This is the text of GTEC Board member, Dr. Linda Thyer’s talk to Vancouver City Council about the Vancouver Climate Emergency Action Plan (CEAP).
Good evening Mr. Mayor and Councillors, and thank you for the opportunity to speak from the unceded territories of the Coast Salish peoples in support of the Climate Emergency Action Plan proposal brought to council for approval.
My name is Linda Thyer, and I am a Family Physician living in Vancouver and working at Simon Fraser University’s Health and Counselling Services clinic.
Every day in our clinic, I see our young University students, the next generation of physicians like me and councillors like you, functioning below their capacity due to mental health problems. They can’t concentrate, they don’t have energy for the tasks at hand, and they can’t sleep. They are a reflection of the increasing mental health issues among our youth on a larger scale beyond SFU, where we are seeing increasing numbers of anxiety, depression, and suicidality.
While some of their mental health issues may be related to other stressors in their life, increasingly we are seeing mental health issues related to climate change. The science about climate change is no longer debatable, and these young intelligent adults know it. Many are well aware of the recommendations in the 2018 IPCC report, that we must make a major shift in our society within the next 10 years if we are to avoid catastrophic and unmitigable consequences of climate change. And they are seeing the signs of this impending crisis for themselves, in the yearly “once in a century” spring floods, and the “unprecedented” wildfire seasons.
Those affected directly by severe climate events such as wildfires and floods in their communities are suffering in increasing numbers from PTSD, or Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Those who haven’t yet experienced these events themselves, but are reading about them and anticipating such an event, are experiencing similar symptoms in what is now called Pre-Traumatic Stress Disorder. This may be defined as: the condition in which a person experiences symptoms of trauma as they learn more about the future as it pertains to climate change, and watch the world around them not making the necessary precautions.
The youth and young adults of today are smart, informed and knowledgeable, and most are willing and prepared to make the changes needed in our society in order to have a better long term future. But they are seeing grossly inadequate action from most levels of government. Our government needs instead to show leadership on this critical issue to set a good example for development of a resilient future generation. They are feeling powerless and hopeless, anxious and depressed. Some are questioning the value of putting so much time, energy and money into a University degree if it will all be for naught.
We need to give them hope. We need to show them that we, the generation of current decision-makers in part responsible for this crisis, are taking action. We need to give them hope that they have a future that is worth planning for and investing their time and energy in. This Climate Emergency Action Plan does just that. It will give us cleaner air, less pollution, and citizens who are physically and mentally healthier. It is the aggressive action plan that many are craving. It is the antidote to Pre-traumatic Stress Disorder.
As the physician of these students, I recognize I am a person of considerable privilege in our society and that I myself am contributing to the climate crisis. As such, I am ready to make sacrifices and to take on a fair share of the inconveniences and the costs needed to adapt to a new plan. I applaud the planning done through the social equity lens to mitigate the impact of these changes on the more vulnerable, some of whom are these students.
Please give our young adults, our future leaders, the future they need and the future we owe them. Please support the Climate Emergency Action Plan as proposed, adopting it in its entirety, with full funding and without delay.