›› Chantille Viaud

Last year an atmospheric heat dome ­demonstrated, in a single day of extreme heat, what the impacts of climate change look like for people living all across B.C., not just in flood or wildfire-affected areas. And the people most affected by it were the people least likely to be able to afford a heat pump or an EV.

Families are already in crisis in Fernwood—everyday stressors of the pandemic are being compounded by the rising costs of food and housing. Adding on polluted air from wildfire smoke, and unbearable heat last summer, pushed some people over the edge—it was too much to cope with. We saw this at the centre, with the families and seniors who needed extra support.

And while the news filled with images of people racing to buy air filters and fans, and people pointed out that heat pumps were the best choice for the environment and acted as air conditioners, these are not realistic choices for most people.

Once again, the most marginalized groups are the most exposed and ­vulnerable. We see this globally, with those who are the least responsible for climate change, ­suffering the greatest consequences.

At the local level, it’s people who can’t afford an air purifier and worry about their baby’s breathing, or the people who can’t invest in a heat pump and have no escape from days of unbearable heat who suffer the most.

Now more than ever, climate adaptation also means investing in our social safety net and programs that support the resiliency of the most vulnerable in our communities. It means that any action on climate change is tied to workers’ rights, racial justice, gender equality, and ­Indigenous sovereignty.

That’s why, this Earth Day, I’ll be talking to my kids about how working towards a more equitable and just society is part of our path towards addressing the climate crisis. It isn’t just about polar bears and melting sea ice, or people in faraway places. It’s also about supporting our neighbours, and community organizations who ­support people, families, and seniors.