Western Tour: Richmond, Vancouver and “the liquid continent”

Good afternoon, although it’s still very much morning here in Victoria. Francois Pihaatae, Ecumenical Animator on Climate Change for the Pacific Conference of Churches and one of KAIROS’ Southern partners, and I are travelling on the Western leg of our G20 Climate Justice Tour. We are staying in the quaint and beautiful home of KAIROS’ regional representative. Her house has has a gorgeous garden and the beach is just three blocks away, but unfortunately we can’t enjoy the water as we are now preparing for our event tonight.

Last Friday, June 11th, we had our first event in Richmond, BC. Richmond city councillor Harold Steves spoke and made a glaring connection between what’s happening now in the Pacific and what is slowly happening in Richmond. Because Richmond sits on the Fraser River delta, it is affected by the rising water level of the sea and the river, as well as increasing salinity in both the water and the land, with less fresh water flowing to the mouth of the river. His comments provoked a lot of discussion and an awareness of the commonality of the issues that communities are facing in the South and the North. I commented that this is exactly what we want to do on this tour — discuss barriers that impede healthy and sustainable communities, and work out some possible alternatives.

Yesterday the West Point Grey Presbyterian Church organized a lunch and presentation with Francois, which was attended by about 30 people, including a number of youth. The spread of food was great and Francois’s presentation was very much appreciated. People were moved by what’s happening now in the Pacific. Francois described the Pacific as a liquid continent, which was powerful in terms of helping people understand how a slight change in the ocean temperature, a shift in weather patterns, and the thawing glaciers in the North are strongly manifested in the behaviour of the sea/ocean. These changes are having serious impacts on Pacific communities, including the erosion of coastal lines/beaches and sea water coming in not only through the beaches but also underground. Again, people in the audience made connections with what’s happening in their communities — both along the coast of BC and in the interior.

Francois just had an interview with a media outlet in Yellowknife , where we will be holding an event tomorrow. When asked about his hopes for this tour, Francois said that he wishes that the governments taking part in the G8/G20 will hear and listen to the voices of communities impacted by climate change, and that they will include support for impacted communities in the G8/G20 agendas, including financing for adaptation, mitigation and resettlement programs.

We have an event tonight at St. John the Divine Church in Victoria; we leave for Yellowknife in the morning. If you are in Victoria, we hope that you will come out and join us.

Filed in: Ecological Justice

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