Letters to the future | Opinion | Halifax, Nova Scotia | THE COAST

Dear leaders of the 2015 Paris climate change conference,
Our planet is suffering due to the devastating effects of climate change. Oceans are dying, forests are disappearing and our air is becoming unbreathable. I am writing you today in hopes that you will do everything in your power to end this issue. Instead of letting your differences drive you apart, please protect the planet that unifies us. Work together and understand that you are much more than climate change advocates. You are protectors of humanity, and the world is watching.

We are facing much more than exponentially increasing temperatures. There has been a tremendous increase in greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. This is leading to devastating impacts on the planet we rely on. El Nino threatens millions as the weather forces become stronger and more extreme due to climate change. Climate change is intensifying, and we can no longer deny it. If we continue to ignore its consequences, we could face the next mass extinction.

This is happening right now. Inaction can no longer be justified. It is the duty of our world leaders to end climate change forever.

We have the knowledge, facts and resources to end climate change. We need to act now. If we do not, the Earth will reach its breaking point. One species started this problem and one species can stop it. I am asking you to be the heroes to implement this change. We all need you.
—Nader Nadernejad, multimedia producer and university student

To my respected ancestors,
I am writing to you on behalf of our future generations. As adults, we are responsible for taking care of mother earth. We are not meant to take things for granted. We all should be trying our best to educate people in what our beliefs and values are towards mother earth, so that the future generations can enjoy a healthy environment.

I feel ashamed of the people today that are being greedy, selfish and not taking care of the environment, as is our inherent responsibility. We let them into positions of power and gave them the keys to your future, too scared of our own possibility to shape it ourselves. We emulated them and internalized their value system as our own. Today, we are not doing what we’re supposed to be doing. We’re supposed to be keeping the land and air and water safe from harm. Now, I’m sitting here, using a laptop, stuck to a screen, trying to talk to you. Instead of using traditional ways, I log in—such a poor facsimile. We’ve become infatuated with these screens; in love with our own cynical observations, while the planet warms. True conversation has become rare, communication with the earth even more so. Things are changing so quickly. We’ve burned through millions of years of stored energy in a blink of the cosmic eye.

So now, when I listen, when I hear you, I hear you crying. You see the world slowly drifting away from us and I feel your sadness that we have to live with this today. It’s hard to leave you with something as simple as an “I love you” or an “I’m sorry,” because there is no excuse and I can already feel the pain of what you’re going through. App Nmu’ltes ah wela’lin.
—Annie Clair is a Mi’kmaq woman, born and raised in Elsipogtog First Nation. She strongly believes in keeping the environment clean and safe for future generations.

Dear future,
Look, I know things pretty much suck right now and I’m sorry. But, I feel like maybe you don’t understand some stuff. Like, how good we had it in our time and, how much we wanted to keep having it good. I know, OK? I know about the boiling lake. I know about the volcano that literally never stops erupting, and I knowwww about the weird finger things that grew in under your eyelashes to protect your pupils from—what is that stuff? It’s like dust that’s alive??


But, listen. We only acted the way we did because we wanted to protect our best things! Like, did you know that in our time, you could send a picture of a smiling poo THROUGH THE AIR?! Your roommate could be anywhere in the world, and within two seconds she’d be having a big LOL at your aptly timed picture of a big dump. IT WAS THE BEST. OK. Yes, that technology was built on the backs of marginalized foreign workers, and yes the amount of waste produced from cellphones and their transport was staggering, but it was funnnnyyyy! Is that not clear? I feel like we’re not connecting on this.

Yes. We knew the dangers of continuing to live the way we were living. And, yes, we had the technology to switch to renewable resources. But, we were making so much money off of oil! Is that not coming across? It was making our day-to-day lives so sweet. Yes, when I say “we,” I am referring to a tiny percentage of people on earth at that time. But, those people had all the power, so they made all the rules and decisions. Does that not make sense?

Look, I’m sorry, OK? I feel like a real ogre about the whole thing. BUT, I just want to make sure you understand that we were only doing what we had to to stay pretty comfortable.

Cool? Cool.
—Cher Hann, comedian

Dear future: You really are about to flower.
The Dahlia Society meets once a month on a Wednesday. We talk of flowers but are often speechless because of the contraption of genius that is the dahlia. The same dahlia that grows from a tuber resembling a potato clump or a miner’s cough. Once, famously, one of us stood and cried: “We must be wrong, this flower cannot possibly come from this,” and held the tuber for all to see. Historically, and terrifyingly, we were baffled. Perhaps she was right. How could such glory come from such a dirt clog? We were given pause and sat with our heads in our hands, bewildered. This bewilderment lasted many headlines in our newsletters. We wrote new policy on this bewilderment. We wouldn’t, for example, speak of it when interviewed about the blossoms brainiac-ing at the Public Gardens. We dared not nurse this bewilderment with the wild wine sold in secret for fear of combusting in fear. One Wednesday, late in our malaise, we invited a guest speaker to a meeting to relieve us of the pressure of having to speak. We were wilted but plugged in the coffeemaker nonetheless. She was so tiny, she needed a chair to stand on. She welcomed us to The Age of Dahlia, an age, she told us, that grew from the earth and bloomed into chandeliers lighting all darkness. “But what of the grenade clog, the soldier’s cough?” someone asked. “How could such a transformation be possible?” We couldn’t hear her silence for the admonishment of our hearts at being named clumps and coughs. To this day, we still talk of how our thinking dahlia-ed in that moment: if our hearts were a species of dirt clogs (and we all have dirt clogs) then that meant we were about to flower. That’s when The Age of Dahlia really started taking off.
—Sue Goyette, poet living in Halifax

Dear future Halifax,
I hope I get to see you bring back that warm communal feeling we all once harboured. For a while, Halifax became a city that suppressed its public, rather than uplifting us. I hope we created room for individuals and local businesses to grow. I hope local and provincial governments are working to nurture their citizens and hear their voices rather than making decisions without local council.

I hope you have easy access to information that impacts your daily lives like how your taxes, police force and governments work. This information belongs to us and I hope we have reclaimed it for the public domain. Maybe you have access to phone lines that offer you help and a place to lodge frustrations.

I hope you live in a Halifax where no question is a stupid one and it is easy for you to navigate your communities. I hope there is no building in future Halifax that doesn’t somehow belong to us, the people of Halifax. I hope we are coming together to generate a bigger and better world view, looking outside of our own country to learn from others.

I immigrated to Halifax and choose it as my home because I have faith in the people of this city. We want a beautiful future structurally and economically, and we are willing to work to build it. I hope we have been given the tools and weapons we need to create that future.
—Aron Hanson, Swedish Haligonian

Hello friends around the world! Bonjour tout-le-monde!
I hope this finds you well and healthy in spite of the terribly sad news from Paris. Random and senseless violence erupting around the world is not a comforting thought and my heart goes out not only to the latest French victims and their families, but also to the people of Beirut and other lands suffering from war and oppression—including the Syrian refugees now homeless due to mounting violence and uncertainty in their country.

Alexa McDonough once took me to a Quaker meeting in Halifax to meet the incomparable Muriel Duckworth. Muriel was applauded but often ridiculed for her claim, “War is stupid.” These women were unafraid to speak the word “peace” in a world that didn’t want to hear it.

Known as The Raging Grannies, they spoke out about the waste and devastation of war. They also spoke about the need to protect our planet from destruction by man-made pollution. If only governments had heeded them then!

Meanwhile, in December, Paris will host the 21st United Nations Climate Change Conference. According to the UN, the purpose of this Conference is to finally establish “a binding and universal agreement” on climate change. After 20 years of international negotiating this would be welcome news to the millions of us around the world who recognize that—apart from man’s inhumanity to man—climate change is the single biggest challenge facing our planet.

On November 29, marches are planned around the world (including Canada) to demonstrate our collective desire that concrete action has to be taken on tackling climate change. I encourage all Nova Scotians to take part and join the chorus of voices around the world calling for change.

After all, to borrow from The Ivany Report, “It’s now—or never.”
—Lenore Zann, NDP MLA for Truro-Bible Hill-Millbrook-Salmon River

To Hunter Tootoo, MP and minister of Fisheries and Oceans,
Like you, like many Canadians, I grew up near the coast, I have seen our oceans change, and I am worried. While the ice is melting in your homeland of Nunavut, the waters of the North Pacific have grown dangerously acidic, and the Atlantic has dozens of species fleeing waters that warm more rapidly than almost anywhere else. Codfish, already battered from centuries of intense fishing recently collapsed in the wake of a sudden, unprecedented warming event in the Gulf of Maine. Lobsters in southern New England are ridden with disease. Plankton, which forms the base of all marine food chains, is growing smaller in size and less abundantly in many places. Our three oceans are changing in unprecedented ways, and we are not prepared. Reducing emissions and moving quickly towards a carbon-neutral society is of course the immediate priority. But it is only a first step. Next, we need to make our life support systems as climate-proof as possible. This means maintaining those species that we can manage (most fish, shellfish, mammals, birds and turtles) at higher abundances, by removing or at the very least reducing the added stresses of unintended bycatch, habitat destruction, plastic and oil pollution. We cannot pile more insults on population that are already compromised, and hope that they will somehow absorb the climate shocks that are quickly becoming the new normal. Your department has drawn up plans to protect representative samples of all our marine environments for the future. The implementation of these marine parks has been painfully slow. Canada urgently needs a nation-wide network of marine protected areas that can serve as an insurance policy against rising climate impacts. It is in your power to act now. Respectfully,
—Boris Worm, professor of marine biology at Dalhousie

Dear successful future Halifax,
I wish you could write a letter back to us telling us how we get to you. 

We have clues. We know we can’t get there by spending all our money widening roads just to encourage ourselves to drive more. The congestion will just come back, but our air quality won’t. It won’t attract investment. It won’t make any community better.

We know the most exciting cities are the ones with the kind of transit that gets people out of traffic and to their destination fast. We know that with dedicated bus lanes or rail, transit stops can become exciting places, with cafés, shops and street life. We know that creative, talented people want such vibrant places and to be able to get anywhere in a city, on time, without having to worry about traffic. 

Tell me if I’m getting warmer if I say we need to stop asking how we can move people with transit, but how we can transform the city with it. Tell me if I’m getting warmer if I say we need great places to walk, shop and spend an afternoon—not only in our downtowns, but at the heart of Bedford, Sackville, Clayton Park, Spryfield and Mainstreet Dartmouth, with high-speed transit at their core. 

Tell me if the planet will get warmer if we fail to. 

We all know we need to act decisively to stop climate change. How lucky that the solutions are the same for creating a great city. 
—Tristan Cleveland, coordinator of Our HRM Alliance, a coalition of more than 50 rural, suburban and urban groups that believe in sustainable growth.


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