be prepared to be surprised

If I am walking to work by the time the 8 a.m. Air North flight to Vancouver takes off from our Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport, I know that I am on time.

If I am walking to work by the time the 8 a.m. Air North flight to Vancouver takes off from our Erik Nielsen Whitehorse International Airport, I know that I am on time.

Also it is likely that along my way I will pass a regular line of other on-schedule people heading in the opposite direction. Floyd, Denise, Phillip, Daniel, and Paula can be greeted by name. For a half dozen others a nod and a good morning usually has to suffice.

The walking skills I learned nearly four decades ago getting to work in Manhattan rarely have a chance to be used here. There I would emerge from the 42nd and 6th Avenue Bryant Park Station on the New York City Subway’s IND Sixth Avenue Line. This was after a 30 or so minute trip into Penn Station from Great Neck on the Long Island Rail Road.

Depending on how late I was, the short walk to the office I worked in at 20th West 40th Street required a greater or lesser combination bobbing and weaving skills to make it through the pedestrian traffic on time. Street crossings offered a brief chance with a burst of speed to get ahead of a tight pack. Sidewalks constrained options. Stepping off the curb to bypass a line of people was not advised. New York taxis showed no mercy. Rainy days presented additional hazards. I can recall being jabbed or prodded forward by umbrellas on several occasions.

Currently these high density urban walking skills get little use. Will they be however again in my Yukon future? Could someday the 8:15 morning rush of cars crossing the Lewes Bridge from Riverdale be replaced by walkways crowded with pedestrians? Will bikes and filled buses replace individuals piloting their tonnes of metal and plastics downtown? What combination of personal exercise goals coupled with global energy and environmental challenges would bring about this change?

General George S. Patton (1885-1945) once said, “Don’t tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and let them surprise you with their results.” Access to and the use of energy is at the heart our $60-trillion-a-year global economy. It is also at the carbon core of the environmental mess we have inherited and yet to find a way out of.

COP 15, the United Nations Climate Change Conference is slated to start in Copenhagen, Denmark on December 7th. Will world leaders challenge us to really collectively do something about global greenhouse gas emissions? Or will they be immobilized at this critical time by the power of the vested interests of the current world economic and energy system?

We have been warned about the impact of inaction. There are climate change scientists who say global greenhouse emissions must have peaked by 2015 if we are to have any chance of avoiding a future catastrophic 2 degree Celsius rise in the average global temperature.

The Green Learning network of the Pembina Institute is urging secondary students to participate in an ‘eCards-to-Copenhagen’ campaign ( to ensure that their voice is heard. UNICEF’s youth delegation will take these messages to Copenhagen. Has our voice been heard?

On a positive note Jorge Gaskins from Puerto Rico sent me a link for a video link on his carbon neutral energy project. Some readers may recall that I wrote a column on my visit there in August. Have a look at it (

If we understand what we have to do, I am sure our responses to the global challenge will be positively surprising.

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

Namaste notes

Sunday, November 15 – 33rd Sunday in Ordinary Time. A suggested reading is Mark 13: 24-32.

Sunday, November 15 – The Nativity Fast begins for Orthodox Christians. It ends on Orthodox Christmas Eve.

Monday, November 16 – International Day of Tolerance calls our attention to the negative impact on society of injustice, racism and unfair discrimination.

Monday, November 16 – Louis Riel, leader of the Metis and “Father of Manitoba,” is executed in 1885.

Friday, November 20 – 20th annual Universal Children’s Day is observed as a day of understanding between children and of activity promoting the welfare of the world’s children.