Sunday, December 13, 2009

Individual Change: Community is the result of Sustainability

All this talk of Copenhagen have left me with a little sour taste. I've been avoiding discussing the climate change talks here just because the summit is currently so far out of my control. That and Canada's Prime Minister, Mr. Harper, has been a little, shall we say- reticent on the entire subject. Which is so disheartening.

In any case, recently after a lecture on acidification of the oceans at Dalhousie Univsersity, a few friends were chatting about the the individual's impact on climate. Unfortunately, the reality is that big business and corporations have such gargantuan carbon footprints compared to our drop in the bucket electricity and vehicle use. Real change and impact must come from industry in order for us to make any large environmental difference.

These truths, although frustrating are important to recognize as it leads us to the next step: individual changes should not be the end of the eco-street. Recycling and turning off the lights won't really save our Earth. I do believe that in this acknowledgment comes true change. As industry is money driven... by consumers... the individual.

We, as individuals, consume the oil and petrochemicals that have been damaging and irrevocably changing our eco-systems. Without the consumer, the need for oil to run our computers, our vehicles, our lights and heat or to make the plastic and disposable lifestyle the huge polluters wouldn't exist. From this perspective, the individual CAN actually make an impact.

I also strongly believe that small introductions to eco-changes, gradual transformations to a more sustainable societal culture will lead to awareness and value shifts causing changes in voting, governmental policy and impact on industry. Call me an optimist, but I believe in social norms and pressure to impact how we regulate our public sectors. (playing crokinole on my father's childhood board with friends at the cottage)

Colin, from No Impact Man, speaks regularly of how a sustainable life doesn't have to be about sacrifice, but is about community and connection. Instead of plugging away at our computers and televisions or placing value in amassing further material goods, we as a culture could spend time improving person to person relationships which as a result would lead to a happier life. So many studies have found that humans are social beings that have been curiously suffering from increasing diagnoses of anxiety, depression, stress and panic-related disorders. We've been feeling increasingly disconnected in our ginormous cities spending all our time striving for a golden space of wealth, without ever significantly connecting.

When was the last time you asked for sugar or flour from a neighbour? How big is your "community"? I know that in Halifax I had to make an effort to meet my neighbours which included baking some cookies on several different occasions and making sure that when a new neighbour moved in I introduced myself (Andrew was not happy that we weren't keeping the cookies all to If there was an emergency or crisis, I would not depend on my neighbours for help. 

At the same time, in my home village where I grew up there is a huge sense of community. For example, my uncle has just been diagnosed with terminal cancer. Unfortunately, the medical care in Canada really isn't all rainbows and flowers, and cancer treatment is only ever covered if you receive it while you are physically IN the hospital. Which these days only applies to some types of cancers... the rest being prescription medications. Which are expensive and NOT covered. My uncle is a fisherman and obviously self-imployed... and obviously does not have ANY medical insurance. 

Just this weekend, my village had a bakesale and auction in order to raise money for my uncle who hasn't lived there in my entire lifetime. They raised over 17,000 dollars which will help his family live and pay for some of the medications. Even though everyone in the village amounts to a population of 500 (ish) and are all currently suffering under the economic strain of only now starting a new fishing season and haven't been getting paid since last May, they rallied together to help support my uncle and his family. 

All this to say that community and connection are beautiful cultural norms that we've been moving away from since the advent of city, high paced living. Unplugging and placing value on interactions and experiences as opposed to material gifts is the way to lead a more sustainable and loving life.

This week I really want to explore this concept of a "slow Christmas/Yule" and what exactly that could mean. Since this post is already ridiculously long, I'll leave some for tomorrow's post :) Thank goodness I'm a fast typer, so I can spend less time writing blog posts and more time following my advice- and spending time with friends and Andrew. (playing frisbee and lost it for the THIRD time over the fence)

Real time, not watching a movie or looking at stuff on the internet while sitting next to each (yes Andrew and I are guilty of that). Today we went skating, Andrew for the first time in 17 years. It was so much fun and the kicker- it was free.


article and photos copyright of EcoYogini at


  1. I've been excited to read this one, after you mentioned it in your last excellent post. So much to say but it all boils down to one point: You hit the nail right on the head.

    I've been ruminating on a similar post for the past few days now...coming soon, with reference to this one!! :)

  2. Hi. I'm Dave Wu and have begun my movement towards a more sustainable life. I'm simply beginning by reading and finding out more about being sustainable and the environment. Good blog and good energy. The ideas are simple, realistic, and help connect people. So in light of your most recent blog, I trying to connect with more people.

    I'd just like to talk to people about sustainability in regards to what steps you have taken towards that idea.

    On another note, it's frustrating to see the little change in industry towards sustainability. It opposes the American economy based on consumerism and change will face a strong resistance. However, I'm convinced that a significant change can be made. Not simply by individuals changing their demand but in a more dramatic and legislative way. Have you had any experience in promoting this type of change?

    If you'd like to know more about me... you can read my blog (though unrelated to your focus)...


  3. I too have been avoiding talking too much about the Climate Talks simply because there is absolutely nothing I can do about it. What I get annoyed at is this "we need to cut carbon emissions by x amount by the year x" as though there is some magic window in which to save the planet, when really we all know that window is closing faster than any of us like to think.

    Community is the way forward, local local local!

    Cosy chats by candlelight is my idea of an eco friendly night in :D

  4. I'm right there with you re: slow Christmas/Yule. Yesterday afternoon, Red and I went to my parents' house. My sister and her boyfriend came over too, and we drank eggnog (well, Red and I had soy nog!), ate snacks, listened to Christmas music, and decorated my parents' tree. It was free (well, except for the cost of the nog/snacks) and was a great time of closeness and memories.

  5. This is such a great post!
    It's true...we do what we can to recycle and save resources, but what is that in comparison to the real big changes needed?
    I've been thinking a lot about this lately, as here in Ontario, we didn't get our first snow until last week!! Bizarre.

    Kudos to you for pointing out what Michael Moore has failed to...our Canadian socialized health system is NOT all it's cracked up to be.


  6. Ok, I just watched Moore's Sicko documentary two nights ago and started seriously considering applying to grad schools outside of the US b/c of healthcare. So...not everything is covered in Canada?

  7. Greenspell: we are on the same wavelength! :)

    Wu: Nice to meet you! Welcome :)

    Rachel: yep that percentage is kinda magical. I do know that climatologists have a level and number that is backed up with legit science, but I have a funny feeling the politicians aren't quite listening to that one...

    Vegan: ohhh what a wonderful time that must have been :) mmmm eggnog... i didn't know you could get vegan eggnog... what do they use instead of eggs?

    BohoMom: sigh- yep all about commercialization. boo that.

    Underbelly; well from what I know of American HealthCare i am VERY happy to be living in Canada. I don't have to pay for a visit to emerg, or 10,000$ to have a baby, or to see my family doctor...

    BUT- many drugs aren't covered through medicare- birth control for example. Canada does have a pretty darn good pharmacare program going that will cover some non-serious meds...

    But the drama with Cancer and other life threatening illnesses that do not require hospitalization for new medication treatments is that whatever is prescribed outside of the hospital YOU pay for. So if you have surgery, or have treatment/meds in the hospital it's covered, you don't have to worry.
    But most medication treatments for cancer are not prescribed in pill form and not taken in the hospital... so you pay.

    I do know, after being in University for long enough, that the Canadian University health plans are pretty darn good. I never had to worry about paying for birth control, prescriptions for antibiotics, flu shots etc etc.

    So- from what I gather from Michael Moore's Sicko- (not having seen it) Canada's healthcare system has some holes as well.

    But there is no WAY I would ever live in the states, and the healthcare system is the main reason...

  8. this is a great and inspiring post! i love it. can't wait to see what you have to say about slow christmas.

  9. "Recycling and turning off the lights won't really save our Earth"

    Hi there!

    I just wanted to say that I can understand this statement all too well, however I don't agree with it anymore.

    If each person took responsibility for their actions, and was more conscientious about their impact then the problem as a whole would seem less tedious.

    I really love your blog though. You're so in tune with so many of my points of view.

    In my blog I'm talking about tons of things- but with an emphasis on Revolution. (ROOTS- revolution on our terms). Each person by educating themselves, and making better choices can help revolutionize the world around them.

    love and light,



I love hearing from you! So I don't miss a comment, I like "pre-approving" them :)
I ask only that we stay respectful.
Also, please note that this is a personal blog and not a space for advertising your company. I reserve the right to delete "advertising" comments.

**NB: The ANONYMOUS option is the BEST way to comment if you don't have a blogger or established google/gmail account.