If the current federal election has shown us anything, it is that we are in a post-literate, post-fact environment where images and their propaganda power guide public opinion.
The prime minister’s breaches of his own laws while in office are forgotten, because his drama student-turned-teacher antics have produced more memorable images. If B.C. and Canada are talking about government policy at all this week, it is based on another jumble of images, those used to symbolize and define climate change.
Up to now, B.C. school administrations have tolerated the Friday afternoon “climate strikes” that have become a fashionable way to skip school. Now the administration is all in.
“There’s a lot of learning going on,” the Victoria school board chair enthused on a local radio station Friday morning, as students and serial protesters prepared for a “die-in” and blockade of downtown traffic.
Protests are expected to continue this week, featuring children yelling into bullhorns and waving signs demanding that all fossil fuel use cease by the currently imagined deadline of 11 years.
In Revelstoke, even the school superintendent joined the fun, quoted in a press release that urged kids to get their photos taken with a life-size cutout of Swedish high-school student Greta Thunberg. The superintendent and his protest partners promised displays of “the science” for kids to view between chants demanding physically impossible action.
And what inspired Thunberg to serve as the global leader of climate strikes? She saw pictures of a dying polar bear. Regular readers may recall my discussion of those pictures, eventually taken down by National Geographic with apologies for misrepresenting how apex predators die in the wild.
Here are a few facts that were likely not offered to striking students at taxpayer-supported events.
B.C. released its latest greenhouse gas emission figures this month, from 2017. There was a flurry of headlines about how they’re still going up, 10 years into our nation-leading carbon tax experiment. B.C. is fully hydro powered, leads Canada in electric car adoption, and still carbon dioxide rises with population, construction and transportation needs.
Not counted or mentioned in the fleeting news coverage was by far the largest source of 2017 carbon dioxide emissions. Wildfires generated almost three times the emissions as all recorded human activity. It will be a year before we see 2018 numbers, but they will be similar due to that wildfire season.
What kids are told in school and elsewhere is that those fires were caused by warming. False. Severe fire seasons are the inevitable result of 60 years of wildfire suppression to preserve timber. There is science to show it, and it’s not from computer models that have never been accurate once in 20 years. I invite anyone in the education system to show that this or anything outside the “crisis” political narrative is taught in our public schools.
Other things climate strikers should hear: Canada is one of the world’s leading absorbers of CO2, due to its vast forests. Globally, forest area is growing, due largely to agricultural technology. Arctic sea ice is melting faster than models predicted, but Antarctic ice is increasing, contrary to forecasts.
Drought-affected area is decreasing globally, according to a 2014 study in the journal Nature. Sea levels are rising, as they have for thousands of years, but the rate isn’t accelerating.
“I want you to panic,” Thunberg famously instructed adults around the world. School administrators and politicians should say if they endorse this.
Tom Fletcher is B.C. legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press Media. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org