Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, October 22, 2018. 

I started writing this column before Saturday. It was to be about the environmental mess we’re in, according to the latest report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, (IPCC) and the increasing difficulty in finding hope.

Saturday morning came, sunny and beautiful (almost impossible to not feel hopeful on a sunny October morning,) and the voting places got busy.

Come Saturday night, the results were in: we have a fresh council, a good mix of seasoned and new. That is reason to celebrate. Less celebratory was the final percentage of voters, 29.9. A reminder that we can do better; democracy is a privilege and it does not self-sustain. Much like muscle and brain cells, it’s a use it or lose it situation.

Back to the environmental mess. A few days ago, I saw a short raw video about the saving of a dog from a rushing stream. The embankments, built with an angle almost impossible to climb up on, did not stop the first passerby from doing something. He slid down and waded his way to the middle of the stream where the dog was stuck.

While he was struggling to pull the dog towards the embankment, a few other passersby worked out a plan. A human chain was formed in seconds and after a few failed attempts, the man, the dog and everyone else involved in the rescue were safe on top of the embankment.

I was reminded of the immense value of this kind of story this morning when I found an email from a friend with whom I had discussed the struggle to keep up hope following the report from the IPCC released just days ago. My friend’s email contained a link to an inspiring and much needed read. I was the dog saved from the rushing stream of temporary hopelessness by my friend’s thoughtful action.

The damning report is a tough pill to swallow though. While science delivers accuracy that we need and depend on to understand and better our existence, this kind of report makes you wish science has it wrong just this once. A global temperature increase by 1.5 degrees Celsius (we are already halfway there, by the way,) would bring a lot of trouble our way, and by ‘our’ I do not mean here, or even province-wide or country-wide, but planet-wide: coastline flooding, severe droughts and intensified poverty, which leads to social instability which leads to… you get the idea.

In order to stop that from happening (continuing our present habits will take us there by 2040,) we need to change some things: curb coal and other fossil fuel use, reduce plastic manufacturing and use, revisit forestry practices, revisit food production and consumption in some parts of the world where excess leads to atrocious waste, our country included, revitalize the concept of cradle-to-grave products and reuse of already existing products and resources. Oh yes, lots to do.

There is some (potentially) good news and some bad news. The good news: technically, all of the above and more is possible. The bad news, (for now anyway,) is that things are less feasible politically.

Aggressive carbon taxes to be paid by the richest corporations could see hope level rise, but we are unlikely to see that any time soon. Replacing old pollution technology with new, cheaper-by-the-day renewable energy technology can happen. If. Political leaders would consider the interests of everyone before considering the interests of the rich. If. Mitigation of climate change effects becomes our common goal, globally speaking, and for obvious reasons, this report would represent a unanimous call to arms.

That piece my friend sent reminded me of it. The report is a downer on one hand, and a call to arms with hope renewed on the other. Leaning towards the pessimistic side gets us to more pessimism and the slow but sure disappearance of hope (I do believe that humans have built-in hope no matter what, but I know that corporate power and greed is a mighty adversary.)

Taking the hopeful approach and creating, with each willing person available, the human chain that can see us all safe on the virtual embankment (we are both the dog in the middle of the stream and the enthusiastic brave volunteers,) that is the better scenario, yielding a better answer to the ‘what do we have to lose’ question.

There are already people who are heavily invested in creating and distributing technology that is better for the planet (yes, I recognize that some can also pollute but then again, we have to consider our options are and take the least harmful.) There are leaders who do not consider failure to save ourselves an option. They are determined. They are found at high political levels, and in small communities too.

American anthropologist Margaret Mead once said: ‘Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.’ All it takes is a few to start with. That first one to jump in to save the dog will inspire others to help. We have that built in too, I believe.

Keeping each other’s hope levels up, inspiring each other to believe that things are possible and turning the tide is not just a bedtime story with no basis. That is what we are each and all capable of. Willing too, for the sake of our children and their children.

Congratulations to the newly elected leaders and here is to seeing positive, hope-inducing changes in our community. Here’s to never letting hope die. The human chain to grab onto and help out is real – the 29.9 percent voters in Kamloops affirmed so this past Saturday.