Viewpoint: Global warming is hitting hard and fast

There is so much at stake if we don’t immediately protect our lovely Malaspina Strait, which is home to hundreds of marine species and migratory birds. ~ Lesley Armstrong

Seven months ago, our southwest coast experienced a heat dome, during which billions of sea creatures ranging from plankton and crustaceans to grasses and fish died.

The heat dome triggered a months-long summer drought. Rivers and streams have warmed, subsided or dried up. Summer wildfires have devastated roads and rivers in southwestern British Columbia. Four months later, southwestern British Columbia experienced three atmospheric river systems in which the same streams and rivers were flooded.

All of these extreme weather events will have contributed to the collapse of salmon stocks, which are expected to thrive and survive once they arrive in the Salish Sea. However, the Salish Sea is warming, overfished and teeming with thousands of contaminants of concern (CECs).

According to a 2018 report published by Environment Canada and the Canadian Water Network, CEC research reveals that all marine life, including salmon and killer whale tissue, is riddled with CEC.

What are CECs? Anything that goes into our mouths or leaks: viruses, paint thinner, fentanyl, Viagra, caffeine, bacteria, chemotherapy…you name it. He enters. It exits, directly into a marine receiving environment, unless the treatment plant uses tertiary wastewater treatment. Then, a majority of CECs are effectively filtered out.

With the conclusion of COP26 and new federal Environment Minister Steven Guilbeault, there is a renewed drive to prevent further climate change such as ocean warming, acidification and eutrophication, and to protect key species such as salmon and their top predators, grizzly bears and humans. The high mortality and low reproductive rates of killer whales are linked to their consumption of a diet of salmon riddled with CEC.

CECs wreak havoc with the fear/flight instincts and reproductive capacity of all species. Their neurological and endocrine systems become dysfunctional. Research shows that CEC toxicity also naturally affects human neurological, endocrine, and immune health.

We should be part of the solution as we have more and more evidence that is why other cities have built, are building or have released plans to start building tertiary wastewater treatment plants.

We won’t be “coastal by nature” if we don’t follow the best tertiary treatment practices that most of our neighboring Salish Sea towns are adopting. More pressure needs to be put on Powell River City Hall to aggressively pursue grants and lobby Federal and Provincial Ministers of Health and Environment.

There is so much at stake if we don’t immediately protect our lovely Malaspina Strait, which is home to hundreds of marine species and migratory birds. As was the case with extreme weather systems last summer and fall, global warming is hitting hard and fast, and we don’t always have to protect vulnerable species, because we are now one between them.

Lesley Armstrong is a resident of the town of Powell River.

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