On Our Way to the Future

Having a keyboard makes it exponentially easier to type. I’ve been away from mine for over two months and though it was available for the past three days, there was some sort of fear-avoidance in play because I stayed away from it. Because turning on of the computer means reality would come back with it. Though it was wonderful catching up with friends, going through emails and job postings and news didn’t entail nearly as much fun.

Oh, life. Oh, world. I’ve been asking for tips and advice from just about everyone along the way. One person said we’re never as smart as we are right now because our brain cells continue to diminish each day. Another said to do yoga because health – and flexibility – are incredibly important. The majority of advice I got (after lamenting about doom and gloom of The Future) state simply ‘do what you want’. If money weren’t an issue, if family pressures weren’t in play, if it were just the world, me, myself and I, what would I spend time doing? That’s what we should do. That should be our future and our goal. What are we interested in? Because no matter how obscure, others will be interested too. Is there something that we think needs to be changed? Then change it, work towards making an impact. Focus on a point in the future and move.

There are a million different things going through my head right now, from surprise that this blog has so many posts (looked back to make sure I wasn’t repeating myself, thank you for those who’ve liked and followed) to annoyance that Pistorius is dominating the headlines. I also want to ramble about the thinkeatsave campaign to reduce food waste and complain about Beijing air pollution. I also feel a sense of dread because The Future is descending and it’s nearly the end of February. Where will I be in a month and what will I be doing and how will I be funding… life? This is when all the mantras we should live by start repeating themselves: don’t sweat the small stuff, don’t worry about things that haven’t happened yet, focus on what you can change instead of what you can’t. One task at a time, one task at a time. Blog entry? Check.


A memory to keep

I’ll never forget the moment when they softly began the chorus of ‘que sera, sera’. It was during goodbye drinks for two friends at an Irish bar of all places and we were split into different tables. At my table, there was the chef, the public diplomacy officer, and the army commander. I was feeling a bit depressed, wondering about life and future and possibilities and choices and was talking quite a bit – even more than usual. But them, in their infinite patience and wisdom, listened to me, took my worries in as their own, and consoled me… don’t try to control every detail, life is a river which moves around all obstacles, there are milestones but don’t force yourself to conform to society’s expectations… then suddenly, que sera, sera. If I ever feel despair concerning humanity in general, I will remember that moment and love again.

The Future, my goodness.

Lemon. It needs lemon.

Life can be difficult when there are too many choices even when I’m very grateful to have them. I know a number of opportunities will be available should I summon enough motivation to find them. The problem is I can see myself being perfectly happy in very different environments, so how exactly does one choose? I’m not characterized by indecisiveness, not really, but have been known to stare down a menu for days. Maybe I need to take some advice from Joe Jackson after all.[1]

Though it’s tempting to continue a stream of consciousness ramble on my personal omgfuturewhattodoAAAAH[2], the world has much bigger dilemmas on the same subject – the future. A very worrying series of news surfaced today beginning with rubbish.[3] Nearly half of Municipal Solid Waste today is generated by cities in OECD countries, according to a new World Bank report. Did you know urban Canada throws away more than 2 kilograms of stuff per person per day? Image search ‘garbage dump’ before you throw anything recyclable or reusable away!

Next up, the end of the world as we know it is coming. A new article was published in Nature titled “Approaching a state shift in Earth’s biosphere”. It is the interdisciplinary work of more than 20 professors of biology, zoology, geosciences and biophysics. The title itself doesn’t ring alarm bells but reading on:

“Localized ecological systems are known to shift abruptly and irreversibly from one state to another when they are forced across critical thresholds. Here we review evidence that the global ecosystem as a whole can react in the same way and is approaching a planetary-scale critical transition as a result of human influence.”

In other words, the planet is facing sweeping environmental changes with the possibility of mass extinctions which can lead to major changes in basic agricultural production. We might all end up eating cubes, tubes and powders. At the mention of the failure of Rio’s Earth Summit 20 years ago, I finally took the time to google ‘climate change does not exist’. Denial is only one small factor affecting the incompetent, dysfunctional and nonexistent actions of governments in response to climate change, but it provides a convenient excuse for the status quo. (Did I sound too critical? I bet you can tell from the links that I’m Canadian though.) Most of the good work on climate denial happens in the US. I found the Friends of Science site particularly disturbing. In addition to blaming the sun and claiming CO2 has no effect on climate change, they call themselves Friends of Science. Seriously? It’s like calling an arms dealing organization Peace for the World. Clearly, anyone who disagrees with friends or world peace murders care bears in their sleep!

I stray, I stray. Thankfully not everyone purposefully misinterprets data for an agenda. In addition to a growing coalition of environmental organizations, I see Quora and Wiki Answers as examples of individual action. Just to be clear, I’m thinking of the first entry in Wiki Answers:
Q: Why does global warming not exist?
A: What do you mean? Global warming exists. It’s reality.

By the way, a piece of Japan washed up in Oregon today. A Japanese dock torn loose by the tsunami last year floated more than 8,000 km to end up there, all 165 tons of it. 2011 was a disastrous year which saw the Japanese earthquake and tsunami, floods, droughts, tornados, heavy rains and wildfires. More detailed information can be found here. Someone needs to tell Friends of Science that weather includes more than just storms.

All caveats aside, in times like these I admire certain qualities of the Chinese government. They recognize the problem exists and have spent millions and billions in tax incentive programs, subsidies and funding for China’s green sector. Currently, renewable resources is an especially important and fast-growing sector. Perhaps it’s because China’s environmental problems are so severe that the government is forced to evaluate dire consequences and take actions before it’s too late. Much of the country’s water is undrinkable and a portion even unfit for industrial use. Extreme air pollution in cities across China is almost a given even if they don’t want others talking about it. Is there a problem? Yes. Then let’s do something about it. How can other governments spend so much time putting up new post offices when evidence of climate change is still being debated?

Thinking about the environment makes me sad though, it really does. Last week when I saw blue skies in Beijing for the first time in months, my only thought was “must take photo before blue disappears”, before all evidence that blue skies in Beijing are rare but possible poofs for another decade.

Recently, the small apartment area or xiaoqu (小区) where I live has been the target of a government renovation project. Workers have built scaffolding all around the building and a tent in the middle of the xiaoqu where they lodge between full days of labour. I visited the kitchen at 8:30 this morning only to see some guy perched on a metal pipe outside my second floor window. They had been here a few weeks back to replace windows of all the old buildings here, all paid for by the government. Now they’re working on insulation of some sort. The goal, said one worker after I asked, was to ensure maximum heat retention. Did they forget summer is coming? I’m just hoping it functions the same way for cool air.

Although, I’m still not sure what to do in terms of a career and the next 3-5 years of life remain unplanned. But in my spare time I will continue efforts to stop murderers of Care-a-lot’s love and good cheer.

[1] Lyrics have all the insights to life. “You can’t get you want till you know what you want” by Joe Jackson.
[2] A scientific term. Wow, footnotes can be dangerous.
[3] Oh Economist, let’s talk about how dangerous China will be for the environment while not mentioning per capita statistics. I enjoy your analysis most of the time, I do, but sometimes comments are far more interesting than the article.