The Air Canada evening flight from Vancouver to Whitehorse usually gets of the runway just before 10 p.m. This is well after the city lights have illuminated the grid of roads below for window seat passengers. The black serpentine of the channels of the Fraser River and wide inlets off the Strait of Georgia become inky voids fringed by the shining urban patterns. The downtown offers the rising airborne viewer a rich, textured lightscape if the clouds permit.
Once at the 30,000-foot (yes, they still announce altitude in feet) cruising height the lights have dropped away far to the aft but an alluring natural light beckons in the north now. It is the glow of our northern night. As we speed towards it, the night never catches us. The Stikine River valley, the coastal mountains, ice fields and old cinder cones around Mount Edziza hold out against the darkness that will be well gather around them by this time of night come fall.
With summer solstice arriving at 4:28 am local time next Monday, June 21st we will have reached our light maximum for the year here in the Yukon. This cycle sparks a burst of activity for Yukoners. The community garden at 7th and Ray is completely filled again with people eagerly getting their hands in the dirt. Races and music festivals abound. Tents and campers fill our campgrounds to overflowing.
Maybe this solar powered summer energy can trigger some local lifestyle experimentation as well. Given the on-going disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and the obvious linkage of our carbon-fuelled economy to global warming with its myriad negative consequences what could we do to lower our personal dependence on fossil fuels?
Take a hike. The carbon exhausted in making a Vibram-soled hiking boot beats that emitted from a whole lot of other ways to get into the back country. The Yukon Outdoor Club has long car pooled enthusiasts out to more distant trailheads demonstrating practically an earth-wise ethic.
Try breaking the car habit. Walk or bike to work one day a week. Too far, then try the bus. No bus, then maybe adjust your schedule to match a neighbour’s and carpool it. There are no lack of possibilities in Whitehorse and, besides, with our trail system a walk down from Porter Creek or Granger or along the Millennium Trail to downtown on a fine summer morning would make going to work positively enjoyable. Outside of this capital opportunities abound as well.
We have heard these and suggestions like them many times before. The Degrowth movement and older philosophical and theological calls for voluntary simplicity prod us to ask very basic questions about our western, consumer way of life. Could we be happier and better off if we adopted an alternative socio-economic framework that emphasized environmental sustainability, a globally equitable distribution of resources and a people-centred focus for our economy?
The model of modernity promised to us did not deliver on the pledge of providing us with more time for family and community pursuits. It did not heal our planet or stop our self-inflicted wars. It did not benefit huge numbers in the Global South. Maybe it is time to shine the long light of our summer days on this reality and begin to take the needed steps to build an alternative.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org.