‘We know it’s happening’: Wasaga Beach group pushes for climate action in 2022
Keeping Wasaga Beach’s beaches clean is just one aspect of protecting the environment for Wasaga Beach Climate Action Team members Ilona Matthews (left) and Kathleen Caswell.
From the Toronto Star, January 10, 2022
By Ian Adams
A warm breeze from the southwest whips up the sand as Kathleen Caswell and Ilona Matthews do some impromptu shoreline cleanup at Beach Area 1.
While a mild mid-December day is not, on its own, evidence of climate change, it is a stark reminder that the planet’s climate conditions are changing and resulting in a dramatic change in weather patterns.
“It’s scientifically proven that, over the last … century, that the climate has definitely warmed,” said Caswell, who heads up the Wasaga Beach Climate Action Team. “The planet has definitely warmed and, from the effects of that, we will see volatile weather — and on the extreme side, heat, droughts, flooding, winds.
“You just can’t take a particular day and say, ‘This is the day; climate change is here.’ But we know it’s happening.”
The action team was launched in mid-2021 and, for the last several months, its 10 members have met every couple of weeks to develop a mission statement and goals.
In the last few weeks of 2021, the group became more public about its activities as it geared up to get out the message about climate change in 2022.
At Wasaga Beach council’s public meeting on the 2022 municipal budget, Caswell reminded the municipality it has a responsibility to mitigate its own impact on climate and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions, such as moving to electric vehicles for the municipality’s fleet.
The group is also suggesting the town could find ways to incentivize developers to build “green communities.”
“We’re starting on a small scale here by trying to encourage the municipality that we live in to start some more mitigation, not just protecting ourselves from climate change, but also to do something to fight it,” said group member Matthews. “There’s no reason why we can’t tell developers that the only way you can develop here in our town is if you build green.”
Caswell will be back before council in January to present more ideas. She said she is heartened that councillors and municipal staff seem receptive to the group’s suggestions.
Caswell was inspired to launch the group by her son and his partner. The couple doesn’t yet have children, but, should they have kids in the next year, those children would be adults by the middle part of the century.
“The scientists say that if we don’t do something over this next decade, before 2030, we can expect an unlivable planet in 2050,” she said.
And there are many in her son’s peer group who believe it would be irresponsible to have children because of concerns about climate change and the planet’s population.
“I feel that is such an extreme position and so sad … that young people are at that point in their lives where they want to have a family — and feel they can’t do it,” Caswell said.
She said while a municipality like Wasaga Beach might have only a tiny impact on a global issue, it should still take steps to mitigate its own potential contribution to the problem.
“We all have to work together to (prevent) this planet from warming up,” she said.
Matthews joined the Collingwood Climate Action Team initially, and signed on with the Wasaga group when it was launched in the summer.
“I care about all living things,” she said. “I care about humanity; I have faith in humanity.
“There has to be a sense of urgency, not only with individuals doing their part, but also looking at the big picture.”
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