Why did I wait so long?

Earlier this week, signs went up in the corridors of F.H. Collins Secondary in preparation for Earth Day.

Earlier this week, signs went up in the corridors of F.H. Collins Secondary in preparation for Earth Day. Members of the Social Justice Club there wanted to encourage their fellow students to think a bit more about their daily in-school habits and larger environmental challenges. They planned contests, a dress-green day and other activities to build up a spirit of engagement around the day.

Though a set of recycling bins had long occupied a spot along a wall of the cafeteria, they brought in several big recycling bins to prominently occupy “in your face” spaces that couldn’t be ignored amid the tables. “Compost here” signs and pointing arrows made it nearly impossible to not drop long-available, compostable soup containers, plates, cups and even plastic cutlery into the bins.

The Social Justice Club’s actions inspired one young teacher whose classroom already had paper recycling and a blue bin for drink cans and containers to add a small compost bin. Earlier this week, as the small green bin rapidly filled with banana peels, paper towels and other compostable classroom waste, she positively commented on the addition: “Why did I wait so long?”

We can ask ourselves the same question. Why have we all waited so long to do what we know needs to be done to protect the environment that sustains us all? We know we have choices to make. The reality of climate change and its accelerating consequences in the North can not be denied.

Why do we procrastinate? Don’t we, by now, have a clear sense that the very lives and livelihoods of the children now in our daycares and elementary schools, not to mention future generations, will be severely impacted by any indecision now on our part? Have we been immobilized by a politics of fear marshalled by those profiting from the current footdragging or environmentally obstructionist status quo?

Issues from implementing a carbon tax to stopping fracking, the exploitation of the Peel River watershed and the introduction of genetically modified alfalfa may demand wider societal action. However, our own individual daily actions can contribute to the building of a community of concern. An engaged citizenry fundamentally challenges the fear-mongers who tell us that our way of life will collapse unless we allow unbridled market forces to reign over the exploitation of our world’s resources.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, the CIGI Chair of Global Systems at the Balsillie School of International Affairs in Waterloo, Ontario, and author of The Upside of Down and The Ingenuity Gap, spoke recently of the need to build ecological resilience into our social and political systems. By ecological resilience he means, “a system’s capacity to undergo substantial internal change and innovation in response to a shock,” he said in a Dallas Morning News interview published online last Friday.

“Rather than bouncing back to its prior state, it evolves into a form that’s better adapted to its rapidly changing environment. This is the form of resilience exhibited by the most innovative systems we know on the planet, such as healthy ecosystems or well-functioning market economies.”

Homer-Dixon’s ideas have evolved since he spoke in Whitehorse in 2005, but the basics are still there. He sees that “this kind of resilience needs to come from the bottom up, from local groups, community organizations and social activists. It’s messy, unpredictable in its outcomes, highly disruptive for some people and can’t easily be planned or managed.” Building a just, sustainable society won’t be easy or neat but we must be the architects of our own ecologically resilient future. How will you and your family celebrate Earth Day?

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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Maria Metzen off the start line of the Yukon Dog Mushers Association’s sled dog race on Jan. 9. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
Mushers race in preparation for FirstMate Babe Southwick

The annual race is set for Feb. 12 and 13.

The Yukon government is making changes to the medical travel system, including doubling the per diem and making destinations for medical services more flexible. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Subsidy for medical travel doubled with more supports coming

The change was recommended in the Putting People First report endorsed by the government

Chloe Sergerie, who was fined $500 under the <em>Civil Emergency Measures Act</em> on Jan. 12, says she made the safest choice available to her when she entered the territory. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Woman fined $500 under CEMA says she made ‘safest decision’ available

Filling out a declaration at the airport was contrary to self-isolation, says accused

The Yukon Department of Education building in Whitehorse on Dec. 22, 2020. Advocates are calling on the Department of Education to reverse their redefinition of Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) that led to 138 students losing the program this year. (John Hopkins-Hill/Yukon News file)
Advocates call redefinition of IEPs “hugely concerning,” call for reversal

At least 138 students were moved off the learning plans this year

Yukonomist Keith Halliday
Yukonomist: Your Northern regulatory adventure awaits!

“Your Northern adventure awaits!” blared the headline on a recent YESAB assessment… Continue reading

Yukoner Shirley Chua-Tan is taking on the role of vice-chair of the social inclusion working group with the Canadian Academy of Health Sciences’ oversight panel and working groups for the autism assessment. (Submitted)
Canadian Academy of Health Sciences names Yukoner to panel

Shirley Chua-Tan is well-known for a number of roles she plays in… Continue reading

The Fish Lake area viewed from the top of Haeckel Hill on Sept. 11, 2018. The Yukon government and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced they are in the beginning stages of a local area planning process for the area. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Local area planning for Fish Lake announced

The Government of Yukon and Kwanlin Dün First Nation (KDFN) announced in… Continue reading

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Fire damage, photographed on Jan. 11, to a downtown apartment building which occurred late in the evening on Jan. 8. Zander Firth, 20, from Inuvik, was charged with the arson and is facing several other charges following his Jan. 12 court appearance. (Gabrielle Plonka/Yukon News)
More charges for arson suspect

The Inuvik man charged in relation to the fire at Ryder Apartments… Continue reading

The grace period for the new Yukon lobbyist registry has come to an end and those who seek to influence politicians will now need to report their efforts to a public database. (Mike Thomas/Yukon News file)
Grace period for new lobbyist registry ends

So far nine lobbyists have registered their activities with politicians in the territory

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21, 2020. Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive up to $20,000 to help recover from losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Details released on relief funding for tourism and culture non-profits

Some Yukon tourism and culture non-profit organizations may be eligible to receive… Continue reading

Most Read