Yes We Canopy!

Birthdays in a pandemic

Hi! I’m Sarah. Minimum Viable Planet is my weeklyish newsletter about climateish stuff, and how to keep it together in a world gone mad. I’m always curious to know what you think.

This week felt heavy. Suddenly the weight of no sleepaway camp, day camp, group camping trips, raucous house parties, or lazy summer dinners with friends hit me hard. I love my work, I love my family, I love my life, and my vibe is generally Ned Flanders in a jumpsuit, but this week I was bummed. I felt like it was self-deceiving to not acknowledge the long-term bumminess of it all. So I’m trying to lean into it and accept that I cannot overschedule my way through this endless summer, or endless year. I cannot just get ‘er done. And that’s okay.

Today is one of my favourite people’s 40th birthday. She’s the kindest and thoughtfullest human, and she’s taught me a ton about the environment, from basic biology to how to talk about nature with my kids to how to care about the planet while still being a person who likes all the things that people like. She’s one of the first people I really got to know who worked on climate full-time. Watching her made the leap less scary for me. 

There’s a little park behind our neighbourhood that doesn’t get as much love as the huge destination park just north of us. For years the only people who knew about it were twentysomething softball players and owners of pocket-size dogs. Thanks to COVID it’s suddenly resplendent with people. People looking for off-the-beaten grass to get fresh air, exercise, and do curious dance routines while twirling large sticks. It feels alive now. There’s still lots of room for everyone to spread out, but it looks more like the cinematic embodiment of a park, with so many real-life extras tossing frisbees and sunbathing.

It’s quiet in the mornings, though. Quiet enough for birdwatching or even a bit of meditation, especially in the little wooded area on the west side. My Lordy-She’s-Forty friend once told me she goes there sometimes for a bit of peace and greenery, and that if you situate yourself just so, you can almost feel like you’re in a deep forest and not a patch of urban scrub. At the time I thought you needed nature in large doses. I didn’t know an inner-city ramble could harbour enough space for birds and contemplation. I didn’t know that nature in small sizes could be just as effective at curing nature deficit disorder.  

Which brings me to the nowness of our current nature needs. We have to get outside and soak up our greenery, but also share the space and cede ground to others. We have to joyfully appreciate green patches but also follow soberly prescriptive rules for engaging with said green patches. In Toronto we’ve had ample drama about how to manage that delicate dance. One way is to appreciate the smaller parks.

I have a more bellicose neighbour who fears that our urban green spaces are in too short supply to accommodate the new developments and the people and pugs these developments will bring. I agree with the need to carve out as much park space as we can, even as it grows increasingly hard for our near-depleted city coffers to manage it. But I also feel that there’s still so much room yet, and that learning to share the green peaceably is almost as important as the nature time itself. (Dodges errant frisbee, listens to crooning, bearded guitar-bro, closes eyes to soak in the neverending day.)

I’ve become the lady who calls up the newspaper with gossipy tips about political malfeasance. I’m worried about our greenbelt, and with fewer and fewer journalists left on the provincial beat, I had to harass one of them into covering the fact that applications to build on the greenbelt can now be approved with a quick Alohomora from a minister. It’s worrisome for the precedent it sets. We need this greenery for myriad reasons beyond the fact that everyone deserves space to toss some devil sticks into the air.

(Another idea for what to do with all that cardboard: make a living card. Thanks to Rebecca and Ben for pun support. Ben’s newsletter is on George Bernard Shaw’s slightly sanctimonious vegetarianism today, so readers of this newsletter may enjoy it.)

THIS WEEK

Talk to me about the state of your local parks!

CUTE PEOPLE DANCING

I loved this -

I thought it couldn’t get any better. Then Ausma shared this:

We are in the golden age of family dance videos.

Hope you are having a lovely week,

Sarah