My 2019 started with the passing of my father Jan. 3 and although he no longer walks this planet, he is ever-present in my thoughts.
Dad had an inquisitive mind and wanted to deliberate world events in a meaningful way. It didn’t matter if you were a server at a restaurant or a door-to-door peddler, or his closest friends and family, Dad started almost every conversation with “What are we going to do about China and Hong Kong?” Or “What will it take for solar power to displace fossil fuels?”
As events unfolded in 2019, Dad’s deliberative and curious voice was a constant. What was his take on the Boeing 737 Max 8 debacle, Russian interference in the U.S. (Canada, U.K.) election, Trump’s impeachment and Trudeau’s SNC Lavalin fiascos, and the Hong Kong pro-democracy protests? Why was New Zealand successful in responding to the Christchurch terror attack with meaningful gun control laws while the U.S. continually flounders? The federal election, Brexit, #metoo, Huawei, world trade, Sri Lankan terror bombings, money laundering, the first images of a black hole, quantum computing, vaping, legalization of cannabis — all conversation catnip for Dad.
There have been jaw-dropping headlines in 2019, but perhaps the biggest story from the past year is the climate crisis. On this existential question, Dad was particularly passionate. As the UN’s COP 25 wrapped up in Madrid last week amid the backdrop of unprecedented 2019 climate disasters and the younger generation’s legitimate outrage and protest (Greta Thunberg and company, you rock), there was an utter failure of international leadership more concerned with profits than people.
In 2019, fires raged in Australia, California, Spain, the Amazon and the Arctic’s boreal forests where methane release from permafrost is particularly alarming. European heatwaves killed 1,500 people in France alone and cost untold billions in infrastructure damages and health and social services. There were paralyzing ice floods, hail and snow storms in Armenia, Mexico, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, and unprecedented droughts in India and Africa. Cyclones, typhoons and hurricanes damaged millions of homes (and sent insurance rates soaring), decimated millions of hectares of agricultural land, caused landslides and flooding and killed an estimated 5,000 people while displacing another 22 million people from China and the Bahamas to the Midwestern United States, India and southeast Africa.
A climate truth bomb was dropped in 2019 while world leaders bickered, paralyzed by the glutinous mentality that caused the crisis in the first place.
Dad would have been particularly confounded by Canada’s contradictory role on the world stage; at once lauded as a world climate champion with globally significant federal, provincial and municipal policies while remaining the ninth-largest climate polluter in the world (despite our relatively small population) because of our planned massive expansion of LNG and oil-related projects.