I grew up in the forties, when pleasures were much simpler. Aged 7 & 9, my sister and I would walk several blocks to the library, or to the skating rink on weekends. We even ventured across the Bloor Viaduct to the Museum. We tobogganed in the Don Valley before the DVP was built, and hiked in the Valley with our CGIT Explorers group. We generally played outdoors a lot. When we moved to the suburbs, a small ravine and a road separated our house from a farm with cows and horses. Sadly, the farm animals were soon replaced by a fire hall, indoor skating rink, much wider roads, and sidewalks, more housing and much, much more traffic.
One extraordinarily rainy day, my mother drove the very short distance to school to fetch us home. Through our large picture window, we watched pounding rain fill the entire ravine behind our house. The storm was Hurricane Hazel. 12 feet of our backyard collapsed into the ravine and 60 feet of our uncle’s yard fell into Lake Ontario. Over the next three years, picturesque banks of the Don River were covered with piles of stone and chicken wire; apartment buildings replaced a historic windmill at York Mills and Yonge Streets. The next spring, our parents purchased hundreds of seedlings and we planted most of these tiny trees in the ravine to prevent erosion. With hindsight, I can now see evidence of global warming in this extreme weather event – massive postwar housing and road projects, likely reduced natural drainage and contributed to the increase of carbon emissions which spiked during and after the war.
In winter, my sister and I would skate at the local schoolyard after dinner. On weekends, we walked to the Jolly Miller, on Yonge Street, and skated under the moon and stars, circling around a huge oak tree, beside the sparkly snow edging the Don River. Eventually, my own children were not able to skate at the local outdoor rink at their school because the temperatures were too unpredictable. Recently, a plastic rink has appeared at the school.
In 2006, I lived in NYC for a short time after my twin grandsons were born. The December weather was eerily warm – 74 degrees Fahrenheit most days, with spring like temperatures at night. Although Monbiot and McGibben were warning about climate change, the New York newspapers were mute on the subject, until the New York Times ran comprehensive reports of a Climate Conference in Paris, with charts, graphs, and articles. The next day, the stock market dropped and there were no more climate stories over the following weeks.
I began to experience the panic of knowing about an impending disaster, with no support or understanding about the issue from people around me. The world had become a hostile place; one which ignored climate change. Even worse, it was hostile to my grandchildren, who will face a tortured world in the future. At present, its hostility is being felt by poor and indigenous peoples in Africa, northern Canada, and coastal areas of Southeast Asia, with extensive famine, floods, changing landscapes and temperatures.
I became determined to join a support group in Toronto, but was told by many that I was too “radical”. I feel blessed that FOG has never made this claim, and for that, I am grateful. I am disheartened by those who say climate change will arrive after they are dead, so they are not going to worry about it. I watch them become angry and fearful when one suggests they stop flying. I am hoping that the work of For Our Grandchildren will help people realize the moral dimension of this issue. We must push governments everywhere to pass effective measures to control carbon and methane emissions before it is too late.
Barb Falby – member, Steering Committee of ForourGrandchildren
Do you have a story about why you support For Our Grandchildren? We would be pleased to hear about your experiences. We will publish your story or relevant extracts on our site for others to read. Just send an email to our address at firstname.lastname@example.org.