Today is Earth Day 2008 – and a very happy birthday to a much-abused dear old planet Earth!
Statistics Canada has released this morning an update to its Human Activity and the Environment series that reports, among other things, that the emission of green house gases are up by 25% from 1990 to 2005. Lots more troubling indicators, including a stunning chart showing the remorseless rise in mean global temperatures.
Clean air and moderate temperatures are fundamental to good health. As Toronto braces for more smog days and extreme heat alerts, it’s important to remember that a safe and healthy environment, like most other determinants of health, is a fundamental health equity concern.
Some people in our city are more financially able to mitigate some of the worst effects of smog and heat than others (with air conditioning, vacations out of the city, etc.).
Toronto enjoyed a spectacular weekend this past Saturday and Sunday – and we also puffed our way through the first two smog days of 2008. These smog days have come about a month earlier than expected. If this keeps up, we’ll be on track to beat the last record for smog days set in 2005. In that year, Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health released an epidemiological report surveying death data over several decades and reported that many more Torontonians are dying of heat and smog-related causes than cold injuries.
On the good news front, the provincial government announced today new rules to ban cosmetic pesticides and herbicides. They have taken the lead from the City of Toronto, which adopted its own anti-pesticides bylaw several years ago thanks to a vigorous campaign that was led by Toronto Environmental Alliance staff and volunteers.
It’s been more than two years since Toronto City Council adopted an Urban Heat Island Mitigation Strategy – an acknowledgement of the serious environmental issues facing the city from killer heat and killer smog. Practical and effective action is still required.