The release of Al Gore’s film An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power has drawn reactions from environmental groups and their critics, and made for some insightful dinnertime conversation with my children.
Like many Canadian kids, they watched Gore’s first film, An Inconvenient Truth, in the classroom.
What bothers me is my children’s belief that their teachers were trying to shock them by creating anxiety about climate change.
Like anyone with access to the Internet, my children are very much aware of the shortcomings in the former U.S. vice-president’s thesis. The doomsday predictions simply haven’t materialized, and Gore’s repeated attempts to label random weather events as harbingers of the annihilation of mankind makes his 2006 film, which grossed over $50 million at the box office, seem rather silly.
Scaring children about climate change isn’t limited to Gore. Last year, the Ontario government released a television commercial featuring Canadian environmentalist David Suzuki speaking to a theatre full of youngsters. Suzuki advises the kids that adults aren’t listening to what the climate change activists are saying. As the camera pans to round-eyed children, some with their mouths open in worry, Suzuki tells the nine-and-10-year-olds that they must take action to prevent the end of the world.
Adults need to be wary of the effects of propaganda in the classroom. Canadian educators haven’t been completely honest with our children about their country’s contribution to fighting greenhouse gases. Even though my children have been forced to watch An Inconvenient Truth and similar films many times over their school careers, there are some crucial facts about Canada our children aren’t aware of.
Environmental scientists estimate that Canada produced 722 tonnes of CO2 in 2015, which accounted for approximately 1.6 percent of the global production of greenhouse gas emissions. Compared to China, the United States and the European Union, Canada’s production is small potatoes.
And we can rely on our extensive boreal forest to offset greenhouse gas contributions. The boreal forest stretches across Canada, comprising one-third of our land mass. Thanks to conservation efforts, 93 percent of this forest is publicly owned.
And, most importantly, Canada’s boreal forest is likely the world’s most significant carbon sink. It removes 1.3 billion tonnes of carbon from the atmosphere each year. That’s about 10 percent of annual human-caused emissions.
Unlike other nations, Canadians haven’t over-harvested our trees and the boreal forest has a vitality not found in other parts of the world. Through sustainable management from the private sector and government, Canadians play a very crucial role in the efforts to slow global warming.
Our conservation efforts with this valuable renewable resource don’t get mentioned in Canadian classrooms. That’s a real shame. Stewardship and protection of Canada’s boreal forest will soon become a responsibility of these same kids who Gore and Suzuki have been scaring for years. These children are aware of the three Rs of environmentalism – reduce, re-use and recycle – but conservationism isn’t mentioned as frequently in the classroom. Instead, the narrative produces despair and fear.
Rather than raising anxiety levels among children, schools should trumpet the very positive actions Canadians undertake on behalf of the planet. Let’s remind our kids that Canada has been a good caretaker of our natural resources and our actions have benefited all humankind.
Maddie Di Muccio is a former town councillor in Newmarket, Ont., and former columnist with the Toronto Sun.