Whitehorse Daily Star

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AN IMPORTANT SUBJECT – Erica Dee Mah makes a presentation on climate change to city council on Monday evening.

Show leadership on climate change, council told

Whitehorse citizens are looking for leadership in the fight against climate change, city council heard at its meeting Monday night.

By Chuck Tobin on June 18, 2019

Whitehorse citizens are looking for leadership in the fight against climate change, city council heard at its meeting Monday night.

A number of residents signed up to address council on what was supposed to be the night council discussed a motion by Coun. Steve Roddick to have the city declare a climate change emergency.

As a result of a procedural matter, however, the discussion on Roddick’s motion was rescheduled to next week.

But as delegates at Monday’s meeting were putting forward passionate pleas on behalf of themselves, their children and the planet, three hours to the east, the House of Commons was declaring a climate emergency in Canada.

Riverdale resident Erica Mah told council ever since the United Nations report on climate change was released last October with unsettling predictions, she’s been having trouble sleeping.

And she’s not the only one, she said.

Mah cited the report’s finding that if global warming is not brought under control by 2030 – 11 years from now – the world will face dire consequences.

As part of a national effort to achieve a “Pact for a Green New Deal,” Mah organized a local town hall meeting on climate change for the evening of May 31, one of 131 across the country held in the last two weeks of May.

The mother of two young children told council some 80 people attended, and together they came up with 200 different ideas.

A couple of days later, it was standing-room-only at the Whitehorse Public Library for a meeting organized by Yukoners Concerned, she pointed out.

“Your citizens are deeply concerned about climate change and what it means for the community,” Mah said in her address to council.

“More than anything, people are looking for leadership, they are looking for leadership that makes them proud to be part of a community that is rising up to this incredible challenge.”

Among the key recommendations coming from the meeting she organized, she said, were increasing local food production, improving the energy efficiency of buildings, and a stop to spending money on infrastructure that relies on fossil fuels.

Roddick’s motion calls for four specific resolutions, including: “Be it resolved that administration be directed to enhance the City’s response to current and future impacts of climate change by: Within council’s strategic priorities, identifying actions that accelerate the implementation of existing climate plans and strategies, and developing new budgetary proposals to advance this work for council’s consideration in the 2019-2020 budget cycle....”

City council heard from others in support of the councillor’s motion, including Jenny George, also a mother of a young child and a high school teacher.

She helped Mah with the town hall at NorthLight Innovations.

“We had to close the doors because we were at capacity,” George told council. “This is something that is motivating people.”

She said people are not coming together out fear, but out of hope.

“We are not doing much at this point,” she said. “So it’s time to take a stand, and we are looking for leadership, and I think, as Erica said, the municipality is a great place to start.”

George was tripped up momentarily by emotion, having to pause briefly.

“I am very sorry,” she told council. “I am a little scared for my son, and for all my students.”

Roddick assured George he does not want to be the last generation of politicians who could have done more but did not.

“If the city takes that leadership role, I think you would find your constituents are behind you,” George responded.

Ecologist Kim Lisgo, a researcher at the University of Alberta, told council that 95 per cent of the world’s scientists are cautioning how climate warming is dire, yet there are still pockets of resistance, even locally.

Lisgo relayed how she read a blog comment from an individual who suggested the air in the Yukon is still fresh, and that’s what matters.

“The Yukon does not live in a bubble on this planet,” Lisgo countered.

She pointed out how the International Monetary Fund is warning climate change will bring about economic turmoil, and vast migrations of people no longer able to survive in their regions.

“The scariest thing to do is not to act at all,” she said.

Local environmental activist Jody Overduin told council she was reluctant to appear at Monday’s meeting.

“When I think about my son, I felt I had to come and speak,” she said.

Overduin said she believes municipal governments are well-positioned to act on climate change in the quickest way.

There is no longer a question about whether the climate is in trouble, she said.

At this point, she suggested, it’s a matter of what we do, and what we don’t do.

“I think declaring a climate emergency is a real tangible thing we can do at this point,” she told council. “I see a lot of things we can do as a municipality to take the lead.”

But Peter Becker, another local activist, was critical of past decisions by previous councils.

He was critical of how he believes city councils have failed to establish a solid foundation from which to address climate change.

Electric transit buses are common these days, and communities are making the switch away from diesel, he pointed out, suggesting Whitehorse is lagging behind.

Becker said he was appearing before council in support of Roddick’s motion.

Comments (19)

Up 12 Down 0

Max Mack on Jun 22, 2019 at 8:50 am

H.L. Mencken also said: "For every complex problem there is an answer that is clear, simple, and wrong."

Up 7 Down 6

Woodcutter on Jun 21, 2019 at 11:51 am

@Wilf you're saying that Russia, the largest country in the world, not to be confused with the Russian federation, has a shortage of trees? lol ever travel east if Moscow? Into Siberia?

Up 34 Down 5

Paul Wray on Jun 20, 2019 at 2:42 pm

H.L. Mencken was correct when he wrote this. "The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.

Up 8 Down 28

Woodcutter on Jun 20, 2019 at 2:06 pm

@Dave look who's talking snowflake, your narrow minded comments, typical of the extreme right, only portray your political bias directed to people who don't follow your belief. I voted Ryan last election and if the conservatives don't need the writing on the wall, their gonna lose the next election.

@Yukoner 71 as an active wood cutter I only cut down trees that are dead and dry, green trees have no value to me. Additional burning wood is carbon neutral, mean the an equivalent amount of carbon is released when the wood is being burned as if it was to decompose naturally.

The folks involved in the forestry sector are the true environmentalist as we live in the Bush everyday and have observed the rapid changes. And it's in our own interest to have a sustainable resource. Your uninformed comment only reinforces the need for leadership on this issue.

Up 34 Down 3

Groucho d'North on Jun 20, 2019 at 11:25 am

Al Gore began his campaign on global warming by trying to instill fear among the global public that dire consequences would follow if we did not change our ways and buy carbon points to off-set these concerns. It's a common tactic to scare people to do what you want them to. Some people believe these threats more easily than others and these are called the early adopters who carry the cause to a greater audience. If governments were sincere about reducing CO2 into our atmosphere, they would pursue the large emitters, like Union Carbide who manufactures carbon dioxide for a wide range of uses, (google it) and get them to halt or alter their production in some way. An interesting parallel is in managing the commercial fisheries. Rather than deal with the factory fishing fleets that catch fish by the tonne, they restrict the sport angler to a two fish catch limit.

Up 39 Down 1

Really? on Jun 20, 2019 at 9:45 am

If this is what gives Erica Mah troubles sleeping, I wish I had her life.

Up 25 Down 7

Yukoner ‘71 on Jun 20, 2019 at 9:40 am

@Griba, you are correct but I dare say New York City emits more CO2 in 1 second than Yukon does in a year.

@Woodcutter, assuming you are a woodcutter maybe you should practice what you sanctimoniously lecture everyone else about and stop cutting down trees. Do your bit to stop destroying the environment and put a plug in the sinking Titanic just from you!

Up 32 Down 5

Dave on Jun 20, 2019 at 4:35 am

Woodcutter, you typify the self righteous, arrogant and self important left wing so perfectly. ‘Sit down and shut up’ perfectly sums up the standpoint of the radical left. Their way is the only way, there’s no room for disagreement, anyone with opposing views is to be shut down and silenced, bullied or shouted into submission. Well you know what, that’s not going to happen, people aren’t going to shut up while the left imposes themselves and their viewpoints on everyone else.

Up 29 Down 5

Wilf Carter on Jun 19, 2019 at 5:50 pm

There are two things this carbon debate is doing - creating undue fear and people are making money off it.

Up 19 Down 3

Wilf Carter on Jun 19, 2019 at 5:49 pm

As far as climate change goes we have no need for an emergency. I studied a number of things in university and one was dendrology which is study of trees. Most people never even heard of it. In this field you study trees, soils, water, minerals, gases in the ground and our atmosphere like carbon, water etc. But who on city has studied this??
We do not have a climate change problem in Whitehorse and most people in science would say we are not very smart in wasting millions more on something that does not exist. Trees need a lot of carbon to live and we have millions of trees in the Yukon. Industrial areas in China, India and Russia have major problems and they are planting millions of trees to remove the carbon.

Up 42 Down 3

Whitehorse Richard on Jun 19, 2019 at 4:37 pm

Merriam Webster dictionary defines emergency as “an urgent need for assistance or relief.” If this is an emergency then Mayor and Council should create an immediate policy at City Hall (COW) where EVERY city employee must now take public transportation to and from work. The only exception is if you drive a zero emission vehicle.

This would provide the urgent response by taking several hundred private fossil fuel vehicles off the road immediately. It would also assist with traffic issues and reduce parking issues downtown since several hundred vehicles going to COW would not be used. Most importantly we would see a significant increase in bus ridership.

I would also argue we would probably see a very quick improvement to our public transportation system. Bus routes would be come more efficient, as well as travel times improved due to the increased demand from COW government employees.

All the school employees should follow next, and maybe they can take the school busses home instead of driving their fossil fuel vehicles. Everyone involved can sleep better because they are taking urgent action instead of worthless talking inaction. If Mayor and Council are not willing to make such bold but easy to implement solution, then this is not an emergency.

Up 43 Down 5

yukoner on Jun 19, 2019 at 3:23 pm

Good Grief!
Canadians make up 0.05 percent of the worlds population, and the city of Whitehorse has the cleanest air for a capital city in the world.
I suggest that the sky is falling people start a movement to round up David Suzuki, Al Gore, Cpaws executives, and travel with them to China and India and other major polluters where they can preach to the masses who are causing the problem. If you want to make a real difference to climate change do it where it is really taking place.

To think that costing Yukon taxpayers more to solve these world problems is ludicrous and a waste of time.
Yes, we all should do our part, but until the major countries make real changes, please divert your energy and excessive spending schemes where it will do the most good, and leave our taxes alone.

Up 11 Down 46

Woodcutter on Jun 19, 2019 at 2:09 pm

Observing from the comments, which seem to be from a minority view point the search is for leadership.

We are not seeking more of those who feel safest living in a fantasy world. The writing is on the wall for future political leaders, adjust your view to the expectations of the constituents or face being tossed on the heap of ashes of history.

Most folks did not believe the titanic was sinking until they were up their noses in water.
You all can deny all you want, but get out of the way of those trying to address the issue. Sit down and shut up.

Up 32 Down 14

Mike Miller on Jun 19, 2019 at 11:23 am

These people should move back to Ontario.

There is leadership on council. They let us drive our atvs anywhere and ignore it when we go along creeks and mow down a tree or two. This shows councils leadership because we are somewhat entitled but we do vote and they let us make noise, blow off a little steam and be destructive.
If these people want idealistic conditions for their children they should move.

Up 21 Down 9

Mike Miller on Jun 18, 2019 at 6:08 pm

I am not sure if council will react the way residents hope for.

Our city is designed poorly. Even the trail planning favours motorized vehicles and the city allows these vehicles to go into environmentally sensitive areas. There are many things needed but the first is sincere planning and then a followup. Council generally favours saying things and not following the high road that is part of all the city planning documents.

Up 47 Down 10

Griba on Jun 18, 2019 at 5:00 pm

The Yukon is climate irrelevant. It does not matter what we think what we do we are irrelevant when it comes to our emissions. New York City emits more CO2 in one day than the Yukon in a year so take your nonsense to a place where it can make a difference because it’s not doing a dang thing here.

Up 37 Down 5

Al on Jun 18, 2019 at 3:40 pm

Good grief !

Up 52 Down 10

Dave on Jun 18, 2019 at 2:59 pm

Funny how it’s always that little minority of people who make the most noise that always make the news. Doesn’t matter if it’s locally or nationally those who can yell the loudest get the most attention and they’re usually members of the radical extreme left wing.

Up 37 Down 9

Wilf on Jun 18, 2019 at 2:01 pm

I find this interesting but a lot the reports they refer to are not correct and are to create fear. Yes climate changes but in the way that most of these reports portray.
If you look at history our climate has changed in ways we do not understand. We have to understand climate by looking at the evolution of the earth.

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