Making Time for the Planet

At The Dubliner, Washington, DC

I don’t have enough time. Every day begins and ends with that feeling, from which there is never the escape afforded by completing what you needed to do.

We live on a planet in peril – or so we are told. In reality, it is not the planet, but the motley crowd of humans that mill about on it that is at risk of catastrophe.

That would mean us. Me. You. We know we should do things differently, but there is just no more time in the day.

I write this from the Dubliner Pub in Washington, DC, sitting next to the stage where musician Brian Gaffney has been regaling the crowd with Irish tunes, including my favorite song, “Only Our Rivers,” that he played for me as I sat down (“for my Canadian friend”).

Having spent several days here during Hurricane Sandy, writing up my own storm, he and the staff remember me. It has become my home in DC, to which I returned in the late evenings on this next trip after days of meetings about sustainability and climate change. I am here to help save the planet – or the humans on it – even though I don’t have the time.

The marking accumulates, the deadlines approach, and Christmas looms like some unfortunate malevolence rather than the celebration it should be – because I don’t have the time.

As I met people from across the United States (and too few from Canada), I was encouraged by the wisdom and sincerity of their ideas – and heartened by the warmth with which my own ideas were greeted. And yet, every day, there was not enough time to do what we felt should be done.

Each session, first at the North American Roundtable for Sustainable Consumption and Production and then at the annual UNEP RONA Major Stakeholder and Civil Society Consultation, ended with a Buddhist chime, not with our decision that enough had been said. We did not have enough time.

It is the mantra of our culture, both individual and collective. We know what needs to be done, and even how, but run out of time to do it. We prioritize, multi-task, work longer hours, and there is still not enough time to do what we know we should be doing.

It would be so easy to surrender, to give up, to shorten the list to what can be accomplished, to prioritize things in a way that the day ends with leisure and not with work undone.

And yet, if that were the case, I would not be here, writing this blog at the end of a week where the other sound I heard, repeatedly, was the sound of opening doors. So many new people, shared interests, opportunities to do important work for which I have no time.

But I am going to try, anyway.

Continue reading

Is Anybody Home?

When Sandy came to Capitol Hill

When Hurricane Sandy came to Capitol Hill, there was nobody home. After the hurricane subsided, however, the metaphor of the moment I took the picture persisted. When it comes to North American leadership on climate change, I still wonder whether anyone is home.

In the waves of ink (literal and electronic) that spilled over the pages of various publications in the aftermath of the storm, Sandy was a momentous event with unforeseen consequences. I felt a little like I did after 9/11, marveling how the “official” response could be one of surprise when so many had predicted such events would occur.

Sandy was a Category 1 hurricane, the smallest still able to be called one. Granted, tides and timing affected its severity, but it could easily have been a Category 3, and perhaps the third of the season to hit the same place.

This, after all, is what extreme weather due to climate change looks like. Our collective incapacity to recognize this fact is what makes me wonder whether anyone is home.

For my part, I was in Washington at the end of October for consultations about climate change, a response that tested the stern demeanor of the border agent who screened me as I boarded (literally) the last flight into the city before the airport was closed for two days and everything was cancelled.

The previous few days I had been in Ottawa, participating as workshop leader and panelist in PowerShift 2012 in the midst of more than 1000 participants younger and more energetic than the denizens of either Parliament Hill or Capitol Hill.

It was the Tale of Two Cities, capitals of the wealthiest countries in the forefront of global consumption of everything, especially energy, and I still wondered if anyone was home.

Continue reading