I’m Back! (With More to Say Than Ever?)

Hi everyone! It’s Emma! I’ve just started my second work term here at Vigilant. At first, this blog post may seem like it doesn’t belong here, but I hope that it somewhat makes sense by the end. Just bare with me. 

As I ride my old-fashioned pedal bike this evening, I’m quickly and noisily surpassed by several youngsters whizzing around on their dirt bikes, exhaust spewing. I head for the T’Railway, a lovely, recently completed attraction of my town of CBS. Then I’m faced with a decision. Do I bike against the wind first so that I bike with the wind on the way back? Or do I bike with the wind first? I chose against. I later realized this simple choice could be seen as an analogy for something much bigger: the way the world (more specifically, the developed world) has been working for the past several decades. A book that I am currently reading is entirely about this same idea. 

As I follow the trail along the coastline, I notice the waves and how strongly they surge even on the most normal of days. I follow the crests and troughs of the trail itself, recognizing that while some locations sit comfortably above the level of the water, cliffs of smooth rocks separating our community - and our thoughts - from it’s strength, other locations dip dangerously close. Then, as I approach Holyrood, large smoke stacks enter my view. It could be my imagination, but the air smells slightly more foul. 

On the way back I see a few composters in backyards and I smile to myself, but then I remember the tens of thousands of other backyards in my town without one. 

I think about how much I don’t want to lose our beautiful T’Railway, but someday we will.

If you’ve read my other blog post from last May (if you haven’t, you should), you’ll know where this is coming from. This is me. This is how I think and this is what I think about. And quite frankly, right now I am just trying to channel that thought into something that may be somewhat helpful, rather than keeping it to myself like I do all too often. 

With another semester in the books, I finally have another few months to actually think about something other than how I’m going to manage to study for yet another midterm. And at Vigilant, that opportunity is amplified because they actually let you live as well as work - imagine that! One huge aspect of this ‘down time’ for me is the ability to read. Not notes or textbooks, but whatever I want. So of course, one of the first things I chose was a 600-pager on why capitalism is the true cause of climate change (Naomi Klein’s “This Changes Everything”). I’m 300 pages in and so far, it has done what I expected it to - infuriated and terrified me. In a good way? 

The basic messages of this book I’ve already known for a while: The fact that we are narrowing in on our last few years to be able to prevent the most devastating effects of climate change (many effects are already inevitable, and have already been well underway for years); the fact that the oil and gas companies have been fighting against any progress whatsoever in favour of their growth and profits; and the fact that global conference after global conference, we are still getting nowhere because our leaders are too afraid of these massive corporations, and aren’t willing to sacrifice any aspects of their grand lifestyles either. 

Among these things, there are many new things that I’ve learned from this book so far. Things I wish weren’t true. Environmental organizations that are themselves investing in drilling oil. Countries that claim to be reducing their emissions, but are really sending their dirty operations to developing countries so that it’s not legally their problem anymore. Is there anyone we can trust? In short, probably not. We’re gonna have to do this ourselves. 

So once again, I’m at that point - what does Vigilant have to do with this? (I have to admit, it took me much longer to get to this point this time around compared to my last post, but I had to say all that stuff first). Vigilant is part of the solution. How, you say? How can a project management company, focusing in construction, be helping to fight climate change? I’ll admit, it’s not helping a lot, but it is a little. Because the cause; the enemy of the climate crisis, is not carbon, but greed, and that is what Vigilant as a business is wholeheartedly against. 

Although still extremely small compared to the huge corporations that have contributed to this existential mess, Vigilant is showing how business can be done in a way that is sustainable. Clients are put first. Profits are nice, and necessary to function, but they aren’t sought in excess. If money is made, every person benefits, not one. This is why I can work here. Why I came back instead of trying to find a job with an oil and gas company where I could make twice or three times as much. I would not be able to stomach working for such institutions. Institutions which still are not being held responsible for the damage they have been creating for decades. 

I don’t wanna praise him too much because it may go to his head, but if all companies and governments were lead by someone like Terry, perhaps I’d have a little more hope for the future. Perhaps wrongs would be admitted and corrected instead of being covered up by monetary bribes. Perhaps less people would be overworked and underpaid, and therefore more able to shop local, to take the time to compost, to engage in causes that they care about. Perhaps legislation would actually be put in place instead of just being talked about, so that the big guys are forced to pay what they owe to the people doomed to suffer after the forest fires, hurricanes, and floods that are coming their way. It’s a nice thought. But of course, saving Owners money and time on their construction projects is also cool. Green building would be cooler, but I talked about that already (and will likely talk about it again later). 

Anyways, I’ll try to clue up now: What about the bike analogy? I know you’ve been wondering this whole time. 

Most people go with the wind. Taking the path of least resistance whenever possible. Perhaps knowing that the way back will be more difficult; more work, but hoping to delay that reality indefinitely. But at some point, if you want to go back home, you have to turn around. 

This is the way the world has been going and continues to go. This is the way of our current carbon-economy. If we continue to emit; if we keep exploring for more oil reserves rather than locations for wind farms; if we keep going for pointless drives in our pick-up trucks and buying houses four times as big as we need, we won’t feel a thing. Life will continue to be a breeze. But once we reach the end of the trail and have to turn around, it’s going to be near impossible to pedal back against the monstrous winds that have formed. We most likely won’t make it back home. But if we turn the other way now, against the wind, there is a chance. It’ll be hard, but it will be temporary. We’ll know that once we get there, the way back will be relativity comfortable and we’ll get home safe. Or at least that’s the hope. For the alternative, there is no hope at all.

Vigilant has been biking against the wind. Doing something different in an industry that is resistant to change. It isn’t easy, but once everyone realizes that this way works - and is better - the wind will change and we’ll all move forward. This has to happen in far more industries, in particular, the energy industries. We have to suck it up and start. Our actual survival depends upon it. 

So thank you, Vigilant, for not being afraid to go there, and for pushing people like myself, to strive to make similar advances despite the odds.

Until my next wave of frustration and inspiration,

-Emma