Friday, December 18, 2009

Trying to Live a Good and Simple Life - We Are All Maldivians

I've been very grumpy this week. All this talk of the fiasco of Copenhagen, our Canadian leaders' truly shameful attitude (and, yes, I did email the Prime Minister), the sheer nonsense that comes up in TV news analyses - it's enough to make a vegetarian humanist weep. I wonder what Helen and Scott Nearing would have to say about it all?

I think of myself as unconventional. I've never followed the crowd. I question everything. I hate rules, despise conformity, baulk at authority, and generally consider myself politically left of center. This, despite the fact that my daughter once accused me of being too conservative. (What was she thinking?) I am painfully aware of the environment and very uncomfortable with people who aren't. I try do everything in the Greenest way possible. I pursue all these ideas acutely aware that I could be perceived as a crank, if I say too much. Naturally, I prefer to live around like-minded people.

How, then, have I survived two years in what appears to be a very ecologically insensitive town and how did I get here? Was I hoodwinked by the country setting? Did I assume I had found my rural idyll?  Sadly, this place seems to be filling up with affluent retirees who've brought their city thinking with them. Now wonderful old country houses are being pulled down and replaced with brick, center-hall, four bedroom, rather ugly buildings, complete with granite-countertops in the kitchens, and with monstrous-sized SUVs - usually two - parked in the driveway, which are used for the five minute walk to the supermarket. I wasn't expecting people to be using horse and buggy here, of course, but the vehicles are preposterous.

The new people aren't friendly, either. They've brought that city reserve with them. Don't make eye contact with strangers, and certainly don't smile or speak to them. Fear traits, right? I have become more restrained myself, after being snubbed a few times, and am now somewhat surprised when an original local greets me on the street as if he or she knows me. I can't believe this place is changing me for the worst.

The first year I was here, the local council shot down the suggestion of permitting wind turbines in the area. Too noisy. Too ugly. I started to rethink my move about then.

If I came here to experience a Greener, more simple way of life, I've failed miserably. I could just as well be living in the heart of a rich neighborhood in any major city, but without the benefit of museums and art galleries.

I could look for another town here where undoubtedly there are people more sensitive to the global mess around us, but I'm beginning to think it's time for the Grand Tour again. I mentioned this to a neighbour, who almost sniffed as she commented that I must be a Gypsy. Perhaps I am. I think Gypsies are probably very Green. I'm pretty sure they don't live in new-brick, center-hall, over-sized houses, with granite-top counters in their kitchens, and SUVs in their driveways.

When I first moved here I was overwhelmed by the prettiness of the countryside, the fine old houses, the diminutive proportions of our shopping area, the friendliness of the people. Could this have changed so much in two years?

Sadly, I think it has.

Look, I'm not opting for some off-the-grid settlement somewhere in the back country where folks can grow their own weed without fear of reprisal. I just long for a town that prefers a simple, sustainable life, away from urban grandiosity, where they're proud of the fact that they don't have a mall or a fast food franchise in their driving vicinity, and where I can say that I don't own a car and not have eyebrows raised. I'd like to live where people know and care about what's going on in the world.

All this leads me to confess that I'm planning to move again. It will take a while. I'm a slow, methodical planner when it comes to my relocations. It could be Australia. Pretty laid back in Australia, in more ways than one, and actively trying to be Greener. I'll have to be responsible for an inordinate amount of carbon emissions to achieve this, but I'll try to make up for it in other ways.

Not that it matters where we live, really, in the long run. Unless we're very young, which I'm not, we won't be greatly affected here in the developed world by continuing ignorance. We'll see the rest of the world's problems on the nightly news, tut-tut, perhaps, when we hear that the Maldives has sunk beneath the ocean. And we'll regularly be reminded, if we really listen, that our children and grandchildren are in for a very rough time in a few decades. As the President of the Maldives said in his speech at Copenhagen, in the end, "...We are all Maldivians..."

I could say so much more, but won't. I'll just repeat what I often say to fellow struggling writers: We're all in this together.

I'll try to be less irritable next week. I prefer to be more uplifting with my blog. But, oh, Copenhagen? What a cop out...

Post Script: received Saturday morning -

"On behalf of the Prime Minister, thank you for your correspondence regarding the Government's climate change strategy. The Government of Canada fully appreciates that Canadians are eager to share their suggestions and opinions on this issue. You may be assured that your message has been carefully reviewed. As the Honourable Jim Prentice, Minister of the Environment, will also appreciate being made aware of your views, I have taken the liberty of forwarding a copy of your message to the Minister. Once again, thank you for taking the time to write."

P. Monteith, Executive Correspondence Officer for the Prime Minister's Office.

What a relief! Now everything will be fine...

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Quotes to Consider

"If you would not be forgotten, as soon as you are dead and rotten, Either write things worth reading, or do things worth writing." ~Benjamin Franklin

"Well behaved women rarely make history."~Laurel Thatcher Ulrich

“A ship in harbor is safe, but that is not what ships are built for.”~William G.T. Shedd (1820-1894), theologian, teacher, pastor

"It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something." ~Franklin D Roosevelt (1882-1945), 32nd U.S. president

“Adopt the pace of nature: her secret is patience.”
~Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882), essayist, poet, philosopher

"Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover." ~Mark Twain

"You miss 100% of the shots you don't take."
~ Wayne Gretzky