Has pandemic pushed concern over the environment to back-burner?
SYDNEY, N.S. -- It may seem like a long time ago now, but we are just 13 months removed from 2019.
It was a year Greta Thunberg was Time magazine's person of the year and climate change was dominating global headlines.
Now, at a time when all is overshadowed by COVID-19, some are wondering whether the environmental issues that were so top-of-mind have been forgotten a bit.
Those who were protesting climate change less than two years ago point out that although they can't gather now like they did in 2019 because of COVID-19, the environmental problem hasn't just disappeared.
"It's one of the more important issues of our time, even in the midst of a pandemic," said Kelsey Lane, who is with the Halifax-based Ecology Action Centre.
She says a new United Nations (UN) survey, in which Canada ranks 7th of 65 countries in its perception of climate change, should be taken with a grain of salt.
"The measures that we have taken so far in Canada, have just been really pretty words," Lane said. "But in the next decade in particular, clear action is going to be needed."
Jen Cooper is a project manager with the Atlantic Coastal Action Program (ACAP) Cape Breton.
"I think that's great, but I think we can do better," said Cooper.
When asked if she feels the climate crisis has been pushed to the back-burner by the global pandemic, she says not necessarily.
In fact, she's part of a new climate change task force that's been formed in recent months in the Cape Breton Regional Municipality -- right in the middle of COVID-19.
"This is a really cool, multi-faceted group of people," Cooper said. "Experts from all different fields. Coming together to talk about what we can do locally to provide solutions. And so, maybe the pandemic did help a bit, it gave us a little bit of space and time to create that.'
The UN survey also showed three-quarters of Canadians polled called climate change "an emergency," compared with the global average of 64 per cent.
Some hope that sense of urgency can be parlayed into even more real action once COVID-19 is over.
"We are in a twin crisis right now, but if we are creative and we think about solutions that actually help one another and we can bind economic recovery with things that will help us tackle the climate change crisis that we're in," Lane said.
The pandemic has brought some plusses when it comes to climate change.
There are fewer vehicles on the road, which no doubt means fewer emissions.
But with scientists still warning about the melting of polar ice caps, and milder winters here in the Maritimes,
global warming is still an issue and COVID-19 may have taught us some lessons in how we tackle it.
"It showed that that the global community can come together, particularly, here in Nova Scotia," Lane said.
So, at a time when some still are concerned that our planet is heating up, perhaps so too, once again, is this debate.
And as Lane points out, another thing we can learn from the pandemic is that it sometimes it doesn't take long for problems that seem "out of sight, out of mind" to arrive on our doorsteps.
COVID-19 has also taught us we can come up with innovative solutions to things -- pretty quickly -- if we take them seriously enough.