As we embrace the new year with anticipated optimism, one can’t help but harbour more than a few musings of dread. The first being the climate crisis.

Last week was the only noted snowfall in the Okanagan, and it melted almost as fast as it came down. People were walking around in running shoes admiring the greenery on Christmas Day and New Years. Great, they marvelled, a mild winter with no snow to contend with. But they forget that a low snowpack in the mountains can be disastrous for the spring and summer fire season, which is already causing a lot of worry.

If things don’t change soon, and if our regions don’t get much rain this spring, the wildfire season may be worse than last year. How could it get any worse? Just wait and see.

That’s why governments and big business are implored to ramp up programs to address global warming with urgency. We need to cut greenhouse gas emissions and carbon pollution now, not in a few years. Some say it’s too late, but we must remain hopeful for future generations. In the meantime, undertaking FireSmart principles at home is more important than ever.

Another issue on the 2024 priority list is mental health and addictions, which dominated the news last year with myriad reports of suffering. The opioid crisis and the number of overdose deaths represent a staggering problem in Canada that needs a more urgent response when it comes to prevention, treatment, and recovery. 

Unfortunately, it’s becoming more hazardous to walk down the street or operate a business in some larger centres due to the mental health crisis. Last week one Okanagan businessman filmed a young man threatening him with his own business sign. After the entrepreneur said he would call the police, the suspect encouraged it with a taunt. It was noted in the news report that one of the entrepreneur’s employees was sent to hospital after being allegedly assaulted by this street person.

In another incident caught on surveillance camera, a young man on a scooter vandalized a couple of vehicles at an auto dealership. At one point he had to stop his violent tirade because his pants fell down. One might say the world is getting crazier by the minute, which could be true, but the fact is there are so many people lashing out for help in bizarre ways. Let’s hope the Columbia Valley’s new ‘Situation Table’ will soon be up and running to provide the support needed for these vulnerable people in crisis. 

Besides a renewed focus on addressing our social ills, there really needs to be a turnaround in our justice system that continues to place more emphasis on the rights of the accused than the victims. People are losing faith in the courts when they see conditional sentences, probation, and bail for offenders who commit serious crimes, especially assault. There was a time when the scale tipped in favour of the victim, but sadly those days are gone.                   

Lyonel Doherty, editor