August 2015

 An Inconvenient Insomnia


Try spending 2 days with Al Gore and his team and you might end up with so much to think about that your brain can’t stop for sleep. At least, that’s what happened to me a few weeks ago while attending the 2-day Climate Reality Leadership Training in Toronto. This event, led by Mr. Gore, enriched by panelists and guest presenters, and enlivened by 600 participants from dozens of countries, was indeed life-changing.

I admit it: I am a tree-hugger, hippie, greenie, granola eater, bean sprout. Pick your label. But life being the practical matter that it is, in recent years I have been more involved in my career and personal life than in social activism. And then, a couple of months ago I learned about this training session and decided to follow-up. The application form included questions about other volunteer activities and environmental projects. Very importantly, it also asked for a pledge of “10 acts of service” over the next year. This emphasis on real-life application reminded me of Abdul-Baha telling us: “Knowledge is the first step; resolve, the second step; action, its fulfillment, is the third step.”

It is far beyond the scope of this column to report on the actual content of the 2-day event. But to explain my insomnia, I will say that on the 1st day Mr. Gore devoted 2 hours to updating the presentation featured in his Oscar-winning film “An Inconvenient Truth”. And in this update he showcased dozens of extreme weather events around the world. My heart ached as I saw photos and watched videos of these tragedies. One part of my brain processed them from a scientific, economic, and social justice perspective. Another part of my brain kept thinking about how many of them there were, how many I had admittedly forgotten about, and how fortunate I am not to have lived through them directly.

Yet they are part of my personal reality. And this is perhaps the point of the training and of this column — a reminder of the interconnectedness of us all. As the Baha’i Writings state: “For every part of the universe is connected with every other part by ties that are very powerful and admit of no imbalance, nor any slackening whatever”.

Fortunately, there was also hopefulness within Mr. Gore’s presentation and the training as a whole. We trainees learned about signs of improvement around the world. Some are small (a town with an improved system for generating power) and some are huge (technological innovation, high-level government initiatives). The overall message motivates me — and surely many others – to share the news even as we engage in the work ahead.

Mr. Gore was determinedly non-partisan, characterizing the politics as systemic and not partisan. Our government leaders, whatever their party or affiliation, need to act with their conscience and our planet in mind. And while I believe that humanity has a future, the question is whether we will act justly and quickly enough to protect our planet, our home.

As individuals, we need to be diligent in our daily habits, the purchases we make, our lifestyles, and the people we entrust with our future. Surely doing so will help us all to sleep better at night.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2015