Friday, April 8, 2016


Tonight I went to a talk about climate change by Naomi Klein, a Canadian writer and activist.  Going into it, I was worried that it was going to be a depressing lecture about how the Earth is doomed, complete with photos of polar bears floating adrift on melting icebergs.

Instead, the talk was a call for transformation - from fossil fuel to renewable energy, from a profit-driven economy to a human-centred society, from isolation to community.  It was 90 minutes of a left-wing, granola crunchy vision for humanity*, and I loved it.  Her talk encompassed everything I believe about how the world should strive to operate, only articulated in a vastly more intelligent and entertaining way than I ever could.

As I listened, I was hopeful that the world might just be capable of realizing the things I believe in:  environmental sustainability, racial/gender/sexual equality, empowerment of the poor and the marginalized.  And I wondered, what is my role in this?  As a physician (and as a queer, able-bodied, white, upper class woman), how do I live out my values and contribute to the society that I want to see?  How do I move beyond earning a paycheque and paying off debt to making a lasting change in my community?

I don't quite know yet, nor do I have the energy to really delve into this question late on a Friday night, but it is definitely something to think about.  Any ideas?

*Supported by a very solid research base and understanding of economics/politics/world systems. 


  1. That sounds wonderful! I need to give it thought and be inspired. I just convinced my co-worker to take the bus to work and she loved it, so I feel like a fraud because since I moved it's not safe to bike but I haven't bussed either. It's so easy to hop into my pickup.

    I just hung a laundry line, to power the drying of my clothes. I should look again into solar power for my house - less because I'll save money on electricity (savings aren't that great) and more about not consuming fossil fuels. My tenant was proud of herself - I installed a ceiling fan and she's been opening the windows and using that for cooling instead of AC.

    It's these little things but do they add up sufficiently? How do we get systems change? Here in NEw Orleans, we have MASSIVE personal garbage cans that are picked up TWICE A WEEK. It takes me over two months to fill one of them. I just had to replace four stairwells and all the rubbish from that was gone in two weeks of pickup. YEt I see all these people with overflowing trash cans, and nobody understands recycling (mine is the only bin on the block). Why? Why? I"m sort of bizarre about my water consumption and when somebody else moved into my house her usage jumped up five fold. That was sort of mindblowing to me and she said she would try to be more conscientious and use the rain barrels I installed and various other things, but it's so easy to turn the tap.

    I think that's it - here in the U.S. it's all so easy. Chuck it in the trash, turn on the AC, turn on the water tap, buy gasoline for the gas guzzler. And while I love this quality of life for its ease (I've lved without electricity or running water, and life is much easier with), it's dangerous and not reflective of realities.

    I have no answers at all. Keep us motivated, please.

    1. I think you're absolutely right that we need systems change rather than to simply be reliant on people to do what's right as individuals. Even well-intentioned individuals (like me) will generally do what's easiest, even when it isn't necessarily what's best for the environment.

      One of the things that I think is most important is getting away from the widely held belief that protecting the environment is at odds with having a healthy economy and ensuring that people have much needed jobs. As Naomi Klein argued, there is a huge economic (and human) cost to environmental degradation in terms of damage to infrastructure by extreme weather events, loss of agricultural capacity, and loss of human habitat through rising sea levels. The environment is, at a fundamental level, our economy, and governments need to recognize that and act accordingly.

      There is so much more that could be said on this!

  2. Here's a great example of sucky systems:

    This is something I really struggle with. I need to dress professionally and look good, but I hate spending money and time on clothes shopping. It's good to be on the side of environmental justice, but it doesn't help me professionally to look so frumpy. It feels like I could make some better choices. I just ordered some clothes from "thredup" - online thriftstore selling used clothing. I will try to invest in a few pieces of clothing that are expensive and last a long time. It's just a difficult challenge for me. I also need to have seasonally appropriate clothing, which is more variable than one would expect in the tropics.