Niagara Region declares a “state of emergency” ahead of the total solar eclipse. What on earth is wrong with people these days?

Michael TaubeA total solar eclipse will be visible across North America on Apr. 8. While an annual solar eclipse is commonplace, totality is a rare event, indeed.

How rare? It’s the only total eclipse that will be visible simultaneously on this continent in the 21st century. (The contiguous United States won’t see another until Aug. 23, 2044.) While Mexico and the U.S. last experienced this on Jul. 11, 1991, and Aug. 21, 2017, respectively, this is the first one we’ve witnessed in Canada since Feb. 26, 1979.

I was in public school during Canada’s last experience with a total eclipse. We learned about aspects of this phenomenon in class, including how the moon would briefly obscure our view of the sun.

We made pinhole projectors out of cardboard to view the eclipse safely. Amateurish in design, but fun to construct.

We heard about special glasses that could be worn during the total eclipse. A fine idea, but purchasing a pair of those spectacles proved to be a near-impossibility.

Total solar eclipse state of emergency

Photo by Jongsun Lee

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Above all, we were told one important thing, “Don’t look directly at the sun.” If we did, there was a strong chance of having permanent eye damage.

That last point resonated with me and my classmates. As much fun as it would be to see the solar eclipse, it would be more fun to be able to see for the rest of our lives.

You know what we did? We listened. No one looked directly at the sun (aside from a sneak peek or two, I’d imagine), and no one suffered permanent eye damage.

Easy peasy.

That was then, and this is now.

Many school boards across Canada have decided to either cancel classes, arrange for early dismissal or close them altogether on Apr. 8. Why? The fear that children will look directly at the sun has intensified since I was a young lad. They’re apparently worried that some children will do this while walking home or taking the school bus.

As it happens, I walked home from school during one or more of the solar eclipses I remember as a child. I’m pretty sure 1979’s total eclipse was on that short list.

You know what I did? I followed the sage advice my parents and teachers had given me. I didn’t look directly at the sun and got home in one piece. I also returned to school the next morning, much to my chagrin. (One can always hope for an extra day or two of missed classes, right?)

What about children who get picked up or take the bus home? Parents could make arrangements with family, friends or neighbours to collect them in small or large groups during the peak period of the solar eclipse. Schools could also make arrangements with the bus companies with respect to pick-up and drop-off times for Apr. 8.

Yes, it’s a little tricky to get these things in place. But when there’s a will, there’s a way.

Now, we come to the biggest overreaction of them all: Niagara Region declared a “state of emergency” ahead of the total eclipse.

Why on earth did they do this? According to a Mar. 28 piece in the Niagara Falls Review, “Niagara will be one of the best places in Canada to view the total eclipse on Apr. 8, and as many as one million people are expected to converge on the region.” Niagara Regional Chair Jim Bradley, a former longtime Ontario Liberal MPP and cabinet minister, claimed this state of emergency was declared “out of an abundance of caution.”

Oh, really? That’s unlikely to be the interpretation of most rational-thinking Canadians. This unnecessary reaction only serves to feed into the delusional solar eclipse narrative of hysteria and paranoia that a small minority of individuals seem to be thinking.

It also could have been easily avoided. Don’t declare a state of emergency, which has been widely mocked and rightly so. Instead, use a healthy dose of common sense and proper judgment when dealing with people, both young and old, who want to view the total eclipse. Again, when there’s a will, there’s a way.

It’s hard to believe how differently Canada handled our last encounter with a total eclipse in 1979 as compared to the total eclipse-to-be in 2024.

As I posted on X on Mar. 29:

“Solar eclipses when I was growing up in the 1970s and 1980s – ‘Don’t look directly at the sun, or wear special glasses.”

The forthcoming solar eclipse on Apr. 8. “National emergency, shut down the schools – protect our children!”

What on earth is wrong with people these days?”

That last sentence could take a while to answer.

Michael Taube, a Troy Media syndicated columnist and Washington Times contributor, was a speechwriter for former Prime Minister Stephen Harper. He holds a master’s degree in comparative politics from the London School of Economics.

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