by Guy Dauncey
June 2019. The summer days bring exquisite shades of green. The bees are out, the ants rush around, and the wind rustles quietly in the tops of the trees. A fresh-baked rhubarb sponge cake sits on the kitchen counter. Life is sensuous, beautiful, and quite frankly, exquisite. Tiny mauve butterflies flit in and out of the flowers.
And then Cassandra arrives, she of the noble Greek ancestry, admired by the god Apollo, she with the golden locks and the long white flowing dress, reading from her list of warnings:
“One million species facing extinction, UN Report finds.”
“Plummeting insect numbers threaten collapse of nature.”
“By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s the oceans.”
“Do you need more?” she asks, then continues. Her eyes carry sorrow.
“Canada warming at twice the global rate, climate report finds.”
“We have twelve years to limit climate change catastrophe, UN warns.”
“I want you to panic, 16-year-old issues climate warning at Davos.”
A long time ago, in Belgium, there was a similarly beautiful afternoon. The sun warmed the land, the wheat rippled in the fields, and the farmers rested. All was well with the world. When Cassandra arrived they admired her beauty but paid no heed to her warnings. That was the last time they would see her, for the next day an army of German tanks crashed across the horizon, turning peaceful lives into years of catastrophic pain.
In Cassandra’s day there was no social media. She had only her one small voice to warn her fellow Greeks of what was to come. When they ignored her, there was nothing else she could do. Troy would fall. People would die.
Today, however, she turns to me with a glimpse of hope. “I’m on Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Linked-in, Instagram and YouTube. Do you think it will help? I’ve got more hopeful headlines, too. Do you think something is shifting?”
“Unprecedented climate strikes by students around the world to save the planet.”
“Extinction Rebellion arrests pass 1,000 on eighth day of protests.”
“Ireland becomes the second country to declare a climate and biodiversity emergency.”
“Norway’s electric cars zip to new record: almost a third of all sales.”
“The Green Wave gathers momentum as Paul Manly sweeps to victory in Ladysmith-Nanaimo.”
“You’ve been around a long time,” she said. “What do you think? The Occupy Movement was big too, but it all came to nothing.”
“The Occupy Movement had no solutions,” I replied. “All they had was complaints. The student climate protests, the Extinction Rebellion and the climate emergency movement have armfuls of solutions. The people in government don’t know what to make of them. They are used to setting lazy goals far out in the future. ‘We’ll do this by 2050,’ they say. They’ll be long forgotten in retirement homes by the time 2050 rolls around.”
“So this time it will be different?” She looked up at me hopefully with her dark wounded eyes.
“It has to. We’ve all got that awful sinking feeling in the pits of our bellies. We read the reports. We know how dire things are going to be if we don’t make radical changes. We’re going to be so seriously screwed – and Nature, too.”
“Oh my,” she responded. “All my life, people have ignored my warnings. The Fall of Troy. The Mongol invasions. The Thirty Years War. Columbus coming to America. The Russian Revolution. I have seen such grief, such awful things. Please tell me this time, it’s going to be different.”
“I can’t,” I said. “What was it Churchill offered the British when the Nazis had occupied almost all of Europe? Blood, toil, tears and sweat. But he also offered cast-iron commitment, and practical engagement to the task at hand. That’s what we’ve got to do. We’ve got to articulate the critical actions that can have an impact on the climate and ecological emergencies, the debt and housing crises, and the First Nations crisis. We’ve got to persuade the doubters and deniers, the delayers and blamers that what we’re proposing makes sense. We’ve got to train people to be effective advocates for what’s needed. We’ve got to paint a picture of a new ecological civilization that is so enticing, people will yearn to be part of it. We’ve got to elect mayors and councillors, MLAs and MPs who will craft the legislation and initiatives that will set us on the path to social justice, economic cooperation, ecological restoration and climate stability. It’s the task of a lifetime, for all of us.”
Cassandra looked at me, her eyes filled with tears, and then she threw her arms around my neck and sobbed her heart out. I held her, gently absorbing her grief.
Guy Dauncey worked in the climate solutions trenches for twenty years. He is now deep at work on his new book, The Economics of Kindness: The Birth of a New Cooperative Economy. His website is www.thepracticalutopian.ca
First published in The Green Gazette, June 2019