Eight-year-old Fintry LaPointe with a homemade sign at Salish Park in Chilliwack as people gathered to march to city hall as part of the Nov. 29, 2019 Global Climate Strike. (Paul Henderson/ The Progress)

Chilliwack scientist shocked to hear climate change denial from some school trustees

‘Shouldn’t they be looking after the best interests of the children?’ – Carin Bondar

A Chilliwack scientist and University of the Fraser Valley (UFV) adjunct professor was shocked to hear outright climate change denial from three local school board trustees at a meeting this week.

When Carin Bondar (PhD) heard some of the things trustees Heather Maahs, Barry Neufeld and Darrell Furgason said at the Nov. 26 meeting, she said she couldn’t believe it.

“Wow,” Bondar said during a phone interview from the UFV campus in Abbotsford, where she was filming a video about climate change.

“At this point, people who deny [human-caused climate change] are actually ignoring the facts. Period.”

Carin Bondar is a biologist, writer, filmmaker, television personality and adjunct professor at the University of the Fraser Valley. (File)

Bondar is a biologist, writer, filmmaker and television personality who has, among other things, hosted the Science Channel show Outrageous Acts of Science.

The topic of climate change came up at the Chilliwack School District board meeting when Trustee Willow Reichelt put forth a recommendation that the board issue a statement that, in part, “acknowledges that human activity is contributing to rapid global climate change.”

The recommendation was to reaffirm the district’s policy regarding environmental matters, and to make a suggestion that students could use their day on Friday to attend the Global Climate Strike.

• READ MORE: Climate change needs to be addressed at the city level, says student

• READ MORE: Chilliwack is set to have climate and energy plans updated

“We are currently facing the effects of human-caused climate change, and there is limited time to act before the damage is irreparable,” she said. “Other boards around the province have declared a climate emergency or acknowledged climate change in other ways, but Chilliwack has been largely silent….

“Part of our job in education is to raise engaged citizens. This is a simple gesture to support that goal.”

But what came next is what surprised many.

Maahs said she was shocked by a recent Tweet she saw that invited young people to the climate march by describing it as a funeral procession for a dying planet. “I think kids have mental health and anxiety — this is what we are telling them is true?” Maahs said. “I think this is absolute insanity…. I think to embrace this and to have children encouraged, and students to go along with this, is crazy.

Neufeld called global warming an ideology that he can’t support. “It still remains, in my mind, a controversial issue that if we change our human activity, we will make a major difference on climate,” he said. “There are still forest fires and volcanoes, acts of nature that are contributing to climate change.”

Furgason called the science “questionable” and not settled. “I cannot support this kind of strike/action/protest/demonstration. I’m all for education, but this is a form of indoctrination.”

When told of these statements, Bondar questioned how the three trustees got elected to sit on a board of education, given their denial of recognized science.

“The children are upset, and for Heather [Maahs] to make a statement about scaring the children, it’s irony at its very core,” she said. “We do have much more of a global waking up to do to the fact that the science is there. We are seeing the effects of this everywhere. Generally speaking, climate change is not an ‘if’ thing now, it’s a thing now.”

Trustees Dan Coulter and Willow Reichelt were similarly stunned.

“There are some worrying statements being made here about science,” Coulter said at the Nov. 26 meeting. “The science is pretty much settled that climate change is caused by human activity…. I’m finding it worrying because you are not getting your information from science text books or scientific papers, you are getting your information, likely, from the far reaches of the interweb.”

Reichelt said that of the six trustees present, there was a 50/50 split on accepting the science of climate change, but among scientists that is 97 per cent.

“It’s a little alarming that in this room it’s considered controverial to say that human beings are causing climate change, especially for those in charge of education,” she said.

When asked if and when the media and others should stop even given climate change deniers a voice, Bondar said “that time is now.”

“I think we need to move on because I communicate about science at the university,” she said. “There really doesn’t need to be anybody to tell us here that we are wrong. This should be a wake-up call to our community about who we put on the school board.”

At the end of the school board meeting, Maahs suggested others should not denigrate her opinion and that the subject should be open to debate, something Bondar also disagreed with.

“To say, ‘This is my opinion and I’m allowed to express it here’ that is the opposite of what a public school trustee should be doing,” Bondar said. “Shouldn’t they be looking after the best interests of the children?”


@PeeJayAitch
paul.henderson@theprogress.com

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