Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Category: Homeschooling Page 2 of 5

Holding Onto Hope Is The Only Way Out

Originally published as a column in CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, June 5, 2017. 

I admit to no longer looking forward to checking the news. After a weekend spent with my family, out of reception, on the shore of a little-known lake near Little Fort, the return to the fast-moving, permanently-connected-to-the-internet world, is nowhere near pleasant.

We had a weekend of stories and adventures, laughter over the silly antics of a dog so happy to be exploring the woods and jumping into the lake as she pleased, and full of the togetherness that words like ‘family camping’ do not do justice to. We went paddling in early mornings and late evenings when the water is as smooth as glass and the haunting calls of the loons are but wrapping around your thoughts like vines.

The phone was but a camera. When we left on Friday I was still processing the troubling thoughts caused by the US president’s decision to withdraw his country from the Paris climate change agreement. Overwhelming is an understatement. We are not yet in dire straights environmentally speaking, not over where we are anyway, but the threads that hold it all together disappear with every bad decision.

Lately I have been immersed in a book called ‘The right to be cold’ by Sheila Watt-Cloutier. It is a fascinating read with lots of Inuit history and, at the same time, an accurate and heartbreaking description of the way life in the Arctic has been affected by many factors, mainly climate change. The climate change-induced transformations of the Arctic world are happening twice as fast compared to changes in the rest of the world. A cautionary tale at best.

Yet, there are still climate change deniers. That I will never understand. I’d do but one thing to appeal to their minds and hearts: I’d take them to one of the many places where the sun splashes on a lake trying to coax waterlilies to reach to the surface, and you feel dwarfed by trees of all kinds shading delicate fairy slippers, wild strawberry flowers and newly emerged arnica flowers. Then I’d ask: What if this corner of paradise and many others would cease to exist? What if basic life needs could no longer be satisfied because the planet is simply not enabling for it?

There is still time. There’s hope.

A recent study done in Germany concluded that planting trees to sink carbon is simply not enough to counteract the effects of climate change. Though trees do absorb carbon dioxide as they grow, which makes new trees grow a lot faster due to its high concentrations these days, we would need immense surfaces – the equivalent of all the agricultural land plus some more, if we are to slow down climate change. We need to let go of fossil fuels and focus on alternatives.

Yet letting go of hope is not an option, no matter how deeply disturbing one president’s decision to embrace denial is. Hope we must, hope we will. There are still many countries (some US states too), committed to act towards making life on earth last, Canada included, which is a comforting thought.  Yes, Canada will have to forgo pipelines and dams and LNG soon enough if the commitment is to be a fruitful one.

That was, as I said, the thought context in which I entered the blissful ‘out of reception’ zone with my loved ones. Upon our return, connection grabbed onto our phones half an hour or so after leaving the campsite.

We got home, unloaded, scrubbed dishes, and sorted through the camping gear to store it away till next time. It was my oldest who checked the news first. There was another attack in London, he said.

More people senselessly killed, others critically wounded, more fear and terror spreading, more questions that will remain, once again, unanswered.

I know this is but the one of the facets news outlets focus on. I know that the famine in South Sudan is beyond tragic and millions are on the brink of death due to starvation and diseases; that boats of hopeful migrants, many of whom children, still engage in crossing the Mediterranean in search of a better life, and that the Middle East is still ravaged by bombings, and senseless dying happens everywhere you look.

It’s that and more that made me steer away from connecting back to the world. It’s sad, it’s scary, it’s angering, and it’s not going to end anytime soon, unfortunately. Yet, just like I stated above, it’s hope we must commit to. There simply is no better way.

Hope makes anger dwindle; when solutions are needed, rather than more resentment, hope, and willingness to hold onto what makes us human (kindness is what comes to mind first) must be strengthened. It’s the hardest thing at times.

Whenever dark, hopeless thoughts invade my mind, I seek the one refuge that somehow stays unaltered every time: the hope that the world can be changed. It takes many (most of us?) but it’s possible. Somehow, some of the areas of the drawing board on which we sketch life have become blackened by horror acts and fear. But the big picture can still be lit up if enough well-wishing hands keep on sketching bright, hopeful bits of life. It takes many. Most of us and each of us.

Of Books And Mothers And Celebrating Both

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on Monday May 15, 2017. 

I grew up with books. Our living room had tomes lined up in tall bookcases covering entire walls, floor to the ceiling almost. When you’re a kid, that is as close to infinity as it gets. I loved climbing to some of the highest shelves and reaching to the back row where old books hid both enticing adventures and that smell of old paper that to this day is one of the most comforting smells there is.

That smell meant the world was all right. It still does, though much has happened since and my world changed in many ways over, some happier than others. Every year in the spring, the same mix of emotions and memories finds its way into my mind. Lilac flowers, bright morning sunshine, memories of my parents’ chatting in the kitchen over coffee, books to get lost in.

Many of the books I read as a kid and later on during adolescence were suggested to me by my Mom. No ‘you should read this’ but instead, she would tell me why she liked this or that book. She made me curious. Some stories came in many volumes, and far from being intimidated by the number of pages to read, I often felt a deep feeling of regret when the story was over.

I believe the writers of such great stories aimed to leave readers with that sense of regret in order to cultivate a love of reading and ensure they’ll search for the next written adventure. My parents would often make references to books that touched them in one way or another, which made me read them. You could say I was learning about my parents from a different perspective, learning the depths of their hearts and at the same time wading into getting to know mine.

To this day, reading brings me close to my parents. The love of reading they opened my mind and heart to was not confined only to books. They told stories too, some real-life ones of their own and many gleaned from books: fairy tales, adventures, sad stories, poems. Both my parents are gone now so my attempts to dissolve the very boundaries that separate our worlds are carried on with books.

I aim to do the same for the boys. We have many books in our home. Because we homeschool, we have entire shelves dedicated to subjects such as math, all flavours of science, grammar, history, geography, and languages. But we have adventure books, silly and serious, we have many entrenching conversations about books and we often fill the library book basket with treasures.

We read together, we read separately, each with whatever grips the heart and mind the most, and we marvel at treasures that we find in used bookstores, which we all love to get lost in occasionally, whether in Kamloops or on the road.

Yes, my Mom would beam to see all of this, and she’d smilingly approve of our bookwormy forays. It’s the thing that lasts when life as we know it brings itself to an untimely end. It’s what I wish my boys to look back on and smile at the memories we’ve seeded along the way.

Because of all of this and more, I was touched, not in the kindest of ways, by the latest news on book recycling in Kamloops. It won’t happen anymore. Makes one wonder about the plethora of books lying around. What’s in store for them?

If you visit thrift stores and used books stores you’re likely familiar with the overwhelming number of books that bend the shelves downwards. There are so many of them and very little, if any, room for more. A good thing, indeed, to be inundated by books, unless we stop to ponder on the ongoing shortening of children’s attention span nowadays and the overall little reading being done in our society. Blame it on the interminable, addicting TV programs and other types of screen-related activities, as well as the fast pace of life that makes leisure time feel sinful.

It’s not. It is perhaps more sinful to throw books in the landfill and at the same time, inundate the stores with more. An unfortunate consequence of mixing money with books, and at the same time preying on the very human curiosity regarding the next best thing… We have become so primed for it.

There are many beautiful, profound reads out there, and there is, unfortunately, a lot of fluff, for young and old alike, not that books have an age. The classics have been rendered boring and less engaging by many, and they are sold for peanuts, though the wisdom they hold is priceless. They are the first ones to see the landfill from up close.

So where to from here? Saving the books seems like a fool’s errand. I’d start with saving the love of reading. Saving our leisure and reading time from the bad time-thieves out there, and safeguarding stories and books and memories that our children can carry with them, literally and otherwise, all the way to the side of life where their children will once grow up and they will be encouraged to learn the value hidden in tomes.

My mother would feel honoured to know how much books mean to me because of her gentle nudging to reach for the ones at the back of the highest shelves. It’s been a worthy adventure.

Happy Mother’s Day!

Life Bites. Chew Slowly

If light could be song, this morning’s bright appearance was a symphony, loud and overwhelming. The green is exploding everywhere, soft and decidedly stubborn, hijacking the desert’s brownish, dry demeanour for a few weeks from now.

Trails are narrower because grass and dandelions claim the edges. Tread with care, but should the dog venture off the path…not a worry, there’s bounciness to cover the tracks so she can start all over again. After all, there are birds to be chased. Pup is the smile and laughter machine. She’s a song playing new each day, sauntering and jumping and then crawling when a new dog appears.

It’s her best friend whose head appears at the bottom of the knoll. A dog that’s equally agile and sweet natured and willing to play until his tongue hangs loose all the way to the ground. A high standard in the dog world.

She hides in the tall grasses and studies his every move. Closer, closer, jump! They both jump, front legs forward and embracing the other’s neck. Define happiness. Wait, don’t. Let it be. That’s exactly it.

It’s a trivial truth bite in the end… When you’re giving in to sunshine and sparkle, when you hop over inflated, bubbling creeks and greet birds swooping by, that’s when it catches up with you, that bite of truth: the plenty-ness we seek all our lives will never come from owning anything. It comes from being, from letting the sunshine reach all the way inside and from hanging all the dark thoughts into the light. It’s all a matter of perspective, isn’t it? Breathe deeply. You have arrived at the start of a new day.

That is the feeling of plenty that awaits on the side of the trail every morning. That the dog jumps in the creek and then runs up the hill with all her might only helps with the fine touches.

She runs zigzags with her furry friend, and then they both dive at the bottom of a big sage brush. Tails showing briefly, rustling, more tails and noses sniffing. What are they after? That kind of strong intent no dog school could ever unhinge. I love that. They stop, only their noses pulverize dirt from some newly found tunnel.

A mouse makes its scared slow way from under the sage bush. Busted! Poppy throws a gaze his way, then she looks at me, then the ‘now what?’ becomes evident. Indeed, we have stumbled upon life buried in the world that complements our sunny one. We pull the dogs to the side, the mouse crawls away into another hole.

Today is the mouse, yesterday her uphill playing took us to a patch of newly blossomed shooting stars. I lingered more over the flowers than I do over the mouse, which is where our interests part ways. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.

 

 

Mouse gone, friend gone home too, we follow the trail towards ours. Above us, the resident hawk flies above a magpie. There’s air tumbles, black and white feathers swooping under the wide-winged brown hunter, then above, stumbling in a desperate attempt to escape. The high-speed pursuit is enveloped in sunshine so bright it hurts my eyes. I’ll never know who prevailed. So it is. There’s as much mystery to life as there is clarity.

The grass in our yard is the tallest on the block. ‘Can we have it like that, please?’… Sasha pleads, my heart does too; tall grass is charming and soothing and beautiful to walk on. Alas, city rules oblige. Tony gets the push mower going. Green blades falling, green smells infuse the air.

‘Mom, should I leave the dandelion patch standing? They are so pretty…’ Yes please, thanks for asking. Half of the yard will be, for now, bumblebee and butterfly playground. I can hear the sun laughing.

Sasha and I read outside in the front yard. ‘On the shores of Silver Lake’. He picks a few dandelions while I read out loud. ‘I’ll make you another bouquet, Mom…’ Spring and love are synonyms. The pup lies near, her fur hot and soft and her eyes imbued with laziness.

There’s magic in it all. It comes from being. From choosing not to rush anything, even if it’s just for a few moments.

Later, I tend to Tony’s blisters. Life bites indeed. Learning continues.

Happy Earth Day Beyond Earth Day

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on Monday April 25, 2017. 

There is an interesting realization that sneaks up on you once you spend enough time in nature to be humbled by it: that you know squat about it, other than the very basics, if that, unless you dedicate time to learn about it. It is mind-boggling to think that for the most part, our awareness of the living world is minimal. That hinders much of our chance to succeed at saving ourselves.

Children have the right idea when they start out as wee curiosity-fueled machines. Nothing is yucky in their path, nothing too disgusting to look at, smell or touch. The world is an endless array of networks to learn about, to wonder at and to return to every day.

Nothing is ugly or boring. Rain or shine, hot or cold, children want to be out and exploring. As they grow up, we qualify the living world around them using words and concepts meant to provide safe boundaries which often end up becoming the reason children’s curiosity subsides. They learn to disengage.

Moreover, that childhood nowadays comes with screens and alternative reality fast-paced games and movies that take the young minds even farther from the slow-paced real life is not helping much either.

The human brain is amazing in how it can absorb and use information, in how it can solve problems and find solutions. And puzzlingly so, it is also, especially in our young ones, easily addicted to things and activities that create pleasure loops to get lost in, all supplied by an array of marketing ploys that are, as per their intended design, overwhelming.

Such activities, toys and gadgets, provide the kind of stimulation nature cannot provide. Not because it lacks anything, but because the nature’s rhythms are not meant to create addiction of any kind, but to soothe, heal, and allow for space to find ourselves and the inside voice that suits us best. That voice is, for lack of better way to explain it, in tune with the living world around.

That kind of meaningful, life-enriching and enabling duet, is more visible in some fellow humans than others. Come Earth Day, we are invited to remember the things that matter. No economic growth plan matters much if a community is under the threat of natural disasters, often induced by improperly and abusively conducted human activities. It could be clear cutting, mining, building of dams, you name it. Not just in BC and Canada but throughout the world.

Nature’s little note, never illegible I dare add, reads the same every time: work in congruency with nature’s way, never against it. Make operations sustainable and respectful of the living world, and things can work just fine. The one caveat: there would be lower profits perhaps, though bringing ethics into it can make it fair for everyone. The reward, though, would be longer term projects and much healthier outcomes environmentally and human health-wise; common sense replacing greed and the utter conviction that nature is ours to grab from, dominate and squeeze dry.

Awareness of the earthly gifts in all of us, from the very young to the very old, can make Earth Day a culmination of sorts rather than the isolated day when we celebrate our planet. An hour of turning off the lights is a good thing, but better yet if we do it daily. Just imagine having an hour a day, at least, when you spend time with your loved ones, or rest, walk and listen to the sounds of the world around you, anything that can be done with lights off and without any devices close at hand.

The earthly gifts are many and varied, but the basic ones are the same everywhere: water, air, and food. Imagine the kind of awareness that can be created if we had days dedicated to learning about hunger and thirst for example. By experiencing them, no less. Imagine a day when we would have a limited supply of food available, or clean water.

Imagine having the kind of overwhelming marketing campaigns that promote the selling of goods, and then more goods and gadgets, promoting awareness instead, based on what we need to know of the living world, people included.

Imagine being made aware (and becoming more appreciative of your own blessings and abilities to help) of issues that can be alleviated or even mildly improved, by knowing more about: lack of food or proper food, lack of clean water (more than 80 Indigenous communities in Canada are under boiled water advisory and many other communities are plagued by industrial pollution of their drinking water), lack of proper legislation that would see natural habitats protected and thus helping restore any environmental imbalances that ultimately come to affect our lives.

Imagine a day when those in a position of power, whether in manufacturing or marketing, would come together to realize that there is already enough stuff to go around and would press for developing aggressive alternative strategies to address the surplus through reusing, repurposing and overall reducing consumption. Delivery from slavery on both sides of the spectrum you could say…

On Earth Day and beyond, remembering that we have become so used to having convenient rather than respectful to nature, is worth yet another reminder. We have become used to resealable, non-recyclable bags for everything we consume, from produce and fruit to snacks and wipes; we have become accustomed to simply grabbing our cold drinks in single-use plastic cups covered with the plastic lid (number 6, non-recyclable in most recycling facilities), with a straw planted in it, no less, and we choose to not spend too much thought on why Canadians now produce approximately 10 billion tonnes of garbage yearly (9.6 billion tonnes in 2012) while the world’s oceans receive a staggering 8 billion tonnes of plastic from all of us earthlings.

During a recent talk at TRU on the topic of the health of our oceans, Fabien Cousteau shared one of his favourite quotes by Richard Louv. ‘We cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot love what we do not see. Or hear. Or sense.’

Hence the need to return to the simple things: exploring nature alongside our children. Playing in the muck, sitting in the shade of old-growth trees and listening to birds, wading in streams, and growing some of the food we put on the table. Discovering more so we can live with less. Knowing. So we can love and protect.

Happy Earth Day beyond Earth Day!

The Spaces That Keep Our Children Safe

Originally published as a column in CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on March 27, 2017. 

For two days in a row last week I drove my oldest son to Harper Mountain. He had two ski passes left from a bunch he got for Christmas. I relish the time with each of my sons alone. There is chatting to be had, silence too, there are things I remember and think about long after.

Most of all, there is the reminder that what counts most as children grow up is being present. Going through the moves of parenting teaches you a thing or two about what being present really means; it teaches both humbleness and gratefulness at once. I get reminded often that we stray from both only to return with more of each.

Over the last year I have amassed a solid collection of comments about how challenging life with a teenager must be. And with a budding one coming close behind. They are 14 and 10. Every time I take a moment to ponder but the same answer comes out ‘No, not really. There are occasional bumps but it’s a good ride.’

On our second day on the way to the mountain, the radio was humming in the background, and we were chatting driving along. A story on the radio caught our attention. We both stopped talking and listened instead. A man was telling the heart wrenching story of his growing up.

It involved abuse, addictions and three little boys aged three, four and five, left to fend for themselves for weeks. There was living in foster homes, temporarily living in the grandparents’ home, facing racism because of their Indigenous heritage from their mother’s side, though the three kids were never told the details of their heritage. There was anger and loneliness.

He started using drugs and alcohol as a teenager. The only place where he did not have to face any realities, the place where he did not have to search aimlessly for what he did not seem to be able to find.

My son and I both listened. The man talked about becoming heavily addicted to crack cocaine and how overpowering that was. How overwhelming the high he was after, how misleading, and inescapable and deadly. He became homeless and living on the dark side of life for ten more years, his will only centered around figuring out how to feed his addiction.

The gap that opened closed without swallowing him up though.

Nowadays, Jesse Thistle knows that he is a Metis-Cree from Saskatchewan, and he is pursuing a doctorate at York University. He is the receiver of many an academic accolade. His focus, unsurprisingly, is homelessness, Indigenous history, mainly intergenerational trauma, social work including addiction studies.

My son and I had plenty to talk about once the story was wrapped up. Fentanyl overdoses news abound lately; questions without answers for now. Listening to Jesse’s story shed yet more light on why this is such a tough issue to solve.

We can roll out numbers and outline the dangers for our children, yet as many of us know, curiosity, peer pressure (or both), bullying and abuse of any kind, loneliness and the sad reality of not knowing where to turn for safe space, that can lead many astray. Listening to someone’s life story outlines all of that.

That’s where parents come in, or significant adults that have the privilege to be in children’s lives. There is no script for any of this, which sends us scrambling looking for ideas and solutions. We jump in with both feet and figure out how to stay afloat as we go, after life dunks you a few times for good measure. That is all part of being human and being present as a parent.

Most of all, being there where our children are, listening to them, not judging, and not lecturing but simply doing our best to forge a bond that can withhold challenges ahead… I choose that as my saving parenting grace. Parenting and grace rarely waltz together, but building trust need not call for graciousness but for honesty. If you carry your heart on your sleeve, your children will too. I choose to believe that.

It’s no wonder they call parenting the hardest job in the world. It calls for guts at times when you feel like an empty vessel, save for the butterflies that flutter within. Yet that is where it’s at. The vulnerable space where we have to do our best to listen, share our own fears and stories and encourage our children to grow by listening too, understanding that their worthiness will never come from an outside source. As we have to realize that our children’s choice of positive ways in life will not come from our policing their every move and raising them with fear, but from building trust.

There are many difficult issues parents face today, including drug use, internet-related perils and all that lurks in the space that parents and children most often don’t venture in together. The scary stuff. Yet listening to people telling their stories of getting lost and, if lucky, found, of needing to have a space to find themselves safely in, renews my belief that children today need us more than ever to provide that. If we don’t, someone else may offer but the illusion of shelter as a lure. That is scary.

Yet the chat about the tough stuff does not start when kids turn 14. It starts when they are two and snuggled against you reading their favourite story again and again. It goes on as they turn ten and you find time to snuggle still and read together, making time to talk about all the things you encounter in the books you discover together. There is a lot of life in there.

As it happens, the books they read by themselves later on, and the life stories they come upon, some as real and scary as can be, they will come and reach out to you and share them too. They are often not looking for solutions, but for confirmation that there is a place where they are welcome, where they are heard and listened to.

Parenting is never be about building walls and having surveillance of all kinds in place. It’s about making sure that the big wide world our children trek through will have an oasis here and there when they need it, and enough islands for them to swim to and rest on when the water they find themselves in tosses them every which way. Because it will. Life has it that way. No promises of perfect form, but plenty of opportunities to make the journey worthwhile.

Where To From Here (Or Why Changing Our Ways Can Spare Some Of The Trouble Ahead)

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on February 13, 2017. 

Again, a week of many happenings. Like many of you who heard the story of the Kamloops couple who stopped to offer their help at an accident scene on the Coquihalla and were hit by a car that lost control, I kept hoping that Anna and Matt Grandia, parents of two, will both survive and recover. Sadly, Anna Grandia passed due to her severe injuries. The pain her family goes through and for the rest of their lives, is impossible to put into words.

Yes, it is unfair and senseless; these things always are. Following such tragic stories, you’d expect most of us drivers would learn something and apply it. Speed can kill, speed and winter weather conditions even more so. Yet if you drive around Kamloops and outside the city limits too, you come across speedy, careless drivers whose recklessness not only puts their own lives in danger, but mine and yours too.

What are we learning from reading or watching the news? How far does the message reach? Too often, a simple shrug and the next piece of news moves our attention from stories such as this, heartbreaking as they are.

Albert Einstein once defined insanity as ‘doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.’ In case of driving recklessly and the mild consequences the reckless or drunk driver faces, compared to the pain he or she causes to others, well, they are, for the most part, severely disproportionate.

This is not an argument for sacking and punishing people for the sake of doing so. It’s about protecting everyone and making sure rules that keep everyone safe are being reinforced. Because let’s face it, heartbreaking stories seen from a distance elicit a certain response. Yet being in that story changes the terms completely. No one should have to go through something that can be prevented.

Whether it is protecting all people in a community from the ill consequences of dangerous driving, or protecting the community (up to the level of province, country and beyond) from any kind of peril brought upon by someone’s actions, we all need to be able to see where changes need to be made and do all that we can to see them implemented.

Two events I attended at TRU this past week added to the argument. On Tuesday I attended a talk by Naomi Klein. True to her reputation, she said it as it is and in no way sparing the ugly bits: environmentally speaking, we are in a rough spot, our commitment to the Paris agreement not only lacking some touches here and there, but being the complete opposite of what it should be.

With a powerful wind of climate change denial blowing incessantly from the south of the border, and our provincial and federal governments’ commitment to extracting and using more fossil fuels instead of reshaping our ways to sustainable alternatives, things are really not looking good. No, such things are not immediately visible, nor are they served as reminders in our media. We want to keep a sunny optimistic attitude as a society, and we believe that somehow things work out regardless. Again, I am reminded of the definition of insanity by Einstein. Powerful stuff.

Better regulations for industrial polluters that would prevent more carbon from being added to a constantly heating atmosphere, plus better and unbreakable ways to reinforce the regulations, that would get things moving in a different direction.

A forum on air quality, also held at TRU and hosted by Dr. Michael Mehta, professor of geography and environmental science, who has been recently and diligently monitoring the air we breathe using sensors peppered all throughout Kamloops, brought yet another problem forward. The air in Kamloops is often farthest from clean.

From the pulp mill emissions to idling, to air traffic pollution and residential wood burning in town, our air, on a bad day (and they are not rare, unfortunately), is but a collection of small particles and gases that can and do cause serious health problems, in some of us more than in others.

There are solutions, the forum participants, which included the Green Party, NDP and Communist Party candidates for the May 2017 provincial elections, concluded. Things need to change if we are to see better air days.

Better regulations and better ways to reinforce them, not for the benefit of corporate profit but the well-being of the community, yes, it can be done. Our brains are wired to find solutions when a problem is identified. As it happens, denial often gets in the way.

Future bad happenings can be avoided. We now know that leaving things unchanged will have us find ourselves, yet again, to the fork in the road labeled ‘crisis’. Trouble is, which each time we return to one crisis or another, we may find that the time we have left to change things may be drawing short or that we may have had one too many freedoms normally granted by a democracy, taken away from us, which renders action and change far more difficult.

From rules pertaining civilians to those concerning the industry, locally and country-wide, if we care about our collective well-being and our children’s right to inherit not only a better world but also the courage to speak up and influence change when change is due and needed, we ought to change some of the rules we have in place.

As said many times by many wise people throughout history, change starts with bettering ourselves at a personal level by reviewing our values. That way we can be objective in seeing what needs to be change at the level of our community and beyond.

Of Sharks And Jars And The Stories That Lies in Between

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on February 6, 2017.

What do sharks and glass jars have in common? If you’re ready to answer ‘Umm, nothing’ I will ask you to indulge me the next few paragraphs to show you the connection.

When my youngest was four, we watched a documentary called ‘Sharkwater,’ which ended up being a game changer. He has always had a love for marine life, sharks in particular. Perhaps living on the coast and spending many long hours on beaches had something to do with it. We have since amassed a large collection of shark literature.

The documentary ‘Sharkwater’ pushed it farther. It made my little guy into a relentless shark defender. It sparked great conversations about the state of the oceans and it made all of us revisit the predigested shark dogma that we have been subscribing to for a long time. It inspired many homeschool projects, and it added arguments to the ongoing dialogue about climate change.

Rob Stewart, the director of ‘Sharkwater,’ was a Canadian biologist, ocean and shark lover, and a dedicated environmental activist. He boldly and unapologetically brought up the subject of climate change, ready to pursue it and wake people up to it no matter how big the risks of doing so. I am using the past tense here because sadly, he died last week while diving for new material for a ‘Sharkwater’ sequel.

His legacy (including another documentary called ‘Revolution’ which I highly encourage you to watch,) is one that we must have an ongoing conversation about; more so because as a country, we have yet a long way to go before we can build up to a reputation of climate protectors, which we should for obvious reasons.

Our environmental stewardship record is a tarnished one due to tar sands, pipelines, dams too big and too damaging, mines too unregulated and waters too unprotected. The list is not exhausted yet. Like everything else though, save death, this can be challenged and changed, and ultimately worked into a better reality.

That reality (caring about the world we pass on to our children,) ought to start in our own backyard, individual and city-wide too. Case in point: The city’s decision to have our recycling taken care of in a different way starting next year seems like a good one from afar. That is, until you find out that glass jars and bottles, and plastic bags, will not be part of the new recycling program. Right.

Put simply, if you have time, a car, and dedication, you will likely set aside the glass containers and all the soft plastic, and diligently take them to a recycling depot regularly. Gas will be burned, and time will be spent. The cheeky ones will say it’s time spent saving the planet, yet the exhaust gases to and from will fog up the good deed lenses.

The thing is, people pay city taxes and part of that includes removal of garbage and recyclables. Moreover, we choose leaders who oversee our continuous well-being and make it their mission to care for our health and our environment, among other things. Today’s reality includes climate change. If you don’t believe in that… well, then the overwhelming amounts of trash ought to raise an alarm bell.

We have too much stuff: we buy too much, we throw out too much and we recycle too little in the end. ‘Reuse, recycle, repurpose’ sounds good in an expo context as a logo of sorts, but if not applied fully in real life, then we are missing the point.

Leaving glass and soft plastic out of the collected recyclable items translates into extra garbage. Glass is, after all, 100 percent recyclable – endlessly that is – and the process renders a product that is just as clean and reliable as the product it was made of. Hence the obvious path: we should rely on glass more than we rely on plastic, and we should aim to recycle it to the last jar or bottle. That would reduce our garbage output, reduce the plastic dependency and overload too. Overall, we would get one step closer to making our world more sustainable.

I remember reading a book about the psychology of effective dialogue. Here’s something I remember from it. In face of a less than attractive offer, asking ‘Is this the best you can offer me?’ or ‘Is this the best your business can help us out with?’ usually elicits a positive response. People want to do a good job. We all strive to do better, and a reminder that there is room for better service is enough to ignite the spark.

Being environmentally aware and also business savvy do not have to be not mutually exclusive. That being said, I think it would be fair to prompt the city to reconsider their choice of how they deal with our recycling items by asking: Is this the best you can do for our community?

Rob Stewart likely asked himself the same question when, as a wildlife photographer, he came across shocking things happening in our world. He chose to do better: he became an environmental activist and produced inspiring documentaries. Though he left the world much too soon, he left a better one behind.

So there, sharks and jars do have something in common. They can fuel our determination to do better by our beautiful world, and by our children. Many things can. All we have to do is open our eyes, learn and act in better ways. While we still have the luxury to make choices, that is.

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