Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: COP21

The Ripple Effect

Originally published as a column in NewsKamloops on December 4, 2015. 

BeautyIt was cold on Sunday. Midday came with gifts of sunshine as over one hundred people gathered for the Climate Rally at Riverside Park. Not a big crowd by many people’s standards, but enough to make a dent of some sort.

Among lots of green paper hearts with inspiring messages directed to the City Council, and people smiling as they had green hearts painted on their cheeks (or noses), hope reigned supreme.

Indeed, there is something about that recognition of a need to act together towards the greater good if the greater good is to be achieved at all. There is no question that the road is a bumpy one; global well-being is a tall order. Yet what choice do we have?

It has come to the point in time when we can no longer push the dirt under the rug and pretend the day can be filled with happy thoughts only (hope is happy, come to think of it, isn’t it?) but we have to take the proverbial bull by the horns and act.

In face of a challenging world climate, environmental, social and political, the one logical thing to do is to approach the said bull not individually but together. Strength is in numbers, and to that I’d add that inspiration and courage are as well. from times past until today, the concept of togetherness is one that helps build bridges where bridges have never been built and helps us climb mountains that any of us individually would find impossible to climb.

It felt good to see that on Sunday. Frozen feet and noses notwithstanding, a great heart was formed on the shores of the quiet, old-as-the-world Thompson River, and the rally ended with smiles. Now for the actual work.

Yes, as good and fuzzy the feeling, there’s lots of work ahead. Rally or not, the world is still warming up and that’s bad, but also good because we can use the heat in more constructive ways. Species are still disappearing (some faster than others) and yet there’s a heap of good people out there striving to share the word on saving them, starting petitions and raising awareness, adding clarity to our view of the world like never before.

There are many acute issues in the world. From climate-related to multiple war-plagued areas and the resulting humanitarian crises, clarity is perhaps what we need to acknowledge that unless we tackle them together, neither will be properly fixed.

The Paris-derived ‘Keep it in the ground’ campaign is the very case in point. India’s PM has launched an international solar alliance of over 120 countries, many of them developing countries where some of the people will go from no power to solar power and all the benefits that electricity brings along.

Environmental issues and poverty can be solved as the complex interwoven problem they have become. Killing two birds with one shot, except that in this case we would be fixing the said birds with one cure. That could save future unrest and maybe even wars.

It would not be boasting if we were to say that we’re witnessing history being made these days. Big in how we invest ourselves in saving the world and its people too. Big in how we make compassion and responsibility stand out, big in how big our hearts grow as we hold onto each other in order to breathe new life into the togetherness concept.

In times of unrest, whatever the nature of it is, usually more than one as everything is connected after all, finding solutions is an act of courage and a reminder that uniting over big warm-hearted purposes gives meaning to life itself, saving it at the same time.

Then again, big goals can appear intimidating at first. Which is why pursuing change in small steps and fixing the world, mindset-wise, starts in our own backyard.

BC has again, and infamously so, placed first on the child poverty list in Canada. This year again, 1 in 5 children in British Columbia are living below the poverty level. That is unacceptable. There is no sugar coating for this one.

In the days of thrift stores bulging with used items, landfills inundated with usable things and still lots of food finding its way in the garbage, the only word that can describe the situation, much to our shame, is “unacceptable”. Unacceptable indeed.

But many good deeds happen as there are many people putting money, time and consideration towards addressing the problem. It goes without saying that the provincial government has to step up to the plate and do the hard work on that end too.

Things are changing and for the better. Having knowledge is where we start. So let’s consider us walking the path already.

We can do it. Change how we treat the environment, put food on children’s plates and offer low-income families (single parents too) the gift of dignity. Address mental issues, understand the needs of those affected in our community and country-wide and press on to help war and disaster-affected people, the millions of them: those effected by the crisis in Syria and Iraq, those without homes and little food in Nepal, the tens of thousands in Sudan who are on the brink of famine.

Kindness begets kindness and we are all better when that happens. A single drop that falls in a lake will create ripples that will travel farther then we see with our eyes. The same with kindness. Our world deserves it. We, as its people, deserve it too.

In keeping mindful we are not living in fear but in hope. In unity over goals that honour life as we know it in all its entirety, we become better. Humbly so.

We Have The Power To Change

Originally published as a column in News Kamloops on Friday November 27, 2015. 

IMG_0111Last weekend found us and the boys at Lac Le Jeune delighting in thick snow and sparkling hoarfrost. It could not have been more beautiful. A magical glimpse into winter wonderland, quiet and mysterious at times, and then sprinkled with noises of birds and boys and lake ice vibrating in long organ-like sounds as the boys were throwing handfuls of icy snow on the newly formed solid layer.

To see that world, animal tracks included, just a few steps away from the busy city life, is to be reminded of why I keep going back to the same plea I’ve been at for years now: let’s save the world. It’s so worth it.

Holidays approach and that means joy, but so much of what we identify with winter joy has been commercialized and comes with an expiration date. So much of what children associate with winter joy nowadays has to do with the short-lived exhilaration of packages, and so much of their interaction with nature itself has been reduced over the years.

We can all do more with the nonmaterialistic joy that comes from connecting with nature and understanding its mysteries rather than attempting to conquer it in any way.

Yes, the planet can only hold so much garbage and only so much ‘reusable’ debris can be disassembled (by people who have no other choice in countries we don’t think of often enough) before the excess starts showing in inelegant ways.

The word is out about plastic being all over our big blue oceans. Again. An estimated 8 to 12 tonnes of plastic is dumped in the ocean annually by coastal countries and if more is produced, more will find its way into the water.

As for biodegradable plastic, let’s just say it’s not what it sounds like. Science has recently spoken out about that too. There is no miracle biodegradable plastic that disintegrates after we dispose of it unless certain conditions are met, so companies need to rethink their products and customers like us have to reuse what we have and avoid buying more plastic.

We’re far enough inland to not find the odd plastic bits during a stroll on the shore, but the Thompson Rivers are suffering from the same disease, albeit at a smaller scale. It’s not hard to spot the unsightly bits when you’re out and about.

Yes the planet is a small place to be after all. Our growing population needs some new rules of engagement and because we have more choices than so many people in the world who are already feeling the effects of climate change, we have to give it a good go.

I’ve been told and I’ve read countless times that one person cannot make a difference; not when it comes to climate change in the era of greedy corporations. Why do we keep saying that? Who’s to benefit from it? Not us, not in the least. Overconsumption of goods has the individual as the problem but also as the solution. Worth a try.

On the eve of COP21 and amidst so much world turmoil (much of it tied to economic reasons), choosing to focus our gaze on the sea of plastic that’s engulfing us, both at sea and on land, and looking close enough to our world suffering from human activity wounds, whatever their nature, we have to consider making better choices by buying less or recycled, eating less meat and driving less. A matter of much needed civic responsibility rather than a pre-Christmas Grinch-like attitude.

Seeing the wealth of offers for Black Friday and beyond makes me ask a question that is as uncomfortable as it is obligatory: is it right to give our children the illusion that the world is well and bountiful and the Christmas cheer is to be welcomed without a worry in the world? Or is that akin to pulling the rug from under their feet as they make their way into tomorrow?

A recent scientific report documenting the glaciers in Tibet warns of fast melting, which could leave almost a quarter billion people with less water for daily consumption, agriculture and household or commercial purposes. Glaciers in Bolivia, Pakistan, Austria, Canada and the US are not far behind.

Earlier this year, over 300 sei whales ended up stranded in a fjord in southern Chile in what National Geographic called the world’s largest stranding ever. The causes are yet to be found. It could be the ocean water that is getting too warm and acidic and thus causing an algal bloom toxic to marine mammals, or a high concentration of pesticides due to agricultural run-off, or floating garbage.

If we think of animals as our canaries, we should approach their occasional unexplained sudden demise with interest, for our well-being and theirs are tightly interwoven.

This is not scaremongering but facts derived from scientific reports. They point to things happening and that means we have to change our course of action. Hence the climate meeting about to take place in Paris.

Various actions are possible at various levels. We can pressure our newly elected government to reassess some of the hasty environmentally-unsound decisions made by the previous government, we can keep informed about new exploitation projects that may jeopardize our land or waters (like the drilling to be done by Shell off the coast of Nova Scotia) and make enough noise to hopefully prevent environmental disasters, and we can choose to leave enough manufactured goods on the shelves to reduce demand and thus reduce pollution. There’s more of course.

We are fortunate to live in a world that comes with so many perks for so many of us. It is nothing but honouring to remind ourselves that we can also sign up for the duty of doing all that we can to save the world that has given us so much, from the enrapturing beauty of a sunset over snowy mountains to the miracle of seeing life appear, whether it is a leaf bud, a butterfly or the birth of a baby.

By not keeping silent about unpopular topics (like this one) and by acting in ways to show it, we can achieve something. No action is small enough to not count.

In solidarity with the rest of the people being loud and visible on November 29, please consider visiting Riverside Park at 1pm to participate in the Climate Change Rally. The world will thank you for it.

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