Friday 28 May 2021

Covid Chronicles Part 9: The first jab and a lesson in privilege

Today was the big day - I got my first jab of the Moderna mRNA vaccine. 

And while I am grateful to be on the path to “freedom,” I can’t help but think about what this means at a much higher level. 

A little over a week ago in a press conference, Nova Scotia’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Robert Strang reminded people of the need to check their privilege. While people are complaining about not being able to go to the cottage or to the mall just for a browse or to simply go about their Business-As-Usual life, he brought the stark reality to light that not all have this option. He noted the people who have lost their jobs, their livelihoods, their loved ones, etc., and how focusing on not being able to do something over concern for others is a sign of the immense privilege we are afforded here. I applauded him in the moment and continue to be in awe of his leadership (and really, his ability to not flip that table sometimes…).

But I’d like to broaden his point a bit more. Yes, I am thankful to have received this first dose (despite a little side effect fun shortly after). Yes, it’s a great feeling knowing that my second dose is only a few months away. Yes, I am relieved that my loved ones and fellow Nova Scotians are taking up the offer to receive them, themselves. But once again, in doing so, we need to check our privilege.

There have been many conversations about the inequities that have surfaced as a result of the pandemic. We tend to only discuss them in the context in relation to where we live, be it our community, province/territory/state, or country. This isn’t new information. But when confronted with how the pandemic has been handled on a global scale, it’s easy to see just how much disparity there is in the whole “we’re all in this together” mantra we heard so much about this time last year.

That I, an average 30-something (white) Canadian without a job of any significant importance within the context of the pandemic, am given the opportunity to receive a vaccine simply because I fit the criteria of living in a specific part of the world and within a permitted age group, while arguably more important people in other parts of the world are not, is a sobering reality. The rich nations of the world bought up vaccine allotments in incredible numbers, leaving other countries, without a plethora of made up currency of global standing, to do the same. And that’s only one of the inequities in this situation.

There’s also the infrastructural requirement to deploy the vaccine, which isn’t realistic for a product that must be kept at a specific temperature at all times. We omit recognizing the privilege of a stable power source. We omit recognizing the ease of access to transportation to get us to our appointments (which in a Nova Scotian context would have been challenging for many if there wasn’t a “free rides” service). We omit recognizing our ability to take time off of work to do so, as well. Just as we have often failed to reconcile the privilege of a social assistance program available to the many who lost their jobs, to ongoing health care, to being able to work from home, and even just to stay at home without needing to access basic necessities on a daily or semi-daily basis.

I do, however, recognize that confronting this privilege is difficult. It’s taxing mentally, emotionally, and sometimes physically. I recognize that many have been on this journey over the last year or so, beginning with the upswing in popularity of the Black Lives Matter movement. And I recognize we are all tired of dealing with all of the new realities around us.

But I also recognize that we need to be reminded. I need to be reminded. Check. Your. Privilege. 

I have been struggling to come to terms with the overwhelming amount of guilt I feel about how my life has been (un)affected by the pandemic. I have thought a great deal about how I booked my appointment without questioning whether or not I could. My employer encourages us to get tested, to get our vaccine, and to work from home, when possible. I wasn’t worried about getting in trouble for needing to miss a bit of my work day. I wasn’t worried about any potential lost wages. I wasn’t worried about how I would get to my appointment. I just booked it and went about my day, like I was checking my social media notifications.

It’s no secret that returning to Canada after living abroad continues to be a challenge for me. I still find it difficult to reconcile the experiences I had outside of Canada with the ones I’ve had the rest of my life within it. I find it difficult to be patient and sympathetic to people who complain about frivolous little things and am much harder on myself when I notice myself doing something of that sort. I find it difficult to answer the never ending stream of questions about some of the places I’ve lived, that underscore just how much Western education underestimates the beauty and capacity of those same spots. Just as I, now, struggle to reconcile the selfishness of folks who are moderately inconvenienced by how little the last year has actually impacted them, when there are others who are far worse off. Even at this local level I noted above, let along on the broader, global scale.

So why bother getting it, if I feel this strongly? There are still people here that need the protection but are unable to receive it themselves for health reasons, or believe its a government conspiracy. There are still people who are working so hard and are tired from helping to ensure those currently sick recover. And this, just like working from home, foregoing much needed visits with friends, and restricting my time and stops outside of my dwelling are all small steps towards making this a little less challenging for those same individuals. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn't talk about the reality that the speed of this rollout is unfairly at the advantage of the already powerful and privileged, making Covid - the once toted undiscriminating virus - an undeniably discriminatory one, that no one wants to talk about.

Yours in perpetual social justice turmoil,

- the Orange Canadian

Tuesday 13 April 2021

The Ramadan 2020 “wish list": A year later

Today marks the start of Ramadan 2021! To all my Muslim friends and allies around the world, Ramadan Mubarak! I wish you a safe and peaceful month ahead.

I woke up this morning and searched for the list of “post-Covid” things I made last year during Ramadan to see how much I was able to accomplish. Much to my surprise, I achieved 47 out of the 150 items in the list. It’s not stellar, I suppose, but considering we still aren’t fully opened, and we haven’t been permitted to do a lot of the things, I’d say that’s impressive!

Here are a few of the highlights of these accomplishments:

  1. Hug Grammy. It was, in fact, the top item on my list, and it was a glorious moment getting to hug her. At the onset of the initial lockdown period, I was certain that I would never have this opportunity. This was probably the greatest moment of the last year.
  2. Kayak. I got in as many trips as I could until they started to interfere with my time with Grammy. I do still have my kayak, though, and at some point will get back into it.
  3. Go on a solo overnight trip. I did a couple of these. But the most notable one was the cabin in the woods that had to be rescheduled due to a potential murderer on the loose... in the same woods I was supposed to be in. Disconnecting from the outside world for a few days was needed. And challenging.
  4. Sort through the bins from Mom’s place. Probably one of the hardest things I did last year. I took the day off, my friend Laura came over and we sorted through all of the remaining things I’d panic-packed when we were preparing to sell Mom’s house many years ago. It brought up a lot of old memories (mostly good), and it gave me another opportunity to work through my grief.
  5. Find a new way to give back to the community. I started to volunteer with the “21st Century Space Guys” - a local LEGO Robotics club. I’m learning all about robotics and coding, while offering my coaching skills to 5 awesome kids!
  6. Heal. If Covid has done anything for me in the last year, it’s coming to terms with, and starting to deal with some of my past traumas. Like many others, some of the things I had buried deep, deep down surfaced in the time I was mandated to hangout with only myself. It was hard. It is still hard. But, I think it has also been productive and cleansing.
  7. Hike to Theresa McAuley’s property. A great outdoor activity with friends! I learned more about the life and death of Theresa and supported a good friend at the same time.
  8. Go to Masstown Market. This one is special. Not because of this stop, but because it took place on the way home from picking up Zaida. Thanksgiving weekend was certainly one to remember!
  9. Go on an overnight with Grammy. Okay, so we weren’t able to go anywhere, but we did have a few sleepovers in Ingramport, which also involved some adventures throughout the day. Two adventures come to mind - the sunset at Peggy’s Cove, and her final big day out - a trip to Lunenburg, Mahone Bay and Chester.
  10. Start a fitness trainer certification program. Check! And in a few weeks, it will actually be two certification programs, plus a healthy eating coaching program!
  11. Go to Arby’s in Bridgewater. Do I really need to say more? It also involved a great hike with Mike, Beth and Zaida.
  12. Live by myself for a full year. Not always by choice, but I achieved this one. Somedays were certainly harder than others. I’m glad I did it, and I look forward to another year of it!
  13. Look into starting a coaching business. Further to #10, I officially registered my fitness business a few weeks ago. I’m not quite ready to launch it yet, but details will be coming!
  14. Do a sunrise/sunset adventure in one day. I did a few of these over the year. Catching these moment kept my sanity when things were mostly shutdown. 
  15. Say goodbye to Gertie. A hard day, but a long overdue one. I loved that little princess, but she was no longer living her best (or any) life. Sometimes the hardest decisions are the best decisions. 
Here are the top 5 things I still want to make happen from the list (when world events permit!):
  1. Get back to the “Emily-friendly” diet.
  2. Travel to Ireland.
  3. Hike the Admiral Lake Loop/Skull Rock trail.
  4. Hike Mount Kenya.
  5. Visit Mike and Beth (and Furniece!) in BC.
I understand that these are mostly travel related. A couple of them will likely be tied together, and a visit to BC is obviously less of a wish list and more of a mandatory happening when it’s safe to do so. I am committing to less travel when things open up a bit more and it is safer for all to do these things. I’ve spent a lot of time exploring Nova Scotia this past year, and I foresee 2021 to be similar. I have lived in this province for most of my life, and still have so much yet to experience. As the effects of climate change become greater, travelling outside of Canada will become less and less. I would love to see the world, but I think this past year has shown us that our usual way of doing things isn’t realistic anymore. I would say my time in Africa is limited, so I will appreciate those experiences all the more when I am able to return once more.

Participating in this year’s Ramadan was the final item on the list. However, I have made the decision not to observe Ramadan this year. Last year, like those previous was, in some ways, it was good for the soul, but it was also a mental health battle I did not anticipate. While things are more social in my little part of the world these days, I’m still not able to freely mingle with folks in a way that makes Ramadan successful, and to a greater extend, healthy. A difficult choice for me, for sure, but one that I think is best in the long run.

And with that, may you all have a happy and healthy month, whether you observe this Holy month or not!

-the Orange Canadian

Monday 5 April 2021

Easter traditions, or whatever

Yesterday was supposed to be the day I got my Gran up in the wee hours of the morning to head to Peggy’s Cove to watch the sunrise. It’s a deal we made in the summer when we had the pleasure of sitting together to watch the sunset (her first time ever doing so from that location!). And even as it became evident that there was no way she’d be joining me this year, I still told her I’d follow through with the promise.

This was a tradition that she and my grandfather had for many years. On Easter Sunday, they’d get up early and head to the rocks to sit, sip coffee and watch the sunrise over the village. They’d often be joined by old neighbours and it was a great way to visit and catch up.

Watching the weather over the weeks leading up to this Easter weekend, it looked like everything was going to workout. In fact, at one point, it seemed that Sunday morning was the only one that would be clear and warm...ish. But alas, as the day neared, it was rain and snow in the forecast, which is not favourable for nighttime driving at any distance.

Knowing this would be the case, I decided to switch gears at the last minute, and got up on Saturday morning to do an improvised sunrise. We had many fond memories in Wolfville, so I made my way there. But as it would happen, Wolfville is very concerned with nighttime safety, and as a result is VERY well lit. So much so, that it was too light to appreciate the sunrise. Recognizing this, I made my way to Port Williams, hoping I’d get a better vantage point, and could stay in my car.

Unfortunately, even though there were blue skies forming overhead, it was a bit too overcast for sunrise. It was still a beautiful morning though. So I enjoyed what I could, sipping coffee, and thinking that Grammy would have appreciated this all the same. I will get to Peggy’s Cover another time.

But this isn’t the only tribute to my grandparents. Last weekend, I made a permanent decision - a pair of cardinals.

Photo credit: Mike Bishop (Bishop Tattoo)

This was their favourite bird, and we witnessed many of them on my grandparent’s property. I also had a pair of cardinals on my property last year (and the male would actually follow me around the house from the outside!). So now, whenever I go for sunrise or sunset, they’re both be with me. Likely sipping coffee and enjoying the view.

-the Orange Canadian

Tuesday 1 December 2020

Loss in a Time of Covid: The good, the bad, and the out of one's control

In mid-February, I went for lunch with my grandmother. I never imagined that dessert would be followed with news that she was sick. I equally did not anticipate her request not to tell a soul, unless she could tell them in person. At the time, my brother was away, so you can imagine how hard it was not only receiving that news, but to keep it hidden from Michael, for a week or so.

That drive home and the rest of the day is a blur. My heart was broken for my sweet Myrtle - just 6 weeks away from her 93rd birthday, and about the amount of time her prognosis was initially given.

To make matters worse, just two weeks before her birthday, Nova Scotia entered into a “two week” lockdown to help reduce the spread of Covid-19. This would mean I’d most likely miss her birthday for the first time in years, or at least when I was in the country. Time was of the essence and this staying the blazes home wasn’t really working for me.

But my Gran and I maintained contact throughout the months of quarantine that followed, through daily phone calls, and the occasional grocery drop off. I found it difficult not to drive down for our regular weekend visits, but was happy to have what communication we had - particularly as she seemed to surpass the expectation of the remainder of her life.

Then, before I knew it, we were permitted to visit with a small number of people. Grammy, of course, was top of my list. In fact, during Ramadan this year, “Hug my Gran” was the first item on my list of things to accomplish after lockdown. That first hug was EVERYTHING.

Throughout the summer, we spent time chatting about nothing over coffee, going on random adventures, and feeling grateful for the time we were now able to share. We were, in fact, making up for lost time.

Near the end of July, the climate crisis and the realities of Covid caught up to me, and I took several days off with the intention of plunking myself in the woods for a few days, without any contact from the outside world - just me, my thoughts, a forest of trees, a book, and a pen and paper. But as luck would have it, a man fled police custody on charges of attempted murder, and was hiding out in the very woods I was supposed to be. All of the emotions I was trying to keep in came flooding out, and I found myself, instead, in the comfort of my grandmother’s home along the South Shore.

On the first night of our three-day sleepover, I told her we were going out for the evening. We had dinner at home, and promptly jumped into the car. I took her to Peggy’s Cove, which is just a short drive from her home. We found a quiet spot away from the crowds, and for which, would accommodate our bottoms and we watched the sun set. She admitted she had never witnessed the sunset from this location. I was dumbfounded, as it was so close and she and my grandfather would go for sunrise each year on Easter Sunday.

As we sat, we talked about how the world had changed over her lifetime. We talked about how lucky we were to live in a part of the world that was home to so many people of different backgrounds, interests, and journeys. We talked about climate change, what the future might look like, and how beautiful the sun was tucking itself into the ocean. I left Peggy’s Cove that night thinking, if she passes tonight, my heart will be at peace.

But lo and behold, she exceeded all expectations. The summer transitioned into fall, and in that time we had many more days out, sleepovers, coffee, and conversation.

Last week, I received a message from my aunt telling me that my Gran was asking for me. I promptly left work and made my way down to my grandmother’s. When I arrived she was sound asleep. I didn’t wake her, but instead spent this time chatting with my aunt and helping her with a few little things around the house. And then Grammy awoke.

We spent the next hour chatting. I recorded most of the conversation, asking her questions about her first date with my grandfather, regret, her greatest accomplishment, and her life, more generally. I will treasure those recordings for years to come. It was my last conversation with her. 

Three days later, my brother called and told me I needed to come down. It was a miserable, rainy day and I was hesitant. But I made the drive. It took me longer than usual, but I will forever be grateful for doing so. She passed away about an hour after I arrived. My brother held her hand and I sat next to them both as she took her last breath. Finally, she was at peace and (hopefully) reunited with her beloved Jimmy.

I have experienced a lot of loss in my life. Grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends, and my mother. All mostly sudden. All met with varying levels of shock. This time was, and is, different. Of course I miss her, and will continue to do so, but my gratitude and relief for her to no longer be suffering has outweighed any sadness. Why do we allow ourselves to accept this end of life for the humans we love, but not other species we feel equally fond of?

Usually in my experience, the days following a death are met with a busy schedule of phone calls to family and close friends, making funeral arrangements and a long list of preparations that are unknowingly exhausting until after everything has been completed. But with Covid, there is no funeral to plan. A 5 people maximum hardly sounds like the right way to say so long to a woman who was regarded by so many at such a level. Plus, many of our family members are not in the province, and therefore, are unable to come home.

The morning after she passed, I spent most of the day feeling lost. The post-death routine wasn’t possible - so what does one do? Do I go to work? Should I be struck with grief? Should I be helping to plan something? Everything seemed off. Even how others support you is different - which as an omnivert, the more introverted part of me was thrilled not to have people coming to my house dropping off lifetime supplies of lasagna (still happily willing to accept any you want to send my way, though!!).

The truth is, my Gran deserved better than this scenario. All around. But, when it’s safe to do so, and everyone can come home, we will give her a proper send off. We will gather, swap stories and share moments of both tears and laughter. But until that time can happen, I am grateful for the bonus months we had this year, that I was with her in the end, and for the many things she imparted on me. She was, in short, the Matriarch. The strongest, most stubborn, classy, and glass half-full woman I have ever known. My heart. My hero.

- Myrtle’s granddaughter.

Saturday 1 August 2020

COVID Chronicles Part 8: The things you can’t unsee

Have you ever had one of those moments when someone makes a really innocent comment that leads you to unload all the fear you’re holding inside?

I sure have. And as recent as last week.

I don’t even remember the context for which the topic came up, but I commented on a weird pattern of weather events that had occurred earlier in the year, which, in that moment hit me like a ton of bricks and I verbal (via text) diarrhea-ed my soul without any invitation. Truth be told - I still feel awful about that. But, it also allowed me to recognize the toll these last few months have had on me.

The weather events in question are the last snowstorm and first heatwave of the year. They happened 3 weeks apart. And the more I have thought about this fact, the more frightened I become of what’s ahead.

Before I get into that, I want to rehash a bit of the unload. I have previously alluded to part of this in my first post at the onset of the pandemic, and that is having already lived in a climate changed world. I shared with this particular individual about witnessing the speed in which the rainy seasons shifted hastily from two per year to maybe one; about the impact on farmers and the economy. I shared about the inability to unsee the impacts of climate change once you begin to recognize it happening around you. And I shared how afraid I am to see the same happen here, in Nova Scotia, only to, once again, find myself in a position to be unable to do anything about it. Because once it hits, there is no turning back. It’s game over.

But the more I thought about the events that bookcased those three weeks noted above, the more I consider the circumstances that took place before the middle of May. We’ve been in lockdown starting the week of March 16th. Our world in this tiny province came to an abrupt stop. And like so many other parts of the world, on a climate-level at least, we started to see positive changes. People didn’t need to drive every where, every minute of the day. We ventured outside more, for the sake of being outside. We began to refocus our attention on supporting local businesses. We adjusted our way of life.

I have experienced cyclical periods of optimism and dismay during these last few months. They have given me time to pause, reflect, and consider the future. But nothing has been as striking as the other day when it dawned on me - those events occurred after a change in our behaviour.

For the last couple of days, I have sat with my thoughts for some time and pondered how things may have been different had the pandemic not set in. Would that three week period have happened in the same way? Would it have been worse, had we not given Mother Earth a moment to breathe? Or did we make it worse?

I don’t have the answers to this. But what I can tell you is that this is my unseeable moment. Climate change has found us in a way we can no longer turn a blind eye to. Sure, there have been other obvious indicators in the past, but this is the one that will stick; for me at least. I can no longer deny what’s happening around me. This is a painful reality.

The most difficult part of working in the realm of climate change, is that there is never a clear cut or easy answer. Every single decision unleashes any number of equally terrible outcomes. For example, we place great weight on solar panels (I myself am quite keen to live in a house powered by solar energy!). And yes, they do have a positive impact on reducing GHG emissions once they are on our rooves. However, getting them to that point requires significant extraction of resources, plus the use of  some heavy chemicals in order to manufacture the panels, and then there’s the whole process of transporting and installing them. But rarely do we discuss that side of it.

In saying that, there is a very real possibility that our global lockdown has, in fact, increased the intensity and impacts of climate change. This relates to global dimming, the resurfacing of gasses previously stored in bodies of water and in the atmosphere due to pollution, and the abrupt shift at which we went from 100 to 0. This is precisely what I meant by, would we have seen such a drastic change in weather patterns if we had continued with “business as usual” or did we make it better or worse?

I realize that these intertwined contradictions are, for many, the reason we have such skepticism. Climate change is sort of like beating a difficult level of a video game, only to then have to face “a boss” without any cheat codes. We have the knowledge and the skills to beat the worst of it, but I mostly fear that we will lose the fight due to the overwhelm and exhaustion of the constant uphill battle that is climate change. This is why I continue to be inspired by younger generations, and love working with students eager to make a difference. The social justice sphere comes with a high rate of burnout. It can be soul crushing, although when breakthroughs happen, they are magnificent. But it also stresses why it’s so important to have new blood entering the playing field continuously. We can’t do it alone. This is a tag-team scenario. And if we keep up that momentum, maybe we’ll have a fighting chance of sustaining long-term human life on our planet.

- the Orange Canadian

Thursday 30 July 2020

COVID Chronicles Part 7: 2 steps forward, 100 years back

When I first heard word that the Town of Wolfville was about to undertake a bold plan to transform it’s downtown core into a one-way system that would focus on pedestrians and active transportation options, my heart stopped. I was so overcome with hope and joy, because this beloved little town is a place I spent some significant years of my life, but I’ve mostly avoided since, due to the chaotic nature of the traffic in the area. However, in the time since this switch took place, I have spent more time in Wolfville than I probably have in the last number of years. It was easy to walk around. Easy to navigate, and not once did I have trouble finding a parking spot.

For those of you not in the know, Wolfville is home to Acadia University, some of the most breathtaking views, and a number of small businesses. It brings in countless tourism dollars, is the birthplace of grapenut ice cream, and has been the underlying source of inspiration for many careers in all manner of industries, from arts to business to politics to science, and everything in between.

There is no doubt that traffic issues in Wolfville are the bane of almost everyone’s existence. But in a time when traffic numbers are down significantly, we’re in need of a little bit of space, and some physical activity could go a long way, the idea of shutting down one lane to make room for people instead of cars was an exciting undertaking by Town Council. As someone working in the field of climate change, I understand the significance and impact of every trip in my car. I’ve calculated down to the 10th of a tree what it takes to remove the equivalent carbon, and this move by Council made me think, if we can make this work, all of the other things we are facing are that much closer within reach.

Unfortunately, not everyone felt as elated as I did. In fact, a core group of people rallied against council, in a mostly disrespectful and disappointing manner. It has always struck me as funny that people become so unreasonable and un-human whenever someone is brave enough to take on the norm. To me, threats, name calling, etc., is not part of the democratic process. And that these were made by adults, makes it all the more disgusting. And yet, Council moved forward with this plan, anyway, and again, I was filled with hope.

Having worked on climate related projects for the better part of a decade (officially), finding hope at the best of times is often a challenge. Our planet is changing at rates that are so devastating it’s hard to believe it’s possible to make even an ounce of difference at times. But that never stops us from trying. Amidst a pandemic (which is very much a part of that whole “climate change conspiracy” thing), finding hope is even more difficult, and admittedly, I have questioned on more than one occasion if this is truly a world I want to continue living in. For the record, I don’t. That’s why I am working so hard to make whatever change I can and to celebrate the few times that wins - no matter how small - are on the horizon.

So yesterday morning - when I (regretfully) opened up Facebook to read the update that only 3 weeks after actioning this people-focused plan, they were going to be tearing it down - my heart sunk. I’ve been on such a high for the last few weeks (despite my need for a break last week). Work has been good. Life has been good. And in the last couple of days my heart has hurt less, and my sense of hope has returned in a way I have missed. But after reading once sentence, it all went away again. Closed-minded, negative folks - +4 kajillion. Climate change, progressive action - -4 kajillion.

In no way am I saying that the plan was perfect. No plan ever is. But sadly - like so many other great ideas aimed at making the world better - its success was determined long before it was ever even actioned, and all because of our obsession with convenience and our sense of (greatly undeserved) entitlement. This is why we can’t have nice things (including a healthy planet that can provide us with all we need and more).

I have spoken with a number of people that have wholeheartedly opposed this initiative. I listened to their point of view (and probably did a bad job of responding to them, in exchange for their kindness to shed light on how they saw the situation - even if I truly did appreciate it). I considered it for a few days, even weeks. And while I do feel some of their points were valid, to me, the overarching possibility still outweighed the minimal chance of many of those concerns happening. Again - many were valid, but not all were realistic in terms of likelihood (possible, but not likely). I still don’t understand how anyone can quickly dismiss something at this rate, without giving it a try.

If this pandemic (which is still happening, in case you forgot!) teaches us anything, it should be that we are utterly FiretrUCKED and that we no longer have time to mess around. There has never been a more crucial point to step out of our comfort zone than right now. And once again, we’ve proven we are not capable of making change. Change that will be necessary to sustain life on this planet. The same lives we claim we care about when clinging to our current and outdated ways.

- the Orange Canadian

Tuesday 21 July 2020

COVID Chronicles Part 6: Poverty, burnout, and a loss of hope

I was doing so well with writing out what I was observing and feeling at the onset of the pandemic. It was a productive way for me to cope and focus my energy in a more positive way. But when the BLM protests began across the US and much of the world, the overwhelm at the bigger picture unfolding around me was too much for me to process.

In Nova Scotia, things have slowly been reopening, starting with countless businesses and services. Most recently, the province opened its borders to the rest of the Atlantic Provinces (Newfoundland, New Brunswick and PEI). All of these decisions are indicative of a step in the right direction. We’ve been permitted to see friends and family, explore our “backyards” and feel a bit of freedom. And with it, a growing proportion of the population has voiced concern for what that will mean in both the immediate and long-term outlook with Covid.

I have to say, I am not on the side of anxiousness at this news. It is great to see so many friends have the chance to hug their loved ones and/or open up the doors to their businesses once again. There is a certain level of hope and comfort that comes from that - for me, at least.

But I have to admit, I am not immune to anxiety within the wider sense of this situation. While things open up, and I see those around me going back to their pre-Covid routines and activities, that comfort is quickly turned into fear. I know this is partly the signs of burnout, from all of the many things happening around me and not having the right outlets for me to channel it. But it’s also a consequence of the nature of my work, and the realization that we, as a species, are not great at staying the course or change more broadly.

I have made it quite clear going into the pandemic that this was an opportune time to address the many inequities of our planet. Speaking mostly from a climate lens, I saw this as perhaps, nature's way of cleaning house. I fully anticipated to say goodbye to loved ones - and I may very well have to yet. I also hoped we would see the error of our ways, as we collectively watched in horror at the events happening around the world. And yet, I feel more hopeless than I have at any point in my career in this particular field.

Over the course of the last few months, I have quite blatantly, been accused of harbouring a selfish mentality towards the potential of contracting the virus. I’ve had several people tell me that by not being concerned about my own wellbeing, or by sharing that globally, the planet could do with a mass reduction in population, that I was not being a good human. And to those folks, I’d say you’ve missed my point. I am very much concerned about lives of the people around me - my friends, my family, and the many random strangers that I’ve encountered throughout my life. While I may be lax on my own concern of contracting the virus, I’ve followed the rules so that those around me would be safe.

The truth is, at least from how I see it, there is a far greater loss of life on the way - though it’s not directly at the hands of Covid, but rather an offshoot. While most people seemed to be concerned about the here and now, my concerns have always been with what the longer-term impacts are likely to be.

If the BLM movement is teaching us anything, it’s that there are imbedded inequities that exist in every system and structure within our society. In fact, the environmental justice movement was born out of racial injustice in the United States in the mid-1960s. Climate change and social justice are inextricably linked. They coexist, if you will. And what makes this so important, is that right now, we have an opportunity to address both. But we won’t.

I went for a walk with a friend a few weeks ago and we talked about the political and economic implications of our current scenario. We talked about how those with jobs or big savings will come out of this on top. They have been and will continue to easily access their basic and not-so-basic needs just fine. But it’s the proportion of our population that was already at a disadvantage that are going to suffer - and in ways that are not only unimaginable, but unacceptable.

I believe that in the coming months, as the proverbial dust settles, we’re going to see higher instances of death by suicide. I believe domestic violence rates are going to skyrocket more so than we’ve already seen happen. And I believe we will see a significant number of people die at the hands of poverty - in whatever form you want to look at that from. But this isn’t an “us vs. them” scenario or a “here vs. there.” We will witness neighbours and friends - not just those we’ve been trained to equate with these inequities. Yes, I think Africa and much of Latin America are going to be at a massive disadvantage when it comes to lives lost. But I also think it is naive to dismiss this very thing as potentially happening here, closer to home.

I worry about the single parents who, like my own mother, had to make difficult choices everyday, like whether to pay the power bill or feed her children. I worry about how food and energy security* will place further stresses on families at growing rates, for which we have not previously experienced (thinking specifically about the West). And what I worry about the most, is that we have the tools to alleviate this - on a global scale - but we have yet to learn that the many challenges facing us today are not siloed, rather they are a symptom of the other.

So how do we fix it? How do we shift away from focusing on what we can’t do and move towards the steps forward? In all honesty, I don’t know anymore. In my head it is overly simplistic, but then again, I don’t have a political agenda. I truly just want everyone to get along and find the solutions together. The reality is, the solutions are far more complex than we realize and yet are staring right in front of us.

If we look at how many are reacting to the pandemic, you don’t have to wait long to witness someone willing to bend the rules for their own ease or convenience. They think they are above the rules. They are putting the rest at risk. And this is where I differ. I’m not concerned about my personal wellbeing.  I am, however, deeply concerned for the wellbeing of others and how they will survive these next few years. I am willing to give up my freedoms for the greater good. But those who see wearing a mask for 30 minutes as an attack on their rights are the perfect example of why my hope for action and a better way forward sinks lower every day. We are inherently selfish beings. We couldn’t even go a day without leaving our homes unnecessarily. We are reminded numerous times a day to wash our hands, and then given instructions to remind us how to do it properly. So how are we supposed to solve the complexity of a climate crisis, if we can’t even follow two simple directives?

I need a break from all of this to clear my head. To find some rest, and some peace. Time to find my breath...

- the Orange Canadian

*In my own county, 46% of the population is considered energy insecure. This means that at least 10% of their income goes to paying in-home energy costs. And this was pre-Covid - Imaging what that could look like in a year from now.