How I learned to keep my house, and my children, safe from climate change | Maisie Drew, author

The fires are approaching. There’s been some destruction, and I can feel the anxiety growing. Some friends have told me they’ve evacuated, and I can’t help but wonder what I’ll do if this is the future we’re headed for.

Most of the places we used to call home have burned — Bonnyville, Garibaldi National Park, Bella Coola and the Shuswap, to name a few. I’ve had terrible nightmares, and I wake at night thinking the flames are closing in. The fires have brought us to our knees and show us that the “continuous” — B.C.’s translation for “year round” — winter has come to an end.

Some parts of the province, such as Okanagan, Similkameen and Shuswap, are relatively safe. They get some rain and their forests are relatively tall and healthy. However, the fires are fast and furious in B.C.’s interior, and it’s difficult to know where the next spark will come from.

This is one of the most important lessons our children will learn if we don’t take action. Some areas are beyond our control — the supply of water and the weather — but we can work to slow climate change and make the little things we do matter.

For my family, cleanliness is a vital part of our life. I could not bring my young children up in a home without nice meals, healthy groceries and clean clothes. And yet even we need help to keep these things intact. We have our clean clothes made in an eco-friendly way, but the day-to-day chores like washing, folding and brushing my kids’ teeth have to be done by hand. We don’t have a dryer, because we don’t have the electricity to run one. And our house is mostly compacted logs, not stone.

I could try to figure out how to make my home more fossil-free and carbon-neutral. I could use what some purveyors call an “extended sustainable living” space — a communal dwelling or vacation home without all the luxuries — to stay at when I need to. I could join some of the many cottage associations across the province to try to plan and coordinate our energy needs. I could compost my food and worry less about getting dirty all the time.

I could all of these things. However, the reality is, they won’t change our corner of the planet, and they won’t make us safer if we don’t also slow climate change.

Every parent in this province knows that a scary enough event can wipe away all the hard work we’ve made to make sure our children are healthy and comfortable and secure in the home. This is why it’s so important for us to keep our homes as clean as possible, to clean up after them and to teach our children how to take care of each other. Our daily lives are all-consuming. The mere thinking of what our children might be doing — dancing on a hot roof, hopping over a burning tree, dousing themselves with water, putting out a neighbour’s fire — can push me over the edge. It’s what makes this time of year so scary.

At the end of a long day, my house is clean. Our laundry is folded. We’ve sometimes used our energy bill to buy honey for breakfast, but that happens once a week. Our grocery shopping is managed, along with a limited number of extra bags each week. Our cleaners look after our home on a daily basis, and we get to visit the woods at least once a week. With a little commitment, it’s possible to make sure our home is the best it can be.

To help us be more prepared when the climate change climate heats up, I’ve learned to follow three simple principles. First, clean. A “squeaky clean” house will help to buffer any added stress and turbulence in the house during the fire season. Second, be vigilant. With fires, floods and stormy weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes, these principles can be put to the test. Third, foster a climate that’s easy for us to manage. As long as we keep these simple ones in mind, we will find it relatively easy to do.

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