Storms and disasters demand resilience

Every morning this week, fast-moving vehicles of all descriptions have filled the three northbound lanes of Autoroute 25, heading across the eastern edge of the island of Montreal.

Every morning this week, fast-moving vehicles of all descriptions have filled the three northbound lanes of Autoroute 25, heading across the eastern edge of the island of Montreal.

Dealing with traffic as I drove a shuttle van from the Henri Bourassa Metro station to an awkwardly sited conference centre on the fringe of an industrial district certainly puts Whitehorse’s Lewes Boulevard “rush minute” issues into perspective. My passengers, participants in a Neufeld Institute’s week-long intensive course “Making Sense of Kids,” have come from as far afield as Chile and New Zealand.

A 15-minute trip conversation with a young New Zealander occupying the front passenger seat on Wednesday drew interesting lines between the individual child focus that most of the counsellors, psychologists, social workers, teachers and others attending the conference have and larger societal challenges.

Drs. Gordon Neufeld and Gabor Mate wrote in their book Hold On To Your Kids, for example, that “When a child has experienced her tears about something that doesn’t work or cannot be changed, not only is energy redirected, but it registers in the brain that she can handle things not working. As strange as it may seem, resilience develops in the wake of the tears of futility. Only the child who has come to terms emotionally with what he cannot change will develop the confidence to handle such circumstances. Children are meant to develop the resilience that will enable them to accept and deal with their reality, but they need to have their tears to get there.”

Given the recent spate of disasters and devastating storms, a healthy society as a whole similarly has to grieve the things it cannot change in order to have the confidence to face the new reality confronting it. However, some individuals and even corporations simply can’t change. Neufeld and Mate note that “a bully never gets there,” and “the bully has never developed the resilience to deal with adversity.” Bullies are unable to handle not getting their way.

On Wednesday, as well, I received an email from Ed Whittingham, executive director of the Pembina Institute, a non-partisan clean energy think tank. While he did not refer to the Lac-Megantic rail disaster, a link with what he said is obvious.

From their Calgary office they “had a first-hand glimpse of what climate change has in store for Canada, more frequent and more extreme weather events that can cause widespread damage and significant economic impacts, while putting people’s lives at risk.”

Many are calling it the new normal. As Pembina’s Clare Demerse writes, these disasters are the product of a weather system that’s on steroids because of climate change. Of course millions of people around the world are already familiar with the devastating impacts of climate change.

But now that it is hitting closer to home, we have an opportunity to reflect on why we must take swift, bold action to build a new, low-carbon energy system that will help keep our children and grandchildren safe and prosperous.”

Corporate and government interests lately have been flooding the media with ads promoting our addiction to the high-carbon, environment-savaging reality of our current North American energy system. Are they attempting to bully us into accepting that their way is the only way forward? Or do we have to grieve the increasingly costly consequences of more than two centuries of our energy profligacy so that we can move on towards a just, sustainable future?

As Neufeld and Mate note: “Resilience, too, is a fruit of adaptation.”

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