Chapter Twenty-Four

The Souring Seas

Chapter Twenty-Four

Saturday, February 3, 2024

Michael’s third birthday party rocked on Saturday afternoon. At least, Tony presumed it rocked as much as a party for ten three to four-year-olds could rock in a small apartment. He’d been banished to his university office while Beth and Bernadette orchestrated everything. He returned at four thirty to his assigned task, cleaning up the mess.

Michael grabbed Tony’s hand and dragged him into the living room. Michael’s little friends had departed, but he remained in an excited state. “Come play.”

“Slow down, my little man. You can show me your new things, but I must tidy everything before dinnertime.”

Tony slid to the floor while surveying the situation. Beth joined him as he began collecting toys the party guests had strewn about. “Everything go okay?”

“Yeah, great. Bernie’s a marvel at handling little kids. I mostly entertained the few mothers who chose to stay. One was Sandra, the pushy NDP activist, but Gwen kept her in line.”

“Gwen? Should I know Gwen?”

“The mother of the cute little girl Michael likes so much.”

“Emma’s mother, Gwendolyn Mulholland.”

“Mulholland. Back home, we had neighbours named Mulholland. I should have remembered her name.”

“And why’s that name important?”

Beth laughed. “I thought you might know her because she’s contributing their personal data to ClimateChange&U.”

“By personal I assume you mean their family data on energy usage.”

“Yeah, that data, not personal personal.”

“We track submitted data by postal code. If you know her code, we could check. But what’s the interest?”

“She was so knowledgeable, I decided she must be a contributor.”

Tony dumped a handful of Duplo bricks in their tub. “Funny topic for a kid’s birthday party.”

“I didn’t suggest it. Sandra started harping on politics and environmental policies. Gwen mentioned the website to shut her up. Could she know Sandra wasn’t a contributor?”

“If she knows Sandra’s postal code, and we have no contributors from that code.”

After carting tubs of toys to shelves in Michael’s bedroom, Beth watched Tony from Michael’s doorway. “The political discussion reminded me of our discussion coming home from the airport a few days before Christmas. Should ClimateChange&U start a serious campaign associated with this fall’s federal election campaign, one to push for real action.”

Tony paused as Michael climbed onto his back. “Can we do that during an election campaign without picking sides?”

“By taking a non-partisan approach, stating a few basic facts, and insisting it’s time for meaningful action. It doesn’t matter which party wins, it’s time to act.”

He rolled over, holding the now squealing tyke above him at arms-length. “And how will you convince them?”

Beth tipped her head to one side, gazing at Tony with furrowed brow. He smiled. Let her worry about my intentions. This conversation will help get her ideas organized.

“First, we’ll reiterate ClimateChange&U standard mantra—global warming is real; weather will be more erratic, sea level will rise, and extreme meteorological events will become more violent and more frequent. Then we’ll say individuals, various industries and many lower levels of government are making concrete improvements. We’ll finish with encouraging the national government to act.”

“We’ve been saying that from the beginning.”

“I agree, but in dry scientific language. We need to be more aggressive in ways everyone can understand. I’ll take a more adversarial stance and you’ll be there to back me up with the facts.”

Tony grabbed Beth’s arm as Michael scampered off to bring more toys back to his room. “There’s something you need to know. Something that could affect your plans to slay the dragons in Ottawa and Edmonton.”


“The US government has shut down ClimateChange&”

“Can they do that? Isn’t free speech protected by the courts?”

“In theory.”

“But their government can’t arbitrarily shut something down. They must have reasons.”

Tony rolled his eyes. “They had reasons, bullshit ones that fit in with their current nativist thinking, protecting America and the American Dream. They identified a bunch of websites, ClimateChange&U among them, that were subverting suburban family-oriented attainment of wealth and all the accoutrements of the modern US.”

“But that’s so passé.”

“Exactly. But that’s the trend, an attempt to relive America’s glory days of the post World War II era.”

Beth shook her head as she followed Michael into his room with another armload of his toys.


That evening, Michael fell asleep after Tony read him three stories and Beth, two more. She closed his door and plopped onto the living room sofa beside Tony. “You’d think any kid as wound up as Michael was today would’ve fallen asleep over his dinner.”

Tony laughed. “Maybe he’ll make up for it by sleeping in tomorrow morning.”

“Fat chance, but what does the American government action mean for us?”

“On the short term, very little. Our government’s fighting with the Americans over so many issues. They’re unlikely to follow their lead on this one. I say we move ahead as planned.”

“Are you saying you now accept my more aggressive approach?”

Tony strode into the kitchen to put on the kettle. Tea had become part of their routine from the early days of Beth’s pregnancy. Making it would give him a few moments to consider his approach.

He returned with teapot, cups, and a plate of cookies left over from the party. “The disconnect between a public keen to address the issue and governments incapable of action has been obvious for years—”

“Not all the public.”

“All our public. The people who participate in our website are onside. When you broaden our attack, you’ll be taking on climate change deniers and other public critics.”

Beth reached out to agitate the teapot. “Right now, we’re mostly talking to the converted.”

“Aren’t you reluctant to tackle the deniers?”

“I am. You should sympathise. They’re irrational and it’s so hard not to overreact. We must ignore them and target the fence sitters, people who inherently agree with us but can’t overcome their inertia?”

Tony sat back with the tea Beth poured. “Let’s be rational and tackle the issues separately. What’s the big issue for your anti-government campaign?”

“Governments. When you dig into provincial government initiatives, they’re as bad as the feds. We’re now halfway from the signing of the Paris Accord to the target date for reductions Canada and other countries agreed to. We’ve hardly dented the problem. Provincial and federal governments insist we’ll reach our goals but no one, not even their own bureaucrats, think it’s possible.”

“And what’s the major stumbling block?”

“The oil and gas industry and the efforts by governments, mostly the feds, Alberta, and Saskatchewan, but also BC, to boost production and export of fossil fuels.”

“And massive government subsidies for expanded production of heavy oil are central to their push.”

“You think we should focus on that issue?”

“It’s important, but we need more than one issue. Write an editorial on the subject, and it wouldn’t hurt to feel out your interviewees, see if they’ll say something provocative. But keep your overall focus broad.”

“You suggesting I try to plant ideas in my interviewees minds?”

Tony laughed. “I’ve been interviewed. I know how interviewers trick their victims into addressing certain issues and saying something they didn’t want to.”

Beth shrugged but didn’t challenge Tony’s claim. “And the reluctant public?”

“Figure out why they don’t buy in.”

“Fear. Fear of the unknown, fear of having to change their lives and live without something important, fear of losing their jobs.”

“Jobs are a key. They link the skeptics in the public and the ambivalence of governments. Everyone’s worried about impacts on employment. Something else you can weave into your climate change tapestry.”

“Sounds like you’re laying out a major campaign, more than providing a climate change focus for this fall’s election. What’s your role?”

“My job’s much easier. I’ll continue to manage the technical side of the website and compile and assess input we get from citizens—”

“And provide scientific rigour for my stuff.”

“That too, but my main task will be getting my thesis written and launching a new research initiative. Much easier than convincing governments and millions of citizens to do something they’re uncomfortable with.”

“And hope the government doesn’t decide our website is too much of a thorn in their sides and shut us down.”

Tony shrugged his shoulders. “If they do, we build a new platform. We must engage the enemy and fight the good fight.”


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