There are so many interesting news stories that made the summer of 2015 memorable. But I’ll stick with the “Brown is the New Green” theme, because apart from, Mike Duffy, Nigel Wright, and Pluto, water was the story of the summer in B.C.
Metro Vancouver is under a Stage 3 Water Restriction. It hasn’t rained much since April. May was unseasonably warm and dry. June was hot and dry. Despite some showers in July and August, Vancouver has felt more like San Diego this summer. And at times, Dubai.
Forest fires covered the south coast of British Columbia with so much smoke in early July that you couldn’t look at a sunset on English Bay without seeing deep purple and getting Smoke on the Water stuck in your brain. But fires raged throughout the province this summer and now, nobody’s singing anything. The latest and most destructive was at Rock Creek in the southern interior, started apparently by a cigarette butt thrown from a car.
Who supports a $25,000 fine for anyone throwing a cigarette butt on the ground or from a car? I do. Maybe, in addition to the fine, the province should also add 75 cents to the cost of a pack of cigarettes and call it “The idiots who throw their butts on the ground and start fires” tax.
Anyway, back to the drought.
The reservoirs that allow Vancouverites to drink, shower, and flush their toilets are only 69-per-cent full. This is partially a result of over-consumption and partially a result of little or no snow last year (the ski season was a disaster). And because most restaurants and office buildings converted to those silly automatic toilets and urinals that flush themselves (even when it’s not necessary), even more water will needlessly go down the drain. (“If its yellow, let it mellow” isn’t in the programming)
Stage 3 was implemented on July 21 in Metro Vancouver, and it means no residential or non-residential lawn sprinkling, car washing, boat washing, and no refilling of private swimming pools, hot tubs, and ponds. Watering gardens is only permitted by hand using spring-loaded shutoff nozzle on your hose.
Stage 4 was ordered for the Sunshine Coast on Aug. 12. Gardens can only be watered with grey water saved from baths or showers. And rumour has it, you must brush your teeth with seawater and you can only shower once a week (or twice a week if you shower with a “friend”).
Welcome to the new normal in British Columbia.
In Vancouver, the drought has required homeowners to reduce their lawn sprinkling from once a week to no times a week. Of course, some people haven’t reset their automatic sprinklers, or don’t care to. Thus, some law-abiding neighbours with brown lawns (and an axe to grind) are listening for the not-so-subtle hissing of automatic sprinklers and soaker hoses in the middle of the night and reporting their law-breaking neighbours (with green lawns) to the water-sprinkling police.
It’s called “water shaming” or “drought shaming.” A brown lawn means you’re a good citizen. A green lawn means you’re evil incarnate and have probably shot a lion.
Offenders are called “grassholes” for overwatering (like Tom Sellick was for taking thousands of gallons of water from a hydrant and trucking it to his ranch).
Sanctimony is running as high as clandestine watering. Driving home late in the evening of the third night of the total watering ban, someone dressed as a hipster was taking photographs of my next-door neighbour’s house (where a soaker hose was running in the garden).
Channeling his inner Stasi officer, the hipster curtly and officiously asked me if I owned the house.
“No, officer” I said.
He “outed” my neighbour, (who possibly hadn’t heard about the ban), because the city showed up the next day. One such drought shamer, (“#Maddog’s The Name”) was taken to task by Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun for actually publishing someone’s address on social media, ostensibly so other people could shame the homeowner all the more.
But despite too much Internet vigilantism about lawn sprinkling, it’s pretty clear we should be finding better ways to conserve water during the monsoon season, because the summers are getting hotter and dryer. Fortunately, it's not as hot as Bandar Mahshahr, a city of more than 100,000 people in Iran, where the temperature hit 73 C (163.4F) in August.
Douglas Coupland wrote in the Globe and Mail a few years ago, a cheerful column called “A Radical pessimists guide to the next 10 years.” Apparently, people should be moving to Vancouver and San Diego because, even though the weather will get more extreme everywhere else in the world, the west coast of North America won’t be as broiling hot or as cryogenically cold as other parts of the continent. (We’ll just have those pesky earthquakes to deal with).
The climate change deniers are an odd bunch of ducks, aren’t they? They can’t believe that 7.3 billion (not including the billions from previous generations that we replaced) could possibly affect the planet’s weather. Nor can they believe our one billion cars and the energy needed to heat our homes, cook our food, turn on the electricity (much of it from coal or oil), and manufacture our “stuff” could ever affect the atmosphere.
Or they use that old canard: “It’s just a theory, so it can’t be proven” (forgetting that gravity is also a theory, despite its theoretical effect on you if you fall from a tall building).
Seemingly, to get a job with the Wall Street Journal or Fox News, you must see the world through Koch-coloured glasses. You must deny the science, or deny climate change is man-made.
Christopher Booker of The Telegraph takes the flat earth prize for climate change denial. He earned his science-writing credentials at the satirical magazine Private Eye, which means his opinion on climate change is only a little more informed than Kim Kardashian’s. He denies that asbestos is harmful and used his column to libel the chairman of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.
Climate change is a fraud propagated by “warmers,” says Booker, arguing Arctic ice isn’t shrinking, despite satellite photos and a recent study by a climatologist at the University of Washington that states otherwise.
George Monbiot of The Guardian often writes about Booker’s shoddy journalistic research. Booker has many followers. But then again, so does his fellow climate change denier, the conspiracy theorist , anti-vaxxer, and all around monster raving firearms loony Alex Jones.
Then there’s God. Oklahoma Senator Jim Inhofe and others on the religious right in the U.S. don’t believe in man-made climate change in part, because it’s not predicted in the Bible (but then again, neither were iPhones). And besides, it’s arrogant of man to think that he can change the climate, because only God can do that. Even the Pope believes that’s a load of garbage.
It strikes me that if science can allow humans to send a probe the size of a refrigerator three billion miles away miles away to Pluto, discover a rocky world in the habitable zone of a star 1,400 light-years from Earth, or grow the entire arm of a rat in a lab, you’d think people would believe what the scientific community has been saying about high CO2 levels and its effect on climate.
Its getting hotter, folks. Time to invest in solar windows, rain barrels, and some reality.