Thanksgiving

This has been a good couple of weeks to be a leftie, eh?

Occupy Wall Street just keeps growing–and I wish them much luck and the donation of several outdoor heaters, because I’m sure it’s getting cold in NYC at night. Watching the march and the protests online Wednesday evening (you really don’t need cable for anything important) was amazing.

I tried to explain to Frances what was going on, and why they were angry, and how it all happened (“Well, see, some people at the banks did some really bad things and it got the whole economy in trouble–the “economy” is all of the things that people buy and sell put together–so the banks were fine but regular people lost their homes and jobs and a lot of them in America don’t have the money for food and medicine any more. So they are all getting together so they can talk to the government about changing it, because they are very angry and very scared”). She stared at them for a while, and asked, “Why are they all yelling? It’s making a lot of noise,” and then sat down with her stuffed brown squirrel toy and tried to explain to him why some squirrels hate black squirrels, and why they shouldn’t.

“Squirrel racism,” I said. “Yes,” she replied.

“Did they talk to the government yet?” she asked me later. “Did they win?”

“Umm, not quite yet. They’ve been out there for a few weeks already and will probably be out there for a while longer.”

The green movements have signed on, the labour unions are joining in–this is good stuff. Rumours are going around that the White House may actually not allow the Keystone pipeline after all–this after Transcanada has already started mowing up endangered habitats in preparation, for which they are being sued.

You can just picture me madly waving my little green flag over in the corner, cheering.

Meanwhile, in Canada–the Tories aren’t getting the Ontario majority they’d banked on just six months ago. I’m writing this on Thursday, before any of the results are in, so I’m being cocky but:

Ever since I was knee-high to a grasshopper, I’ve wanted to do work that would make the world a better place. Now, when I was five, I wanted to follow in the family tradition and be a missionary–this does not work as well when you’ve left the Church.

I went to University for Environment and Resource studies, never really expecting it to lead to a job that earned more than $20k/year (remember this was 1994), but I didn’t care. I was prepared to be broke pretty much forever if only I could make a difference on issues I cared about. That I graduated and found work that paid relatively well (not fabulous, but when your expectations are poverty-level it takes little to exceed them) surprised no one more than me–but the work itself was uninspiring. The whole system seemed set up to prevent the kind of meaningful changes we all knew needed to be made: environmental assessments focus on trivial projects over those with real impacts, so I spent my time writing screening reports for bridge repairs over drainage ditches or posting signs or building fences; government silos and committee culture mean it takes years to come to the slightest bit of agreement on anything, by which time there’s an election and a new government and you start over from scratch; too much consulting work is focused on how to mitigate a project rather than evaluate whether or not it should proceed. It’s disheartening.

A few years ago, I cracked into freelance journalism by writing articles about renewable energy–solar and wind. I dug deep into the academic literature, as I had access to academic libraries at the time; I interviewed the experts and activists on both sides; I read reports and checked their footnotes and references back through three or four levels to figure out exactly what was said by who when based on what evidence; and concluded that anti-renewable sentiment was based on a large steaming pile of crap. For the articles I wrote, I was paid the princely sum of $50. Freelance journalism does not pay well, at least not in Canada, not when you’re starting out–but it wasn’t about the money.

Then the Liberals passed the Green Energy Act, the FIT program started, and I saw a job posting for a management position working on renewable energy approvals–and I jumped at it, and here I am. Living in my lovely small town with my daughter who is as happy as I’ve ever seen her, doing work every day that makes the world better, cooler, safer for my daughter. I even get paid more than $20k/year to do it, though it was a pay cut from the government job. (Worth it, too.) Then the provincial Tories turned wind energy into a political football and we got kicked around for a year for votes, and wondered what would happen on October 7 if they cancelled the GEA and FIT program as promised with all those big leads they had in the polls….

But here we are. The program is safe, for now, and I get to keep working hard every day to make the world a meaningfully better place.

So thank you, Ontario. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. I will be spending this Thanksgiving weekend feeling very grateful indeed–because what I have, right now, is all I ever really wanted.

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