The first installment of a new monthly column.
My dad was a highly decorated veteran of the Second World War.
Chances are pretty good most of us wouldn’t be here today, living our comfy lives, were it not for the unbelievable actions of the men and women of his time.
He was 24 years old when he landed on Juno Beach during the Battle of Normandy, in command of a company of men wretchedly sick from the stormy crossing. Young men all, many of whom never made it to shore as their amphibious tanks sank, or who didn’t get across the bullet-strafed beach, or who found no safety once they did.
But they prevailed. Not just against the equally terrified German youth who faced them. They prevailed against an existential threat the like of which the world had never seen before. Fascism. Genocide. Fanatics with an appalling vision for the future.
We have so much to be grateful to that generation for. Were they perfect? Heck no. My war-hero dad drank too much and smoked too much, with the predictable result that, although he survived the war, the aftermath killed him way too young.
But I wish I could talk to him now. I’d love to hear his perspective on the pickle we, as a species, find ourselves in now – you know, with all the planet-killing climate change we’ve managed to accomplish and whatnot. Would he feel like we were throwing away something he’d sacrificed everything to protect? Would he be mad at us? Would he care at all?
I’ll never know. But thinking about my 24-year-old dad makes me think about the commitment and leadership today’s youth are showing in the drive to conquer the biggest existential crisis of our time.
Take my young friend Ben. Raised in a resolutely middle-class urban family, Ben has reached back into his ancestral gene pool to retrieve some long dormant animal husbandry DNA, joined the Young Agrarian movement, raises backyard quail (a fledgling enterprise he even roped me into) and is looking for land to start a larger poultry enterprise.
His young wife Sam drives an electric vehicle and their first consideration for every decision they make is the potential for good or harm to the environment.
And what am I doing? I mean, besides dragging on my puffer when the Lower Mainland suffers through the worst air quality on earth during summer wildfire season.
As a Baby Boomer who has benefited from the post Second World War economic windfall and attendant filthing up of the planet, perhaps it behooves me to pay a bit of attention to the lead demonstrated by the likes of Ben and Sam.
I sort of feel the need to correct past errors before I pass along to meet my dad, wherever he may be. In case he calls me to account. In case he actually is mad that the world he fought so hard to preserve is being systematically and willfully destroyed. By us. By me.
So, I’m lacing up my sneakers and starting down the path of what I’d call ‘The Great Transformation’ as we move from a carbon economy to a clean and resilient one. The experts have told us we have about 10 years to get it together or the impacts to our climate – and, thus, our health, economy and social systems – will be irreversible and devastating.
I invite you to come with me on this journey.
And we won’t be going it alone. I’ll be looking for inspiration from individuals, cities – our own and others – regions, provinces and maybe even countries, and sharing it here.
Where are heartening examples of the changes we need to make? Who has practical, achievable solutions and how can we be part of them or model ourselves after them?
And I’ll be showcasing the opportunities that already do exist, or are in the works, to help us on our way.
Here’s to you, dad. Ben and Sam (you haven’t met them, but you’d like them), say hello. Together, we’ll all try not to destroy this precious earth of ours – you know, the one you saved for us.
We have a better vision for our future.
Kirk Grayson is a digital strategy consultant, communications chair for the Maple Ridge Environmental Advisory Committee and convenor of Maple Meadows Green Drinks.