Part of the THIS IS THE MOMENT series.
September 30th 2019
On Friday, September 27th, Greta Thunberg came to Montreal to speak a little, but mostly, to act as a beacon—a shimmering example of what it means to have the courage of one’s convictions.
She, with her diminishing body (at least that’s what appears to be happening to her as her self-sacrifice to the cause of climate change siphons her energy), but growing presence on the world stage, is doing more than it seems possible to ask of any human of the twenty-first century.
She spoke very briefly and shyly before the march began. Her presence was enough: Montrealers were galvanized. Somewhere between 300 000 and 500 000 men, women and children showed up to the “Strike for Climate Change”.
My city was so beautiful that Friday. The turnout: unimaginable.
I had been invited by my good friend Ann to join her and her party at Mount Royal (or Mont Royal). Alas! Though every cell in my body—even the malignant ones !—wanted to be there….
- To REPRESENT;
- To add one more person to the crowd;
- To YELL how critical the imperative to radically transform our way of living on Earth is.
I just couldn’t:
- Stand for 4 to 6 hours;
- Risk exposure to pathogens in such an immense crowd;
- Walk around for hours and hours with no reasonable hope of finding a bathroom (chemo leaves poisons in me that multiply my visits to the toilet as my body’s filters fight like mad to clear it all out).
So, sadly, and instead, I sat for hours in front of my laptop (we don’t have cable) watching the CBC live feed–as unscripted and as raw as such things get.
It wasn’t what it could have been (for me that is), but I did feel part of that happening. I felt joy. My heart beat faster as I scanned as many faces in the crowd as I could, trying to gauge the energy levels there on the ground, and the benevolence, the generosity of spirit, the commitment of the marchers.
They were THERE, commingling, and I was tucked 60 km away in Hudson, but I received so much from them. I was hope-filled. Maybe Montréalais (and Québécois?) are truly ready for the massive change that MUST begin—the complete paradigm shift we will hopefully survive—still connected and caring about each other and about our home planet.
It’s a maybe I want to put stock in. A few weeks ago, as a bunch of us—all of them friends who were originally Simon’s and Christian’s from work and other parts of their lives, men and women across several generations—played D&D together, one of the men, a dad in his mid-forties, said, regarding the Strike for Climate Change that still lay ahead: “Forget my generation [he’s Gen X], and every other older one. My generation went for the money, just like the rest did. it’s humans under the age of forty who have to take the reins and change the world.”
I think that intuitively, we all felt the truth of his words—the “You can’t teach and old dog new tricks” fatalism. But why accept that view?
The week following Montreal’s Greta-inspired strike, a La Presse columnist wrote a piece about the energizing effect of the event and the high so many were coasting on in its aftermath. And then he doused his readers with cold water. With the next federal election just a few weeks away, despite the regular sounding of the climate change alarm and the hundreds of thousands who marched with Greta in Montreal, according to the most recent poll, climate change is the number one issue for only 21% of Quebecers, whose top concern is taxes and the economy: the deciding factor for 36% of Quebec voters. Of no comfort at all is the fact that in the rest of Canada, 43% consider taxes and the economy most important.
Despite the negative effects of chemo on my eyesight, this rapprochement with death that I’m learning to accept as I live with advanced cancer has given me a different sort of clarity. When you live outside of the daily presence of death and dying, it’s so easy to cozy up to the illusion of a slippery, sliding timeline; to think of the future as something always there…undefined but lying waiting for you…And what gets lost is the urgency to live fully, which requires that you care about every moment.
How Greta Thunberg came to live with that sense of urgency is a mystery to me, though I suspect that there are far more humans like her than we might think—people who want to live long and full lives but who take not one day of it for granted. Such mindfulness can be a burden. It makes of some of us canaries in a coal mine.
On September 27th, I felt love for Montrealers and gratitude towards Greta Thunberg.
If you accept, as I very much do, that our beliefs, thoughts and intentions affect the physical world, then you may have experienced Friday’s march as a noetic event. A moment of elevation.
The people I know who were there on the streets, united in this single cause, felt it. All of them. Ann and her group. Cate and her gang. Anne-Marie and her companions…
Montrealers came together and lifted their faces to the sun, the blue and the clouds, and were passionate and impatient and sincere in their worry, and jubilant, offering their prayers for a future for all. It was a marvel to witness.
Montréal, je t’aime.
I’m always at risk of having hope, lightness of being and belief in the future trampled by my cancer and its effects.
Greta and my beloved Montrealers have helped redirect my energy. OURS is a fight worth engaging in. A future for everyone. The collective joy of being alive and filled with shared purpose.
This IS the moment.