Occupy Wall Street

All I can say is WOW.

In a previous post, I wondered and hoped, if the kind of uprising that we saw last spring in Egypt would ever come here, in the name of climate change. When would people draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough? When would they get off the couch, turn off the TV, and take an active role in their democracy? When would the companies and governments of the world stop for a minute – and listen to the people?

The Occupy Wall Street movement is not about climate change, not really. It is about standing up to corporations who seem to have a relationship that is just a bit too cosy with the government. The government should not be looking out for the best interests of corporations. The government is for the people, it is supposed to represent the people. It is supposed to keep the people safe, by ensuring there are regulations on products and work practices and environmental destruction. It is supposed to protect and maintain the basic infrastructure of our society – roads, bridges, education, phone service, internet, electricity, and yes, banks. It is supposed to do things that are in the best interests of the people. It is not supposed to put corporations first.

Along the way, somehow our capitalism has got mixed up with democracy. Democracy should always be the most important thing. The people, not corporations, must decide what is in their best interests. The people must decide what are the best policies for them. They must decide what regulations protect them the best. It is should be by the people, for the people.

But somehow we have gotten to a place where capitalism is the most important thing. Democracy has been demoted. Now the economy rules supreme. And who runs the economy? Corporations. So what does the government do? It tries to create an environment where companies can thrive. It reduces business taxes, putting more of the tax burden on the middle class. It keeps minimum wage pretty low. It has regulations that are relaxed over time, in the name of competition (look at America’s banking system and how that turned out). It keeps environmental regulations pretty lax.  It disregards what 97% of climate scientists are telling us about climate change.

But is this a race to the bottom?  To have lower minimum wages, lower standards, lower business taxes, and a blatant disregard for climate change?  Are all these things the best thing for people?

Here in Alberta it is about oil. The oil royalties in Alberta are some of the lowest in the world – this is good for corporations, as they can take it out the ground and not have to pay as much to the government for it. This royalty regime has caused rapid development of the oil sands, and so the companies are up there, pulling it out, faster than the environmental agencies can determine the long-term effects, faster than the town of Fort McMurray can grow, and faster than the Woodland Caribou can adapt to their reduced habitat, putting them on the endangered list. Why so fast? There is so much development in Alberta that workers are coming in from other provinces, and foreign workers are streaming in. So why so fast? For the people of Alberta? I don’t think so. To please the oil companies so they keep growing the economy quickly? Now maybe we are on to something…

So how does the Alberta government score on environmental monitoring? Well, for starters, it uses an agency that is self-funded by the oil companies to do the monitoring. Independent scientists like Dr. Schindler’s team have said the monitoring is sorely lacking.  The formal federal environment minister, as well as Canada’s environmental commissioner, have even said it is lacking. So it is definitely lacking. Why? Well tighter regulations make it harder on companies and then the economy doesn’t grow at such a high clip. But the economy is for the people of Alberta, who already have enough jobs. And the people of Alberta, are sick of being the world’s peddlers of dirty oil.

So yeah, you can say that the Occupation Wall Street movement has really got to me. I now can see change more clearly on the horizon.  People are standing up for democracy, putting it ahead of capitalism. They are standing up for each other, for me and for you and for our shared lot in this world.  This is so inspiring and amazing.  It is exciting how fast this has grown. I can’t help but wonder how it will all unfold.

Tomorrow it starts in Canada, in 15 cities. In my own city of Edmonton, they are meeting at noon at Churchill square to march and then settle in for a longer term encampment. Can you believe it? Occupy Edmonton. It is amazing to me really. Camping here is no small feat, with temperatures dipping below freezing at night, and winter quickly upon us. It will be interesting to see how long they can last.

Occupy Wall Street is occupying my mind. As those occupiers chant, all over this continent:

We are the 99%.

We the people will never be defeated.

…I think of them with love, hope, and optimism.  Indeed.

Al Gore & I

So I checked out the Climate Reality Project last night. I stayed up way to late, like until 2 am. I think they were in Hawaii or something at that point…

The whole thing ended tonight, with a presentation from Al Gore, so I had to tune in again. I wanted to hear him present on this issue after hearing him all those years ago in the Inconvenient Truth. I can honesty say that Al Gore was the one who opened my eyes to the climate change issue. I just was not aware of the importance of it before.

When I first watched the Inconvenient Truth back in 2006, it kinda hit home and I felt like I needed to change my ways a bit. So I grabbed a jiffy marker and a scrap of paper and wrote a list of 5 things that we should all do as a family, and put it up on the fridge. It went something like this:

  1. Use reusable bags
  2. Change light bulbs
  3. Recycle
  4. Turn off the lights
  5. What else???

I did some of those things from time to time. I was good about the recycling, but that was so easy since our municipality just has us throw every single thing that can be recycled into a blue bag and then toss it to the curb.  As for the other things on the list, I tried to do them, but over time, I mostly just forgot.

But still. My thoughts on the issue had changed.  I started voting for the Green Party.

So, Al Gore kinda has a special place in my greenie heart. Although I have come a long way since then, I heard it from him first. He raised awareness in a big way, not just for me, but for many people all over the world.

As part of this 24 hours of Climate Reality project, he filmed another video, titled “Grassroots”. It really resonated with me, so I need to share. Here he reminds us that the voice of the people is the strongest thing, stronger than any other special interest or power, and that when people stand together and draw a line in the sand and say enough is enough, change will happen. Look at Martin Luther King, the Berlin wall, Egypt… These are examples where people stood up for change against huge obstacles. It happened before and it will happen again.

This gives me so much hope. Please watch:

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Climate Reality?

In the last year, so much of my reality has changed.

I really can trace that change to a day last November, when I picked up a book called “Now or Never” by Tim Flannery, read it in one night until 3 am in the morning, and was crying by the end. My reality changed. My way at looking at the world changed. In the course of about 5 hours to read that book, it had all changed.

Before, I would find entertainment and enjoyment in going shopping, wandering through the malls with my kids, looking at cute tops for me and new outfits for them. We would come home with bags of stuff, and I would manage to find somewhere in our house to put it all. It was fun looking at all the new designs, the patterns, the colours. I liked seeing new things designers came up with.

I admit, I still like it. But now I realize that looking at this stuff, and appreciating the design, can be separate and apart from plunking down my cash to take it home with me. I can look and be interested by something, without having to own it. Looking at this stuff fulfills something in me that perhaps we all have but have not noticed before – an appreciation for art, design and innovation. This does not necessarily have to translate into ownership.

Okay, so now I don’t really buy stuff. Like ever. And it is not hard, either. I don’t see things and think ohhhh, I want that, I want that! I see things and appreciate them, but don’t even think of buying them. I just don’t care anymore. I just don’t want it in my house. I just don’t want it. I want nothing to do with it. I don’t want to be part of what it took to bring it to this store, where I am standing, looking at it now…

That is what I mean. My reality has changed. I cannot look at any object in any store and not think of its history. Where did it come from? Like really, WHERE. Where on Earth was it derived? Everything came from the Earth somehow, so how was this thing cobbled together? How far did it travel? Who made it? Were they paid a fair wage? Were they exposed to dangerous conditions, to chemicals? Where was it mined? What happened to the place on this planet where it came from? Was wildlife disturbed? Were forests peeled back? Was fresh water used and used and used? Was carbon put up into the sky?

Again I ask myself – am I a crazy person for thinking this way? Like I cannot look at a sweater in a store, and not think about where it came from, what it took to get it to me, and what the real cost was. The REAL cost, the cost to people, the cost to the planet, the cost to wildlife, the carbon cost to our atmosphere. If the REAL cost was presented to us on price tags everywhere, we probably would not buy much stuff at all…

And so I do not. I don’t buy, because I cannot be a part of it anymore. What makes me sad is that I feel like I am the only one. I realize that I might sound crazy for opting out of our consumer culture, but in fact, I am sad because I feel like everyone else is crazy. Everyone else does not realize what we are doing. Everyone else does not see the course we are on. Everyone else does not seem to care that our everyday actions, have real consequences somewhere else, where we cannot see them. The stuff we buy impacts other people that we will never know, it impacts forests that we will never see, and mines that we will never even know existed. It all impacts the carbon in the sky, which of course too, is invisible.

So most of us just turn a blind eye. We don’t want to think it.

Sigh.

So when I walk around now, outside, downtown at my lunch break, in my neighbourhood with all the cars rushing past, or in the store to pick up milk, I look at all the people around me and I feel so different. Different from everyone else. Different from what I used to be. Different from how I used to think. It is like I am walking through the Matrix or something, and everyone else does not know the true reality, and I do. It is a strange and scary feeling all at once. I know. They don’t. Or perhaps they do, but cannot face it.

Thank goodness, I am not the only one who sees things this way. There are others that share my view, my reality. They might not be walking around in the grocery store, but they do exist! They are the people organizing a Climate Reality Project, an online streaming 24 hour event that starts tonight at 7 pm CT. The first presentation is from Mexico City, in Spanish. Every hour after that, the presentations move west, by one time zone. So the next presentation is from Boulder, Colorado and after that it is from Victoria, British Columbia and then from Kotzebue, Alaska. Then over the Pacific we go, with a message from French Polynesia in French, and then from Hawaii in English. These presentations continue over the globe, each starting at 7 pm local time, and the whole thing ends in New York, at 7 pm ET on September 15th, with a message from Al Gore.

24 presenters. 24 time zones. 13 languages. One message.

If you want, you can Like this on Facebook, and tweet about to spread the word.

Reality. What’s yours?

March for Melting Ice

A male polar bear

Image via Wikipedia

Polar sea ice.  What does it mean to you?  Vast areas of white, white, white, never-ending?  Cold temperatures and a blinding wind? A home for polar bears in the north and penguins in the south? 

Polar sea ice caps our planet, top and bottom. It keeps the water at the poles cold. When it is cold at the poles and warm at the equator – you have the perfect engine to move water around the planet. These currents oxygenate the water and allow aquatic life to flourish. These currents shape our weather. These currents are vitally important to life on Earth, both in the ocean and on the land.

So if the poles warm up, what happens to the currents? What happens to the level of oxygen in the water? What happens to the health of the oceans? What happens to the weather?

It all changes.

So what is happening anyway with our poles? Are they really warming up as fast as some are saying? Is the sea ice melting? Can the sea ice freeze up again?

Well, there is news out today that the Arctic sea ice is set to break some records. It could be lower this year than it has ever been in over 7,000 years. It is set to break the previous record set in 2007.

Yikes.

File:2007 Arctic Sea Ice.jpg

Meanwhile, the animals suffer.

There is news today that chinstrap penguins in Antarctica are starving, as their diet of krill has been diminished. Krill populations have decreased up to 80% since the 1970s in some areas, associated with the continual decline in sea ice.

There is also news out today that king crabs are now moving into the Antarctic, as they can survive in the warming waters. The flora and fauna of this ecosystem are very fragile, and not accustomed to this new predator. The sediment of the ocean floor is changing, as the king crabs eat and forage what was previously left behind. Certain local species are going extinct.

Meanwhile in the north, polar bears continue to lose their hunting grounds, as they depend on the ice to hunt seal. They also have to swim further and further between ice floes, sometimes they drown.

It is all changing.

How much of this is our fault? How much of this is my fault, me personally? If one million penguins die, or one thousand polar bears, what is my contribution to that? If another horrible storm hits, and people die or are displaced by the wreckage, how much of that is due to the choices I have made in my life?

Some of it is my fault. I know it is.

What can I do? How do we collectively start taking climate change seriously? What will it take? When will we realize that we only have this one Earth to live?

Inaction or action? Bystander or change maker? Consumer or creator? What path will I take? How will I live this life?

Well I plan on taking part in 350.org’s Moving Planet: a day to move beyond fossil fuels. There are events going on all over the world, and I want to be part of this global day of action. I want to stand up. I want to be that someone who did something, whose voice was counted.

I want to march.

I plan to take my kids, scooter, tricycle and all. Here in Edmonton, we are going to meet at the abandoned Esso station on Whyte Ave at 11:00 am and walk, cycle or run to the Alberta Legislature building, along with everyone else who wants a clean, green future for their children. Let’s do it for those penguins and polar bears as well.

Who will join me?

Apple Tree

I feel like I am finding my way. Things are coming together, unfolding more or less how I hoped they would. I had a dream and a desire to localize my eating, and now that the growing season is underway, I am learning more and more about how it actually can be done.  I can play an active role in provisioning food for my family.  I started on this journey last year, wanting to make a difference for the environment, for climate change, for our future.  This has progressed into looking at the world differently, looking at nature differently, and looking at how we sustain ourselves with food differently.

I want to go and pick an apple tree. Last year, the idea of picking an apple tree that was not even mine, would have seemed ridiculous and even a waste of time. Why would I spend time in a tree, when I can buy as many apples as I want at the grocery store? Besides, what would I do with all those apples anyway? Where would I put them, how could they possibly not go to waste?

My neighbours have a beautiful old apple tree that they inherited when they bought their house, and it produces hundreds of small, sweet, crispy apples. Last year they picked a few but left the vast majority of them up on the tree to rot and shrivel. All winter I looked up at the dried fruit on the branches and wondered – could I pick their tree next time for them? Could I split the harvest?

In the spring my neighbours and I were chatting about gardening as I planted my vegetable seeds and seedlings. They mentioned their tree in passing, and that I could pick it this year if I wanted. I gladly agreed. This weekend I noticed that the apples were now turning red and that they should probably be picked soon. While I was watering my plants my neighbours came up to the fence and mentioned that I could pick the apples now, if I still wanted to. I did not even have to ask them about it again, something I was working up the courage to do… it’s like they read my mind or something! I thanked them and told them I would pick them a box as well. They did not seem that interested… Then I told them I was going to make apple sauce and apple butter – would they like some jars? They jumped at the suggestion and were really excited about the exchange.

So last night I looked up at the tree, with its big dark green leaves and rosy apples dripping down in clusters from every possible branch, and thought of the possibilities. This afternoon I hope to be up in that tree, with leaves in my face and the smell of live apples all around. I will come down from that tree with more apples than I can imagine – boxes and boxes of them. They will represent a good portion of my fruit stores for winter, when local fruit will be impossible to find.

I can see this tree from my bedroom; I watch it through all the seasons. I can stand in my garden in spring as the blossom petals flutter down over me and my yard. I look up at the limbs in the summer as I pick my own raspberries along the fence, and notice the little green globes growing bigger and bigger on the heavy boughs that droop down over. I see its bare branches for most of the year, reaching upward and out, in stark contrast to the snow all around and the bright blue sky. Now this tree is heavy with apples, ready to be picked, ready to be stored. How many boxes can I harvest? How long will it take? How many little red spheres will prove impossible to reach from my ladder? I have no idea.

The plan? Dole them out as crispy, sweet snacks to my children for as long as they will last fresh. Make apple crisp. Make apple butter – something I have never tasted but have heard amazing things about. Make apple juice perhaps? The vast majority though, will be converted into apple sauce. My kids love the stuff, and I hope to be eating homemade apple sauce in January, when the memory of this green tree bobbing with apples is all but a distant memory. I even bought a food mill last night to make the work easier and faster. Peeling and coring? Not required with a food mill, apparently.

I have never done any of this before, but plan to have fun trying. How many jars will I be able to put up? Time will tell.

In the meantime, if you will excuse me, I have a date with an apple tree.

The Way We Green

This is a panorama of the downtown Edmonton Sk...

Edmonton Skyline, image by Steven Mackaay

I wrote before, about the green developments going on in my city. One of the most important and exciting items is an environmental strategic plan for the city, called the Way We Green. It is a very important vision for the future, and a vital step toward sustainability. I was so excited when I read it, and have been following its developments closely.

It is not approved yet by city council. Last week there was council discussion on it, which was open to the public. Not surprisingly, new home developers came in droves to speak out against it, and one local paper ran a front page story with the caption “Green Plan Hammered” and a picture of a hammer on the cover. Yes, I know, really original, read the story here.

Edmonton is a sprawling city. Spraaawwwwling. Of course the developers don’t want the city to give up its sprawl, it is to be expected. So we grow straight out, unchecked, instead of developing our communities from the inside. Everyone puts up a big fuss when the odd apartment building is erected outside the downtown core. Not surprisingly, taxes climb higher as the city struggles to maintain the vast network of roads and the related snow removal and pothole fixes that go along with it. Utility distribution fees are also higher, as more gas lines, electrical lines, water lines, cable lines and phone lines are built. Indefinite sprawl is irresponsible to the taxpayer and the ratepayer, let alone the environment.

The Way We Green strategy is going to be presented again tomorrow to Council. Scared that it actually might not be passed, I decided to fire out a quick email to my council representative, Ben Henderson. I voted for him last fall, had his sign on my lawn and talked to him on my door step. It was worth a try:

Hi Ben,

I emailed you a couple months ago about the gravel pit in the river valley. Thanks so much for your reply. I have another concern regarding The Way We Green.

I really believe in this strategy for Edmonton. Several major Canadian cities are implementing similar strategies, as you are probably aware. Vancouver wants to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. Calgary is making strides. Toronto has some great things going, with zipcars and bixi bikes available everywhere, as well as a vibrant local food plus program that verifies and labels local food in the grocery store. Many municipalities around the world are stepping up to the plate when their provincial and state and national governments are not.

Climate change is an issue that I worry about a lot. What kind of world are we leaving to my two young children? I know that most scientists agree that we have to act now, we have to act soon, and that there is no more time to mess around. Bringing in a progressive strategy like the Way We Green is a very, very important building block for our city. The climate change problem is a global problem, but requires local governments and local communities to solve it. The way we build homes, the way we plan communities, the way we get around, the way we produce our food – these are all local issues and need the leadership of the local government for solutions.

Urban sprawl cannot continue indefinitely, it is irresponsible to both the taxpayer and the environment. I think you agree with me on this one, as we had this conversation during the election campaign on my doorstep! We need to look at new ways of growing our city, perhaps up and in, as opposed to out, out, out. In the meantime we might get to know each other better, build our communities and feel like we are part of something great. We need to support our local food systems for food security in the long term, and this cannot happen when we continue to pave over our precious arable land with more suburbs.

The Way We Green is so very important, I really hope that Council will see it and continue with their vision of a bright future for Edmonton and Alberta. I understand that the document is going before Council again tomorrow, and I just wanted to let you know that I wholeheartedly support it, and would ask you to support it as well.

Sincerely,

Sherry

Australia Will Lead the Way

Great, fantastic news out of Australia this week – they are set to pass historical legislation that will put a price on carbon (AUS$23 to start). Although there is still a bit of controversy over it, overall it is amazing and exciting and such a huge important first step forward. Here is how it works:

Of the total revenue the government receives from the tax:

  1. 50% is given to the people as assistance, to help them pay for lower energy technology and to help them pay for the rising cost of energy
  2. $13 billion is used to boost green clean renewable energy resources and create green jobs
  3. Some will be given to farmers to reduce carbon in farming
  4. Some will be given to project that protect wildlife and ecosystems

This is terrific! Here in North America the lack of action of climate change by our governments is can be frustrating. There are so many people still fighting the good fight for change, but it can seem almost hopeless at times. Not willing to give up on hope, many of us are making changes in how we live our lives, since our governments are not there to lead the way. All hope is not lost however, as many municipal and provincial governments are stepping up to the plate. My own city of Edmonton is about to embark on an exciting new environmental strategy, called “The Way We Green“. Ontario has an exciting feed-in-tariff system that encourages the installation of solar panels. Vancouver is doing absolutely amazing things, and aims to be the greenest city in the world by 2020. Action is being taken!

However, national leadership in both Canada and the US seems far away. 

For Australia – they have done it. National leadership, on climate change, it happened – there.

Perhaps our governments will take pause and reflect what Australia has done. Perhaps now they will see this and take a long hard look in the mirror. Perhaps they will see Australia’s lead and – dare I say – follow?

Here is hoping that Australia will lead the way!

I will leave you with an inspiring video created by Australian youth that shows the huge impact one young girl can have. My heart was bursting by the end of this one!

Let Them Know

You might have a concern for the environment. It may just be a niggling concern, a bother really, something in the back of your mind that can’t quite get rid of, can’t quite shake. It might be a deeper concern, but you have trouble making the connection between your actions and action on climate change. What can one person do, after all? Or you might have a full out concern, combined with a fear and desperation, for the world to change. So much so that you might decide to start changing that which you can control – yourself.

We all make individual choices how we live our individual lives. But we take cues from others, from society. As a result, most of us don’t do things that are considered really taboo, and we generally all act within agreed upon moral and ethical guidelines. We tend to do what those around us do – what we have learned from our family, our friends, from media and society. We start out doing things a certain way, and for the most part, we don’t change unless something pushes us. We like our habits.

Sometimes we do change our habits due to cost, hassle or convenience. But normally, it takes a lot for us to bother to change. We don’t even realize this. We don’t even think about it. We just do the things we have always done.

For some of us though, one day we suddenly “wake up”. One day we learn a bit more about the environment and climate change, and that adds to body of knowledge we held on the subject before, and before we know it, the scales have tipped. We can no longer ignore it. We can no longer rationalize being a bystander. We finally see the cold hard reality for what it is, and simultaneously, see our part in it. In that moment, we discover within ourselves – something new. We discover that the responsibility for changing the world starts with us, with our actions, and that as individuals we have a role to play. We discover that we are compelled to act.

And so, we change.

It starts small, with the little changes, and then grows bigger. Day by day, we discover new ways to change, new habits to form. We find ourselves considering in every decision – what would be best for the environment, for climate change?

At least, this is how it happened to me. But I am sure it is how it happened to you too, at least somewhat (unless you grew up as a hippy child where these kinds of things were already the norm from the start!). You would not be here, reading this, if you did not have at least some interest in being green.

So we want to change our habits, we want to change the world, make it a better place. Now what?

Well our changes are magnified ten fold, when we let others in on them. When non-greenies observe a greenie doing things that they themselves do not do, sometimes the non-greenies pause and reflect. It adds to their body of knowledge on the environment. Perhaps they think “wow, I cannot believe she does that, she must really have a concern for climate change or something. Why is she so worried about it? Should I be worried about it? Maybe I should…”

Our actions will have more of an impact, if they inspire others to change as well. We want to create a ripple effect. We want to be part of the bits and pieces in people’s lives that get them to stop and reconsider. We want to not only change ourselves, but be a catalyst for change in others. 

So when you do something green, let them know.

There is a fine line to walk here. Do not preach. Let them know through your actions, not words. If you must use words, just describe what you do, and then stop there. Don’t get into why everyone should do it, or why they should consider doing it. Nobody likes being told what to do. We don’t want to turn people off; we want to bring them in.

In doing so we discover that do not live our lives in isolation, and we start to notice all the little (and big) connections we have with others. No matter the connection, where you can, and when it makes sense to do so, try gently letting them know.

For example, when somebody asks me about where I park downtown, or how long my commute is, I tell them “oh I take the bus to work so I don’t need parking, I find it much more relaxing than driving and am trying to be more mindful of my carbon footprint.”

I just let them know.

When I meet someone at a coffee shop, I always get a ceramic mug or bring my own. I don’t say anything. If they ask me why I did not get one “to go”, I just say that I am trying to reduce my garbage where I can.

Let them know.

When somebody starts talking about grocery shopping and asks me where I go for the best prices, I tell them that I try to shop mostly at Farmer’s Markets when I can, because I really enjoy eating local and plus it is fun to talk to the farmer that grew your food.

Let them know.

When a server at a restaurant asks if I would like my leftovers wrapped up, I ask her if she could put it in my reusable container if that is okay, it is just that I swore off Styrofoam and I am trying to reduce my garbage where I can.

Let them know.

When I come out of a public bathroom with wet hands and my girlfriend looks at me funny, I just say that I saw the paper napkin delivery at my office building one day, and was shocked at how many pallets were used for only one week! Ever since then I feel guilty using one or something, it is weird. So, I just shake off my hands instead, or fluff my hair, or just swipe them on the back of my pants. Easy peasy.

Let them know.

When discussing the chore of laundry with other moms, I tell them that the one good thing is how they smell when you hang them to dry outside. Plus it is nice to get outside for just a few minutes, and be alone with your thoughts, listening to the birds sing as you hang wet clothes. It is amazing how much electricity a dryer uses; I can see a marked decrease on my bill. Who doesn’t like saving money?

Just let them know.

I have a saying at the bottom of my work email. I wondered at first, if I should put it there. What would people think? But I was compelled to act, compelled to share my views in a small way, in a hopefully intriguing way. I wanted to be that person that stood up for change. I wanted to be that person that didn’t hide. So at the end of every email it reads:

You must be the change you want to see in the world.” – Gandhi

Let them know.

Greeny Blues

Do you ever feel like being green makes you blue?

When I first started out on this green journey 7 months ago, I felt powerless and alone. What a massive problem – what can my tiny voice do? I am just a regular mom. How is changing my actions going to affect anything? I am just one person among billions.

Then I found a community of like minded people, first with fellow bloggers, then among family and friends. I needed to try, to be part of the solution instead of part of the problem. I committed to change my ways.

This propelled me for several months. It was exciting! I was changing my lifestyle left, right and centre. Lights off, laundry hung up to dry, heat turned down, no more plastic bags, no more food in boxes, more bus rides, less mall shopping, more local shopping, more farmer’s markets, no new clothes, more gently used clothes, no more Styrofoam, no more paper napkins, way less food waste…

And then finally – I built myself a real vegetable garden to call my own.

It was fun. I did things one way for a decade, then bam I changed it all up. It threw my husband for a loop – why all the change?  He thought I was crazy. But for me it felt really good, I was doing something about this problem called climate change. I didn’t feel powerless anymore. I had a purpose. I had a reason for my actions. This was incredibly fulfilling.

However along the way I also learned a lot more about the state of our little planet Earth, this small marble of life in a Universe so vast…

The Earth flag is not an official flag, since ...

Image via Wikipedia

I learned that we need to be really scared about the future. I learned that there are great political, social and economic forces against the reduction of CO2, forces so strong, and so well-funded, and so engrained in our very culture. These forces happen to be also very good at spreading fear, uncertainty and doubt about the science of climate change.

I also learned that we don’t have much more time. I learned that our window for turning things around is not measured in decades, but in mere years.

We only have a few years to change.

On one hand I am defiantly hopeful, that there will be enough of us on the good side, on the side that chooses life and sustainability, over convenience and consumerism. That more and more people will figure out what I figured out 7 months ago, and make changes, and inspire others to make changes, who will inspire others, and this whole thing will tip, so that more of us want to do something about it than don’t want to do something, that more of us will look beyond the borders of our little lives and realize that we are part of something bigger, something magnificent and fantastic and we will collectively realize the power we have to change. We will act for each other, for our children and our children’s children. We will act for humanity itself.

On the other hand I am scared. What if enough people don’t join in? What if the governments of the world take just a bit too long to act? What if we keep burning and burning oil, putting more C02 into the sky, and don’t stop before it is too late? We all know that the oil is going to run out one day, and we will have to transition to something else. What if we don’t make that transition when there is still a world worth saving?

Hence, the blues.

Have you ever just cried … for the world? Sometimes I feel so overwhelmed about it all, and it saddens me so deeply and greatly, that I just cry. I cry for the children. I cry for their future.

Am I crazy?

I want to do more, I resolve to do more, I have long lists of things that I want to accomplish, letters to write, actions to take, committees to join. But I struggle. Being a busy working mom, there is just not enough time in each day to do all that I want to do. My minutes feel like tiny raindrops of gold, so precious, so few, so easily lost.

How will I live this life? How will I make a difference? How will I contribute to this groundswell of people now growing steadily, of those committed to living green, spreading green and building a sustainable world for our children? Imagine being a part of something so amazing and magnificent? Imagine being part of the movement that ushered in the solution, in the face of the greatest problem to ever face humanity? I know the stakes are high and the hour is late, I just need to find time between doing the laundry and doing the dishes to pitch in.

Plus I look around me, and everywhere I go, there are constant reminders of how far we need to go to turn this thing around. Pick a category: Food. Transport. Consumerism. Energy. Economy. It all has to change – radically.

We will get there. We have to. The enormity of it all though, has this greenie feelin’ a bit blue.

Green Canada?

The landscape of Canadian politics changed last night.

For me, the results are mixed.  As I have said before, my number one issue is the environment, and most specifically – action on climate change.  We have such a limited window of time to reduce our emissions, we have to act now.  We don’t have the luxury of decades to wait, to finish up our squabbling and arguing, we have to get going on this right here right now, today, within the next few years for sure.  Every moment counts.  Every country must participate. Canada is no longer immune.

So far, action on climate change in Canada has been slow, and some might say – nonexistent.  As a result, some municipalities and provinces are taking the bull by the horns and implementing policies and programs on their own.  However, there is no national leadership, no national plan, no national will to act.

In this context, I watched the election results roll in with hope and optimism and anxiety.

First the good news –Elizabeth May, leader of the Green Party, was elected in her riding on Vancouver Island.  This is a historic achievement for the Green Party, as they will now have a voice in parliament.  It may only be one voice out of 308 seats, but a voice for change and a voice for action on climate change it will be.  I hope that this small foothold will grow, and that more and more people will consider the Green Party as a voice they want to send to parliament.  Change is possible!

Second piece of good news – the candidate in my riding, Linda Duncan of the NDP, won her seat.  Linda is the environmental critic for the NDP, and is a long time defender of the environment.  I know she will work hard, so I voted for her, and even had her sign on my lawn.  She was the only NDP elected in Alberta, amongst a sea of Conservatives.

Thirdly – the NDP won over 100 seats, giving them the title of official opposition, a historical first for the party.  The NDP is the only party other than the Green Party that had a strong position on climate change and transitioning to a clean, green economy.  This boost in seats will give them a bigger base on which to carry out their message.  Hopefully the governing party will listen.

This leads me to the not so great news for the environment.  The Conservatives won their long-coveted majority government.  They have been operating as a minority government for years now, and have often complained that a minority situation makes it difficult to get things done.  With a minority, they have to co-operate with the other parties to get things passed, they have to make concessions.  It is a longer process, and perhaps not as efficient, but at least with a minority, the voices of the other parties are part of the discussion.  They have input into policies and programs, compromises are made. 

With a majority, the voices of the other parties are not worked into new legislation. The governing party can pass every bill it wants, no adjustments are necessary.  It is more efficient, yes.

But it is also scarier.  Stephen Harper’s Conservatives have never had this much power before.  What will they do?  What will they cut? 

By far my biggest concern though, is that it will be 4 long years before there is any hope of action climate change.  We know Stephen Harper’s stance to date – do nothing and hope that the rest of the world does not notice.  How can we expect any change, especially if he does not need to consider the opinions of the other parties, who have a much more reasonable stance on climate change?

All this had me feeling very worried last night.  Worried for the future of my children, worried for our world, worried that nothing will change and nothing will get done, despite the efforts of so many.  I felt deflated.  I felt frustrated.  Everyday I live my life with the hope on reducing my footprint, the hope of inspiring others, the hope that we are moving in the right direction.  This is not just some dream, it is a desperate requirement.  Climate change is coming, it is marching towards us, and we are just standing around picking flowers.  How will we ever wakeup from this ignorant bliss, if climate change is not even an election issue in Canada? 

The situation seems more desperate than ever.  It seems even less likely now, with a Conservative majority that any action on climate change will happen.  I hope that the NDP will have some influence, I hope Elizabeth May’s Green Party voice will be heard.  But I am not sure.

Instead of give up hope, I must press on.  Without hope, we have already lost.  I cannot give up on a bright future for my children; I cannot give up on a sustainable future for the children of this world.  It is so big, so seemingly insurmountable, and I am but one small voice.  Yet I must try.  To look up at this massive problem and do nothing – that would be a greater failure.  I want to be able to look my kids in the eyes one day and say that I tried my best.

And so – the letter writing will continue.  The blog writing will continue.  The eating locally and the growing of vegetables in my own garden will continue.  The measured use of electricity and fuel will continue.  The reduction of the consumption of needless stuff will continue.

I must hold on to hope, for my babies.