The 100% Possible March in Ottawa on Sunday was a sight to behold. People smiled, laughed, chatted about the issues. Smokers crossed the street to light up and there were choruses of “sorry” as people occasionally stepped on the back of another’s heel in the throng. All the best Canadian stereotypes were on offer and it was wonderful.
I arrived at City Hall shortly before one o’clock, one of the estimated 25,000 people who took part in the march. The crowd wore green. In fact, there were more shades of green than there were flavours of ice cream being doled out by the staff at Ben & Jerry’s who were covered in the sticky stuff but still grinning like mad.
The 100% Possible climate march was a send off to the Canadian delegation to Paris for COP21 (Trudeau is already there). One marcher’s sign read: Go to Paris with gusto! It felt like standing on a dock waving Bon Voyage! to the passengers of a ship.
I came to the march vowing to stay positive. I’ve worked on environmental issues for almost thirty years and I’ve been down the giddy path of hope before only to have it turn into a dead end. I gravitated towards the dogs in the crowd. (Dogs are great. All they want is a good bum rub and a few pats and warm words. They helped run interference with my cynicism.)
I do think it’s possible that we can get to 100% renewable energy by 2050. The human race has more than proven it can pretty much do whatever it wants, whether by design or by accident.
Recent polls say that people are willing to spend more to protect the environment. I’ve seen a lot of these polls in my day and I am not convinced that the stats of these are any different from the results of earlier polls. People often say one thing and then do another so I think a better poll question would be: What behaviour would you be willing to change to protect the environment?
Because behaviour change is really at the base of what’s needed to protect life on Earth. (Climate change activism isn’t about saving the Earth; it’s about saving life, ours and the lives of everything we depend on. The planet itself doesn’t give a rat’s rear about you and me; it’ll be floating in space long after the human race disappears.) Yes, we need money and political will and research and development and best practice sharing and all that good stuff. But first we need to actually change what we do. It’s no good standing on the lawn of Parliament Hill waving a sign if we’re not going to change what we fundamentally have to change: ourselves.
In his novel, Making Money, Terry Pratchett wrote, “People don’t like change. But make that change happen fast enough and you go from one type of normal to another.”
So maybe the question we should be posing is not whether a 100% renewable future is possible by 2050. It is. The question really is: Can we change fast enough?