The theme was climate change, but it was the weather that changed dramatically. After torrential downpours in the morning, the sun broke through clouds about noon to welcome the stalwart to the Purple Onion Festival and the Climate Change Rally starting at 1:30 on Sunday. A crowd of several hundred people stood on the soggy grass of Millennium Park to hear the MCs, Rosemary Ganley and Guy Hanchet, explain how the rally was part of 2500 such rallies across the world, all aimed at building the political will to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Dr. Sekagya Yahaya, a traditional healer from Uganda, then pointed out how limited resources are in much of the world, and noted that climate change will make life even more difficult in Uganda. He ended by urging us all to value all of nature, not just humans.
This was followed by short presentations on the effects of climate change already being experienced in the Peterborough area. Drew Monkman, book author and regular nature columnist for the Peterborough Examiner, discussed the effects on nature, including fewer Monarch butterflies and the appearance of warm-climate species such as opossums. Donna Churipuy, Manager of the Environmental Health programs at the Peterborough County-City Health Unit, discussed increased allergies and disease changes. Eric Monkman, President of Monkman, Gracie & Johnston Insurance, stated that insurance rates had risen dramatically in the last few years due to damage from extreme weather. He said that many damages that used to be included in home-insurance policies are no long covered. Cauleen Viscoff, Master Gardener, noted that Canadians used to have a much smaller carbon footprint as a normal way of life, and it was time to do so again.
Music was supplied by Washboard Hank (How the heck can I wash my neck if it ain’t gonna rain no more?), and the Raging Grannies. The Wallace Point singers led the crowd in the international climate-change song, Do It Now.
Alan Slavin, retired Trent physicist, discussed the success of British Columbia’s carbon tax, which has reduced CO2 pollution by 16% in 6 years, and has 64% voter approval because the taxes are all returned as tax credits to the citizens. He urged the crowd to ask their MP and MPP to implement a similar tax in Ontario and the rest of Canada.
Guy Hanchet, president of the local 4RG chapter, announced the winners of the painted rain-barrel contest: Elementary school was won by Westmount PS, Secondary School by Holy Cross, and the Open category by Seeds of Change.
He also said that the positions of local politicians on implementing the Peterborough sustainability plan are posted here on the For Our Grandchildren (4RG) website. Only 10 of 31 Candidates responded so the crowd was urged to contact the other would-be politicians with their concerns and to refer the candidates to the Peterborough Area Sustainability Plan.
Advice from the audience for federal politicians included stop silencing scientists, say no to the tar sands and subsidize the clean energy industry. Provincial politicians were asked to provide leadership in public transit, and municipal politicians were asked to provide more bike lanes and purchase low-emission civic vehicles.
All participants were urged to sign the Peterborough Declaration on Climate Change.