Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Tag: climate change Page 1 of 5

Why it matters that we exercise simplicity (while it is still a choice)

Every now and then I play an interesting game with myself. I deliberately avoid buying more food when we still have enough supplies in the house to make a few more meals. The process conjures creativity but that’s what makes it interesting. That’s where empowerment sprouts.

Seriously though, why do it?

Why not decide on a menu and then shop for ingredients? Spoiler alert: this is not a cooking post; as you will see below, it goes far beyond that. Why cook with whatever available, when available? Because:

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Weekly Column: Climate Change Challenges Will Never Be Solved With Cat Doors

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on January 7, 2019. 

If you want to chuckle, check out the amusing story of how a $2,000 cat door installed in a West Vancouver home can help fight climate change (embedded in the $3 million home it belongs too.) To be fair, the article has some good information on passive houses, or net-zero homes, but you might find yourself jaded by the time you get to the part where the 11-foot windows are described (shipped from Europe, they were.) Carbon footprint applies to the whole product and the processes involved in building it, no?

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Weekly Column: Any Day Is A Good Day To Start on Resolutions

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on December 31, 2018. 

As 2018 is ending, there is a funny thing happening: the resolution machinery is put to work. Open any big box store flyer and you’ll be reminded of resolutions, particularly the fitness ones. The distance between today’s you (somewhat heavier and poorer you after Christmas eating and shopping,) and the better you of tomorrow (possibly fitter but just as poor or worse if you give in to promises and buy promises shaped like fitness machines,) is ultimately yours to decide on.

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Weekly Column: Why Are We So Opposed To Saving Nature?

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, October 1, 2018. 

It is hard to try to change people’s minds even when the cause is more than worthy. Not when it comes to the material part though. There are marketing wizards out there designing strategies and using subtle tricks that make us act like puppets as we agree to buying things just because. Never mind what it takes to produce or manufacture a product, or the ultimate price for our lifestyle – pollution and destruction, sometimes not just of nature but human lives too. Our stores are filled to the brim and more is coming. That is not creating long-lasting happiness either; on the contrary.

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Weekly Column: Smoky Skies Or Not, We Can All Agree With A Few Things

Originally published as a column in CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, August 20, 2018. 

Last week, during a drive from Vancouver, we took a short break in Hope. It was almost 10 o’clock at night and the fire near Agassiz was raging, mountain aglow and the plume above it a threatening dark grey. As we got out of the car, the air was thick with heavy, grey smoke. Though far enough from the fire, the smell was overwhelming. I could not imagine what it would be like to be right there, gear on, tools and everything, fighting this hot monster up close. Or the rest of the almost 600 fires across the province.

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Why A Different Approach Is Needed This Holiday Season And Beyond

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, December 11, 2017. 

Last week, the conservation group Sea Legacy (co-founded by Canadian-born photographer and marine biologist Paul Nicklen and his partner Cristina Mittermeier, also a conservationist, photographer, and writer,) released a video of a starving polar bear, aiming to draw attention to an issue that is not new but is getting increasingly worrisome: the impact of climate change on wildlife and the environment, human life included, since we are, truly, but a piece of the big puzzle we call life.

The video was shared on social media, and the heartbreaking reality the Sea Legacy team was confronted with was discussed in the news. In a nutshell, shorter winters and the melting of the sea ice causes more polar bears to go hungry, as they are forced to spend more time on land instead of replenishing their reserves by going after seals, an activity for which they need sea ice.

Other scientists concur. Nick Lunn, a researcher with Environment and Climate Change Canada, recently warned that climate change may be wiping out the subpopulation of polar bears near Churchill, Manitoba, in 20 to 40 years. Occurrences such as a bear swimming underwater for more than three minutes (almost three times longer than normal) while stalking his prey, only points to the same issue: increased starvation, which also causes many hungry bears to walk into cities in search of food. Aside from climate change, polar bears and other Arctic creatures are affected by persistent pollutants which affect their nervous, digestive, and reproductive systems.

The reactions to the photos and video of the severely emaciated bear were diverse, and some, to be honest, rather shocking. Some called it tragic, and vowed to change their ways to reduce their carbon footprint, others said these conservationists are opportunists trying to push their own agenda (I have a hard time with the ridiculousness of such statements) spreading fake news about the climate, while this is a perfectly normal reality, i.e. wild animals starving to death or being diseased. Yes, you can shake your head.

The bleeding hearts accused the team of being cruel and filming the bear instead of feeding it (as if that would save it, or the rest of the bears threatened by the same fate.) Others went as far as to say that this kind of news ruins their weekend.

The reason I picked this topic to write about is because of the incoming reports on wildlife disappearing at a rate we are not prepared to accept. According to the WWF conservation group, we have lost approximately 60 percent of wildlife since 1970 (which is not that long ago) and by 2020 (which is too darn close) we will see two thirds of them gone. Due mostly to human activity, the WWF report said. Alarmists, some may conclude, yet other studies and direct evidence brought by scientists and conservation photographers point to the same.

Recent reports by the Committee on the Status of Endangered Wildlife in Canada (COSEWIC) draws attention to a few species that are either endangered or threatened due to human activity interfering with their natural cycles, or altering their habitat, which drastically decreases their numbers and in some cases, such as the great northern Caribou herds, pushes them closer to the tipping point (a nice way to say extinction.) Add some species of salmon to the list too, some of trout, migratory birds, and Monarch butterflies. The list is long and getting longer, and the main culprits are interrelated: climate change and human activity.

While I wholeheartedly agree that this cavalcade of troubling environmental news is upsetting (including the ever-increasing plastic and garbage issue,) more so as we approach Christmas, it is important that we not only talk about it all, but that we keep talking about it once the new news is old news.

In many retail stores the lineups are a sight to behold already and seasonal merchandise is choking the shelves. Some of it, mostly plastic, will add to the landfills, soon after the season’s over. We can hope (and help as much as we can) that those who truly are in need, such as the 18.3 percent of children who find themselves below the poverty level in British Columbia (17 percent Canada-wide), will have their needs taken care of. Past the Christmas season too, until no child is found to live in poverty – now that’s a good wish to wish and help come true.

Aside from that, if we can take the stories of our ailing world to heart and give the gifts that matter the most to our loved ones, which are time and presence, while reducing our consumption and material gift footprint to a minimum necessary (donating instead to those in need for example,) I can see that as enabling a much-needed Christmas-and-beyond miracle: our own survival in a world that needs us to pay attention to more than immediate comfort and the next thing to buy.

We can shrug or ignore reports of wildlife suffering or disappearing because of human activity and climate change, or we can start a long-awaited conversation that may see the tide turning in favour of life. Choosing the latter has no dire consequences; on the contrary. It means choosing a better future. Choosing to continue to ignore the signs we see everywhere – animals disappearing, extreme weather phenomena, severe wildfires, that is akin to playing Russian roulette at a time when playing games is not something we can afford.

Second Warning. What Next?

For all the times I had doubts about my hammering on the issue of climate change and bringing up various wrongs that suffocate the blue skies and kill the fish, well, the latest news chases away any feelings of inadequacy on the matter. Not that it will sweeten the deal. On the contrary.

More than 15,000 scientists from 184 countries have issued a warning to humanity regarding climate change and how urgent the need to change the way we carry our business, or else. It made me feel both relieved (that I am not just gratuitously killing people’s mood) and at the same time it brought a confirmation of doom that is not a good thing for any of us. Or easily forgettable, unless you drown it in what got us here in the first place, which is consumerism and more recently, the social-media-numbing-of-the-mind phenomenon.

It is a fork in the road (again, yes) that we ought to mind. These events are becoming more serious each time, and we become less mindful of them because ‘come on, live a little, it’s not all doom and gloom’ – this is a pure and accurate excerpt from the files of my life by the way. If I had a dollar for every time it was said to me.

I know the conversation about our world suffocating is a few shades darker than many others, plus acknowledging it’s true means committing to live simpler, with less stuff and basically give up some things we collectively file under ‘comfort’ or ‘I deserve it.’ Which we are not quite ready to do. Not yet. Then we go and take another bite of the big pie that promises a feeling of fullness but never delivers. We keep on trying though because we have this short-term memory loss or at least we act like we do.

Then again, if you abstain buying that plastic wrapped plastic item that you do not need, or if you opt for New Zealand apples because they look better than the local ones, no matter how far they traveled, will that save the world? Every little bit helps, but still…

At this point in time the situation is quite serious, and your probably know as well as I do, that the much and urgently needed change of direction should come from the manufacturing end. If you search online for one of those calculators that shows how many disposable cups are created and/or thrown out every second… It’s nauseating. It makes no sense to see those numbers rolling and you feel like standing still for the next two weeks so as to not create another wrinkle on Mother Earth’s cheek. Crazy thing is, the wrinkle appears as you watch. Hard to shake that scintillating constantly increasing number off.

The minions that we are, buying in bulk, buying local and avoiding plastic, reusing bags or, if you are me, balancing a few too many things in your arms, piled high and precariously so, but feeling virtuous because no plastic bags were used in the process of buying groceries, hence no choking marine life or distantly strewn shredded immortal plastic film, we try, we try harder, we opt for no-waste solutions and we feel like we’re running in circles because someone else is holding the reigns.

‘Is this how your mind works?’ you may ask. And I will say yes. That is how it goes. If you say let’s have a coffee and we do, and the barista hands me the coffee in a disposable cup though I said the coffee is ‘to stay’, I will be mortified – not because of that one cup (out of two billion cups that Canadians add to the landfill yearly,) but because of the shifting mindset that got us to where we do not think disposable is bad and shows how entitled we are. A case of lost gratefulness I might argue…

There is no absolute sinless behaviour when it comes to the environment. Aware as I am, I leave prints like everyone else, but likely fewer because I cannot let go of this pre-emptive feeling of loss when I see the world around taking another blow. Guilt and mindfulness oblige. Or the heart-wrenching feeling that comes with the realization that we are handing over to our children this ailing, plasticated planet. As if it was ours to use like this in the first place.

Headlines speak of fisheries collapsing and yet another, bigger trash island being discovered off the coast of __________ (fill in the blanks with map in hand). There is the occasional shocking report by WWF about 60 percent of the world’s wildlife being gone and there no absolute panic but instead, other news roll in and we take cover because, really, it is just too much sometimes and we simply want to have a quiet evening away from negativity.

I think we ought to get some vows happening, you know. How about when a child is born, you must produce a vow that will include (aside from the promise to love the child unconditionally,) a line or two or ten sounding like ‘I promise, to the best of my abilities, to leave as small a carbon, garbage and slavery footprint as I can, when buying things which by the way I know not to buy new save for a few, because I know how much stuff is out there already.’ Then we should renew that vow every year or every couple of years. It might just work. Awareness, you know?

 

You see, I am so convinced that every corner of this world we inhabit, and every creature that lives in it, our kids’ smiles, their trust, and that gusto they bring about when they play in a muck or the joy when they see a squirrel scamper up the tree in the middle of the forest, all of that deserve us trying our hardest, every single day, to save the one home we share and could not be without, and in doing so we would be better for it. This is the equivalent of Mother Earth serving us a second notice of eviction. In real life, most of us would freak out and act on it.

Simplicity and all that ‘less is more’ stuff we see on Instagram or the occasional Facebook post (though surrounded by countless ads that invite to the very opposite,) that is true and temporarily filling, like a bowl of hot oatmeal in the morning. There’s a whole flock of them out there. Trouble is, if we don’t get to live them, there is not point in reading. It will never save us from anything.

I think we still have a chance. We are the lucky ones though. On this side of the world (and others too,) things get bad occasionally when a storm hits or some monster wildfire, but overall we shake it off and we patch it up by reaching into the emergency fund pockets. There are places around the world though that have so rough already it’s a downer to just read about it, let alone live it. But they do, because they have no choice.

Hence my plea. While we still have a choice. Or many.

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