Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 7/1/2019 (512 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Blame it on the calendar.
We mark the end of one year and the start of a new year, not just by (old school) hanging a new calendar on the wall, but also by our New Year’s resolutions to start all over, one more time.
Either way, we are living by calendar time. Everyone likes another chance for a fresh start in January, when the slate is wiped clean and last year’s mistakes are left behind.
It’s part of who we are, as people. Humans have followed the motions of the planets and stars, along with the cycles of the moon, since the first time someone looked up into the night sky. Neolithic stone monuments and carvings (such as Stonehenge) are astronomical in size and intention, marking the patterns we see in the passage of time from one year to the next.
Our bodies are affected by the monthly calendar set by the moon, as the seasons, they go round and round ... again. Some people also believe their horoscopes. And so on.
Yet all this is actually only in our heads.
What we think is a new beginning is merely the continuation of physical systems, going back to the beginning of everything. In fact, human measurements (of such concepts as time) are created and imposed on the universe, just like the stories about what it all means that have been told around cultural fires for thousands of years.
There is no "redo" in nature, no fresh start when we turn over the page or hang a new calendar on the wall. There are no do-overs. No mulligans.
In other words, the same pollution that was there on Dec. 31 was also there Jan. 1 — just increased by whatever additional trash had been added to the Earth we share. I would love the banks to reset the debt clock at the end of the year, too, but somehow the interest on what I owe just makes the debt bigger once Auld Lang Syne has been sung another time.
So while we celebrated the start of a new year with party hats and streamers, while we pretended to make a commitment to resolutions to live differently in 2019, all around us, nature continues to weave together what we did last year into what will happen in the next, whether we like it — or realize it — or not.
In the hope for a sustainable future, we need to change our clocks and our calendars to mark planetary time, not political or human time. Sustainable development is actually planetary economics — requiring a just transition to a low-carbon society for humans, ensuring biodiversity and preserving ecological systems.
It would be nice if our political, business and community leaders could make New Year’s resolutions that reflect this necessity, but that would require more wisdom than most of them seem to possess at the moment.
Politicians instead try to reset the political clock, hoping that by the time the next election comes around, people will have forgotten the things the current government did wrong, the promises that were not kept and the situations made worse by inaction, squabbling or bad judgment.
We have a federal election in 2019 and a provincial election in 2020. Soon, the end of those political calendars will generate a spew of political advertisements, growing nastier and more personal as election days draw closer or as certain parties realize they are falling behind in the polls.
Politicians need to align their calendars with the ecology of the planet if they want to get my vote next time.
Why should I trust my future — or, more particularly, the future of my children and grandchildren — to you and your party? In a world in crisis, are you going to mark time and play political games — again — for another term? Or are you committed to doing the heavy lifting on behalf of all Canadians (or all Manitobans), regardless of whether they voted for you?
Leaders in business and industry seem to have similarly selfish myopia. Where is your planning for the future, when your decisions are driven by how much money can be made this quarter, regardless of how it is done? I get that you want to make money or a living, but why does that have to mean you make them at the expense of my health or the health of future generations?
Want my business? Think ahead. Go way past looking green, to thinking and working toward a just and sustainable future for all of us.
Mind you, I am only one person. Maybe they don’t care about my vote or my business. But I have friends, and so do you, and real power belongs to the people, and the planet.
Whatever the calendar says, it’s time.
Peter Denton is an activist, author and speaker. He chairs the policy committee of Manitoba’s Green Action Centre.
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