I try to stay dialed in to environmental issues and events but lately I’ve been confused. Last Monday night I sat beside an activist at the World Water Day conference at UBC Robson. (more about that below) Leslie, a full time mother of four, spoke about her upcoming potluck dinner for Earth Hour. I asked her to forward the info via email which she promptly did. I wanted to participate somehow in this global observance so I asked my daughter-in-law to host a candle-lit dinner on the appointed evening, March 27th. She agreed.
Then to my chagrin I read a tweet that noted Earth Day this year as April 22nd. Ah, Earth Day and Earth Hour; an easy mistake. Then I thought, Water Day, Earth Day, Earth Hour… what is my responsibility to these proceedings? They seem to be constant… Women’s Day, Blindness Day, Ground Hog Day… I need a special calendar just to make sure I’m wearing the correct colored ribbon.
Really the trick is to attempt living a lifestyle that is responsible on all days. Conserve water, reuse, reduce, recycle, support a cause and practice random acts of kindness. You can’t even return a shopping cart for the loony refund without being confronted by some homeless waif. How much of this is MY responsibility? How much am I required to act upon or donate to? When is enough, enough?
I sat and meditated on this very topic. Mostly because meditation is a way for me to procrastinate on things that I really should be doing and I needed some quiet time, but mainly because I truly aspire to make a difference. As Gandhi said “Be the Change”. So, I decided to attend functions based on availability in my schedule and to practice daily habits that will enhance or heal the state of the world as we know it today.
For instance; I’m a filmmaker and I have made it a mandate to be socially and environmentally conscientious in my projects. A few years ago I discovered that the California film industry was the second largest polluter after the oil refineries. Wow! That was an eye-opener. Since that time I have followed a directive for my company that practices Green Film Technique.
Besides following good rules of stewardship I have made it a practice to include messages directly in my programming such as, a character commenting on air pollution or litter. A scene in a kitchen featuring a woman recycling as she argues with her neighbor. Promotion of ideas that compliment global sustainability and supply solutions to common harms are often embedding into the story line or central to the theme. I’m not saying that I cram messages down the throats of my viewers. In reality my characters engage in day to day activities that we can all relate to, buying local for instance.
So candle lit vigils aside… making the most of the intentions means living it day to day. Unfortunately the folks that sit in observance aren’t the ones that need the reminder. Spreading the word and setting an example are within my realm of capability so spread and set I must.
I had mentioned above that I attended a conference World Water Day at UBC March 22, 2010. It was a educational evening… here’s how it all went down.
After spending considerable time online searching for a worthy affair I finally found a posting by Tides Canada. I popped an email to one of the organizers offering my services and indicating my interest to attend. Moments later came the reply “you’re in, see you there at 5:15, I’ll be in all brown.” Upon arrival I milled about with several other eager beavers. Canadians are notoriously early. We were relieved when the complimentary refreshments were rolled in and promptly converged on the cheese and beverage station.
The attendees were invited to sit by moderator Dr. Karen Bakker, Author of “Eau Canada: The Future of Canada’s Water” who gave a recap of WWD events around the world. She introduced Chief Bob Chamberlain who blessed the group with a prayer he sang in his native tongue. I was genuinely surprised by how much it moved me.
The first speaker was Andrew Nikiforuk, Award winning journalist and author of “Tar Sands: Dirty Oil and the Future of a Continent”. He had to wait for the projector to boot back up and broadcast his PowerPoint since some energy efficient sole had deemed it necessary to turn it off. I groaned silently and wondered how long this evening was going to feel. Thankfully the talk was intelligent, enlightening and for the most part entertaining. About as entertaining as Tar Sand talk can get. It was the kind of lecture that made you feel guilty for driving that day instead of taking public transportation. It also made me feel ashamed of the actions of my fellow Canadian in the oil and gas industry. I was jolted out of my drifting state of mind when I heard him say that “Fish Farms were the answer” Did I hear that right??? I don’t think so.
Anyways, next up was Chief Bob again. He told some stories that I actually remember hearing about. His tribe lived on an island and they had no drinking water. After 10 years of “Boil before drinking” the government, at considerable expense, finally stepped in to ensure they had potable water. He cleared up any misconceptions I had about the fish farms by making it very clear that there was indeed a serious problem being generated by sea lice wiping out wild salmon reserves. I thought of my son Jeremy and his dedication to that cause. He’s an avid sport fisherman and conservationist.
Last but certainly not least was Patrick Lucas – CUSO – VSO. Patrick shared his experiences as a Community Planning Facilitator in a small village in Northern Laos. He worked with the Khmu natives to build Bio Sand Water Filters which remove 95 – 100 % of impurities. His talk was casual and compelling and reminded me of my time spent last year in Northern Thailand.
All in all I was glad that I made it. I got some great ideas for my script including a tip from Oxfam on blindness caused by water impurities in Africa. I’ll end with a rather solemn poem by Wendell Berry, aptly titled WATER.
I was born in a drought year. That summer
my mother waited in the house, enclosed
in the sun and the dry ceaseless wind,
for the men to come back in the evenings,
bringing water from a distant spring.
veins of leaves ran dry, roots shrank.
And all my life I have dreaded the return
of that year, sure that it still is
somewhere, like a dead enemy’s soul.
Fear of dust in my mouth is always with me,
and I am the faithful husband of the rain,
I love the water of wells and springs
and the taste of roofs in the water of cisterns.
I am a dry man whose thirst is praise
of clouds, and whose mind is something of a cup.
My sweetness is to wake in the night
after days of dry heat, hearing the rain.