Berman and Suzuki Take the Heat

Remember carbon? The issue that shredded longtime alliances in the environmental movement and erupted into a bitter political warfare over the provincial elections? It hasn't gone away. But for the average Vancouverite, the dire effects of climate change may seem remote.

Not so for Tzeporah Berman and David Suzuki, two of the most respected environmental leaders in Canada, that detractors in the local blogosphere are calling " Tzepzuki," because they each came out in support of the Liberal party's carbon tax leading up the provincial election. Supporters, however, think Berman and Suzuki have taken the heat and are absorbing an undue amount of the suffering for an issue that should sear each and everyone of us until we stop being complacent and demand government make policy change.

From all around the world, praise has come from scientists, activists and citizens for Berman and Suzuki who, one Tzepzuki-watcher said "have been bold and courageous to bring the most urgent issue of our time to the forefront of public discourse." Others are saying they sold out to corporate interests or became covert PR flacks for Gordon Campbell, although where people get the evidence for this claim remains disturbingly unclear.

Meanwhile, the planet just gets hotter. Kofi Annan, former head of the United Nations, told the UK Guardian on Friday that global warming causes 300,000 deaths a year. "Climate change is the greatest humanitarian challenge facing the world, as heatwaves, floods and forest fires become more severe," said a study conducted by a think tank Annan directs.

"Here people see climate change as mostly about polar bears and pine trees," said Barry Saxifrage, a climate change blogger. "But for most of the world, the basics, such as food, water and security are being lost, the study released by Annan's think tank shows. And for millions others, climate change threatens the basics."

"Australia just lost 95% percent of their rice crop to heat waves and drought," Saxifrage said. "In a city that produces very little of its own food and imports it from many of the regions that scientists say will be badly impacted by droughts, we would do well to consider climate change issues. We're in danger of overheating a lot of our summer rivers, the glaciers are disappearing in BC. This is the biggest threat to salmon and there's nothing we can do about it except cutting carbon quickly. While the impacts may seem far away, at the rates they're going, they're going to be showing up at our own tables soon."

Saxifrage opened this month's issue of National Geographic to an article called "The End of Plenty: The Global Food Crisis."

"Climate change- with it's hotter growing seasons and increasing water scarcity- is projected to reduce future harvests in much of the world, raising the specter of what some scientists are now calling a perpetual food crisis. So what is a hot, crowded, and hungry world to do?"

Annan’s think tank study compares for the first time the number of people affected by climate change in rich and poor countries. Nearly 98% of the people seriously affected, 99% of all deaths from weather-related disasters and 90% of the total economic losses are now borne by developing countries. The populations most at risk it says, are in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East, south Asia and the small island states of the Pacific.

Many of us would like to think of global warming as the next Y2K. I know I would.
You know, hype without substance. I recently joked about it to a friend and was roundly slapped down and told, "This is real and this is serious."

So does that mean my lifestyle may be damaging to millions in faraway lands, not to mention my kids' future? Gosh, it starts to sound like I'm a German in World War II, not wanting to believe and not wanting to hear. Wanting to go on with my pleasant life and my old world view of who is "good" and who is "bad," what is "right" and what is "wrong," when some of the rights and wrongs may have been turned upside down by this issue. Then I might have to do something. Something, gasp, different, maybe even uncomfortable.

I don't want to hear that. Tell me something uplifting, something meaningful, like that Brad and Angelina are happy again.

Global warming? Climate change? Leave that to the Tzepzukis.

Personally, I'd rather not think about it. And I definitely don't want to take all the heat for the death and suffering "over there."

How about you?

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