Connecting cities’ dots of climate change

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If a picture says a thousand words, people said a lot about climate change on May 5. Through the environmental activist website 350.org, concerned citizens from around the world took part in a day of climate action called Connect the Dots. Participants from hundreds of cities on nearly every continent posed for photographs in which they highlighted ways that climate change has affected their communities — and the ways it will affect them in the future.

“I think the idea is to put a human face on climate change. There’s all these severe weather events going on around the world, and they’re not being reported on as connected to climate change,” says Graham Girard, one of the organizers of the Connect the Dots event in Halifax. Approximately 60 Halifaxians turned up to listen to guest speakers, including NDP environment critic Megan Leslie, at the Halifax event. Attendees then posed for a photo with blue bags held up to their necks to illustrate the levels to which water is expected to rise in Halifax in the next 110–150 years.

“We’ve had continuing record-low ice levels in the Arctic. Here in Nova Scotia, there’s been increased erosion,” says Girard. “Over in Dartmouth, a large storm . . . completely eroded the shoreline and undermined the train tracks. These are severe storms that have severe impacts, and they’re happening all across the country.”

Meanwhile, in Fredericton, organizer Caroline Lee instructed approximately 40 people to pose in front of the Saint John River with signs that read “Three 100-year floods in 20 years.” Lee says the river typically drastically floods its banks once every hundred years, but in the past 20 years, those floods have been more frequent. She connects this up-tick to climate change. According to a 2012 poll commissioned by researchers at Yale University and George Mason University, Lee is not alone. The New York Times reports that, “When invited to agree or disagree with the statement, ‘Global warming is affecting the weather in the United States,’ 69 per cent of respondents in the new poll said they agreed.”

“This event is really timely, actually, because concern about environmental issues has really declined in recent years,” says Lee. “When the economy goes down, that becomes a priority in people’s minds. It’s important to highlight that without healthy people and without healthy communities, we can’t have a healthy economy. Climate change shouldn’t be at the bottom of the list here.”

In Egypt, people gathered in Cairo and Alexandria. Cairo event organizer and 350.org Arab world co-ordinator Sarah Rifaat told the Martlet via email that the 30–40 person turnout was lower than expected.

“Violent clashes in [the district of] Abbasiya between protesters and the army . . . affected the mobility of many people across the city. There were supposed to be bicycle groups coming in from different parts of the city, but our cycling partner pulled out at the last minute for fear of the safety of the cyclists,” writes Rifaat.

Still, participants constructed an aerial art piece of a giant Pac-Man eating three dots that represented two leading causes of climate change (fossil-fuel powered electricity and transportation) and one major climate impact on Egypt (crop failure due to changing weather).

More photos can be viewed at climatedots.org.

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