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LANA PAYNE: Of climate change and lupine seeds

Lupines. — Stock photo
Lupines. — Stock photo - Contributed

Years ago, when our daughter was a little scrap, I found this lovely children’s book entitled: “Miss Rumphius (The Lupine Lady)” by Barbara Cooney.

The main character, Miss Alice Rumphius, marched to her own drum, a woman of great independence during a time when such feminist inclinations were not at all popular.

Miss Alice was influenced by her grandfather who encouraged her to do something important, to leave the world a more beautiful place. She had many, many adventures in her life, travelling the world.

But it was not until late in life, now living by the sea, that she found a way to leave her world a little more beautiful by spreading lupine seeds throughout her childhood hometown.

I have always adored lupines, the vibrancy of the purple with a hint of pink amidst the wildness of uncontrollable green grass and yellow wildflowers.

Beauty along the roadside.

The fact that they can grow anywhere it seems, between rocks and in ditches, is in itself a thing of beauty.

A sign of bursting hope.

We read “Miss Rumphius” often, one of those well-loved books, memorized by age four by our daughter — who just graduated high school this June.

For many parents, the end of the high school years is one of those happy/sad moments.

I have been thinking about how quickly the school years went by (perhaps a little too much). A blink really.

Remembering all the special moments including the guilt-mom moments such as the time I forgot to pick her up at Kindergarten. I ran, panting and very late, into the school and there she was, sitting outside the principal’s office, legs swinging, tiny backpack on the floor, reading a book and waiting for her mother.

And I have been reflecting on this book about the lupine lady and its message of leaving the world a better, more beautiful place and what a tall order this is, especially in this age of gross inequality and climate urgency and with it too much climate denial by those with power.

We are passing on quite the mess to our kids.

The young people are right to hold us in contempt as they call on the world to act and consider the dystopic future we are leaving the next generation.

Their generation.

Every day there is another significant report warning us of how little time we have to stop the ravages of global warming.

Every day politicians dither or worse deny.

And while Conservative politicians fight the carbon tax in the courts and argue over it for callous political reasons, it is regular people who in the end will be hurt the most by this lack of action, lack of planning and general lack of inspiration to take climate action.

It is a scary time.

Workers are feeling insecure, worried about what climate change will mean to their future, their security. Politicians have either forgotten that angst as they attempt to do something or are plain taking advantage of it in order to win elections.

It’s no wonder young people are more anxious than any other generation. Their parents are feeling economically insecure and they — being the most educated generation in history — know we need to do things a lot differently.

Psychologists are now examining “climate or eco-anxiety” and the feeling of hopelessness experienced by many young people about the state of the planet. It’s partly why the climate strikes inspired by Swedish teenager and activist Greta Thunberg are so important. Taking action is critical to building the hope needed in order for change to occur.

In the face of these global strikes by mostly young people, we are seeing a clash of political ideas shaped by a generational clash over climate action.

The world has never more needed coherent, clear, brave, bold leadership that puts people and the planet first.

Perhaps the fearlessness of Greta Thunburg will get us there.

She is not alone in inspiring a different kind of response from world leaders. Jacinda Ardern, the prime minister of New Zealand, is offering up her version of a better world is possible.

Brave and compassionate, Ardern is rewriting the social contract with citizens and rewriting what governments should be doing.

This spring she tabled a “well-being budget,” with all new spending going to five areas: bolstering mental health, reducing child poverty, supporting indigenous peoples, moving to a low-carbon-emission economy, and flourishing in a digital age.

She says correctly that GDP cannot be the only measure of how a country and people are doing, as it does not ensure progress or improved living standards for people.

In powerful and meaningful ways both Thunberg and Ardern are spreading their version of lupine seeds. We need the rest of the world to catch up – because our kids deserve us to do more than leave them a damaged planet and an equally damaged and broken economic system.

They need us to be fearless, to find the lupine lady in all of us.

Lana Payne is the Atlantic director for Unifor. She can be reached by email at lanapaynenl@gmail.com. Twitter: @lanampayne Her column returns in two weeks.


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