Boiling the Frog

A submerged dock area along Toronto’s waterfront

Tuesday at noon, I took my first lunchtime walk along the Toronto waterfront.  I walked through the lush blooming trees and late-Spring flowers in the Toronto Music Garden, the air heavy with fragrance.  It would have been perfect–except that I kept running across places where the water was so high that it had submerged part of the boardwalk or docks.  Over on Toronto Island, the levels are nearly as high as they were in 2017, when public access was closed well into the summer because of flooding.  The only reason why it hasn’t closed yet this year is because of preventive measures taken in the wake of the flooding–and frantic monitoring and sandbagging.

Just last week, I read an in-depth article in the Star about the flash flooding last August, when a storm stalled over Toronto and didn’t move for hours.  It reads like one of the disaster stories about tornadoes or hurricanes that have fascinated me for years–but this isn’t the first time in the past few years that parts of Toronto have flooded.  Infrastructure is aging.  More people are living Downtown, green space that used to absorb water has been replaced by concrete, and density is outstripping capacity.  Combine that with the shifting weather patterns, and it’s, pardon the pun, the perfect storm.  As one Toronto councilor put it, the city is built for a climate that no longer exists.

A quote from that Star article is telling. “Historical data shows that Toronto temperatures have increased 1 to 1.5 degrees over the last 30 years, said Kent Moore, a professor of physics at the University of Toronto. Snow-melting rains are the most obvious example. Compared to Toronto winters of 40 years ago, Moore said there are now an extra 10 days when temperatures creep above zero.”   I moved to Toronto coming up on 30 years ago.

And it’s not just here. A thread on the Facebook group for the SCA had people trading tips for a climate where summers are increasingly scorching hot, threatening the camping events that are the mainstay of summer activities.  Our own large local event cancelled almost all daytime activities last year in the face of temperatures dubbed as “Three feet from the sun.”  This year, contingency measures are in place.  But so far this year, the issue is not hot and parched, but cool and rainy.  Today, just a week away from June, the temperature was just 14–more typical of late April.  Daffodils are still blooming.

That’s what makes climate science denial so aggravating.  People are dealing with this now. It’s already killing people around the world.

Individuals are exhorted to “do their part”–to recycle, to reduce their carbon footprints, to be conscientious consumers.  Those are all wonderful things.  But individuals cannot shoulder the blame for this alone. Governments and corporations are more than complicit–they are, in many cases, encouraging looking the other way at the data and evidence.

The frog is in the pot, and the water is starting to bubble ominously.  But the frog seems to think it’s just a nice warm bath and that he’ll continue to adapt.