It was one year ago, to the week, that I became an environmentalist at heart. I had spent just a couple of days at sea with Sylvia and North Island Kayak in Johnstone Strait and while I was environmentally ‘aware’ up until that point, it was on this trip that I became green.
One year on and Sylvia and I are about to return to Telegraph Cove to spend four days kayaking and exploring the Johnstone Strait area, reconnecting with nature, and for my part, returning to my own environmental Mecca. What better time, then, to reflect on the past twelve months?
I have to fly to Vancouver. My first thought was how I could best environmentally offset that flight. Through some research I would suggest Offsetters or Less Emissions both of whom offer gold-standard carbon offsets. These are phrases that, one year ago, didn’t form a part of my vocabulary.
I have spent twelve months living and breathing green – and to some extent, still failing. I have also read green, extensively. More on my man-crush, David Suzuki, later, …or never.
The first changes were certainly personal changes. Turning off lights, unplugging unused electronics, using public transit, composting, recycling, reducing consumption, investing in Bullfrog Power, conserving water as much as possible, etc. Conserving water, turning off lights, composting and recycling are now simply second nature. At first conscious thought is required. I can assure you that this becomes habit quicker than you think.
Our diet has changed. We are meatless on Monday, fish-only on Wednesday and Friday, and red meat just once per week. This is a perfect example of the key to becoming green. Big sudden shifts (to completely vegetarian, etc.) are extremely difficult. Just ask how many “cold-turkey”-quitting smokers have failed at stopping smoking. Slow and steady wins the race. But forward progression is essential.
That brings me to broader climate issues and other environmental concerns. Some commentators (James Lovelock for one) feel that the tipping point has come and gone and we are too late to change the warming course of the Earth – and the inherent problems that come with it. Others, like my man Suzuki, find it hard to disagree with Lovelock, but disagree they do. The rationale seems to be this: regardless of whether efforts are ultimately in vein, should that matter? Does it matter that we pollute less, that we keep our environment cleaner, that we use less non-renewable resources and find alternate, clean, renewable sources? Of course it does – this just makes for a healthier planet to leave to our decedents. Whether we are too late to make a difference is impossible to know, because we don’t know enough. We don’t know just how resilient the Earth actually is.
Informing yourself about environmental issues is important, and I have suggested a few resources for you on this site. There are so many others. Taking action to become “greener” and more environmentally friendly is also important. As is often said, be the change that you want to see I the world, or what we do to the Earth we do to ourselves. Don’t ever think that you are done. You can always learn more, and always do more. Just enjoy the ride.
Then there’s the next step.
Ultimately public action, and corporate action, is regulated by the government. If you dislike the practice of shark-finning, tell the government. If you object to an expansion of production from the Alberta oil sands, tell the government. If you object to soda companies filling their plastic bottles with your water and selling it back to you for multiple times its “tap” value, tell the government. There’s no need to stop there. Find your cause, tell your friends, petition, join an advocacy group that you believe in.
I am already donating to a few causes that I believe in. I have written to my local MP and government about issues I believe in. I am involved with a local non-profit that I believe in, and I am hopefully soon to join one more. I am beginning to tailor my career to align with my beliefs. You can make a difference.
Ultimately, the trick is to enjoy life and live a fulfilling life, but to do so in a sustainable and an environmentally responsible way. To see orca, kayak rather than motor boat. If you are going to fly, offset the carbon. Better than that, push for a government that supports the development of clean / renewable fuel planes. To get to work, walk or cycle, or at the very least use public transit. Do what you want to do, but do it the right way. The right way protects the environment and leaves it in the same or a better condition for our children and grandchildren.