Every good deed, every positive act, helps the flame burn a little bit brighter, says David Suzuki. (Citizen file)

Column David Suzuki: Shine a light during dark times

We must keep the flame burning.

By David Suzuki

Before he died on Nov. 7, 2016, the great poet Leonard Cohen offered a moving, prophetic warning in his final album’s title song: “You want it darker/We kill the flame.” As we near the Northern hemisphere’s longest night of the year, it seems like a monumental challenge to keep the flickering flame from being extinguished.

In the U.S., human rights, environmental protections and social services are being snuffed out by executive order. Angry rhetoric from an administration that appears to thrive on division is fuelling racial tensions. As drought-fuelled fires rage, storms become more intense and unpredictable, and flooding devastates communities, and as much of the world plans how to meet commitments under the Paris Agreement, the fossil fuel industry and its government sycophants continue to destroy ecosystems in their race to exploit every bit of climate-altering product they can before shrinking markets halt their rampage.

Even governments that say they’re committed to tackling climate change continue to promote pipelines, fracking and other fossil fuel projects and infrastructure. We also face the spectacle of two mad nuclear-armed heads of state trading childish insults, inching us closer to catastrophic confrontation.

Another great poet, William Butler Yeats, wrote presciently in 1919: “The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere/The ceremony of innocence is drowned/The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity.”

It’s not really true that the “best lack all conviction.” But as the days get darker, it sometimes feels overwhelming, hopeless.

We must keep the flame burning.

The light will return to this part of the world and the days will get longer, but we must act to make our lives brighter. The “passionate intensity” (or maybe just banal indifference to suffering) of those who would impose misery on many for the benefit of the few may be little more than the death throes of an outdated, destructive order. But it’s no time to be complacent. We must show that we shine brighter. Knowledge, kindness and solidarity can overcome ignorance and fear.

This truth is coming to light as more and more people reject the forces of darkness. Black Lives Matter. #MeToo. Idle No More. Women are speaking out against those who have oppressed them through rape, abuse and systemic sexism. People of colour are standing up to the violence, hatred and inequality they have faced in countries claiming to value freedom and equality. Indigenous peoples are demonstrating their knowledge and power and demanding an end to colonial oppression. Business people, religious leaders, politicians and citizens are demanding action on climate change and other environmental challenges. People everywhere are developing solutions to the problems we have caused through ignorance and avarice.

We must also work for better education, at home and throughout the world. Stabilizing population growth requires education for women and families, along with access to birth control and family planning. Democracies function best when people cast their votes and base their decisions on facts, critical thought and understanding rather than tribalism and rigid ideology. Those who have learned how to critically assess the overabundance of information that floods our daily lives are in a better position to contribute to positive change.

For many cultures, the winter solstice is a time to reflect, regroup and rededicate. As the light slowly returns, it’s a period of renewal and eventual rebirth. It’s a good time to celebrate that which holds true meaning and brings real happiness in life: friends, family, nature, connection. It’s also a time to reach out to help those who are less fortunate.

Every good deed, every positive act, helps the flame burn a little bit brighter. No matter how small or insignificant our contributions may seem, when we do good in the world, it adds up — and it will eventually overcome the darkness. Even an unconditional smile given to a stranger can cheer that person, who may then offer smiles to others, multiplying the effect and spreading joy.

As we near the solstice and enter the holiday season, I and the David Suzuki Foundation staff wish you peace and happiness for this year and the days to come. Let us all shine our lights to make the world a brighter, better place for all.

David Suzuki is a scientist, broadcaster, author and co-founder of the David Suzuki Foundation. Written with contributions from David Suzuki Foundation Senior Editor Ian Hanington.

Learn more at www.davidsuzuki.org.

Just Posted

Bulldog from Chemainus will be a Wildcat next season

Hawthorne grateful for the chance to play Div. 1 in the U.S. after his BCHL development

T.W. Paterson column: Forbidden Plateau’s lost gold nuggets

“Time and time again the young men scoured the hills…”

North Cowichan will look at hiring staff person to deal with climate change

Coun. Kate Marsh makes motion for a report on issue

Duncan Dynamics gymnasts wide-awake at PJ Invitational

Great start to the competitive season for Duncan athletes

National Energy Board approves Trans Mountain pipeline again

Next step includes cabinet voting on the controversial expansion

Coming up in Cowichan: Bowl for Kids; Leaders of Tomorrow

Bowl for Kids Sake coming up in Cowichan Valley on March 3… Continue reading

Pope’s sex abuse prevention summit explained

It’s A high-stakes meeting designed to impress on Catholic bishops the global problem

B.C. ticket holder winner of $25.9-million Lotto Max jackpot

Next draw set for Mar. 1 with an estimated jackpot of $10 million

Reports of rashes prompt closure of all Harrison Hot Springs pools

Public pool available after Fraser Health shut down all five mineral pools until further notice

Girl heard saying ‘Help my Dad’ in suspicious radio message on Vancouver Island

Police asking for help following mysterious signals from somewhere between Comox and Sayward

Two more measles cases confirmed in Vancouver

It brings the number of total cases within the city connected to the outbreak to ten

B.C. Special Olympics officially underway in Vernon

Athlete’s Oath: “Let me win. But if I cannot win, let me be brave in the attempt.”

Vancouver Aquarium wants your help to name a baby killer whale

The public helped name Springer’s first calf, Spirit, and is being asked to help with the second

Most Read