Years ago, I remember – so it wasn’t that far back, coal was mined underground by men with picks and shovels. It could be dangerous work with the ever present threat of cave-ins. Besides tunnel collapses another danger was poisonous gases like methane, carbon monoxide and dioxide. Back then electronic detection devices weren’t available to check for deadly gases so what we now call old school indicators were used – canaries.
Canaries were brought down into the mine in cages which were set in places where toxic gases were likely to accumulate. The canaries were normally singing or actively moving around in their cages. When a canary was doing these things all was good in the mine relative to gas buildup. When the birds weren’t doing any of these things or had died, and they would died quickly from toxic gases, it was time to leave the mine quickly before the miners passed out or there was an explosion.
Like the canaries there are many warning signs in our daily lives. Some examples being – yellow traffic lights, shortness of breath and the weight reading on our bathroom scale to name a few. The majority of us heed these warnings and if there’s are established protocols for dealing with the problems we follow them. These help us to live longer and healthier lives.
As a species we have been ignoring the warning signs of climate change for many years. Signs including: more hurricanes and typhoons; spring starting sooner; distributions of animals, plants and insects changing and global temperatures hitting new highs year after year.
The miners were always listening for the canaries’ song.
Are YOU listening?