I thought our first summer in Nova Scotia would be memorable for leisurely strolls on the province’s countless gorgeous beaches, and getting to know our new neighbours. Instead, it was wildfires and their toxic smoke, floods at our doorstep, and hurricanes. But amidst the chaos, my family and I found something extraordinary: the unshakeable power of community.
This is our story of a summer like no other.
First came the wildfires.
80 km (50 miles) to the west of us was the Barrington Lake wildfire which started on May 27th. It would go on to destroy 60 homes and 150 structures, burn through 235 square kilometres (146 square miles) of land, and force 6,000 people from their homes before it was finally brought under control on June 13th.
To the east of us were the Tantallon and Hammonds Plains wildfires, which lasted from May 28 to June 4th. Despite the heroic work of firefighters and other first responders, the fire destroyed 200 structures, including approximately 150 homes, and forced the evacuation of over 16,000 residents.
During this time I remember working outside planting our new garden with my three kids, and being choked by the heavy haze of smoke. And although the fires never reached us, I had many sleepless nights thinking about what our evacuation plans would be should the order come, and making sure my family’s emergency go bag was packed and ready.
Six weeks later came the floods. While thousands of residents were still displaced from the wildfires, we were hit with a summer’s worth of rain in just a few hours. Roads were washed out, our basement – and the basements of many of our friends and neighbours – was filled with feet of water. And tragically, three people – including two children – lost their lives.
We ended up with a few thousand dollars worth of damage and lost personal belongings (get your flood insurance, folks!) but it wasn’t lost on me that it could have been much worse. Stuff can be replaced – lives can’t.
But the summer of intense climate impacts wasn’t quite finished. As I write this, we’ve just come through a weekend of high winds and heavy rains thanks to a visit from Hurricane Lee. We were lucky in that it was milder than expected – barely holding a candle to Hurricane Fiona the year before.
Still, many residents were without power and water for days. Our beloved garden – that gave us the cut flowers we sold at local farmers markets every weekend – was destroyed.
And as we kept three kids busy and calm while our home was also without power and running water for the weekend, that familiar anxiety came up. What have we gotten ourselves into? How can we keep our kids safe?
Now that the immediate threat has passed and I’m able to take a breath, what I’m actually reflecting on is not the stress of what we’ve gone through, but how many times throughout it all I got to witness the power of community.
Like how many people opened their homes to those who were displaced by the fires.
Or the first responders – many of them volunteers – who went house to house during the flooding to see who needed help.
Or how the parents from our kids’ play group were all checking in on one another during the hurricane – those with power offering to host the kids from the homes without.
And throughout it all I’ve been grounded in this growing My Climate Plan community we are building. There is real power in the fact that there are so many of us spread around the world who are in this together, united in the vision of a safer future.
Because here’s the thing: we aren’t leaving Nova Scotia. This small and mighty province, filled with incredible people and beautiful landscapes, is our home now. At the same time I have no doubt that if we stay on the same path of fossil fuel-driven climate change, what we experienced this summer will be just a taste of what’s to come.
But I won’t give up. My children’s future depends on us doing everything within our power to change course. And that’s why I’m so grateful for each and every member of this My Climate Plan community.
I truly believe that with all of us working together, hundreds now and growing each day, a climate safe future is not only possible – it’s on the way.