Starting to Face Climate Change

By: Sherry L. B. Johnson

Volume 14, Issue 10, October 2019

I love the Thousand Islands area, where for almost a decade, the town of Gananoque has been my home. During this time I meant to explore my own family’s history but I got distracted by Gananoque’s story. I have come to have a great deal of respect for the gutsy, hardworking, innovative people who lived here. Historically, when knocked down they got up stronger, better and on the leading edge of the trends. I believe they might be doing it again.

For the past three years I have tried to capture some of this history in both a blog and a Facebook page titled: Gananoque Walking.

“This Spring when it rains, it pours and the Gananoque River ROARS!” [Photo by SJB Johnson]

This photo from the Spring of 2017 is a favorite of mine. A lovely representation of Thousand Islands living isn’t it. A truer one than you might guess at first glance. Spring 2017 was our foretaste of flooding to come, remember? The dam in Gananoque was wide open and I titled the picture’s blog post, “This Spring when it rains, it pours and the Gananoque River ROARS!” I further commented “Like so many rivers in Ontario this Spring, the rain is causing the Gananoque River to rise, and rush towards the St. Lawrence River.”

View from Bluff Park in Gananoque. [Photo by JBL Johnson]

The view from Bluff Park in Gananoque this Spring (2019) is another typical photo of Thousand Islands life. Look closely at the boathouse on the right  and it speaks of some other things. Another rainy Spring and human failure to control the River level.

A photo of a flooded boathouse, as seen from Bluff Park in Gananoque, led me to start a petition to see who else was concerned about climate change. 

Yes, the flooded boathouse spoke to me of the possibility of climate change, the possible wisdom of places like Kingston declaring a climate change emergency. With all the flooding it seemed like a good time to see how many around me, living in Gananoque, also thought we needed to talk about doing something similar.

I put up a petition using this picture and in short order found that a lot of us supported something that would encourage action. On July 2, 2019, Gananoque Town Council passed Motion 19-146 declaring “Climate Change Emergency". It seemed that things in my neck of the woods were on track for positive change. Even if as some believed that the flooding was the result of human failure, not climate change, at least dealing with planning for flooding is now part of what we can ask for from a “climate change emergency” declaration.

Then I found myself wanting to repost something someone had written about how wonderful it is that Greta Thunberg, a teenager from Sweden who has taken on climate change and gained international recognition, continues to fight her battle against the adults who aren't prepared to act.

I didn't repost it because I had to stop and ask if I wasn't one of the adults letting our children down. What was I doing to give her and others what she is asking? The painful answer was - certainly not something purposeful everyday or even every week. I made a decision to change that by focusing on my own choices and encouraging others to talk about what we have done and can do. This article is one of the things that resulted from that decision.

I started looking around to see what is being done in Gananoque; quite a lot is quietly being done. Why are we so quiet? I started to wonder, even the declaration of “Climate Change Emergency” had received no fanfare. There was no news release - simply a mention in the Town Council minutes.

However, I have recently discovered the municipality is actively if quietly reviewing and moving forward actively on making use of the declaration. Joining Kingston in effective recycling of white styrofoam is one such project.

Also businesses in Gananoque were making positive changes where they could. Biodegradable food containers and cutlery is available and biodegradable cutlery was in use this summer for several of the hotel breakfast buffets but probably only the staff knew about it and we as citizens, didn’t talk about it. Why? Maybe because when we did the response was “it’s not enough” implying “why get excited” or worse “why bother?”

I can tell you, from first-and experience, that is no way to respond if you want to encourage change. A better response is enthusiasm and exploring what else one can do.

Biodegradable Cutlery found at Nature's Tonic in Gananoque, ON.

My email goes out with a standard signature that includes a Laurie Buchanan. quote, “What you are not changing, you are choosing.” It is there to remind me that I want change for me and the children of the world. One tiny change at a time is powerful. Grains of sand, carried by the wind, erode rock. I have read that it only takes 3% of any group taking action to produce change, that makes me hopeful.

Thinking of photos of seahorses and ocean garbage, I finally did more than note in passing the existence of bamboo toothbrushes and q-tips. Did you know that the handles of these toothbrushes are bamboo but the bristles are nylon? So why couldn’t the big toothbrush makers use a biodegradable handle and the drug stores carry them? I decided to ask my local drugstores if they carry or plan to carry the new biodegradables. The first one I checked, had a display of children’s biodegradable but no adult ones. They are now going to see if the company has adult ones!

The last week, I saw a picture of some Gananoque children following Greta’s great lead and suddenly, I realized I could finally finish my article.

Our children in Gananoque and all over the world are taking a public stand. Isn’t it time we stand with them, behind them and do what they are asking of us? TRY!


Climate Change Emergency:  The emergency declarations are part of a global movement, launched in Australia in 2016, which sees local governments as key to a boots-on-the-ground approach to reducing carbon emissions. It has since become a decentralized campaign, with a number of municipalities in the U.K., the U.S. and Canada issuing their own declarations.

By Sherry Johnson, Gananoque Walking Tours ("Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing."~ Laurie Buchanan.)

We introduced Sherry Johnson in July 2017 in Sherry’s Walking Heritage Tours, Here is an intro: “Sherry was born in Vancouver and grew up all across Canada. By the time she was five, she likely had enough world travel miles to have gone around the world several times. She had her first spaghetti in Germany and her first grilled cheese sandwich in Ghana, her first pizza in Canada. The end result was that while she likes people who travel, she has no desire to travel herself, preferring to have the interesting people of the world come to her. Today she organizes private and group tours of Gananoque.  
Why not arrange your next Book Club meeting in Gananoque: Perhaps a Birthday Party celebration, to meet Gananoque ghosts, with a tour from Sherry Johnson, or just a morning discovering mother nature. All are bound to please.

Posted in: Volume 14, Issue 10, October 2019, Nature, Places



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