My Dad

A few weeks ago my dad passed away at 87 years old. I’ve been truly scared for years that this moment would come. I deeply feared what losing my parents would do to me. Would I unravel? How can people possibly go through something like this? I’m not afraid of my own death, just that of the people I love.

Now that my dad is gone, I have this sense of introspection, that this is what it’s like to not have a father. I’ve been very consciously trying to navigate through this grief in a healthy manner, to let the pain do what it does, and also to learn from it as much has I can.

I find that the wave analogy still makes sense, intermixed as it is with sadness, insights, and sometimes odd realizations. One of them has been that grief is geographically located: trying to make sense of this loss is not the same in a hotel room as it is at home. Another is that my dad won’t be there to witness who I become next. I’m not a kid anymore, but I somehow never realized that knowing my dad was there to see me grow as an adult was still an important part of me.

You just never know what feeling is around the next corner.

At the celebration of life that we did, I spoke and tried to put in a bottle many of the recurring thoughts everyone kept bringing up about him. This is what follows, expanded on with the help of not having tears streaming down my face.

~•~

My dad was an eternal optimist. I always knew it, and sometimes worried that he wasn’t facing hardship the way he needed. But in the last few years of his life I really appreciated seeing him take everything with a positive attitude. It really made supporting him that much easier.

He was always inclined to see the bright side of things, and maybe that’s why he always seemed so lucky. I always envied him for it.

Me, I was only lucky when I was with him. Like that time when we went to a Blue Jays game in Toronto, the last time he was able to visit a few years ago. I caught a tee shirt during intermission and knew as it landed in my hands that I would turn around and give it to him. He put it on immediately and he had this wide smile on his face. He was so happy.

He always had luck on his side, even when things went wrong.

In December 2019 he had a big stroke that did some damage. He unfortunately lost his driver’s license and the apartment where he had lived for 24 years. However the silver lining is that this forced move to an old folks home came just as the COVID pandemic started, and I didn’t have to worry about him because he was vaccinated, well fed, and taken care of by the staff at his new residence.

I was impressed to see how well he adapted to this new life. He had lost the routines that had defined him seemingly forever, like having breakfast at the restaurant every morning, or sitting outside on his balcony to read and take notes. But still he called the new place his “little paradise” and he created new routines for himself that he held on to for the rest of his life.

~•~

More than anything he was my biggest fan, and I know that’s also true for my sister and brother. No matter what I did, I knew that when I called he would put me on that pedestal. Sometimes that felt over the top, but now? Now I think that’s the way he loved us, and I have to find a way to continue without him cheering me on.

He always supported us in our projects with enthusiasm. It’s in good part thanks to his encouragements that I went to live in the U.S. a long time ago. I almost chickened out of it because that was such a big change for me. But he told me to go for it, and a few years later I came back married, father for the second time, with a new professional career. I owe everything I have today to that decision.

Wherever we lived, throughout the years my dad kept visiting us. He loved traveling and he came down several times when I was in the U.S. That includes the time he came to help me move and pack the moving van, at 63 years old. Then later he came to see us in Alberta and more recently he came several times to Toronto.

~•~

I will miss him.

I will miss hearing his excited voice when I would call on the phone, as though I was the most important person in the world. That’s because to him, I was. I could call in the middle of the Super Bowl and he would say hold on, let me turn off the TV.

I will miss when he would inevitably pull out “his list” because he had questions or he simply had things to talk to me about. He had always made it his habit to write these things down, and so inevitably, when talking with him the list would make its appearance eventually. It made me laugh every time.

I will miss the trust that he had in me. When we gave our opinion, it was important to him. He was happy to let me take responsibilities. I sometimes felt it as pressure. Could I possibly always make sense and do the right thing? Now I realize that it didn’t matter. He loved us and trust was implied.

You just can’t buy these things.

~•~

In the end, I will never forget when he told me he was ready. He knew it was time before I did. When I came to that realization as we talked, my eyes immediately filled up with tears. At that moment, I saw the focus in his face change. He instantly went from inwardly handling his discomfort to outwardly taking care of me. His blue eyes looking at me with so much love and clarity. He was at peace with it. He gestured for me to hug him and he patted my back as I cried.

I cannot be more grateful for the clarity that he gave me in that instant. That was a true gift. One that I will never forget. Going through such a loss is better when you’re not afflicted with doubt. Taking care of the people you love is also letting them know that the end you’re about to meet is what you want.

He had a good life, and it was so much more than I could ever put into words here. But he is still inside us, in our values and the way we see life. It continues. It’s a cliché, but one that is genuine and true for me now.

Thank you, Dad.

Starting to Write a New Chapter

It’s been an emotional week for me as I announced my departure to the Mobile team at Coursera.

It’s a small team but we do so much. Everything learners can do on coursera.org, they want to do on their mobile device, and it all goes through this team. I’m lucky to have worked with these lovely and talented people. And I’m humbled by the gratitude they expressed toward me this week. As much as I was Tech Lead, they are the ones who made me look good. I merely supported them in organizing and focusing their talent.

I’m glad I got to make significant contributions to both the iOS and Android apps. I used to expect it in the earlier days of mobile. But that’s something that has gotten progressively harder to come by. Nowadays, virtual nobody ever hopes to find a hybrid developer.

While I wrap things up and do my best to leave my team in a good place, it’s time for me to start looking at what I’ll be doing next. Not knowing is stressful, but strangely it feels like a familiar place. I’ve been here before from the many years I spent freelancing. I’m feeling open to ideas. More than anything I’d love to work on a climate friendly initiative. Going back to freelancing? Maybe. Sticking with employment? Depends what’s out there.

So let’s see what this next chapter of my life has in store. Hopefully one day I’ll reflect on this decision and realize that it was just part of the grander scheme.

A Paw Print Apparition

After my dear 8 year-old cat passed away in September, we made arrangements to have her cremated. Considering what she meant to us, and still under the shock of her loss, we wanted it to be a private cremation where we could be present. After much research, my wife found a pet crematorium run by a lovely couple located on a large wooded property well outside the city. That was perfect.

The day of the cremation, it was raining. We were allowed to take our time saying our last goodbyes and we were able to place her ourselves into the crematorium. It was surreal. It didn’t seem possible to me that she was gone. While we waited, we took a walk on a trail that they had through the woods. Being surrounded by nature was soothing, even though it rained a little bit.

On our way back, we walked without hurry on the gravel path to the house. And there, among thousands of other ordinary rocks, I spotted one. It was flat, round, about 3/4 inch wide. On its face, a pattern was drawn. One medium circle with four smaller ones arranged in a fan around it. Clear as day, a perfect paw print.

I stopped walking, staring at it. I stood there trying to understand what I was seeing. My wife had seen it too. Out of a million rocks, we were both struck by the same one. And before either of us could formulate any coherent words, she instinctively reached down. She barely touched it, but in an instant the image smeared. Rain drops. The tip of her fingers had released the surface tension that held the manifestation in place, causing all the drops to combine and spread. And now it was just another wet rock.

It’s only then that we looked at each other and realized we had both witnessed the same thing. As perfect and implausible as it seemed, for us it meant something. Our precious darling was OK.

I believe in facts and science. But I also believe that we interpret the world the way that we need to in order to make sense of it. Not all that exists needs to be explained rationally. Not everything that happens has to make sense. That day, five rain drops fell from high up in the sky and landed in a perfect artwork on a single rock. We shared a moment that was real and that made us feel more at peace.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago. My wife was acting a little strange. As I walked into our bedroom, she was following me closely. And there on the bed was the sweetest little kitten, seemingly only a couple months old. Instantly my heart melted at the sight of this little bundle of fur staring at me with her big round eyes. Inside I worried, was I ready for this, after such a difficult loss?

That’s when my wife revealed how she had found this kitten. And more specifically when she was born: the same day we had cremated our other cat.

She hadn’t looked for a litter born on that date but there it was when she visited the breeder’s web site. She went to see them and she said she knew. As she related all this, we both remembered that improbable paw print on that rock among a million others. Some things just don’t need an explanation.

That night our new kitten fell asleep in my arms. She instantly became my companion and has since been following me around everywhere. She’s laying down right next to me as I write this. And you know, I’m a rational person but let me tell you this.

I lost many cats over the years who meant a lot to me. And in this kitten I keep seeing traits from all the other ones. We see her do something, and anyone in the household can instantly tell you which of our previous cats that comes from. It can be a pose she takes, a sound she makes, a habit she has. She’s only three months old but seems aware and smart way beyond that.

I am acutely aware that we sometimes see what we want to see. But that paw print, it will always mean something to me. The pain I felt losing my orange fire was devastating. And somehow she knew that. I thought that paw print meant she was OK, when really, now I know it was her making sure that I’m going to be OK.

The Increasing Urgency of The Emergency

It’s hard to disagree with anything in Extinction Rebellion UK’s latest announcement:

[D]espite the blaring alarm on the climate and ecological emergency ringing loud and clear, very little has changed. Emissions continue to rise and our planet is dying at an accelerated rate.

Their latest plan to have 100,000 people occupy the UK Parliament in April is bold. And for the life of me, I can’t think of a reason not to try.

Despite Extinction Rebellion actions, despite Greta Thunberg, despite marches all around the world, despite countless governmental declarations of a climate emergency, despite climate technologies springing up, despite some news organizations finally giving climate change a serious look, what progress have we really made?

Global emissions are still rising, our carbon budget is still being spent at an alarming rate, social inequality is still growing.

The maddening thing is that many of us would change career in a heartbeat if doing so could make a difference. Most of us would choose a better way of life if the choice was made available. All of us would pull the right levers if we only had the means and power to access them.

I buy LED lightbulbs, I avoid eating meat, and I drive electric, but really, it’s not what every single one of us does that will make a difference, it’s what governments and businesses do.

Moving My Social to a Canadian Server

After years of being on mastodon.social for social media, a few days ago I moved to mstdn.ca, a little Canadian corner of the Fediverse. 🇨🇦 This site is still the source of truth, and as always you’re welcome to follow me using RSS. But now whatever I post here gets cross-posted to mstdn.ca/@steveroy instead.

That was way overdue. I had been looking to move for a while. Thanks to the growth of the Fediverse, there are now thousands of servers catering to all kinds of interesting communities. The mastodon.social server is a very general instance with people from all over the world. Nothing inherently wrong with that. But it has less of a community feel and its local timeline lacks an underlying theme. Which really is one of the points of the Fediverse, a collection of independent and interacting communities.

My interests are varied and I didn’t see myself joining a server specific to design or software development, for example. When I’m on the web, being Canadian is a big part of my outlook, so I was pleased to find mstdn.ca. When I read that it has official backing from CIRA, that made it a no-brainer for me.

It’s very pleasant to finally look at my local timeline and feel commonality with other people who are posting. We’re all people who care about Canada experiencing the same weather and going through the same events, whether it’s sports, politics, what have you.

In a more general sense, it’s been both odd and instructive to read the impressions of people who are new to Mastodon coming over due to The Great Twitter Meltdown. Social media doesn’t have to be owned by a corporate entity. Social media should be by the people, for the people. And who knew that buying Twitter for $44 billion and running it like a personal playground is what the world needed to realize there are better options?

Dealing With Bad People at Work

If I worked at Twitter, I would get fired so fast, but not before letting management know exactly what I thought of the idiot in charge and the policies being put in place.

I’ve been in that position before and I was never shy to say what I had to say. I have zero patience for people who walk into a place with their big shoes and think they know better than everybody. I will also not suffer anyone who is disrespectful or who tries to talk down to me.

My attitude is, you know what, I am where I am because I’ve built my career on being honest, kind, and hardworking. I don’t need you. If you want my skills, then you know where to find me, and you’d better ask nicely.

At my first job out of college, every once in a while they would move the engineering team to the production line. Presumably due to lack of work. But the third time I said no. They fired me and I went home. A couple days later, they called to offer me contract work.

Another time, I stood up to my manager after he had bullied one of my coworkers during a meeting. He tried to spin it around and pin it on me. I stood my ground and told him that was fucking bullshit.

At another place, the CEO kept insulting people using expletives, in the middle of company meetings no less. His underlings were like, “aw that’s just how he is, he’s so funny”. At the end of my contract, my manager, who was right under him, offered to convert me to full time. I declined and told him at length exactly what I thought of the CEO.

Not everyone can afford to lose their job, but for those of us who do, we have to call it the way we see it. When something is a fact, you don’t even have to be mean about it.

Orange Fire

On August 22nd I wrote that my cat might live another week or another year. Crushingly, it turned out to be one month.

Even though her last month was filled with worry and tears and ER visits and more medication than I thought possible for a small cat, there was also so much care, so much love, and so many purrs. I will forever cherish those last few weeks I got to spend with her.

She was the smallest in the household but arguably had the biggest personality. She was orange, brave, curious, loving, and a true friend. She lived life on her terms. We always saw her as very independent, yet going over the thousands of photos, it struck me that she was always there, whether we were working, cooking, renovating the house, or watching a movie.

I’ve been reading about grief and this bit seems like a good lifeline for me right now:

The process of healthy grieving is not to “get over” the death of a loved one, but to integrate the experience of loss into present life.

We put her down a few days ago but it’s still a shock to talk about her in the past. She’s still everywhere in the house, everywhere I go, everywhere I look. So it will take time. No life is too small to touch you in profound ways.

She will be with me forever in my heart and memories, and I will miss her orange fire forever.

A Million Purrs

On Friday night, our 8 year-old cat was struggling to breathe and wouldn’t eat or drink. We called all the veterinary ERs and none could take her. At our wits end, I was resigned that she might die. It was a tough night but somehow she made it to the morning.

However her respiratory rate was alarmingly high. We finally found an ER that had room, only to learn that she was in congestive heart failure and the prognosis wasn’t good. We were devastated, considering whether to put her down. But the veterinary doctor got on the phone and convinced another hospital with an ICU to take her.

After a nail-biting drive where I thought she would die in the car, they put her in a box with oxygen and a load of medication. They told us we had to wait and see. I was emotionally exhausted. We went home Saturday dreading the phone would ring with bad news.

We did get a call Sunday morning: finally she was improving. By the afternoon, her respiratory rate was normal and she had started eating. We went to see her. She was drowsy and weak but purred loudly when I took her in my arms.

She continued improving through Monday, and with much relief we took her home by end of day. After everything that happened since Friday, I’m amazed she’s home.

At the same time, I must come to grips with her new condition. A few days ago, we still had several years ahead of us with her in our lives. Now, she could die next week, or next year. The doctor did not dare say any longer. It’s now about medication, managing her stress level, and luck.

Still, I will enjoy whatever she has left. Any other time is a million times better than last Friday.

Don’t Look Up Is Not Supposed To Be Good

I watched Don’t Look Up on Netflix recently. It’s taken me a while to digest the movie and I’ve been struggling to put my thoughts into words. I still don’t know whether it’s all well-formed in my mind, but I do know that I would regret waiting any longer and remaining silent. After all, the climate is one of the things I spend the most time thinking about, and certainly one that I’m the most vocal about online. Honestly, I just don’t want to look back later and see that I failed to underline what is happening.

There are already plenty of good reactions out there for you to read, so I don’t intend to bore you with my take on the movie itself. If you’re curious how serious climate activists feel who have been begging the world to do something for 40 and more years, George Monbiot’s piece in The Guardian is a good place to start.

What I would like to do instead is take a step back and consider whether a movie about a civilization-ending catastrophe is supposed to be good in the first place.

The fact that critics don’t like the movie is completely irrelevant. Some things are just not meant to be evaluated and ranked. This isn’t meant to be a great film in the artistic sense. Criticizing its artistic value is like criticizing a real life event. Of course the characters’ reactions don’t make sense. Of course the plot is incredibly frustrating. That’s the whole point. Because what it portrays is what we are doing right now in real life. As the climate crisis becomes ever more dire every week, what gets media focus doesn’t make sense, and the people trying to raise the alarm feel incredible frustration.

Don’t Look Up is holding up a mirror and asking us to take a good long look at ourselves. If you have any doubt about that, the very fact that we are criticizing the movie is itself a meta reflection of the satire portrayed in the film.

Don’t shoot the messenger, the saying goes. In this case, it would be laughable if it weren’t so tragic that we are debating the artistic value of the messenger, instead of debating what to do about the message itself.

That mirror the movie is holding? Guess what, you’re not going to like what you see in it. Yes, many times while watching I felt like grabbing the closest object—the remote, the dog, the Christmas tree—and throwing it at the TV. It made me sweat, it made my heart race, it made me want to scream. And in that sense, Jennifer Lawrence’s character made perfect sense to me. If you care at all about what we’re doing to the Earth, this isn’t a comfortable movie to watch. You’re not supposed to enjoy watching it. If you do, you don’t get it and we sincerely hope a light goes on in your head. Because a sensible reaction would be to ask yourself questions. A good start is something along the lines of “what the fuck are we doing? What is wrong with us?!”

Questions. There are lots of them. I found myself wondering about the movie’s effectiveness. Is this the right movie for right now? If the goal is to wake people up—at the very least the oblivious people who are just cruising along while our way of life destroys the very air, water and soil we depend on—does it succeed at doing that?

The plot is definitely Americanized, the rest of the world being mentioned in passing with a lot of hand waving. Of course, considering the unprecedented craziness and navel-gazing we have witnessed coming out of the United States over the last 5 years, it’s arguably fair and well-deserved. But in this age of siloed Facebook nonsense, how many polarized people will actually be touched by such an angle? How many people will choose to sit through an anxiety-inducing watching experience, except those who are already sold to the magnitude of the problem?

I hope it’s more people than I think. Climate activism is very much about grinding away at the problem, in the same way that wind and water very gradually erode hard rock. Gaining traction is a slow process. Today we are nowhere near where we want to be in terms of mass awareness and societal action, but there has been constant progress nonetheless. If you had told me 10 years ago that the climate crisis would now be mainstream news instead of the purview of tree huggers and niche groups, I would not have believed you. Yet here we are considering a Hollywood movie on the matter.

So in that sense, yes, definitely, every single little bit that chips away at the problem is welcome. It’s not one single thing that will trigger the wave of awareness and willingness to act that we need, it’s a lot of small repeated ones. And if Don’t Look Up contributes to that, then it’s A Good Thing.

I have wondered whether the movie is accurate in its portrayal. I don’t know that “accurate” is even the right word here, but let’s run with it. Is Don’t Look Up accurate enough? Does it show us the true science? Are the shallow TV hosts and narcissistic politicians too over-the-top? Some people, critics certainly, if not people in the media, think that Don’t Look Up is at worse an exaggeration, at best a satire of our reality. And sometimes I agree. But then, I don’t.

You only need to read the reactions of a few professional scientists and life-long activists to know that, for some of us at least, this is all too real and dire. These folks are worth listening to. Just like other great people in the past whose convictions brought change we now consider obvious.

An angle I didn’t see coming, in the movie, is the fact that technology is pitted against science. Tech is described as the “big guys” and scientists are considered amateurs. It’s a revealing angle that underscores how, overall, we don’t really—or not completely—value science. It’s the nerd we all knew at school. It’s the mad scientist who plots to take over the world in our stories. It’s never glorified. That is reserved for the likes of Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, our tech lords. But tech would not exist without science. Tech is only how science manifests itself in our daily life. And too many people don’t know that.

The treatment that the scientific method gets in the movie is especially frustrating. The scientific method is absolutely vital and central to everything that science represents, the very least as a tool for continually refining and polishing ideas. So the fact that the layperson doesn’t know about it, as mirrored in the movie, points to an important lack in our communication of what science is and how it benefits us. Maybe it’s time to realize that science is not the enemy.

In retrospect, I was reminded of Tomorrowland, the movie. At the end, David Nix from the future reveals that they tried to warn people of what was coming. But the people gobbled up the apocalypse with a large bowl of popcorn, and asked for more. That is an effective criticism of our love of catastrophe stories, but few people paid attention to that message.

Is Don’t Look Up a good movie then? No, not in that sense. But is it what we need? Is that how far gone we are? Well, maybe it is.

The Making Of Climateer

Climateer is an app that I recently released in the iOS App Store. As the tag line says, it’s an attempt at making climate change something you can see, something you can monitor to make up your own mind about what’s happening. Whether that will prove to be successful is still up for grabs, but I thought it would be interesting to explain the story behind it.

I started working on bits of code that eventually turned into Climateer about 3 years ago. I was tinkering with a much smarter form of social media where each post could be programmed to be interactive and to perform actions. That is itself an idea that merits its own post, but for now let me just say that one of the ideas was that a post could fetch data and display it graphically.

I had done a proof of concept of a post that, given:

  • A URL to a source of scientific data.
  • A regular expression describing the data format.

Would download the data and display it in a graph. That was all good and exciting but the smarter social media idea itself required more resources to pull off than I could put together and that effort just sat there unused.

A little while later, I was preparing for an upcoming climate march. Increasingly feeling like something has to be done to communicate the importance of what is happening, I was trying to think what I could do. And I thought of the smart post proof of concept in which I had used the CO₂ data from the NASA Vital Signs site.

I just wanted people to see the CO₂ level. I thought I’d just make a quick app that displayed the creeping CO₂ level in a Twitter-like timeline. So I wrote code that downloaded the historical data, extracted the data points, and displayed each one as a “post”. Reusing the graphing code from my proof of concept, I even made it possible to tap on each one to view the full CO₂ level graph.

I went to the climate march with this app in my pocket. I don’t know what I was expecting. I had put it together at the last minute so there had been no time to make it a shippable product, let alone submit it to the App Store for review. I also chickened out from showing it to anyone there because it seemed silly to show it to people who obviously already understood the urgency of the situation.

So I came home and continued working on it.

I added support for the global sea level data. I also did some UI work like adding pull to refresh to update the timeline.

And that was nice so of course I didn’t ship it. I added support for RSS feeds, not because it was super important, but just because parsing RSS feeds in Swift using XMLCoder is so much fun and displaying an RSS article in a WKWebView is so easy.

And then I realized it didn’t make sense for all these data sources to be built into the application. Oh the horror of having to ship an update each time I wanted to display something from a new source. So of course I created a JSON file on my web site that listed all the data sources, and modified the app to dynamically update its internal list from there.

I was happy with that. Did I ship it? Of course not. Greta linked to the Global Footprint Network and off I was adding overshoot days as my next pet feature. However this one was not a simple x/y data set, so I had to devise a new mechanism to describe it in my JSON source file in a way that the app could display.

That totally worked. My app was now able to handle different types of data sources while having minimal knowledge of them built-in. The next logical step then was to not ship it and implement the ability to extrapolate the data for cases where the available data did not extend all the way to today.

Obviously I could have polished what I had built up to that point and submitted it to the App Store. But there is so much climate information out there, each one more tantalizing than the previous one. This time I set my sight on the MCC carbon clock. Because displaying how much time we have left until doom was obviously a hard requirement to make this a shipping product. And at this point the app is agnostic, so I had to invent yet another way to describe this to the app without hardcoding it in.

This rigmarole of adding features went on for over two years. These episodes were interspersed with periods of polishing work that consisted partly of me repeating that if I can just finish x then I can ship it. But then I another possible feature caught my attention. This process is of course a very important part of software engineering that many developers out there who work on personal projects will handily recognize.

Over time I added support for entering personal notes, iCloud syncing, displaying country flags, showing temperature data, running the app on iPads, running the app on macOS, properly attributing data to their original sources, exposing customization settings, navigating the timeline with a scrub bar, displaying explanations of the data, and accepting donations. I also made countless iterations on the user interface. Not mentioning the making of an app icon that I thought I could stand looking at every day.

As time went on, the added complexity was not helping my case. Implementing features and moving to others without completely finishing the previous ones is rarely a recipe for success. The more features you have to polish, the more daunting the shipping effort seems to be. There was also the added anxiety that while I was doing this, climate change was continuing to get worse.

All that to say you sometimes have to just go for it. There is a ton of polish I feel is still missing in Climateer version 1.0. Better onboarding. Better UI. Better graphs. You name it. But at the end of the day, I’m happy it’s out there and I really hope some people find it useful.

The False Narrative of Changing our Behaviour to Fix the Climate

The Guardian published the results of a 10-country survey on behavioural changes people are willing to make to combat climate change. Foretelling the authors angle, two of the titles in the study presentation are “Accelerating behaviour change for a sustainable future” and “Sharing the responsibility for climate action”.

The implication from this form of phrasing is that we as individuals are responsible for climate change. We are not. And going down this path is buying into a narrative that has been peddled for years by business and industry with the specific intent to clean their hands of that responsibility.

We saw it with recycling. We were led to believe that if we recycled, things would get better. They did not. And the reason for this is that we are not responsible for materials being overproduced and wasted. Individuals don’t mass produce goods. Businesses do.

The premise of the study is therefore incorrect and the results void of any usefulness. A more sustainable future cannot come by asking people to change their behaviour. Expecting that this will happen is, in effect, saying that businesses are waiting for consumers to change, and if consumers don’t change, businesses won’t either, and therefore we’re all fucked and it’s our fault.

The madness in repeating this narrative is infuriating. Primarily because it’s entirely backwards. We are part of a system, so change has to come from the top down. Governments must put laws and incentives in place, businesses will then change how and what they produce, and finally consumers will automatically make the more sustainable choices.

Some of the survey questions frame the problem using “I” in a way that are immediate non-starters.

I don’t think there is an agreement among experts on the best solutions to preserve the planet

I disagree with the question. There is no set of solutions that will fix everything. We don’t need the best solutions and debating which ones are the best is pointless. We need all the help we can get and so we should apply all solutions. If a solution gets us one drop in the ocean closer to our goal, we should use it.

I lack information and guidance about what to do

I think I’m more informed than the average person, but again, the problem is not that every single citizen needs more information in order to solve the climate crisis. We do not hold the levers that can make these changes happen. I don’t have a billion dollar chequebook and I don’t control an oil multinational. Do you?

I believe environmental threats are over estimated

What I believe does not matter. If the captain of the ship says we’re about to hit an iceberg, what I personally believe has absolutely no bearing on what needs to be done. It’s not our job as citizens to decide what is the level of threat. We are seeing first hand during this pandemic the terrible damage that occurs when individuals unilaterally make societal decisions. We cannot ask the patient to decide on a course of treatment. That’s the doctor’s job.

Of course we do have to change our habits. Some of us don’t know it yet and that is fine. Because the problem is not us. We only consume the products and services that are offered to us. The idea that businesses are waiting to offer cleaner or more sustainable products until consumers start buying them is ridiculous. If the only car available is an electric one, that’s what people will buy. Businesses have to offer cleaner products and services. And it’s the government that has the power to force them to do it.