Sunday, January 19, 2020

Why It's Worth It

A Beautiful World and I'm Grateful to be Here
I think everyone asks themselves this question from time to time. "Why is it worth it?"

The question can take on a different shape depending on circumstances. It can mean: why is it worth persisting with this hard thing I'm trying to do when at the moment it seems so unrewarding and difficult or even hopeless, and nobody seems to appreciate it? This version of the question is about taking on challenges that help us grow, help others, and help make the earth a better place. It takes commitment to persist with an intention or goal when we find ourselves seemingly inadequate for the task, the way forward isn't clear, or when others obstruct our efforts or fail to acknowledge us.

Or it can mean: Why is life worth it? Am I really here on this earth just to shop, pick up dog poop, fill out this form, and drink beer in front of the TV? In this incarnation, the question really is about the deep inner sense of one's existential purpose. Depression, illness, or discouragement sometimes might be a cue to examine inner needs that have been ignored and repressed. Existential purpose is hard to nail down and it seems to easily get derailed. We find ourselves using our time up instead on trivial matters, comfortable routines, or self-gratification. Or, perhaps some of us fill our time up with busyness and daily obligations as a way of running from an examination of the inner self and life purpose.

Or "why is it worth it" can mean: What's in it for me? On the surface, this appears to be a selfish concern, a desire to put oneself first, rather than thinking about others or broader life goals. Often, a person's answer to this question never goes beyond the level of personal material reward -- the paycheque, the ego stroke, the better fitness score, or the tit for tat exchange.  But, underneath, everything starts right here, right now, with the person you are inside. All important work a person does has to start internally, by recognizing and accepting the person you are, and checking in to make sure that your external efforts align with your core values. I'm coming to learn that when I run away from my inner self, then my commitments, efforts, and daily pursuits may become unsatisfying or even harmful.  

Lately I have been writing quite a bit about the climate crisis, and how it has motivated me to take various actions.

Although I cannot put into words what my core life purpose is, one part of it is the desire to make a positive difference in the world. Putting personal effort into educating myself about climate change, communicating about it to increase others' awareness, and taking personal actions to reduce my carbon footprint, all help, in a small way, to make a positive difference in the world.

It's worth if because of my beautiful children and grandchildren, and the future generations who will inherit the earth. I've written about this here, and here.

It's also worth it because the earth, its systems, and the living plants and animals are beautiful, amazing, and inherently worth preserving. Here are a few photos of the area where I live that I've taken over the last three months. They show the beauty of our world.

An October Afternoon in My Neighbourhood
Sunshine on the Pond
Snow Encrusted Trees at Mount Washington
Mount Washington at Four O'clock

Rock on the Forest Floor
Tiny Mushrooms in the Moss

The Backyard With a Foot of Snow
We live in an amazing world, and I'm grateful to be a part of it. It's worth it.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Six Months Later

A Shopping Moratorium

Regular readers will remember that a little over six months ago, I wrote a post declaring that I was going to embark on a six month moratorium on buying any clothing, shoes, or jewellery for myself.

The reason I am concerned about shopping is that our North American materialistic lifestyle is not sustainable for the Earth. Every item of consumer goods that we purchase has a high carbon cost, which comes from obtaining the raw materials for the item (mining, logging, growing cotton, etc.), deforestation that ensues from activities like mining, logging, or growing cotton, the manufacturing process which uses energy and often environmentally toxic chemicals, the non-reusable packaging of the goods (often in plastic), and the transportation of the item to the end user, often from the far side of the world (burning fossil fuels).

When people buy things, they're often replacing items that are still serviceable (if no longer fashionable), or repairable (but who knows how to darn socks anymore? And what about the built-in obsolescence of iPhone batteries which can't be replaced?). The unwanted items typically end up in landfills. The carbon footprint from unnecessary consumption contributes to climate change.

So how did I do in these past six months?

Well, I'm not a really big shopper in general. But I do have a lot of clothes, which are mostly office wear left over from my work life before I retired. So I thought I wouldn't have much difficulty cutting myself off from shopping for clothes, shoes, and jewellery.

I announced my shopping moratorium on June 28, which meant it would be in effect until the end of December, 2019. In fact, I posted the blog article in the airport, as my daughter and I were waiting to board a flight to Crete. We were heading off together to a yoga retreat!

And wouldn't you know it -- the airline lost our luggage. We were going to spend a week-long retreat at a remote location on the edge of the Libyan Sea and we had nothing to wear but what we wore on the plane. So, only two days after stating my intention to not shop for six months, I was running around Heraklion buying clothes. You can read about it here

 It was a truly wonderful holiday. More pictures here.

And so, I thought I would just shift the end date of my moratorium from December 29 to December 31 to complete six months of no shopping. (Note: I still allowed myself to buy clothes for others -- e.g., souvenir T-shirts for the grandkids).

But on the second-last day of our Cretan holiday, after we finished the yoga retreat, the whole group did a shopping trip to Rethymno. Then, my daughter and I spent one more day in the city of Heraklion on our own. Sad to say, in Rethymno, my will power wavered, and I bought myself a slender handmade silver bracelet as a memento of the trip.

Exploring Rethymno With My Daughter
Tempting Wares

Street Art in Rethymno
All the Retreat Group (Except Theo)
Restaurant Where We had our Last Dinner Together
So, you guessed it, I shifted the starting and end dates of the shopping ban again. It started on July 7, 2019 and ended on January 8, 2020. I am happy to report that I did not buy any clothing, shoes, or jewellery during those six months (in fact, I haven't gone shopping even yet). I wore out three pairs of shoes, and several clothing items. And, next time before I impose a shopping ban on myself, I will make sure that I have a good supply of non-ragged underwear before I start.

Carbon Offsets

All my life, I have wanted to travel to see other parts of the world. Yet, throughout most of my adulthood, my travel has been quite limited. Although I did travel for work, it was rarely to places that I would have chosen as a destination, and my time in each place was mostly spent working, not sight-seeing. Finances, parenting, and the time demands of full-time work limited my opportunities to travel.

So one of the top goals I had for retirement was to travel.

But, since I have begun learning more about the climate crisis, I have realized that flying causes a lot of CO2 to be released into the air.

It is important to reduce material consumption, shift from a high meat diet to a more plant-based diet, avoid wasting food, divest one's portfolio of petroleum stocks, burn less fossil fuel (in cars and in home heating/cooling), waste less water, garden organically, use less toxic household products, vote for environmentally focused political parties, speak out about climate concerns, and refuse plastic packaging. These are all lifestyle changes that I am trying hard to incorporate into my life.

But I undermine my own efforts to be a good climate steward when I do a lot of air travel. One solution is to fly less.

As much as I can,  I have eliminated taking domestic flights. For example, I live on an island. There are two main ways to get off the island -- by air, or by ferry. So I have been choosing the ferry. I was excited to read that a local small airline hopes to put an electric airplane into service within the next two years for short trips from the Island to the mainland.

This summer, Rob and I vacationed close to home, camping nearby on Vancouver Island. That way, we didn't have to fly anywhere, or burn a lot of gas on a long road trip.

But I haven't yet eliminated all air travel from my life. Although I feel guilty about flying, I also am not ready to give up my lifelong goal of travelling to other parts of the world.

So along with flying less, my solution is to purchase carbon offsets for every flight that I do take. Although there are a number of organizations one can use to do this, I use Gold Standard. A video from their website explains the concept of joint action on climate change, and how purchasing carbon offsets makes a difference.

The first step is to calculate your emissions. Gold Standard provides a way to calculate your annual emissions.  However, for calculating flight emissions, I prefer to use the calculator provided by myclimate.

As an example, I calculated that my return flight to Crete created 3.4 tonnes of CO2 equivalent emissions, and an upcoming trip will create 1.6 tonnes of emissions, so 5 tonnes in total for the two trips. I purchased carbon credits equivalent to my flight emissions, and chose to apply those credits to a project that provides clean water to Cambodian communities. It cost me $81 CAD.

Maybe some day I will go that extra step and stop all air travel. But, not yet.