I’ll admit it, I’m scared. Every day, my newsfeed is filled with more news stories and scientific papers underlining the fact that our society’s current trajectory is akin to suicide as a species. As someone who has grown accustomed to civilization, even grown to love it, I fear for the future, and this feels like an Emergency.

The sad reality is that things have progressed so far, that substantial consequences are already inevitable. There is no safe off-ramp, we can only limit damages at this point. Still, the choices we make today have important consequences. 1.5°C is better than 2°C, which is better than 3°C. 4° C and above is unthinkable, and incompatible with civilization, and perhaps even the existence of our species. But, this is the path we’re currently on. 

emergency

This is an Emergency

So what is to be done? Aside from so hopefully-not-serious discussions about evacuating humanity to the planet Mars (perhaps only for the wealthy), we are left with mitigation and adaptation. To stay within 1.5C of global surface temperature warming as a planet by 2030 (a range considered somewhat safe), we’ll need to cut our emissions by almost half. This implies a full-on WWII style transformation to a carbonless economy, which means burning fewer fossil fuels…right now. Unfortunately, in some games, winning slowly is the same thing as losing. We’ve been told it is too expensive to win, that citizens won’t be willing to make the lifestyle changes that’ll be required to enact substantial change, but, we’ve only ever been told half the equation. Of course, it will cost money to stave off the climate crisis, but just what is the cost if we choose not to? The cost to our insurance rates, our mental health, safety, our ability to breathe clean air, drink clean water? Perhaps more importantly, what is the cost to our children?

I continue to be asked whether or not I have hope. But, it is not hope that we need now, we need courage. The time is now for citizens to ask our leaders, our governments, and our corporations to step up to the challenge and act. The power and creativity of the human mind is immense. The power and creativity of seven billion human minds is infinite. As we, as a society begin to recognize what we need to do, we need to collectively organize and start to act.

It is time to change the World. Your World.

It is time to change to a World of security and sustainability, the alternative we face is unthinkable. So I call on you – Emergency Physicians of Canada, to start treating this emergency like the true emergency it is. Step up, get involved. Support organizations making a difference. Be someone who is making a difference, because we are running out of time and the World desperately needs your help.

climate change

Joe Vipond

Joe Vipond

Joe Vipond has worked as an emergency physician for nineteen years, currently at the Foothills Medical Centre and the Rockyview General Hospital in Calgary, Alberta. He has been active on the climate crisis since learning of its repercussions eight years ago. He is a board member and President-Elect of the national charity Canadian Association of Physicians for the Environment. He is also the co-founder and co-chair of the local non-profit the Calgary Climate Hub. Joe grew up in Calgary and continues to live there with his wife and two young daughters. He also runs the Facebook page Alberta Acts on Climate Change.