• The Low Down

Bread or swimming pools

We’re fabulously rich – we Canadians – particularly so if you live in Chelsea. The fabulously rich can contemplate extravagant indulgence. They can believe their industriousness warrants their year-round indoor ice surfaces. Yet for the fabulously rich, the desire for yet another indulgence beckons: the community swimming pool. The Chelsea Foundation – the foundation responsible for The Meredith Centre and that Mayor [Caryl] Green is strongly allied with – is contemplating such an indulgence because they are fabulously oblivious.


The production of steel and cement are responsible for a great deal of the world’s CO2 emissions — seven per cent for steel and eight per cent for cement. A lot of concrete reinforced with steel rebar was used to construct Chelsea’s recently built hockey and curling rinks, and a great deal would be needed for a swimming pool.


Much of the world’s accumulated emissions come from, or are outsourced by a handful of rich Western countries. Meanwhile the consequences of the fabulously rich’s emissions manifest themselves in the typical way; in that the brunt of the misery is unevenly distributed upon the world’s poor.


The misery of the climate crisis hits the poor first, yet, given time, the agricultural impact of the climate crisis will catch up with the fabulously rich. Agricultural economists are already seeing the impacts of climate change on food production. Cornell University economist Ariel Ortiz-Bobea, who led a recent study on the impact of climate change on agriculture, said of their research: “We find that climate change has basically wiped out about seven years of improvements in agricultural productivity over the past 60 years.”


The climate crisis’ impact on agriculture is reducing yields, not just in the global south. Drought, deluge, and derecho [a sustained wind storm] lower yields in the fertile U.S. Midwest on a regular basis. In 2019 persistent rainfall prevented farmers from planting 20 million acres, and half as much again in 2020 went unplanted. In August 2020, a derecho flattened drought-weakened cornfields across seven Midwest states.


That there has been and continues to be a desire to build inessential facilities highlights the general level of ignorance about the climate crisis, and how quickly emissions must be reduced to keep the world “well below two degrees Celsius.”

The pandemic has shown us what happens to the inessential. In a recent series by Reuters on influential climate scientists, the Québec born and raised climate scientist Corinne Le Quéré, chair of France’s High Council on Climate, points out that our response to the climate crisis will likely be similar to how the world responded to the pandemic: “Maybe it’s like COVID. You know, it happened very quickly. And at some point, it was obvious that you had to put the measures in place very quickly,” she said. “And I think with climate change, it’s possibly going to be the same — it will become obvious.”


When that moment of recognition occurs, it is unlikely that a community swimming pool will be a priority for the limited allocations of available carbon-free electricity. Yet the CO2 emissions from its construction will go on, destabilizing the future for the World’s – and Chelsea’s – children for decades.


Andrew Henry lives in Chelsea.