Daniela Ginta, The Mindful Writer

Freelance Writer and Photographer, Author of the Mindfulness Blog

Tag: climate change Page 2 of 5

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.

Why We Ought To Take Another Look At Our Water Consumption Habits

Originally published as a column on September 3, 2017 on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News. 

If your summer fun includes going to the beach, on the shores of either the South or North Thompson Rivers, you likely noticed the receding water line over the last few weeks, more so on the first. From one day to the next, the river grows thinner and shallower.

There is enough river still for people to swim in and paddle, enough for dogs to play fetch, and even for motorized water vehicles, if that’s your flavour, but that is not good enough. The summer has been hot and dry, which means that those of us who wanted their lawns green and lively had to increase the water usage to keep the green going. How much more could that account for, you may wonder? According to the city’s records, Kamloops residents used one billion litres of water more this year than in 2016 (‘Water usage up in Kamloops, not nearing drought levels,’ August 24, 2017 on CFJC Kamloops News.)

Numbers like that make me dizzy. Divide that by the number of people living here and you get even dizzier. Yes, that comes to 10,000 litres per person! Unless that is a mistake. I hope the billion was in fact a million, which is not good either, but better than the many scary zeros a billion comes with. Say what you want, in a world where many do not have access to clean water (or water altogether!) such numbers are beyond indecent. They are downright shameful.

The conclusion of the article was that though the province is experiencing severe drought conditions in some areas, here in Kamloops we are doing fine provided the next month will not be a dry one. Right. Psychic powers notwithstanding, no one knows what the future brings; ultimately, it is not just about the water plant having enough to fill the pipes. It’s about the big picture, which yes, it does include us, but it includes so much more life, which if threatened, will end up affecting ours.

It’s about the watershed that should hold enough water for returning salmon for example. Salmon River, Nicola, Coldwater River, and the Similkameen watersheds are currently under level four drought conditions. We are one level up, under very dry conditions, when ‘Potentially serious ecosystem or socio-economic impacts are possible or imminent and impacts may already be occurring.’ Increased water consumption compared to last year’s does bid well, nor does the description of the next level down. (The South Thompson was at a level four just two years ago.)

Level four drought conditions are defined as ‘extremely dry conditions’ with water supply ‘insufficient to meet socio-economic and ecosystem needs.’ And it is the last step before ‘loss of supply’, and if that is not enough to make us mindful, I don’t know what will.

Where to from here? Voluntary water reduction is what we’re being asked for. Some of the things I see on late night walks with the dog point to the very opposite.

School fields are being drenched every night, and so are the areas outside the surrounding fences. That our children deserve the best regarding outdoor activities on school grounds is true, but reducing daily irrigation when the water levels are dropping dangerously may serve a better, more meaningful purpose: learning about the world they are inheriting, its many problems and that the solutions are within reach. Most of the time, the solution revolves around reducing consumption; in this case, water. Dry grass may not be pretty, but we need to steer away from looks after all, and speak openly about how to make our lives more sustainable.

The same goes for any kind of lawn in Kamloops. Keeping them ‘dormant’ may just be what we need to do so that the watershed is not depleted to the point of irreversible damage on the ecosystem. In the end, it is not about paying less, which is often how municipalities make water conservation through meter installation appealing to residents. It’s about understanding the deep impact our water consumption habits have on our immediate environment and on our not so distant future.

It’s about water we depend on. Living on the edge may sound attractive in many contexts, but not when it’s about water. We have to be mindful of our blue gold way before it gets ugly (hopefully it never will.) With a city and its surroundings dry as tinder, making sure we have enough water for what residents need, for what wildlife needs and for potential firefighting if need be, that seems both sensible and necessary at once.

If this was money in our savings account, we’d make sure we have more than ‘good enough’. Water conservation may just be more important than saving money; for obvious reasons. Please do your part and urge others to do the same.

 

A Little Hope Is Still Hope, So Don’t Give Up

Originally published as a column on CFJC Kamloops Today and Armchair Mayor News on Monday, July 7, 2017. 

It goes in waves. That’s the best way to describe it. One day the smoke is so thick it drowns every bit of hope and positivity you can muster. The next day, a breeze start sweeping away at the smoke until the blue sky swallows your gaze yet again and the feeling of ‘we’ll get through this and we’ll be fine’ surfaces.

A day trip to Sun Peaks on Saturday infused enough positive thinking to help me get back on that track. Hope? Check. Gratefulness and finding ways to cope? Ditto. There is something about blue skies and sunny mornings that revives your heart in a way that nothing else can.

The best part was being away from technology, save for the occasional use of my phone to take photos. No news, no feeling of helplessness upon hearing of more wildfires breaking out somewhere or the ones close by growing to gargantuan proportions.

Getting out of the fray for a day or even less, just enough to reposition your hope bearings in the right direction is a way to cope. I urge to do so if you can. We came home to a smoky Kamloops, but the good feelings lingered enough to make it through the night on a high note. Sunday morning was a different matter. It is now midday and white all over. I no longer wonder about when it will end. Realistically speaking, not soon. Still, we must have hope.

As they say, it often gets worse before it gets better. For the most part, this unprecedented crisis truly brings out the best in people. Appreciation for a good word or a laughter shared in the face of desperation, hugs, or a shoulder to cry on when needed, an invitation to dinner at a friend’s house that is out of the thick smoke. Increments of hope indeed, but they matter.

I’ve heard many people say how much they appreciate blue sky and clean air and how often we take them for granted. It’s not just a tree-hugger’s speech. It’s what enables life. One day this will all be behind us, morning sun will break through our curtains shining bold, and by then, we will have all become wiser in how we manage the world we live in and how we build the future. One can hope.

On a particularly smoky day last week, we went to McConnell Lake for the afternoon. It was clearer there. We walked around the lake, listened to beautifully haunting loon calls, and dipped our feet in water, thoughts and worries abounding.

I was contemplating evacuating with my sons to a place that will help my youngest’s breathing, as he suffers from asthma. That the coast is now invaded by smoke brought forth a particularly hopeless thought: there aren’t too many places where we can hide from smoke. You can run but you can’t hide… Talk about hopelessness redefined.

But giving up is not an option either. I found my hope resuscitated by gazing around. Yes, it was smoky and eerie looking. But there were flowers still in bloom, bushes full of berries and dragonflies dancing their colours over the still water.

The next day turned clear for a bit, and so did people’s smiles. It will be like that for a while. We will feel lost and hopeless, then we’ll smile and see past the smoky troubles. But beyond that, there are the people who fight the fires in various capacities. My husband is among them. When the smoke here is thick and ugly, I think of them all, knowing that where they are, the smoke is at its worst; I realize once more that giving up on hope is not an option. They are there proving it with all that hard work, extreme heat and smoke notwithstanding, every single day.

Incremental or not, hope is in us, though painfully low at times. Yes, some lost souls still light campfires (some newly put out were discovered near Kamloops at Pemberton Lake just the other day,) and others steal truckloads of pet supplies and food from the Sandman’s emergency centre. Fragile as hope and positivity are these days, incidents like that can really make one’s optimistic thoughts turn to ashes temporarily.

But then hope rises again. There are more hands willing to help than steal and there is still a whole lot of blue sky behind that thick smoke.

We will hopefully emerge wiser about how we build our tomorrows, so that we can wake up to blue skies and stubbornly sunny summer mornings yet again. It’s the twelfth hour many say in terms of climate change affecting our world, and it may well be, but really, what other option do we have but to hope, and rebuild, having understood that we cannot employ the same means we have employed so far. Here’s to hope once again, and to wiser and kinder ways of treating our world and each other.

The Time For Trade Offs Should Be Behind Us

Originally published as a column on CFJC Today Kamloops and Armchair Mayor News on July 17, 2017. 

It’s a smoky morning in Kamloops and about to get smokier still, judging by the large plume riding down the North Thompson. I took the dog out for a walk but we’re both slowing down our usual pace on days like today. It’s more work to take each breath in. I think of people struggling with respiratory disease on a good day (my youngest included). It is only mid-July and summer is still unfolding as we speak. More wildfires to come.

Will next year be the same? Worse? Better? How about the one after? That we cannot foresee the future, let alone create a better one, is a sobering thought. At the same time, one could argue, we do have a say in what is to come. With some margin for error (and growing every year,) but still.

So, the smoke. Particulate matter is hell on earth for all of us. More coming as fossil fuel consumption increases and the resulting greenhouse gases causes temperatures to increase.

More dust and particulate matter coming if the extraction sector continues its forays into the underground riches. Case in point here in Kamloops: the Ajax mine.

City council is about to cast their decision today. A relevant step. I have stated where I stand on a few occasions: a firm no. There is not enough money in this world to buy health or a mouthful of fresh air. I know what it’s like not being able to breathe from watching my son fight to breathe on more than one occasion.

I cannot picture adding the dust and increased amounts of exhaust gas from mine traffic to the city air on a day like today. Jobs are needed, that is true everywhere. But the trade-offs are to be considered carefully. Now more than ever.

If a hundred years ago, or even more recent in our history, we had enough clean environment to spare (I stubbornly believe there never is ‘enough’ clean air, water, and soil to spare), we are now seeing the results of that way of thinking in many places around the world, our own country-wide backyard included.

Industrial developments that put a community’s health and well-being at risk ought to make people rethink priorities. Mines without solid safety standards in place end up costing a community more than all the jobs combined. Examples abound, more so in a province like ours where the lax mining standards have been costly, socially, and otherwise. Hence the need for objectivity and a clear vision of the future, no pun intended.

It’s been said repeatedly by our governments, provincial and federal, that decisions on mines, liquid natural gas operations and pipeline construction are done with science in mind. ‘Facts-based decisions’ is the refrain that keeps on coming to remind us of the soundness of the decision-making process.

In case of the Ajax mine, science reports came back rather unequivocal. Not in favour, that is. In other cases, such as Mount Polley Mine, science seems to be employed as a weapon of betrayal (presently, treated wastewater is dumped in the lake, as per our former government’s decision following a ‘science-based’ process. The initial spill cleanup has not happened yet.)

The human population is growing, hence the need for more. Emphasis on ‘need’. We are making use of wants though, more often than we should, and we do that in ways that prove detrimental to our own well-being: our environment is polluted in the process of extracting resources, manufacturing goods, transporting them, and in the process of disposing of them. Garbage is at an all-time high on land and in the oceans, and, much like the human population, on a growing trend.

We’re bulging at the seams, yet more is produced, and more developments are underway. Life is not a one-way street, where you leave stuff behind as you go. It is a circle, and in true circle fashion, everything is engaged on a trajectory that keeps returning to the starting point. We’re part of it too.

We know, factually speaking, that our environment is aching; it has been for some time. Helping a community thrive while considering possible deleterious health effects of a local economic project is where the balance stands. The time for trade-offs should be behind us, because no matter how you stack it, money can never buy health, no matter how much of it you pile up.

Challenging Times Bring Out The Best And The Worst In People

Originally published as a column in CFJC Today and Armchair Mayor News on June 10, 2017. 

I was almost done with writing this week’s column by Thursday last week. It was about the missing campfire ban; it was long overdue and its absence worrying. Then Friday came, all hell broke loose in the southern interior and the Caribou, and a campfire ban was implemented without further delay.

Many thousands of evacuees later, homes burned, and multiple fires eating their way through the province, growing with every hour and gust of wind, the skies are hazy and the immediate future worrisome. In the midst of it all that and with the fear of more coming, it is almost too easy to get discouraged.

But since despair does not do much to help, making more room for better feelings might just be the way to go. To start with, gratefulness for having resources to fight fires, and for having people who are giving everything they’ve got to the fight with an adversary that takes no breaks. Firefighters often end up working all night during times like these. Their working conditions include hot, parched air, thick relentless smoke, and much physical exertion. Saying thank you seems like such a small thing to give in return. To them and to all those whose jobs take them to that front line where fear, anger, anxiousness, and heartbreak exist alongside people chased out of their homes by fire and some end up losing them to it.

Then there’s resilience. People who have been through losing their possessions and entire homes to previous wildfires are proof. Someone I know who went through the 1998 Salmon Arm wildfire had intense emotions triggered by photos of the ongoing fires; yet moving on happens because that’s what people do. When the going gets tough, and it does so because life is a blasted roller coaster trying ride at times, people find inner resources they did not think they had, so they keep on going. It’s the beauty of the unbeatable human spirit. It works best when you’re not alone in it.

Which takes me to the next good vibe. So many businesses in Kamloops have been opening their doors to evacuees, offering food and drinks. The offer is outpouring as we speak. Local kennels and people are offering to take pets and farm animals in. Backyards and home spaces are made available for impromptu camping.

It makes your heart swell a few sizes. It’s good to know we live in a place where big wide arms are ready to help. Yes, Kamloops has a big heart. In fact, many big ones. And this is just the beginning. There is a growing list of people who want to volunteer and donate to cover needs. The ongoing fires are still growing, most are zero percent contained – which does not mean hopeless, but hard to beat, and I know that we will see them restrained soon enough. All we can hope is that no others will start any time soon.

Which takes me to the bad sides showing in some humans. Family friends contacted me last night with questions about the fire ban. Driving near Hyas Lake area, their family spotted a few campers enjoying some good old campfires, despite the ban. Though some areas might be less dry than others, the fire danger is extreme and there is no going past that. That the said campfires were combined with drinking and that good old time that makes people less aware of sparkles landing on the grass… well, it’s just not right.

There is no happy follow-up either for this one. The campfires were reported the first night and local firefighters went and put them out, and gave warnings. The night after, campfires were back and there is little to say past that.

Lack of any social conscience is perhaps one of the most insidious and deadly disease that humanity has to defend itself against.

It’s only logical that I touch on cigarette butts next. On a sidewalk, they are an eye sore; in a place like Peterson Creek*, for example, or other city parks, which are as dry as dry can be (and getting dryer still with every day of scorching heat), a cigarette butt flicked carelessly could create yet another disaster. The many discarded cigarette butts I saw during my walks with the dog in the last few days before the park, were one too many to count or not be nervous about. All it takes is a spark.

Last, but not least: cars heating up fast when left in the sun even for a couple of minutes. Please do not leave children or pets locked in, even with windows cracked open. Hot weather turns merciless in mere seconds. Keep a watchful eye as well when you pass by parked cars in a parking lot. If you notice any children on animals, let someone know right away.

Stay safe, help when you can and as much as you can, and don’t give up hope. This too shall pass.

*Though now closed, Peterson Creek Park is now for the most part a large carpet of dry grass right underneath the Highway 1 bridge. Even one cigarette butt thrown out of a car driving by could mean sheer disaster. Please be mindful.

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.

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