Direly needed: A derecho of pivotal change


The strong winds that devastated much of the National Capital Region, including parts of the Outaouais, was a meteorological phenomenon called a derecho. It swept from Michigan into Canada last Saturday and at time of writing (May 30th), 36,000 Ottawans remain without power.

Canada’s Environment and Climate Change Senior Climatologist David Phillips explained derechos: “It’s sort of like a microburst or a thunderstorm … This storm [extended] almost 1,000 kilometres from Michigan to Maine as it went across Ontario and Quebec. That’s what a derecho is, it’s a long line of very active thunderstorms or microburst situations.

Nothing can deter it.

It just marches along.” (bit.ly/3zax946)

North of Quyon, we were without power for three days. This was nothing in comparison to what others of you suffered… Yes, we have a generator – and it’s gasoline-powered. I paused often to reflect: generators are hardly a climate-change positive solution…

Implications of a derecho’s power

EVs (Electric Vehicles)

I have thought a lot about EVs. How would EV owners cope with sustained power outages? The prospect of increased power outages makes me realize that we need to be
more self-sufficient. We’ll be investigating battery banks which can save power captured by solar panels.

Challenge? Battery banks are expensive. And so far, there isn’t an EV car model comparable to our eleven-year-old Toyota RAV 4 which features excellent clearance for all the backroad driving we do here at home in the Pontiac. Yes, we could possibly get an EV truck, but that’d overkill for our daily needs.

Many people want EVs and are transitioning to them. However, the wait for one may be 3 years, according to an EV dealer interviewed recently on CBC radio.

Pivot points

Other reflections include these: forest fires, floods, pestilence (Covid, Monkey Pox and what’s next?), derechos and tornadoes will be increasingly common with climate change.

Although such phenomena can spawn pivotal changes, the status quo remains woefully entrenched.

Can we as Canadian society change to more sustainable lifestyles and industrial practices?

Clearcut solutions?

I reflect upon the #1 issue for Canadians – politicians tell us it’s the housing shortage.

So, what now?

More agricultural land will be paved over for highways and housing developments. To build these both concrete and lawns are must-haves. Say goodbye to more farmland, see more forests clearcut as needs for sand, gravel and grass increase.

(Meanwhile, I hear the Ovenbird’s song. He’s just migrated back to his breeding grounds here in the Municipality of Pontiac. He’s flown all the way from Mexico and South America, fyi. He’s calling for a mate in a doomed patch of forest that awaits clearcutting for a sandpit. My heart cries.)

So my reflection continues: we need to eat and house ourselves. And yes, we need jobs. And yes again, jobs here in the Pontiac are hard come-by and employers are seeking to find (and keep) good workers. Understood.

But look at status quo’s trickle-down effect: clearcutting woodlands for sandpits. Sand is trucked and transformed (with other inputs) into concrete. Clearcutting woodlands for grass. Sod is laid down for people’s lawns. Then, everyone buys a gas-powered lawnmower and cuts their patch of lawn in the new, non-energy-efficient housing development.

We need a windstorm of change

Greta Thunberg said: “Blah, blah, blah” to hearing international politicians and CEOS vowing to fight climate change.

When will politicians (and the CEOs who are receiving derecho-style escalations in salaries thanks to Covid) actually pivot the status quo to a greener future?
Now, THAT’s a derecho to embrace.

Katharine Fletcher is an author, freelance writer and visual artist. Contact her at fletcher.katharine@gmail.com