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Annapolis County summit takes aim at climate crisis


CORNWALLIS, N.S. —

Ira Reinhart-Smith is suing the federal government for inactions and actions causing climate change.

The 15-year-old Queens County youth is one of 15 young plaintiffs in the case.

On Nov. 9, he took part in a Climate Action Summit at Cornwallis Park and pulled no punches when he spoke to a crowd of almost 150 as part of a youth panel.

He said youth want to be heard. They talked about everything from Indigenous sovereignty to plastics and garbage, to reducing emissions, and Nova Scotia’s use of coal to produce electricity and burning biomass and calling it green.

The suggestion was even made – by adults – to lower the voting age to 16 so young people could be more included in decision making.

Presenters at the summit spoke on a range of issues from farming and food production in a changing climate, to adaptive silviculture, community centres and climate change, and 72-hour preparedness.

“I participated as a food producer in the county who is interested in a better environment and a better future for our county and our province,” said Danny Bruce from Centrelea. “I took away that there are a lot of people looking for solutions and ways to make it a better future, and I’m hopeful that they will get together and make changes that will benefit us all.”

That was one of the aims of the summit – to create a plan to adapt, cope, and help others as the crisis worsens.

“The day really exceeded my expectation,” said Annapolis County warden Timothy Habinski. “We had about 140 residents who were in attendance today, very, very eager to participate in the sessions. We had presentations from 10 different individuals and community groups, all of which have one puzzle piece to how we address climate change, and they were able to speak knowledgeably and answer questions for the crowd.”

He said the county-hosted summit was the starting place for the development of a regional survival strategy for climate change to enable people in Annapolis County to continue to live in safety and with grace and dignity as the world changes around them.

GREAT POTENTIAL

“There’s a great potential for the future if we all work together to make it happen. It’s not going to be an easy future,” Bruce said. “I think we really have to figure out where our priorities are and how we can make this a better place. It won’t be easy, but we can do it.”

Besides presenting on the impacts of weather on farming, Bruce was part of the discussion at the food independence table led by Elizabeth McMichael of Cornwallis Park and District 6 Coun. Alex Morrison. The potential threat to the global food economy and the need for local food autonomy was a key topic during the summit.

“A couple people spoke about learning to preserve food, for example - be able to preserve the local crop so we don’t have to go to the store and buy imported carrots, or other fruits. I think that’s very important,” said Bruce. “There’s lots of skills that we could relearn and use to forward us. I think maybe we can do it a little simpler than our grandmothers did, but it’s all possible.”

KEY TOPICS

“Some of the topics that were being discussed were how do we respond to extreme weather events like hurricane Dorian which we just had, and how do we improve our ability to respond to those events,” Habinski said. “We discussed displaced persons, both people from within the county who may have had their property threatened; also people from outside the county, possibly even from outside the country, who arrive as climate refugees needing places to live.”

They talked about the necessity of food independence and reclaiming the food independence residents actually had in Annapolis County at one time. “Because there could be threats to the global food economy as climate change progresses,” Habinski explained. “We talked about the need for a decentralized power grid and local energy production to make us more resilient in the face of extreme weather events. And we talked about natural solutions to climate change.”

MAGIC MACHINES

Extinction Rebellion Annapolis County’s Nina Newington, along with biologist Donna Crossland, spoke about the role forestry plays in the climate crisis puzzle in a presentation called Natural Climate Solutions.

“In the middle of a climate and ecological breakdown we have to change the way we do forestry. We can’t be clear-cutting because not only does it release a ton of carbon, but it destroys the ecosystems,” Newington said. “So, we talked about ways to tackle change, and we all agreed that we need to tackle change on private land as well as Crown land. We need to start coming up with incentives that work. We need to not be rewarding people who clear cut their forests and then go and get the tax rate for a forest resource. There’s a lot for us to get going with.”

“Trees really are the natural climate solution, or one of the biggest ones,” Crossland said during her presentation, noting that sea plant life similarly absorbs carbon dioxide. “So trees are carbon-capture magic machines. We are more than ever dependent on nature to sustain us even though we’re more detached every day… we don’t necessarily draw the connection that we need trees in order to sustain ourselves.”

YOUTH PANEL

“The youth panel was one of the most interesting parts of the day,” said Habinski. “We recognize the issue of climate change is going to have a disproportional impact on our kids. This is the first generation that Canada has ever seen that will probably have a lower standard of living than their parents did when they grow up.”

He said the youth panelists were passionate, articulate.

“The message they gave us was very clear, and that is that they very badly want adults to listen to them, to pay attention to their concerns over climate change,” said Habinski. “They want government to listen to them and to be responsive – and that message was heard loud and clear.”

The warden said it was essential the Climate Action Summit happen.

“This is just the first in a long series of conversations we anticipate. This plan is going to emerge over time,” he said. “We plan to have our second such session sometime in the spring of next year and probably thereafter it will become an annual event because we will have to adjust our course as time goes on.”

He said there was probably a lot more that needs to be addressed but the county had to start somewhere.

“It seemed to us those topics really caught some of the basics of some of the things we had to think about in terms of local implications of climate change and what tangible steps we can actually take to address them,” he said. “This was just a fabulous opening start.”

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