The climate emergency has reached BC
By Jennifer Deol, Digital Organizer 350.org
UPDATED: November 23, 2021. Original story published November 17, 2021
Since we first published this story, the government of BC declared a province-wide state of emergency on Wednesday, November 17th in response to the climate-fuelled record-breaking rainfall that caused major flooding and several mudslides last week. This is the third time this year a state of emergency has been called for the province. In the wake of the BC floods, communities across the province are still stranded and cut off from supplies due to the destruction of several major highways, causing severe food and supply shortages in parts of the province, and fuel restrictions in place to ration supply.
Many of the images from the flooding are harrowing, but one image that stood out was seeing sections of the under-construction Trans Mountain pipeline buried in landslide debris. The same pipeline that was forced to halt construction by extreme heat and wildfires just a few months ago is now being stalled by extreme rains. Whatever math Justin Trudeau and his cabinet did when they first approved this pipeline, doesn’t hold up in the wake of the climate emergency we are in. Tell Trudeau’s government we need a formal, federal review and reconsideration of the pipeline before we pump billions more public dollars into it and put communities and the climate further at risk.
Heavy rainfall is anticipated to continue to impact the province this week, and instead of assisting flood victims and communities in the wake of this ongoing climate disaster, the BC government deployed RCMP tactical units to raid the occupation of the Coastal Gaslink pipeline drill site near the Wedzin Kwa on Wet’suwet’en territory. It is Indigenous land and water defenders that continue to do the heavy lifting on necessary climate action, and not elected officials. Wet’suwet’en deserves our solidarity in this critical moment. Solidarity actions have been planned in cities across the country over the coming week, and donations are being collected to support Wet’suwet’en.
In the gaps left by government aid, it is always communities who unite to support people through direct action and mutual aid. Scroll down for ways to take action, and where to donate to communities impacted by BC Floods.
Just three months ago, the deadliest weather event in Canadian history, the heat dome, and the third worst wildfire season ever recorded, burned the community of Lytton in one day. Now Lytton, which is still recovering from the heatwave, is surrounded by catastrophic flooding due to an atmospheric river that dumped rain across the province. Dozens of communities are reeling in the aftermath of the climate-fuelled BC storm that has resulted in major mudslides, rockslides and unprecedented floods.The entire City of Merritt, and communities across the province, have had to evacuate thousands of people. In Merritt and Princeton, the water levels rose too quickly for people to put sandbags out.
The past few days have weighed heavy on my heart. It is alarming that BC, the province I have called home my entire life, has recorded the hottest temperatures on record and now record breaking rainfall just months apart. In the wake of the climate-fuelled storm, dozens of families were left trapped on major highways overnight. Thousands were evacuated from their homes, and many across the province were in the dark for several hours yesterday due to power outages.
It was eerie and devastating to watch homes in Merritt floating down the Coldwater River, and farmers in Abbotsford carrying their livestock out of flooded barns. And, as we have seen with past climate disasters, it is vulnerable communities already hit hardest by the climate crisis who are disproportionately impacted. Many First Nations communities across the province are on evacuation orders and alerts, and have once again had to flee their homes and lands.
We know the climate emergency will only make the impact of these atmospheric rivers bigger and more frequent. As climate change occurs, the earth’s temperature warms up, and the warming air holds more moisture than cool air which causes these events to become more frequent and severe. September and October rainfall had already surpassed normal levels by 200 per cent, and rain over the past 48 hours has exceeded the entire monthly rainfall averages across the province.
The climate emergency is at our doorstep, and we need to prepare with emergency-level action. Climate chaos is starting to accelerate beyond our capacity to manage, and our elected leaders have no option but to aggressively bend the carbon emissions curve. That requires us to take climate action in line with phasing out all fossil fuel projects and limiting global warming to 1.5C.
Seeing how communities mobilized to provide aid during the COVID-19 pandemic and the heat dome this past summer, and how people are now banding together in the wake of this latest climate disaster gives us a glimpse of what might be possible if our elected officials treated the climate emergency just as seriously.
A critical first step requires our elected leaders to keep their climate promises and commit to wartime level efforts and investments. That includes investing in retooling communities and our infrastructure to deal with future climate disasters, and phasing down fossil fuel extraction and production, the biggest source of the carbon emissions that accelerate the climate emergency. Here are some ways you can keep up that pressure on our elected leaders to commit to supporting communities on the frontlines of the climate crisis:
- This past weekend, land and water defenders in Wet’suwet’en territories evicted Coastal Gaslink from their unceded lands. Indigenous resistance continues to do the heavy lifting on climate action and deserves our solidarity in these critical moments. Click here for ways you can support their fight right now.
- A critical first step in phasing out fossil fuels is to put support programs in place for the workers and communities most impacted by this rapid and unprecedented shift. That is why thousands across Canada are calling on Justin Trudeau to keep his 2019 promise and pass a Just Transition Act. Add your name to the petition calling for this urgent climate action.
- The writing is on the wall for Trans Mountain. In the last few months, construction of the pipeline has been interrupted by climate-fuelled extreme heat, wildfires, rain and mudslides. Imagine how much worse the devastation could have been if the pipeline had oil running through it. We cannot afford to let this project continue forward. Stay tuned for an online action on this topic we’re launching later this week.
As communities rise to recover from this climate disaster, here is a list of emergency support services that need your support and donations. We will continue to update this list as calls for support and donations come in.
If you know of community-led calls for donations, mutual aid and support please email 350 Canada and we will update this list:
- First Nations’ Emergency Services Society works closely with First Nation communities, Emergency Management BC (EMBC), Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) and various other stakeholders to support the successful implementation of emergency management for First Nation communities in BC.
- Cities across BC have opened Emergency Operations and Support Centres to help evacuees unable to return home due to flooding and wet weather. A current list of centres providing aid for all impacted by the BC storm can be found here.
- A hub of verified online fundraisers has been created on GoFundMe for those wishing to contribute to relief efforts for evacuated towns and cities, or to individual families in need of assistance.
- There is a fund for the township of Princeton — approved by town officials — and donations will be distributed at the local Energy One Fitness centre.
- There is a community fund to rebuild the township of Merritt, where all 7,000 of its residents had to be evacuated. All donations will be distributed to residents to cover costs of repairs and restoration to their homes and to assist those who are not covered by the emergency services.
- Hundreds of migrant farmworkers have been impacted by floods and mudslides. Migrant groups in BC are collecting funds to distribute supplies and pre-paid cards.
- Volunteers at Surrey’s Dukh Nivaran Sahib Gurdwara have delivered thousands of cooked meals and essential goods for those stranded in Hope. They have been delivering non-perishable goods and cooked meals using private helicopters. If you live in the Lower Mainland, they have arranged for drop off of non-perishable food at 31631 South Fraser Way, Abbotsford, BC or you can donate at firstname.lastname@example.org.
- The Abbostford Disaster Reflief Fund has been set up by Abbotsford Community Foundation (ACF), the Abbotsford Chamber of Commerce and the University of the Fraser Valley to support front-line agencies providing essential services to affected families and businesses. You can make a donation here.