Face the storm and believe in a changing climate


by Xavier Kataquapit

Windspeaker.com Columnist


We are all coming out of a very long and hard winter here in Northern Ontario. Elders tell me that this winter is similar to the ones they experienced growing up 50, 60 and 70 years ago. Winter and the snow came early to us in the north and actually right across most of Canada. It has also taken its time leaving us and it seems that we are between two weeks and a month late for spring.

In many ways these are good changes for my people, the Cree of James Bay, as the winter ice road held up better this year and everyone had more time to move around and out of towns along the coast in vehicles and snowmobiles. Even points south in Ontario and the United States experienced severe snow storms and longer than usual winters. A lot of people concluded that this was proof that global warming is not a threat.

The fact is that these colder, longer and more violent winters are the result of global warming according to many scientists. Through recent studies these scientists point out that abnormally warm Arctic temperatures produce severe winters in more southern parts of Canada and the United States. They blame this on warmer temperatures in the Arctic that cause the jet stream to take a change in direction and when it swings farther south, that causes cold air to hit areas that normally don’t get these types of harsh winter conditions. These same scientists predict that as global warming persists there will be more development of extreme winters that feature bomb cyclones and polar vortexes. These weather pattern changes produce very big storms and cold weather in areas where people are not accustomed to them.

Luckily in the north we are already very well prepared for winter weather with equipment, well insulated buildings and a long history of dealing with the cold and snow. However, as these weather patterns continue to change as a result of our desire to burn fossil fuels that contribute to global warming, people in southern Canada and into the United States may have to deal with harsh stormy winters that they are not prepared for. That happened several times during this past winter and could very well be the norm now in coming years. With right wing governments in place to the south of us who continue to deny global warming and climate change, things don’t look very good at all.

For my people up the James Bay coast the changes in weather are obvious. Further north of us in the high Arctic there was warmer weather this year and that has an affect on the polar ice cap, the glaciers and in turn all of the animal life in the far north. The Elders I talk to consider things to be getting very confused and upside down.

Many academics, scientists and researchers also warn of the possibility of the coming of another ice age. None of this will happen very quickly, but it seems like it might be unfolding that way for us all. They also note that coastal areas throughout the world will be experiencing flooding leading up to this development. Many scientists also have this viewpoint.

Personally, I prefer to believe the majority of scientists and Elders who are warning us about global warming over fossil fuel proponents and right wing political representatives who spend millions trying to convince us there is no problem.

Unfortunately, when I think about situations like this I realize that our earth and humanity must continue to struggle in a world where a very small group of really wealthy billionaires control more than 50 per cent of the planet’s wealth. Most people on earth live in terrible conditions with no clean drinking water, poor housing and little food.

On top of that we are continuing to burn fossil fuels all over the globe that is threatening our very existence. What hope do we have to turn around this reality of greed by few to the detriment of many? I don’t have high hopes but I know one thing for sure that we should be definitely not supporting right wing governments that do the bidding of the very wealthy while everyone else suffers. Hopefully some day, we can start viewing our world through the eyes of all of its inhabitants rather from just the wealthy and powerful few.