When I get the chance to visit my friend and his father on their family property, I always find myself whisked away to a different place or time. I’m not sure what it is about this former farmstead tucked away in the urban parts of Winnipeg, if it’s the Guffleworfs that stand watch along the driveway, the ability to feel like I’m in nature far outside of the city with an intrusive development of cookie cutter homes just behind the tree lines, or perhaps it is the tea and conversation that comes up with my friend’s father.
At 97 he is ever eager to listen and talk, to verbally parry and repost with his son in the same playful teasing way I grew up with in my family and he is always willing to talk about the war. He feels he must talk about it to make sure the sacrifices made are not forgotten and lost.
At the age of twenty and an only child, he left his widowed mother and the family farm to go to war. He could have stayed home, as the only child on a farm we would not have been obligated to go but go he did. He was part of the D-day landings, spent the war with his tank crew mostly ahead of the line, reporting back from their various observation posts. Then, he came back home, if only because, as he says, he dug more slip trenches than anyone else in the war.
The World Wars demanded great sacrifice and affected entire generations, but those individuals fought willingly for the freedoms, liberties and lifestyle we have today in hopes that we would never have to go to war again to preserve them. Yet, when we are faced with a climate crisis, as we knowingly continue to consume and put our livelihoods, liberties and freedoms at risk, we sit back and lose ourselves to the media-rich world we are a part of.
In the 1980s a small group of scientists came forward and warned us about a growing hole the ozone of Earth’s atmosphere. This small band was able to inspire, mobilize and change not only habits but laws. The world came together, and the growth of that hole stopped and has even reserved.
How is it then that when 97% of scientists agree on the human nature of climate change and that we need to act on it, we sit immobile – worse still we deny and refute. Are we that much farther in time from the Great Wars that their meaning, their importance, their sacrifice has been lost to us?
How can this be? I am only a generation removed from the war! My grandmother, God rest her soul, would be furious to see how we take all our liberties for granted, how we consume without forethought, how we squander and deny. As a spy for the resistance in Poland, she did not risk her life, suffer torture, and flee her homeland leaving family and all her possessions behind so that we should sit back and forget.
Although I know the real threats of climate change and know all too well it is happening right now, I am also guilty of my own complacencies. However, it is the memory of my grandmother, the look in the eye of my friend’s father, the Gretas, the Malalas, the students behind the Never Again movement that push me to step up and prepare myself to make sacrifices of my own, because we are already fighting World War Three for the future of our children’s lives, rights and liberties.
The enemy may not be a clear and present danger that we can name like in the past two Great Wars because it is sly, silent and ingrained. It is our own complacency, our own blurred views of what is a right and what is a privilege, our lapses in memory that privileges have responsibilities.
Freedom of movement is a right. Owning a car (or three) is a privilege.
Access to food and water is a right. Having tropical fruits and water in plastic bottles is a privilege.
We have to make changes and we are past the point of asking for them, we must take a stand and demand them! Demand reconciliation for our Indigenous populations so they can be heard!
Demand that public transit is accessible to help the impoverished and get the redundant use of personal cars off the road.
Demand for better active transportation so we can use healthy alternative means of getting around.
Demand that companies move to profit sharing so that the people who actually do the work can afford to live.
Demand that our packaging be 100% recyclable.
Demand that our governments enforce that producers and consumers take responsibility for the end use of their products.
Demand green energy sectors.
Demand, demand, demand and demand again!
How? Simple, like those who went to war before us, stand up and make sacrifices. Unlike during the Great Wars, these sacrifices are merely inconvenient at worst – they won’t kill you or those you love.
Are your vegetables wrapped in plastic? Don’t buy them and speak to the manager on the way out saying you won’t buy until they stop importing food items in plastic.
Do you drive to work alone in a car that can fit five? Carpool, take transit, walk, bike, commute!
Tempted to buy that new phone? Don’t. Use yours until it stops working and make sure it is recycled at the end.
Grow a garden, mow your lawn by hand, write to your politicians, have friends over for dinner, talk, discuss …
We have sat in our trenches of complacency too long and guess what? The sergeant is coming, and we all know what they will say, “Move soldier! Over the top! This climate war won’t win itself!”