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OPINION: Vigil held in Nelson for climate-related deaths

About 70 people gathered outside MLA Brittny Anderson’s office
A vigil was held Monday night outside Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson’s office in memory of those who have died due to climate-change disasters. Photo: Submitted

Submitted by West Kootenay Climate Hub

On Dec. 13 in front of Nelson-Creston MLA Brittny Anderson’s constituency office in Nelson, about 70 people gathered to remember those who have lost their lives due to climate-related disasters this year in British Columbia.

The gathering was part of a province-wide campaign, organized by the West Coast Climate Action Network, that seeks to commemorate those who died during the heat dome, floods, fires, mudslides, and other climate-related disasters this year — and to call on elected representatives to confront the climate emergency with actions, not just words and “aspirational goals.”

Judith Fearing and Dr. Andre Piver, of the newly formed association Doctors and Nurses for Planetary Health, both spoke of the growing impacts that the climate crisis is having on people’s health. The effects range from the tragic extreme of actual deaths resulting from heat, fire and mudslides to less noticeable but much more widespread challenges with mental health, chronic disease management and more.

At Monday’s vigil, 17-year-old Fridays for Future and Extinction Rebellion activist Peregrine Hoskins, who is in the Mt. Sentinel graduating class of 2022, told the crowd in no uncertain terms that her cohorts are very worried about the state of the world they are graduating into. Many are finding it hard to consider spending the next four-plus years going to university to learn for future careers that seem so uncertain and cannot see themselves ever becoming parents. These justified fears have a very detrimental effect on young people’s mental health.

Adolescence, schooling, moving out of parental homes, embarking on post-secondary education or starting a career; all these life stages come with stresses and challenges. What is very different for today’s young people is that the very climate that has allowed our civilization to flourish is now reacting to the increased levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Fires such as the one that destroyed the village of Lytton this year are becoming more common. The heat dome brought record-breaking heat to large parts of the province this summer.