a new morning in the global valley

The angle of the first light touching the valley where Whitehorse sits changes continually throughout the seasons.

The angle of the first light touching the valley where Whitehorse sits changes continually throughout the seasons.

The constant surprise of what a new slant of light will illuminate provides one of those joys enjoyed by Yukoners.

The natural world continually gives us the gift of fresh perspectives here. However we can and often do fail to see and appreciate or just plain chose to ignore it.

Daily, fresh perspectives on contemporary issues are offered to us via the vast array of information sources now available. They can challenge us to re-examine our point of view.

However this is so only if we can manage to hear them through the cacophony of bigotry and bias that often clouds out reasoned debate. Our own personal filters, though, can provide the most effective blockage to these challenges to our personal status quos.

A couple of decades back I worked in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan. We had a food bank, refugee support group, global solidarity organization and a host of the other groups and institutions that so characterize a caring community.

Through my volunteer commitments, I met and worked with many of the people so necessary to the maintenance of a vibrant, healthy city.

The Prince Albert area has about twice the population of Whitehorse. This seemed to be just about enough population to make it possible for certain groups to become the domains of like-minded people. In small communities it is harder to be exclusive.

Creeping out in side conversations around board tables or while packing or sorting goods from one charitable drive or another, well-worn prejudices would occasionally surface. These often barely visible class divides, religious splits or ethical breaks established and maintained barriers to communication with others in the community.

I particularly remember working with two separate groups of women who self-described themselves as Pro-Life and Pro-Choice.

Both groups spoke disparagingly of the other without really knowing them.

While both worked hard at making our town a better place to live in, they never imagined making common cause with the other. Yet how transformative could their energies have been in Prince Albert if they had.

A simple analysis of the issue would have laid out before them a common agenda for change.

Education, poverty, parenting, housing and a host of other concerns impacting on the abortion question could and should have been jointly addressed.

Hindered by stereotypes and small-mindedness, slowly and in a painfully piecemeal fashion their community — and ours for that matter — struggles towards a largely shared vision of a just and sustainable future.

Enormous life and death issues confront us all right now and we just seem blinded to them. Choices we are making today have an arguably calculable cost in future lives.

In the June issue of Scientific America an article entitled The Ethics of Climate Change asks the question, do we have an obligation to people who don’t yet exist?

If our answer is yes, we do have a responsibility towards future generations then our duty is clear. We must consciously shed those cultural, religious, class or any other notions that block out the light of the new morning that is dawning in our global valley.

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.