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.

Feeling Disconnected

I’m part of a trend and a growing trend at that. It’s not something I usually say, or even am aware of, because ‘trend’ typically imply some form of ‘fashion’ in my brain or is associated with words like ‘craze’ and ‘fad’. But there the truth is – I’m part of a trend.

It’s not something as severe as Quarter-Life Crisis because most of the time it doesn’t descend that far. It’s more of a… wallowing in uncertainty and delaying the terrifying nature of the future… kind of trend. There are all sorts of articles about it and it seems like the greater world in general has noticed something happening too. It’s clearly more fascinating discussing societal trends and potential problems partially concerning the familiar than reading about tragedies from another continent.

Personally, I would much prefer reading news stories, inspirational quotes or learning how to be a better boss (ha), but that’s just not how fascination works. Instead, I immerse myself in technology and updates and read articles from other people concerning my own uncertainty and the general indecisive nature of my… our… generation. Maybe we all hold hope that hidden somewhere in all the lines, there’s something that’ll spark an idea or an epiphany, something to give everyone a life-affirming goal. Wouldn’t it be easier if a person’s sole mission was to [insert life’s mission here. Be an astronaut, own an island, bring about world peace, save the planet…?]. So much easier. Or at least decisions would be easier to make.

I was speaking to a friend the other day about plans and planning and about life in general. He mentioned having short, medium and long-term plans. I know I don’t have a long-term plan and I’m still working on the medium-term one which involves travelling for perhaps 3 months. 3 months is medium-term, of course. For the short-term, I know where to have lunch today. Planned, and check! His short-term was a year.

I’m all bruised too from making mistakes I should have gotten out of my system before becoming a twentysomething. The evidence though is everywhere. I have patches of purple and I’m sore everywhere. When I wake up in the afternoon with my head about to explode and a good friend at the airport preparing to leave the country, I wonder if this is what life is all about. It’s can’t be, right? When I looked at this crossword, the three words I saw were love, power, and intelligence. Then I read “How I Know I Love You” and now I know there’s more to life. Twentysomethings just have to find it now… somehow, magically. Maybe starting with a plan.

We all love technology, I know I do, but maybe I blame it a little sometimes too, resent it just a little. It’s made life interesting, fast and difficult to keep up with. Information is racing and the truth is only the truth for a minute – before the page refreshes. Timing is everything, but what if we don’t like refreshing so quickly? What if we want to not be instantaneously informed the second before something happens? For sure I can’t do that because of a mental addiction to technology and tech won’t let anyone do that. A confession: I’ve only gotten twitter this year and proudly have more than 20 entire tweets. Even though it’s been such a short time, I can feel myself becoming absorbed, fascinated and generally inclined to… refresh. This must contribute to a short-attention span, shouldn’t it? Doesn’t it? Ice cream? I want a general plan for the long-term, I want to know where to go in the short/medium-term, but what’s suppose to happen when I’m addicted to the speed of information? Everyone and everything else is sprinting and I left my shoes back home. No one can run in sandals and I’m feeling disconnected.

Me, me, I, I, myself and my problems. But what else can I actually talk about with any sort of insight someone else doesn’t already have – hasn’t already written about? I don’t think I can, not at this point anyway. I can only go on rambles about lack of certainty and questions and how – omg – I’m part of a trend. Or I guess I can whine about… debt. How everyone and everything’s in debt. That’ll take days. I would ramble to someone in person, but people are scattered and then I’ll have no way to keep track of maybe, potentially, hopefully… how I’m maturing. How we’re all maturing. Yes, that must it. That’s what’s happening. I’m part of a transformation.

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.