Jenny Howell is the water wise instructor and the executive director of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society. (Photo submitted)

DOWN TO EARTH: Frogs and billionaires



Special to the Tribune

The boiling frog analogy is often used to explain human’s slow reaction to acting on climate change. It could also be applied to pandemic responses too.

The countries that acted early, hard and fast (Taiwan, Korea, New Zealand and later Australia) had very few deaths and are now enjoying rebounded economies and living normal life to a degree that many other world citizens can only peer at enviously through COVID-fatigued eyes.

As with pandemics, if politicians had chosen to act on climate change when scientists first rang the alarm bells, the actions needed to turn things around would have been on a smaller scale than now necessary. Joseph Stigliz, a Noble Laureate and Columbia University economics professor said, states bluntly that the frog has now boiled.

However, it appears the world is also waking up to the multiple potential impacts of the climate crisis and we are entering a ‘better late than never’ phase.

Three of the world’s richest men are now applying their considerable resources and energy to helping tackle climate change. Elon Musk and Bill Gates are trying to ‘tech’ their way out of climate change with carbon capture and geo -engineering investments.

Jeff Bezos has promised Amazon will be net zero by 2040.

While there seems to be some dispute about the effectiveness of their approaches, it is generally welcomed that they are focused on the issues given their country-sized influence on world affairs and economies.

Wall street has also started to change direction; slowly and ponderously, like an oversized container ship seeing sandbars ahead.

Fifteen-hundred companies have committed to decarbonisation, along with eight hundred cities and one hundred regions.

Much of this is driven by companies recognizing that following a green future is where the financial returns are heading. Exxon was once the world’s largest company, but its value has now tumbled.

Consumers and investors are pushing changes by increasingly demanding sustainable options. Our collective daily choices are making a difference.

READ MORE: Accelerating net zero

Meanwhile, the harsh reality is that the latest data from the International Energy Agency shows carbon emissions in the second half of 2020 rose steadily and are set to surpass pre-COVID levels in the next few months. The countries that followed through with the ‘green economic recovery’ promises (such as France, Spain, UK, Germany) have reduced their carbon rebound significantly more than those that did not (e.g. China, India, U.S., Brazil), frustratingly demonstrating that some answers are sitting there, waiting for the political will.

READ MORE: Global carbon dioxide emissions rebound strongly

With a U.S. President who has just invited 40 other world leaders to a virtual climate summit, billionaires invested in solutions, trend-following financial markets seeing opportunities, and now here in Canada the Supreme Court ruling that a Federal carbon price is constitutional, the hope is that Joseph Stigliz is wrong and the frog is not yet dead.

Between the lines of most of the articles I have been reading, amongst the cynicism and cautions of green washing, there is a faint and long absent shimmer of hope.

Water Wise Tip: A xeriscape garden can be lush and beautiful. Check out our Water Wise plant guide for some suggestions of low water-use plants that will thrive locally.

For more information on Water Wise or Waste Wise and any of our school and community programs, contact the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society at or visit the website at

Jenny Howell is a Water Wise instructor and the executive director of the Cariboo Chilcotin Conservation Society.


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