An Open Letter to Climate Change Deniers
Dear climate change deniers,
I am writing to you because I truly want you to understand something. Those of us that are genuinely worried about the climate wish that you were right. At least, I know I wish that you were right. From the bottom of my heart, I wish that it was true when you say “the warming climate is just part of a normal process”, or “this climate change thing is fake, everything is going to be fine”. I wish that my children weren’t facing a future where they may have to fight and struggle for the resources that we take for granted today such as clean water and fresh air. If you turned out to be right, and I had spent so much time and energy on spreading the word about climate change, I wouldn’t be angry, I would be ecstatic! What you don’t seem to understand is that I too wish I never had to hear or worry about climate change ever again. However, I have felt and seen the effects of climate change with my own eyes.
When I was in elementary school and we were learning about environmental studies in our classroom, we were taught that by the time we were adults, there may be times when we couldn’t even go outside because it would be too hot, or the air would be too dangerous to breathe. I don’t remember if I took that very seriously or not, but I do remember being shocked at the thought of it. Last week, on May 28, in my humble hometown of Leamington, Ontario in Canada, my children were kept indoors at recess for two reasons. 1- There was a heat advisory and 2- There was a poor air quality advisory. We have had many heat advisory days before, but I can honestly say that I do not remember there ever being a heat advisory this early in the year. Ever. These advisories were all over the news and the Weather Network. This is happening in a country that most people assume is freezing cold for most of the year. How bad must it be in other places? It seemed that my teacher’s predictions had come true.
Again, I wish this wasn’t true. I wish that when summer finally arrived every year after months of patiently waiting out the winter that we could go outside and do all of the activities we had been missing, such as gardening, picnicking, and even going to the beach. Unfortunately even when it isn’t scorching hot and the air quality is fair, there are more issues to deal with. Our Lake Erie beaches, for example, have been suffering algae blooms. Due to this we are advised to abstain from swimming lest we be afflicted with skin rashes, or eye, nose, throat and respiratory irritation that can range from acute to serious in nature.
In addition, after recently viewing a documentary called “A Plastic Ocean”, I learned that there are billions of pieces of plastic floating around in our water ways all around the globe. These range in size from large plastic sheeting, to what scientists call micro-plastic, and they are all having negative effects on marine life. When I tried to share this information, I was once again met with indifference and denial. So I went out to the local beaches to see for myself. What I found was disheartening. Even in our National Park, the beaches were littered with plastic pollution that had washed up on shore over the winter months. Since then, I have done several beach clean ups in an effort to keep the beach safe and clean for the families and children who will soon be going there to enjoy a warm summer day ( That is if there are no heat advisories. Or air quality advisories. Or algae blooms.) and what I found brings out a range of emotions from sad, to angry, to downright frustrated.
I Have found-
dozens of lighters
dozens of tampon applicators
dozens of straws
hundreds of bottle caps
plastic bottles ranging in size (shampoo bottles, cleaning products, pop and water etc.)
hundreds of plastic cigarette tips
and even hypodermic needles
So it was true. Plastic pollution was everywhere and posing a threat not only to nature, but to my children. I no longer felt comfortable allowing them to run around bare foot on the beach due to the amount of used needles that I had found. Even if you don’t consider climate change to be a factor as far as plastic pollution is concerned, this is still a problem we need to solve and that we CAN solve.
I wish you would see that we already have a lot of brilliant ideas and plans to move forward, but there are those who are holding us back. We have options other than fossil fuels, we have options for making bio-plastic and reducing waste and creating sustainable energy but for some reason, there are those who are hell bent on keeping things the way they are even though there are undeniable adverse effects of doing so. They say that changing the way we do things could be too costly, but I argue that not changing our ways could cost us even more. Consider the costs of cleaning up oil spills, cleaning up hurricane and tornado damage, and flooded coastal cities. Consider the influx of climate change refugees that will be fleeing to safer nations and putting a strain on their infrastructure. Go take a walk in nature, go to the beach or to a National Park and take a look at what we are risking. Look into a child’s eyes and tell them that their future just isn’t important enough to fight for. We can’t only consider how things will affect us now, we have to think farther ahead to how things will affect us for decades to come even if it’s scary or inconvenient.
I wish that 97% of environmental scientists didn’t agree that humans are having a negative effect on the climate and that the outlook for the future of humanity wasn’t so dire, but they do. I wish that there was plenty of clean, potable freshwater to go around for generations to come, but there isn’t. I wish that oil spills didn’t happen, but they do. I wish so many things, but this I wish most of all- I wish that even though you don’t believe in climate change that you would still see the importance of keeping our planet healthy and safe. It’s really that simple. I wish you would care.
copyright Chantal Shanks 2018