Earth Day Vancouver 2020


EARTHFUTURE by Guy Dauncey

Michelle woke her children early and got them dressed for Earth Day, the Fête de la Terre that would be held that day in the streets and parks of downtown Vancouver, attended by tens of thousands. It was the 50th anniversary of the world’s first Earth Day in 1970 and the whole day was a holiday, beginning with the morning’s huge Earth Parade, followed by a concert in the park.

As they joined the thousands in the parade, dancing and walking along Georgia Street, surrounded by music, balloons, bicycles and people on stilts, Michelle felt a wonderful sense of shared purpose. Why this very real sense of celebration when just a few years ago everything had seemed so hopeless?

Hardly so, Michelle thought, as she looked at the hats and long-sleeved T-shirts which her children wore to protect them from the searing rays of sunshine that would soon be pouring through the continuing hole in the planet’s ozone layer. Nor did the widespread hunger and the growing alarm about climate change make her feel particularly hopeful.

In the last few years, however, something had shifted. In towns and villages throughout the world, people were waking up and realizing that if they didn’t get off their backsides and do something, no one else would. The old idea that you could go on complaining and expect someone else to sort out the mess seemed suddenly passé. Cynicism was out; determination was in. And with that shift, a wave of new energy was being released into the community.

Building on the achievements of the past 10 years, Vancouver now boasted hundreds of organic urban farms. Streets all over the city had been closed off to cars, many being ploughed up and redesigned as winding footpaths, bicycle trails and urban gardens. Later in the summer, apartment blocks would blossom with beans and squash growing on trellises that climbed up their sides, and sunflowers on their roofs.

As the throng of people gathered for the day’s celebrations, Michelle looked around and wondered if her children would be celebrating Earth Day in 50 years time, with their grandchildren beside them. Earth’s problems were still so huge and pessimism could so easily return if people surrendered their hope.

“Rêvez, l’impossible rêve,” a man sang from the stage, keeping alive Jacques Brel’s intoxicating song for another generation. “To Dream the Impossible Dream.” That dream, she thought, that dream. All my life, I’ve worked for that dream. A world in which everyone would be able to experience personal fulfillment, community health and ecological harmony. Should that be so very difficult, so hard to achieve? Didn’t everyone share the same dream, at some deep level? And yet for years they had been so few, always trying to do too much, with never enough support to do what was needed. She felt so grateful to those who had kept the dream alive, including those who had crossed over and who were with them only in spirit.

“Regard, Maman, le ballon! Le voila! Le voila!” Mathilde cried out, as the first of a hundred hot-air balloons drifted slowly into view over Vancouver. “Regardez! Les ballons!” came the voices of hundreds more children, joined by the adults, followed by whistles, horns and drums. Then everyone stood up and started singing, “Rêvez, l’impossible rêve” –10,000 voices joined together in song, calling out their hopes for the world to hear.

Yes, we can do it, Michelle thought, feeling the energy of 10,000 hearts. “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world,” a small voice said inside her head, reminding her of the words of American anthropologist Margaret Mead. “Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” “Yes,” she thought, “it is possible. We can do it, if we really want to.”

Guy Dauncey is president of the BC Sustainable Energy Association and author of Earthfuture: Stories From a Sustainable World, in which this was first published in a slightly different form.