This article originally appeared on The Green Medium.
Weather changes. Everyone knows the Alberta adage: ‘if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes.’ Weather changes not only over time, but within our memory too. During childhood, weather was extreme, exhilarating. Every thunderstorm was something to remember, every day where the sun blared down onto the concrete was burned into our memories. As we age, weather begins to dull. One possible explanation is that the sample population of weather memories we have to choose from becomes bigger, and with it the peaks and valleys of experience are smoothed. Our temporal perspective becomes stretched, and memory becomes warped. Memory is intrinsically linked to emotion– but emotions and facts are often like water and oil. But when does it become more than a dismissal of nostalgia, when does one cease shrugging off the idea of emotional memory and trust, realize, that these perceptions are reinforced- and now rooted in- fact?
From May-October of 2019, I drove from Edmonton to Lake Louise every second weekend, for a total of about 20 times. I had company a few times, but mostly the six hours trips were spent alone in the confines of a Jeep Patriot. When a person has that much free time on their hands, reflection- not just on themselves, but their environment- is inevitable.
It was June 14. It was in the low 20s, one of the few truly warm days that I would experience in the mountains that summer. I was driving out to see my partner who lived in Lake Louise at the time. About an hour and a half into the trip, a glint off of the side of the highway pulled me from the hypnosis of the dull grey flow. Sitting on the flatbed of a truck was a tiny glass structured adorned with a sign: GREENHOUSES FOR SALE. Nature’s bounty- if you can afford it.
In terms of weather, it was a terribly mild summer. I can’t recall a day in Banff, Lake Louise, Canmore, or Edmonton for that matter, in which the dreary sky was not threatening to rain. What happened to the summers from 5, 10, 15 years ago? The sweltering hot days of July and August spent hiking, camping, or in the River Valley. The teeth rattling thunderstorms that accompanied the heat each night? In Alberta, what we got instead was the second rainiest summer we’ve ever had. The negative feelings are certainly exaggerated by the shattered expectations amplifying the feeling of being cheated out of summer. That being said, Griesbach flooded in in July. There were 54 full days of rain between June and August. Enough to make the news. Environmental Canada meteorologist Mark Melsness told The Globe and Mail “this year might be categorized as once in a lifetime.” Once in a lifetime event, maybe. The stirrings of drastic shifts in climate patterns to come? Possibly. It wasn’t my imagining that the soul of an Albertan summer had been lost. Many across central Alberta noticed.
What happened to our summer?
The Plain of Six Glaciers Tea is a secluded rustic place for exhausted hikers to stop and grab coffee or food- a strange oasis that emerges after over 90 minutes of straight uphill climbing. The trail in itself is an ironic contrast: it begins at the Chateau Lake Louise, a beautiful yet grotesque monument to humankind’s ability to capitalize and overrun every vein of beauty we can. From the teahouse there is a recurring event that makes tourists and employees alike turn their heads; the sound of thunder and the feeling of an earthquake- avalanches careening down Mount Lefroy and Mount Victoria. The owner of the teahouse, Suzanne, has spent most of her life at the teahouse. It is a family heirloom of sorts. She swears that in the summers she has spent at the tea house over the decades, this is the worst the avalanches have been. And they are getting worse.
Most people in the world are not climate scientists, but regular people who don’t spend their time working with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Anecdotal evidence is admittedly not a reliable way to form one’s entire worldview. However, in the case of climate change, there is an overwhelming amount of pushback from those who seek to benefit from exploiting the world. Sometimes a personal story can resonate with those who have to contend with the realities of life, of just trying to survive another pay period, while we do what we can to make sure we have a world to live on in 50 years.
Part of the climate movement is accepting the inevitability of change. That those who recognize the terror inducing realities of living in a world that is slowly dying, or attempting to kill what is harming it, live with it every day. The easier route is no doubt to drown out reality with a healthy dose of noise, of bread and circuses. But in order to improve our world, to continue to fight for what is right from the Teck Mine to the RCMP invasion of Wet’suwet’en, living with the crushing realities is inevitable. Childhood memories are potent vials of emotion, and it is dangerously easy to get drunk on them.
This is not meant to be a piece complaining about the lack of sun this summer. It is not just the rain, it is the cold snaps, the avalanches, the continuous feed of disastrous weather that primarily affects those who are most vulnerable. This is just parroting of distorted echoes that believes we are all strong enough to push forward, that ‘too late’ is looming soon on the horizon.