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As though Ebenezer Scrooge himself had descended upon our household, this December I found myself overcome with a sense of compassion and sadness for my six year old as she sobbed, “Mommy! Is Christmas cancelled? Is it?!? Is it? Christmas is ruined! This is the worst Christmas ever!”

Far from being just a funny episode, this experience unearthed a lot for me and my family. The details of this are told in the following six-part story.

  • Part 1
  • Part 2
  • Part 3
  • Part 4
  • Part 5
  • Part 6

“The environmental movement is dead.”

No, I am not saying that I believe this. I truly am experiencing a rekindling of hope caused in part by the experience of the falling of my family’s Christmas tree and my reflections on it afterwards with respect to what I had been learning with my intentional community, Upstart.

Nonetheless, when a family friend to me said these words to me a few months ago, they startled me. Woke me up you could say. As she was older than myself, I felt she had far more perspective on this than I do. I found myself as a result mulling what she said around in my mind for quite some time. Part of me deeply resisted accepting what she said, AND when I thought about it, I could see some truth in it.

Seeking resolution


Offshore oil platform. Wikimedia commons

My inner resistance to was related to my feelings regarding what I had done in the past for the environment. While I shared in my last post how I have felt deeply confused and depressed about how I might respond to the environmental crises, becoming even paralyzed as to what I might do at times, eventually this changed. After going through a lengthy healing process, I started to get involved in trying to bring about environmental change.

In fact, to say that I became involved would probably be an understatement. Amongst other activities, I joined environmental groups, organized meetings, sat on environmental committees, facilitated groups, gave talks and presentations, and wrote this blog. Everywhere that I could see a meaningful difference could be made, I undertook to the fullest of my abilities!

Then, with the birth of my daughter, this changed. I gradually became less active as I discovered that keeping up with her along with all my other commitments proved simply impossible. While I continued my involvement with Upstart and some other smaller volunteer duties, outside my home I stopped doing much work.

As much as I felt troubled by this, I was comforted by all the work I had done up until that point. Feeling confident that I had done my bit, I reassured myself that everything would “work it self out” and that others would pick up the torch so to speak and carry on without me.

These feelings continued even with the continued inaction on global climate change, biodiversity loss, air and water pollution, along with the push for added potentially harmful GMOs, offshore oil drilling, tar sands and coal mining, fracking, mega dams, oil pipelines, etc. all which did not seem to make deep sense to me. Somehow I continued to continue largely blocking out what was happening on the world stage and keep my focus on doing my little bit in my tiny corner of the world.

What time is it exactly?


Doomsday clock. Wikimedia Commons.

Yet, if the environment movement is really dead, could I really afford to stop doing as much as I had been doing? As we often say in Upstart, “What time is it exactly?” In other words, how does it make sense to respond to the happenings of the world based on where we are precisely in the course of history? To use other ideas from my intentional community that I have employed earlier, how might I be responding given the changes that I/we deeply want, need, and value? And what impacts do I want to be having that could help bring that about?

These thoughts came to me when reflecting on how my experience with the falling of my family’s Christmas tree reflects the importance of working in the micro to bring about changes in the macro. In the process, I could not help but notice how this one small act, while as exciting and self-expanding it was for me, still is quite tiny when considering all the environmental damages happening in the world.

Then, an interesting shift occurred in me. Through my process of reflection, I began recalling everything that HAD been going on to protect the environmental since my daughter had been born and I had become less active. And I realized that it was A LOT!

Local AND global action


Wikimedia Commons/Pattymooney

On the local level, I recalled the efforts in my area of the local chapter of the Transition Town movement, which promotes local efforts live more resiliently such as buying local food, Waterloo Region’s community garden council with that has been doing amazing work in promoting community gardens, and Sustainable Waterloo Region work to promote carbon emission reductions in the Region.

At an even broader level, I brought to mind David Suzuki’s Canada wide Blue Dot initiative that seeks to make living a healthy environment a right of every citizen; Jane Goodall’s Roots & Shoots program designed to empower young people to bring about a better future for people, animals, and the environment; and Al Gore’s Climate Reality Project.

I also remembered the Occupy movement, which includes environmental issues in its list of concerns, as well as the Idle No More movement, which encompasses stopping environmental degradation amongst its goals. More recently, the Standing Rock protest over protecting water from pipelines gave a powerful voice to indigenous and environmental issues came to mind.

This is not to forget the efforts of various authors such as Naomi Klein, Thomas Homer Dixon and others, which I have been following to varying degrees, who continue writing passionately about the environment and what we might do. And that, really, is not even begin to scratch the surface of what has been happening!

Leaving behind feelings of isolation

In reflecting on all this, I came to understand that I did not ever have to feel alone! I did not have to feel alone in my efforts to protect our planet as small as might seem to me. It didn’t matter that I was just doing the “work” of change making mainly with my family and intentional community.

Instead, not only could I embrace the excitement of how no one can stop me from doing what I can. I could realize the exhilarating feeling that I am part of a movement that is much, MUCH bigger than myself.

With this, I wondered what could happen if these efforts to bring about environmental change were made plain to others? Could it inspire them to further continue in their struggles to bring about generative impacts to the planet, just as I found it was doing so me?

The giving of a Christmas present

bearInStockingSizedI feel that it is timely to be sharing all this with you around Christmastime. If Santa, or for that matter the enlightened Scrooge, was to bring the world a present, as idealistic as it might sound to say, I feel that a heightened sense of how to manage our impacts on the planet, and the other species on it including ourselves, could be the best one of all. Just as I feel my family amazingly worked together to manage our impacts following our Christmas tree experience, we as a human population as a whole could potentially do to do the same.

I feel even more inspired to think that if I we continue our work together, perhaps Christmas does not, despite my daughter’s fears, have to be ruined. Not this year and not ever. Maybe instead we can find a way to work together to bring this gift both into Christmas present, and many more Christmases far into the future. And that finishes conveying, at the very core of my being, what inspired me to share with you my story of the falling of my family’s Christmas tree!

This ends my series on the falling of my family’s Christmas tree and why I felt the story was worthy of putting on this blog. While it is officially now past the Twelve Days of Christmas, given that it is the weekend immediately after this time, I am choosing to consider this still part of the Christmas season. Before ending my reflections though, I would like to express my deep, deep appreciation for Jean Robertston, “chief wisdom keeper” of the Upstart Collaboratory for playing a crucial role in both developing and curating many of the ideas presented here, as well as nudging and nurturing my learning and understanding of them. I would not have been able to do so without her help.

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Christmas Tree Entry [1]  [2]  [3]  [4]  [5]  [6]


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