and simply unload a nicely squared piece of ice with ice hooks, haul it into a person’s home and lift it into the ice box. In the cooler months in Canada, a block of ice would last a long time if the ice box was in the back kitchen. It would need to be replaced more frequently in the summer months. It was an easier way to keep meat and dairy products longer. And to have a nice refreshing summer drink. It sure beat the time it took to preserve with canning or salting. The ice boxes became so popular that everyone exempt the poorest of households owned one.
Once electricity and refrigeration became mainstream, perfectly good iceboxes were discarded by the millions. There are very few survivors. And the last remnants of ice harvesting are exhibits produced in museums. But I look back at that generation with respect. The concept of using cold temperatures for food preservation was the same as we have today. But much gentler on our planet. And without massive energy consumption.
Today the milkman and the iceman are redundant. Even as late as 1961 there were still 1710 locally owned dairies in Ontario alone. As of October 2020, there were 151 licensed dairy plants operating in Ontario. Most of these are now under the umbrella of major corporations. Long gone are the neighborhood icemen and milkmen. And the neighborhood General Store. We live in a corporate world. Everything revolves around shareholder wealth and it is almost impossible to get off that corporate hamster wheel. Stephen Bainbridge, a professor of law at U.C.L.A. School of Law starts off an article titled “A Duty to Shareholder Value” in New York Times with this, “There are many reasons why the law requires corporate directors and managers to pursue long-term, sustainable shareholder wealth maximization in preference to the interests of other stakeholders or society at large, but the most basic one is that managers who are responsible for everyone are responsible to no one.” This explains why corporations act socially and ethically irresponsibly in so may cases. And why our planet is being plundered before our eyes. Rob Harrison wrote an article in Ethical Consumer titled, “For Profit Corporations.” One paragraph reads as follows, “They may have been useful in the past, but many corporations – financial corporations particularly – have grown so big as to have slipped the shackles of meaningful regulation. It has long been apparent that, unregulated, they can be dangerous for workers, consumers and communities. It is now becoming clear that they also pose a danger to our democracies and to the biosphere of the planet itself.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) is the UN body for assessing the science related to climate change. In February 2022 they issued a press release on a report which can be downloaded here. Quoting Hoesung Lee, Chair of the IPCC, “This report is a dire warning about the consequences of inaction. It shows that climate change is a grave and mounting threat to our wellbeing and a healthy planet. Our actions today will shape how people adapt and nature responds to increasing climate risks.” In response to the latest IPCC report on the climate crisis, António Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations tweeted on April 5, 2022, “Climate activists are sometimes depicted as dangerous radicals. But the truly dangerous radicals are the countries that are increasing the production of fossil fuels. Investing in new fossil fuels infrastructure is moral and economic madness.”
Ironically, it was very shortly after the IPCC report that Canada approved a massive offshore oil drilling project called Bay du Nord. It is located 500 kilometers northeast of St. Johns, Newfoundland. Next year I’ll be turning 65 and so I’ll be drawing my Canada Pension after paying into it for the past 47 years. What really saddens me is that Canada Pension Plan fossil fuel investments across its entire portfolio have increased from $9.9 billion in 2016 to $11.6 billion in 2020. Plus a 2021 CBC article refers to a new report stating the federal government dropped close to $18 billion in subsidies and other forms of financial support on the fossil fuel industry in 2019. Despite the federal Liberals’ stated desire to move the country to a post-carbon economy. In other words both my taxes and soon to be government retirement pension are funding the climate crises.
I really do being enjoy being Canadian. I love the four distinct seasons. We have always been known for our harsh winters. We are a country so defined by snow and cold that our money features polar bears (the toonie), snowy owls (old $50 bills) icebreakers (new $50 bills) and ice skaters and hockey players (the old $5 bill), Of course outdoors on a frozen lake. There is the spring and fall ritual of spring and fall snow/summer tire changeover. And our maple syrup is world famous.
Cold and snow has always been our national Canadian identity. So much so, when I bike toured Molokai, Hawaii in 2004, a couple of locals thought we all lived in igloos and travelled by dogsled. Sadly our winters are becoming much milder due to climate change. Winter is melting away from Canada. And it’s threatening to take our national identity with it. After my broomball on the lake experience, the Barrie Winter Carnival continued on into the 1970’s on Kempenfelt Bay on Lake Simcoe. Then someone fell through the ice during the Barrie Winter Carnival. It was five years after my broomball tournament. Something which had never happened like that before in the middle of February. That was it. They never had a carnival on the ice since. Barrie now has a Winterfest, but not held on the lake.
Records show that since 1852, Kempenfelt Bay now has one less month of ice cover each winter. Brian Ginn, limnologist for the Lake Simcoe Region Conservation Authority, says ice thickness and quality has also been decreasing. From two to three feet in depth in years past, to eight inches to one foot in recent years. The way trends are headed, there are concerns Lake Simcoe and Kempenfelt Bay could be ice free in 20 years. Plus the Great Lakes, which create their own major weather systems.
A NASA website called Earth Observatory mentions since 1880 the average global temperature on Earth has increased by at least 1.10° Celsius (1.9° Fahrenheit). The majority of the warming has occurred since 1975, at a rate of roughly 0.15 to 0.20°C per decade. David Phillips, senior climatologist at Environment Canada says that here in Canada, we’ve experienced several times that global average increase. On average, by over 3° C higher. Ian Bruce, climate change specialist at the David Suzuki Foundation in Vancouver says, “As a northern country, we’ve historically been covered in snow and ice, which reflect solar rays. As temperatures get hotter because of greenhouse gas emissions, our ice and snow start to melt. That reveals either dark land or ocean, which absorbs more sunlight. That intensifies the warming even further.” These warming temperatures mean that pests aren’t killed off by the cold in the winter like they should. Which is why the mountain pine beetle is ravaging our western forests. And in my area of Canada, tick infestations like I have never seen before. As Earth’s climate warms, heat waves are becoming more frequent and severe worldwide. The health dangers of extreme heat have scientists and medical experts increasingly concerned. These trigger catastrophic climate events such as out of control forest fires, more potent hurricanes & cyclones and “floods of the century” which are now happening every four or five years.
At my crosswalk, or when I am walking or running through my village, the weather always seems to be the big topic. Especially on unseasonably warm winter days I’ll hear people say, “Boy it could stay like this all winter.” I’ll just smile and say, “I’m glad you’re happy.” But inwardly, I’m cringing. For me, on those kind of days I am experiencing full blown climate anxiety. Peter Kalmus is a NASA Climate Scientist I have followed on Twitter (@ClimateHuman) for several years. Back in February when we were in a bit of a warm spell he shared this tweet, “It kills me when people and the media are like “Isn’t this great, it’s summertime in winter” No it’s NOT great, it’s horrifying. It’s like the death rattle of the livable Earth.” #EndFossilFuels
Our climate scientists have been issuing warnings for decades. Sadly, only to be ignored. Wildlife biologist Alan Chornack quotes as saying, “We have tried being unbiased. We have tried being silent. We have tried the policy game. We have tried celebrities. We have tried everything.” The world continues on with business as usual. On April 6, 2022, Peter Kalmus and over 1,000 other climate scientists in 26 countries risked arrest to warn the world. They have become that desperate. Peter was at the Los Angeles JP Morgan Chase Bank, which he quotes, “Which of all the banks of the world is the one that has done the most to fund fossil fuel projects. This latest IPCC Report made it very clear that current and planned fossil fuel infrastructure will take us significantly beyond, two times beyond of the best estimate of what we can still emit and have a coin toss chance of staying under 1.5 degrees of Global Heating.” Peter and three colleagues were arrested by over 100 Los Angeles riot police. This article titled, “Climate Scientists are Desperate, We’re Crying, Begging and Getting Arrested” is about Peter Kalmus and all the other climate scientists pleas of desperation.
On April 22 is Earth Day. The theme for 2022 is “Invest in Our Planet.” Particularly this past 100 years, our First World society have invested in practices that have raped and plundered our planet. We are leaving nothing for future generations. It is time to turn the page and start over and invest in our planet. Quoting off the Earth Day website, ” The Earth Day 2022 theme is focused on engaging the more than 1 billion people, governments, institutions, and businesses who participate in Earth Day to recognize our collective responsibility and to help accelerate the transition to an equitable, prosperous green economy for all. The goal of Earth Day’s campaign is to push aside the barriers erected by the ancient, dirty fossil fuel economy and their co-conspirators. Old technologies of centuries past and redirect attention to creating a 21st century economy that brings back the health of our planet, protects our species, and provides opportunities for all.”
We are losing our true Canadian identity and we are losing it fast. We are losing our winters. But it is more than that. We are losing our planet. Will I have to say to my grandkids, “I remember when that lake actually froze in the winter. Sorry for my selfishness. I wish you could have gotten to experience it.” In response to the latest IPCC report, the World Economic Forum commented “That any further delay will mean missing a brief and rapidly closing window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future for all.” In other words, if we don’t act now we are screwed. We need to immediately invest in our planet.
For myself, I have personally reduced my driving in my 2008 Toyota Prius hybrid to under 2,000 kilometers a year. As an ultrarunner I used to run 4 ultras a year. Now that I am limiting how far I will drive to run an ultrarace to 60 kilometers, I am limited to the two closest. Which I have both registered for. Sadly everything associated with ultrarunning is car dependent in Canada. Other counties are far advanced. My Swiss ultrarunning friend Catrina Denker doesn’t own a car. Yet she takes the train to all these exciting ultraraces and road races. The race starts and ends right at the train station. Or a very short walk from the train station. And the train ticket is included right in the registration itself.
As a planet that is in a Climate Emergency and a Biodiversity Crises we possess the knowledge to redefine our relationship with the planet. The far biggest issues are human entitlement, greed, our runaway production, consumption and wasteful habits. This fuels the mindset of profit at all costs for those gigantic corporations, even if it means our planet is destroyed in the process. There is also often the lack of any moral or ethical compass from our world leaders. We cannot solve a crises until we treat it like a crises.
Climate scientists have been pleading for decades to stop our dependency on fossil fuels. Electric vehicles have arrived. But they are here to save the auto industry. Not to save the planet. EVs are not entirely non-polluting as you might think. From the website Legal Reader, it says “About 80% of electric cars that run on the roads use permanent magnet electric motors and the magnets used in these motors are generally made with rare-Earth metals like Neodymium, Terbium, and Dysprosium. These rare-Earth metals need extensive mining.” Mining as you might know is not the most environmentally friendly process. Plus the Legal Reader article mentions that “70% of the reserves of these rare earth metals are found in China”
Personally, I know I should be doing more. I would give up my hybrid car in a heartbeat if there was regular public transportation and a safe active transportation infrastructure in my area. This is much lower hanging fruit than to try and install the needed millions of charging stations required if all 18 million fossil fuel powered passenger cars and pickups plus the hundreds of thousands of commercial vehicles in Canada were to become electrified. Not to mention if we use fossil fuels to power new electricity generating stations to meet increased demand, are we really any further ahead? Simcoe County does run a regular bus service called Linx Transit. The service covers communities to the north, to the south, to the east and to the west. Not me in the middle. But for whatever reason, my village of Hillsdale is completely bypassed. And to bike along Ontario Provincial Highway 93 is a death trap. I have bikes, but never ride them. With the number of distracted and speeding drivers and massive tractor trailers I see everyday at my crosswalk on Highway 93, I know I take my life in my hands if I were ever to go out.
I don’t know what the solution is. But the “business as usual” system is just not working. We desperately need more climate activists who are willing to speak up. Our climate scientists can’t do it alone. There is power in numbers. And with enough people letting their voices be heard, hopefully finally the governments will finally see the need to “Invest in Our Planet”. Happy Earth Day.🌎
To learn more about climate change from the climate scientists themselves, NASA has an extremely eye opening website. The link is https://climate.nasa.gov/
Some countries governments are doing far more than others in the fight against Climate Change. How good a job do you find your government? What improvements do you feel your governments need to take?
Are there any changes you have made personally in the fight against Climate Change?
Climate Scientists are desperate and pleading. Do you think the future of our planet is as serious as what the climate scientists are saying?