Homeless & Food Insecure
Climate Change Refugees.

“The Great Unraveling. Unless a significant portion of the the general populace grasps why things are falling apart, we will continue to pursue solutions that really don’t solve anything (such as carbon capture technologies), or we’ll blame perceived villains (whether the “woke” or MAGAites) rather than engaging in the hard work of building more resilience into our basic societal support systems. Humanity is approaching a bottleneck, and the only way through involves shared sacrifice. But nobody will want to make that sacrifice if they don’t understand why its needed, and why those with wealth and power must sacrifice the most. Without that understanding, we’re likely to see more political polarization, more scapegoating, and reduced odds of working collaboratively to respond effectively to the crisis in front of us.”…..

“ Humanity’s strategy going forward must be to cooperate in using less energy, material and land, with a focus on justice for humans and non humans alike, while restoring ecosystems to protect bio diversity.”
Richard Heinberg Museletter #601 April 2023.

Facing reality:
The first major global, regional and local signs of the Great Unraveling resulting from the Climate Change Crisis are happening now in the form of the increase in both homelessness and community food insecurity everywhere on earth. Neither of these issues are unique to hot, warm or cold country climates, or rich countries versus poor countries. Nor can either be blamed solely on economic inequity, mental health or drug abuse issues.

It’s also about our changing climate that has increased both the frequency and severity of floods, droughts, forest fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, and other previously less probable events such as heat waves, dust storms, derecho wind storms, rain bombs, and wars over the food and water to recover from such events. Money alone, even in the guise of economic growth can’t solve the devastation and the unraveling of normality the world is now facing.

The homeless and food insecure peoples of the world are more and more… Climate Change Refugees. Many along the southern border of the USA are also political refugees but the changing climate can also be responsible for disrupting democracies and turning them into military dictatorships often warring among themselves and heightening the humanitarian crisis.

The United Nations Secretary General Antonio Guterres repeatedly sounds the alarm with proclamations such as on March 10th, 2023 …. “Humanity is on thin ice – and that ice is melting fast. Our world needs climate action on all fronts – everything, everywhere all at once.” If that isn’t a cry-out for the realization of the Great Unraveling it becomes very hard to know what is.

The USA Biden Administration and both senior levels of government in Canada are now locked into the false promise of the new Hi Tech Green New Deal Economy that openly supports the burning of every possible source of fossil fuel to sustain economic growth, and the idea of more middle class jobs and continued wealth accumulation for the 1%. Compounding the increasing economic growth thirst for more fossil fuels, the 21st century military industrial complex is gearing up, in totality to become the Number 1 user of fossil fuels and the Number 1 GHG polluter in the world. Even with an early conclusion of the war in Ukraine, the lets go to war fuse has already been lit to disrupt global energy supplies and the security of global food supplies for years to come.

On top of this, the UN advises that the world may temporarily pass the dangerous average temperature rise of 1.5 degrees C next year as a result of the predicted El Nino. Who are we kidding…. there could be massive crop failure and starvation next year affecting millions of people with nowhere to go?

The missing reality check:
Global availability of usable fossil fuels are in decline …..we have picked the low hanging energy fruit, and what is left is harder to develop, is of lower quality and of higher cost. Ignoring these simple realities hastens the speed of the Great Unraveling and the dominance of homelessness and food insecurity as the leading indicators of societal breakdown.

UN Secretary Guterres must understand the outright failure of the Global Community to come together on reducing GHG emissions, or provide a transfer of funds from the rich developed countries, who are the larger emitters, to the poorer countries that are paying the biggest price.

To continue to put all of our eggs into the single strategy of reducing global GHG emissions by assigning targets and expecting nations to not only report honestly and also achieve the targets seems politically naive and foolish and yet most of the press perpetuates the narrative in the presumed best interest of the people. On this global score card we might want to face up to the fact that no Canadian Federal Government has ever achieved a single GHG emissions target that it has committed to.

Re-engineering Local Communities:
Local communities everywhere need to immediately assess the risk of the Great Unraveling and work with their elected local officials moving in partnership with their own citizens to re-engineer and re-invest in their own local systems to use much less energy of all types and source as much of that energy locally as is possible.

After years of engagement with the Transition Towns model and local officials, I can attest to how difficult this task really is. That is, building local resilience not only with respect to the two leading indicators of the Climate Crisis… homelessness and food insecurity, but also to reduce our total energy consumption and replace most of the remaining requirement from local renewable sources.

Meanwhile, the new City of Peterborough Council seems perfectly happy to have a declared Climate Emergency remaining in effect while ignoring its own approved Sustainable Peterborough Plan to be able to feed itself by 2035, with actual local food consumption at around 5% of the total in 2023. The economic growth or die advocates seem to have forgotten where their food actually comes from and they have no interest in even knowing what it might take to have 50% of our food come from local sources by 2030. Further, switching to local food is by far the quickest way to reduce energy consumption. Comparatively, switching to electric cars doesn’t come close to local food in reducing total aggregate energy consumption.

Further, the local press is mostly full of irrelevant drivel as if the Climate Crisis doesn’t exist and there are no solutions of merit that we can afford. One recent big news story centered around how many parking spots a new apartment building should have in the downtown core rather than on a plan for electrified public transportation through the downtown to increase the tax base and population density without the use of more cars …either electric or gas fired.

Another story published on the Opinion Page of the local daily newspaper May 3rd,2023 titled Economic growth is good for a population’s health referencing the much lower life expectancy of North Koreans to the much greater life expectancy of South Koreans who are focused on economic growth. The article of course never mentions that the only way to increase economic growth is to consume more energy (mostly fossil fuels) a fact which is the root cause of South Korea’s problems, and also ours in Canada and yet totally ignored in the publishing of such superficial comparative references.

Now is the time to get serious about reducing our local energy consumption in all of its forms, by re-investing in our own community’s resilience before we all become Climate Change Refugees.

Fred Irwin