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Friday, June 9, 2023

Opinion | Putting the focus back on the environment this Earth Day

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Niagara This Week managing editor Melinda Cheevers.

It’s about trust. Our relationship with our readers is built on transparency, honesty and integrity. As such, we have launched a trust initiative to tell you who we are and how and why we do what we do.

Each year, Earth Day Canada launches an awareness campaign leading up to April 22.

This year, the campaign is focused on eco-anxiety, a mental health issue that continues to affect more and more people. It’s a fear of environmental damage or ecological disaster.

In a 2020 survey of child psychiatrists in England, more than half — 57 per cent — report seeing children and young people who are distressed about the climate crisis and state of the environment.

Earth Day Canada is calling on people to take collective action in an effort to combat the effects and to make positive changes in the environment.

Throughout Niagara this Week’s seven editions next week, we’ll have multiple stories aimed at addressing the environment and climate concerns. From impact stories that look at how these issues affect people’s lives to explainers and opinion pieces, there will be plenty to read in both the print edition and on our website NiagaraThisWeek.com.

Niagara this Week reporters have long reported on environmental issues and will continue to do so as our communities try to adapt to our changing realities.

In recent years, there has been increased flooding in residential areas and along the shores of Lake Erie and Ontario. We’ve also seen municipalities try to adjust to the economic realities of climate change.

While mainstream media has justifiably been criticized for failing to treat the climate crisis like the important story it is — in many ways it is story that matters more than any and has been for years — we’re only human. Sustaining the level of focus on the issue, as important as it is, is difficult, especially when there are competing stories begging for our attention.

Chief among them in the last few years has been the ongoing and seemingly never-ending COVID-19 pandemic, an emergency of the utmost urgency that demanded the attention of our brightest minds and policy-makers.

Oddly enough this global pandemic emergency — for a short time anyway — alleviated some of the effects contributing to the climate emergency as widespread lockdowns put a noticeable pause on global emissions. Sadly, that proved to be extremely short lived, and no one seriously considered that as a sustainable approach.

Yet perhaps the pandemic had a lesson or two that could be applied to climate change after all.

The first is the power of collective action. In what seemed like a blink of the eye, we had the genetic sequence of this coronavirus mapped and before the end of the pandemic’s first year we began deploying miraculous life-saving vaccines.

And even before that, we did our best to overcome our fear of the unknown and began to take the steps needed to slow down the rate of the virus’ spread until those vaccines could be widely distributed. We took practical steps and made sacrifices to protect not only ourselves but the vulnerable around us.

Our response was far from perfect in its execution — as evident in the horrific toll paid by residents of our long-term care homes — but it showed where we did work together we can overcome the challenges that face us.

We are going to need more of that going forward.

Many have referred to the global pandemic as a dress rehearsal for what the global climate emergency will throw our way; it will disrupt our way of life, and the most vulnerable people will be affected the most severely.

But despair is no solution, collective action is. More than anything Earth Day is a reminder we need to take care of our planet. It’s a big job, but one we can take on if we get our act together.

We welcome your questions and value your comments. Email our trust committee at trust@metroland.com.

Melinda Cheevers is managing editor of Niagara this Week, Fort Erie Post, Grimsby Lincoln News, Niagara-on-the-Lake Advance, and Port Colborne Leader. You can reach her at mcheevers@metroland.com. 

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