Rose Coloured Glasses

Forget music… it’s celebrities that make people come together. Last week, I was within earshot of five. The first encounters took place at the nnual Saint Patrick’s Day Parade, which I saw for the first time. In past years, I found myself on a float, helping a friend advertise the scuba gear shop where she worked. There’s nothing quite like jumping around in a wetsuit and screaming to a crowd for two hours in the freezing cold, especially when your friend is a mere foot away, swimming in a tank of warm water. This year though, we opted for the more traditional parade experience, including freaking out at the sight of any familiar face.

Paul Martin was the first one I recognized, as he walked through the crowd shaking hands. I was waiting for one face in particular, and my patience paid off when the CTV news float made an appearance. Folks tossed their beer cans into the snow to wave one of the many free flags being handed out. Mitsumi Takahashi was coming down Ste. Catherine St.! This woman has been the face of the evening news since I was a toddler, pointing at the television, saying “Kakahashi” as my mother tried to correct me. She waved politely to the crowd, who took my enthusiasm and quadrupled it. By the time the parade had ended I was exhilarated! Free goodies! Famous faces! What more could anyone want?

As it turned out, those two hours in the snow left me with a cold. Several days of nose-blowing and Tylenol later, I learned that music man Sam Roberts would be hosting a Youth Action conference on climate change. I begrudgingly dragged myself out of bed and onto a bus headed downtown. Sam Roberts played a song, warming the crowd up for David Suzuki’s appearance. As he took the podium, the 3,000 or so students around me rose to their feet at the sight of the guy from CBC’s The Nature of Things. It wasn’t until he began to speak, confidently and casually, about the environmental and historical significance of our gathering that my focus shifted. This was the moment, he assured us, when we could make the choice to change our consumptive habits and vote in favour of supporting a more sustainable way of life on our campuses. Al Gore then made a presentation proving global warming’s devastating and irreversible effects.

The crowd slowly began to filter out as the event reached the three-hour mark. My mind began to wander back to the memory of the beer cans and flags left in the snow only a few days beforehand. How many of those revellers had attended the conference to commit to changing their habits? Suzuki had blamed the media for focusing on the antics of celebrities when there are bigger issues to be considered, but was I any better? It was hard being confronted by my own hypocrisy, but at least I can recognize it as the most noteworthy event in my past week.

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