Whatever happens we have to endure it

By Ivan Morgan

Eighteen hundred and froze to death.
That’s what the summer of 1816 was called here in Newfoundland. It was also called the year of no summer. Lakes remained frozen through the spring. Snow stayed on the ground all summer. There were blizzards and deep snow drifts in July. Crops failed and people froze and starved. Panic and suffering gripped the populous. No one knew what was happening.
But, of course, society’s leaders did know. Religious leaders told their flocks it was God’s judgement on wicked sinners and if folks mended their ways God would stop punishing them.
Heaven help the fool who stood up and questioned the church leader’s teachings.
It’s 208 years later and we have another climate issue, and scientists tell us the planet is in trouble. Heaven help the fool who stands up and questions the scientists.
Now before you start writing letters, I am not denying the facts of global warming and climate change. That’s because it is a fact. Like the fact that a volcano in the South Pacific blew up in 1815, tossing 100 cubic kilometers of rock into the atmosphere (!) causing sunlight to be blocked out by ash that cooled the planet, and caused great suffering in North America and Europe in 1816. We know that now. They didn’t know that then. Turns out it wasn’t demon rum and loose morals.
Global warming is a fact. But is what we are doing about climate change factual, or just politics?
I hate orthodoxy – I can’t stand any idea that people believe cannot be challenged. It’s in my nature to question anything people tell me is beyond debate.
To many, climate change is an orthodoxy, and we see headlines every day warning us of dire consequences if we don’t change our ways (like religious folks did 200 years ago.) Are the solutions being offered the best? Can these solutions be challenged?
Today’s climate orthodoxy has led the current federal government to introduce a carbon tax that will force us off fossil fuels and onto “cleaner” energy, thus “helping” to save the planet.
In 1816 folks sang a few hymns, said a few prayers, and went home righteous in the knowledge that they weren’t responsible for Quidi Vidi Lake being frozen in August. Is that what the carbon tax is for? “Don’t blame me for global warming. I’m doing my bit to save the planet.”
Politicians need to be seen as doing something to help. Levying a carbon tax on the populace seems to fit that bill. So does bribing folks with their own money in the form of a “carbon rebate.” Whether it actually helps or is just political window dressing to make people feel like they are helping, remains to be seen.
I read a mainstream media story which explained people who don’t understand the carbon tax are stupid. Well then, there you have it.
Global warming is the next generation’s challenge, I won’t be around. Years ago, I attended a climate march on Confederation Hill where crowds of young people showed up. I sat and spoke to lots of them. Yes, they were young. Yes, it was a Friday morning, and this was better than class. But so many had apocalyptic visions of what my generation has “sentenced” them to. Many had dire views of the future. One distraught young woman told me she was facing a catastrophe unlike any other in history (I wonder if they are taught about World War Two in school any more). Is it fair for media outlets and political leaders to frighten young people with dire warnings about what is going to happen? The fact is they don’t know. None of us do.
Like the religious leaders two hundred years ago today’s experts sound confident and use their best knowledge. That doesn’t mean they are right. The religious explanations of what happened in 1816 sound quaint to us. Are we sure our concerns won’t seem quaint 100 years from now?
Cilmate changes. If you want proof, know that if you are reading this on the Northeast Avalon, 14,000 years ago the spot where you are sitting was under a kilometre of ice.
Twenty years ago, I interviewed a well-respected scientist at MUN for a piece I did on climate change. How much is natural and how much is caused by humans, I asked.
I will always remember his wise response, which we should all – young and old – understand. I suspect this is closer to the truth.
“If we are living on the ground it doesn’t matter as much, because we still have to endure it.”
And we will.

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