A World Full of Colour
By Abe Drennan
Dear Editor, I just want to say thank you to Stewart Burnett for publishing his letter, titled, “Activism is great but youth don’t understand like adults do.” I appreciate his ideas as it gave me the opportunity to try and organize my thoughts on this issue. I also appreciate his comment, "A very carefully fought balance in a complex world of greys". Grey areas are inherent in every social construct we as humans, seem to immerse ourselves in. However, I am not sure how much of a balance there is anymore.
Disparities around the world caused by climate related disasters, plastic pollution, wealth inequality, and the rise of white nationalism does not seem like a carefully fought balance to me. The social and environmental realities that we currently face at a systemic level are products of past actions or lack thereof, that I feel we have to take some responsibility for. This carefully fought balance on the environment is not being fought well in my opinion. Maybe it could be fought better, as you suggest, by cleaning up butts in town. And I think this is what the young people around the world are doing. Trying to illicit action, in their opinion, from thick-skinned institutions that have maintained the status quo long enough. They are using the best knowledge they have, backed by science, at this point in time.
All people integrate what impresses them, so let's impress upon young people the knowledge we have gained while being here a bit longer. Let's help them understand the grey areas so they can make informed decisions. We don't have to heed to an authority they don't have but we do have a responsibility to support them to take wise action around issues that affect them. This way, they can learn to take ownership of something. Having ownership over a course of wise, informed action is the best way to fostering engagement in any person. Ownership and engagement are how you gain "skin in the game" in my opinion.
This environmental movement is being led by youth and supported by adults. We are all in this together. There is one planet and we are all on it. Even for those who are doubtful that global warming and climate change are real, it doesn't hurt anybody to reduce their plastic use to clean up an ocean or two, right? I have to ask though, are we so dependent on fossil fuels that we are willing to risk the health of the planet and the future of our kids for the sake of convenience? Old habits are hard to break but when new ones are created, they eventually become old too. I'm of the mindset that it's my job to ensure that these young people develop some skin in this game and help them make informed choices to determine the course of their future.
The science tells me that there isn't much time left. My own complacency and frustration peaked when I realized that this issue was much bigger than at-home recycling or picking up garbage in the spring. The Arctic is warming three times faster than anywhere on the planet. The annual average temperature in Inuvik is currently -8 degrees where it used to be -22 degrees. We have all felt this. By, 2050, 70% of infrastructure will be threatened due to thawing permafrost. A new study published this week titled, ‘Key indicators of Arctic climate change: 1971-2017’ says, “Since 1971, 8 trillion metric tonnes of land ice was lost across the Alaskan, Canadian, Greenlandic, Scandinavian and high Russian Arctic. That ice continues to melt today at a rate of 14,000 tonnes a second. That’s enough mass to tip the earth.” These are scientific facts, not fantasies. But because I believe them, does this make me an alarmist? Scientists have been ringing these bells for a long time. I guess I’m just ready to listen.
Famed broadcaster Sir David Attenborough said recently when introducing his new Netflix documentary, ‘Our Planet’ that, “Right now we are in the midst of the Earth’s sixth mass extinction. One every bit as profound and far reaching as that which wiped out the dinosaurs.” I will admit that I am a left of center thinker and a realist. I enjoy being challenged and welcome all trains of thought. Please prove me wrong, cause even if I believe only a quarter of what I hear, I still get rattled and can feel anxiety rising inside me. This anxiety causes me to freeze, which I realized is the source of my complacency towards this issue; my complacency and also my deflection of it. Deflecting the issue helps to minimize my anxiety and maintain the status quo and the idea that everything is fine. But, even as I continue to deflect and not face the facts, this seed of anxiety will not stop growing.
I don’t have any hard fast answers, but I know that my children, grandchildren or great grandchildren will be the ones to bear the incredible burden of global warming. As a master at the art of deflection, I’ve already done my part to maintain the status quo and I’m not prepared to look at myself in the mirror and say that I did nothing cause I was too anxious. Even if a small fraction of the science is real and the rest fake news, for the sake of my children and theirs, I will do what it takes by supporting their desire to get involved and engaged. My skin in this game is thick enough already, so I will shed a few layers, support this movement and march on Fridays.
Adaptation is the greatest super power we have. Species learn to adapt when their environment changes. As a consumer my choices are limited if I want to reduce or avoid plastic waste in my daily life for example. I believe we all do the best we can with what we have. Even as we learn to make meaningful changes in our homes, the main manufacturers and large corporations must start integrating that a healthy planet means implementing alternatives on a large scale. We as consumers must start demanding what we want. After all, my dollars are what keep their doors open and “in business”, right? So who has the leverage here? We, the consumer, have more power than we believe we do. We tend to forget that. I know I have. Our environment is changing so lets adapt.
On March 15th, my boys and I marched along side many others in town as well as with 1.4 million youth around the world. We did this to combat our own complacency and hopefully do something meaningful. That is why Greta Thunberg of Sweden started this movement and is currently nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. She is not claiming to have more authority than anyone else; she is standing on the shoulders of science and all the other climate warriors of the past. We stand with her. The pace of action on meeting the standards outlined in the Paris Agreement is being viewed by young people in the movement as painstakingly slow. There's no more time for pondering in a complex world of greys cause this carefully fought balance is being fought by adults with too much skin, playing politics for way too long. Time to tip the scales for once, take some big risks and stop living in a world of greys, cause the youth of the future want a world full of colour.