Maybe it’s because the New Year is creeping up fast or maybe it’s because I just listened to a song lamenting the destruction of Canada’s Northland – but for whatever reason, the environment is never far from my mind. And nor should it be: I spend an inordinate amount of time in nature. I love our trees, forests, lakes, rivers, mountains. I don’t love them like I love chocolate – I love nature like a child loves its mother – unquestioningly and utterly. Nature gives us life. Without her we perish.
And yet, we are doing our collective best to tame, subdue and ultimately, kill her.
So here’s my thought for the New Year: let’s re-think everything. Let’s just stop what we’re doing, take a deep breath and re-evaluate absolutely everything. We have been doing what we are doing for a very long time. We seem to base our lives on “the economy” and, of course, the GDP, and definitely on how much stuff we have and how much more stuff we can buy.
I look around me and the results I see from all this are not pretty. I don’t see insanely happy people playing and having fun. I see people working longer hours so they can earn more money so that they can buy more stuff. And all this stuff we buy is what keeps the economy going. It means we can make more things so that we can buy more stuff – rather like a snake devouring its own tale. Of course, it’s not a perfect closed circle. The result of all this is that Canadians are more in debt than ever in history – and most other nations can say the same. It’s unworkable, unsustainable and downright nuts. By the way, the preceding statement is not profound. A first grader could come to this conclusion.
So I want to stop and assess. I think we have to start with our values. What is important? What do we want life to look like? What is our purpose? What are our goals?
Most people want to live happy, fulfilling lives, doing things they love doing and having people around them to love. it really is that simple. Obviously, our present society is not geared to fulfilling those wishes.
I doubt that anyone ever looked back on his or her life at age 95 and said, “I wish I had worked more; I wish I had had a nicer car; I wish I’d had a faster computer; I wish I’d had more stuff.”
I don’t have definitive answers – but I do know that if we actually begin to look at what is important, we can make some big changes. And I believe that power to make those changes lies with the individual.
Let’s just look at the Enbridge Northern Gateway pipeline. I do believe that we, the people, will stop it. No matter how badly the government and industry want this pipeline, the will not defeat our voices, our wishes, our will and our rights because we know that the Great Bear Rainforest, and the beautiful waters of our coast, are more important than the additional wealth that foreign investors will receive.
Every single thing that you and I do every day, sends out enormous ripples, more powerful than the butterfly wing that causes a windstorm across the ocean.
Teh first step is to know what is important and then strip away those things that are not. If everyone refused to work 12 hour days for little or no pay, we could not be forced to do it and better working conditions would prevail. If everyone refused to shop at Walmart, the shock waves would spread throughout the entire retail industry, leading to higher wages and more manufacturing jobs – possibly locally. If we all reduce our carbon footprint; if we all stop buying things we don’t need; if we all grow a food garden; if we all exercise our creativity – what a difference we could make.
As a nation, we have to stop making money for oil companies the most important thing. We must make happiness of the population the most important thing. Once we decide that happiness is most important, then every decision we make can be put under a new microscope: will this make people happier? And I’m not talking about 10 minutes of instant gratification – I mean real, lasting happiness and contentment and joy in life.
Everything – every single decision we make: is this for the good of the people through generation after generation?
This kind of thinking, I believe, can change the world.