Low-Carbon Luxury – 5 – Be Where You Are

If you’re new to the Low Carbon Luxury Series, start here.

Would you rather be somewhere else right now?  Does simply reading that question make you enjoy being where you are a little bit less?

In a previous installment of this series, I wrote about finding the intrinsic value of experiences rather than ceaselessly comparing them to other possibilities.  But our modern economy thrives on comparison.  Deleuze and Guattari (1987) argue that the rise of money as a “general equivalent” allowed wealth and work, which once had qualitative meanings, to be tallied numerically.  The more things are on the market, the greater the field of profit.  If we find someone who will raise our children for less per hour than someone else is willing to pay us for our skills, we can increase our savings.  Quantitative comparison means that anything could just as easily become something else and this tendency pushes our society towards meaninglessness.  If we are always looking elsewhere we do not see what is right before our eyes.  That is why the final tenet of low-carbon luxury is to simply be where you are.

Investors don’t want us to stay put.  They want a “flexible” labour market.  They want to trade one thing for another as smoothly as possible.  Economic geographers (E.g. Coe, Kelly & Young, 2013) write about the ‘friction of distance’ impeding this ideal of instant exchange.  They highlight the difference between absolute distance and relative distance in cost and time.  Air travel reduces relative distance.  Computer technologies reduce relative distance.  They work to make everywhere the same place at the same time.  Capital strives to conquer time and space in order to make ‘frictionless’ exchanges — but time and space are where we live. 

Living means being where you are.  The ‘friction of distance’ is actually the specificity in which meaning is forged.  Being where you are means appreciating your neighbourhood, your city and your local environment.  It means delighting in seasonality.  It means never pretending that the world and the weather do not exist.

Shipping things across the world over night; building highways to rush us through a once-great city in a matter of minutes; designing franchises that can be replicated anywhere; flattening hills for residential developments; flying to the tropics in the winter — these all reduce ‘friction,’ but they also obliterate reality.

Think for a moment about the joy of a snow day — a very particular day, encapsulated in cold.  Why do we invest so much money and fuel into clearing our roads as fast as possible?  Why can’t we just stay home once or twice a year?  Especially when so many of us dread the repetitiveness of our careers, the endless sameness that swallows up years of our life and leaves nothing but an RRSP in exchange.  Working less and living more is also a climate solution, because a slower economy burns less energy.  And if we measure value in terms of meaningful moments, a slower economy will also likely produce more value as well.  So let’s take a snow day when nature asks us too.  Make hot chocolate.  Read a book.  You can go to work again on Wednesday.

Insisting on travelling the same route at the same time of day in the same vehicle for an entire year is crazy.  Think of all the time and effort and municipal taxes we pour into clearing snow for our cars.  Indigenous people just put on snowshoes and walked on top of it.

Being where you are means delighting in the seasons instead of denying them.  In general, this will also save us energy.  In the summer – make a salad with local tomatoes for dinner and give your oven a rest.  In the winter, bake root vegetables, knowing that your oven is doing double-duty and taking a little strain of your gas furnace.  Respecting seasonality also means you will pass on the flavourless imported tomatoes that clutter up our grocery stores all winter – saving yourself for the rare joy of a local heirloom tomato.  Respecting the seasonality of the harvest intensifies the pleasure of eating because waiting an entire year for certain delicacies makes them that much more glorious when they finally arrive.

Perhaps the most insidious and absurd denial of seasonality is our contemporary insistence that indoor temperatures should be 22 degrees all year round – such that many people are too hot indoors in the winter and bring sweaters to the movies in the summer.  Use your furnace, use your air conditioner – but let the temperatures fluctuate with the seasons.  Enjoy the coziness of sweaters in the winter.  Wipe your brow with a damp cloth in the summer.  This will also allow your body to actually get used to the season and make going outside less startling in both summer and winter.

Being where you are will also strengthen your connection to your neighbourhood.  Walking will let you see all the little gardens and shops and unusual trees just around the corner.  If you go for regular strolls, your relationships with the people in your neighbourhood will evolve from glances to nods to waves to full blown conversations and maybe even friendships.  Cultivating things takes time and cultivating the place where you live is no different.  If you drive off in the morning and roll into the garage each night you will have a home, but not a neighbourhood.

If you’re not in a hurry, take a moment to appreciate this dance performance by BBOY CLOUD, a businessman misses his bus – and realizes how much beauty he was rushing past.



Driving in and out of your neighbourhood for every single errand can also impact other people’s friendships.  Take a look at this fascinating chart of friendship between neighbours compared to volume of vehicles.  If you feel like you never have time to go visit friends – perhaps it is because they are all so far away.

Donald, A., Gerson, M. S., & Lintell, M. (1981). Livable streets. Berkely/Los Angeles/London.

Donald, A., Gerson, M. S., & Lintell, M. (1981). Livable streets. Berkely/Los Angeles/London.

BEING WHERE YOU ARE draws together many of the other tenets of low-carbon luxury.  Certainly, working less and living more is a good way to give yourself time to get to know your neighbourhood.  Being mindful helps you to appreciate the little things.  And simply appreciating what your neighbourhood has to offer instead of comparing it to Vienna or Tokyo will help you develop your attachment – and all the interwoven layers of meaning that grow out of nurturing a sense of place.

Staycations can help you to love where you live.  Last winter, my wife and I spend a few days downtown at the Royal York; we ate out and pampered ourselves and swam in their pool and forgot it was winter.  And now, whenever I’m at Union Station, I see the hotel and recall that vacation fondly, those memories are nestled into downtown Toronto in a way that a tropical vacation never could be.  Even a space as dull and utilitarian as the PATH now has a certain luxurious resonance that it didn’t have before.

Staycations save money and reduce our carbon footprint, but they also colour our understanding of our hometown or province.  They help us to be where we are.  If you discover a perfect new restaurant during your staycation – you can go back again in a couple of weeks for a Friday night excursion that carries you a million miles away.

And as more of us choose to turn inwards for inspiration, instead of always looking abroad, the more residents of our city will get a chance to shine.  Think for a moment about what would happen if we spent as much energy and money supporting local sports as international leagues.  Imagine, instead of the Raptors, we had ten teams from different neighbourhods competing throughout the year.  Instead of supporting a couple hundred millionaires across North American – professional sports could pay a couple hundred people a generous, but not outrageous, salary in every single city.  Ten times as many athletes could live the dream of going pro – and we would see these men and women in our local coffee shops and restaurants or taking their family to the park.  And the cross-town rivalries would be even more delicious than national rivalries.  This same increase in equity could be achieved in the arts and other fields – instead of creating global superstars, we could nourish a deep field of local heroes.

Instead of Drake’s scorching sun circling the CN tower, blotting out all the other stars, a hundred local rappers would also get their time to shine.


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We Did it!!

Thanks to your ridiculously generous support, we’ve signed a contract with Pattison Media and we will have one 100 climate crisis posters on the TTC! When we launched, raising $10,000 in 17 days seemed absurdly ambitious — but we’re in the ‘try everything’ camp when it comes to climate action, so we tried.

AND YOU RESPONDED!  Keep an eye out for your ads starting on AUGUST 5th.

You can read more about the thinking behind the ads here: https://climatepledgecollective.org/climate-crisis-ads/

Help us put Climate Crisis ads on the subway!


We have a plan to put ads on the TTC that tell the truth about our climate crisis.

We have a graphic designer willing to do the design for free!

We have a loose concept — simply sharing hard-hitting climate facts that are being under-reported, such as the water crisis in Chennai.

We have consulted with lawyers to make sure we won’t get caught up in election finance laws.

We have consulted with Pattison Media about pricing.

We just need you to kick in a few bucks or share it with your friends.

So please donate now!

We are aiming for $10,000, which will get us one ad on almost every train for a month. At $5000 we could run the campaign, but with considerably fewer ads. It seems like a lot, but we already raised over $2000 almost without trying — because everyone seems to love the idea and people have been very generous!

Two New Toronto Climate Websites and One New Climate Action Group

There is a lot of organizing energy in Toronto these days.  Climate Justice Toronto — which is partly an offshoot of the Powershift conference and the Our Time movement — recently named itself and their meetings are humming.

Canadian Climate Challenge launched a new home base for Canadian Climate Action news with an excellent events calendar.

Extinction Rebellion Toronto is also growing rapidly and has its own website now.

Check them all out!

Two Climate Picnics in Two Cities

We’re hosting another Climate Picnic in Walter Saunders Memorial Park (near Eglinton West Station) on June 8 at 11 am!  Most details are TBA but you can follow along on the Facebook Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1293781314107063/.

Insta post scaled

There will also be a Climate Picnic in Ottawa on June 1!  FB page: https://www.facebook.com/events/1166284583533705/

ottawa picnic

Climate Picnic Thank Yous!

Our Climate Picnic last week has filled us with hope and soaked our nervous bones in lovely sounds and sunshine.   And it wouldn’t have happened without the help of so many people.  We had some great organizers and volunteers including Sue, Ira, Clarence and Brianne.  Sue was especially generous in lining up the circus performers and helping with promotion.  Thank you!

We want to especially thank Stefan Hegerat and Cassie Norton for both playing music and organizing the music.  Other musicians who played just for the good of our planet included Raging Grannies TorontoLaura Tremblay, Liam Smith, Jess Stuart, Arnd Jurgensen, Tristan Murphy, Lea Kirsten and Reenie Perovic (Citizen Jane) and a couple people I don’t have names for – super sorry, that’s the downside of running things in a free-wheeling, low bureaucracy way.



We also had a number of wonderful groups in attendance including:

Canadian Climate Challenge

Carbon Conversations Toronto


Drawdown Toronto

Extinction Rebellion Toronto

Fridays for Future Toronto


Parents for Future Toronto


Toronto Environmental Alliance

Youth Challenge International

Thank you so much for coming out and sharing what you do!  There may also have been some other groups that I didn’t have a chance to speak to, or even possibly did speak to and forgot about, like many climate people, I’m not exactly a social butterfly graced with a good memory.  But double thank you if you came out and I forgot you — email me if you want to be added to the list.

We would also like to thank Porcupine Warriors for all their organizing work in the past, even though I’m not sure they were able to make it out.

And finally mega Thanks to Yana Sery for her many photos and this stunning video:

If you missed it on Tuesday, please check out our climate picnic how-to and start your own picnic: https://climatepledgecollective.org/2019/05/07/climate-picnic-how-to/

Climate Picnic How-To

Our first Climate Picnic had sun, music, flags, blankets, napping and lots of networking amongst people who are both experienced with and completely new to climate organizing.  As parents of a four-year-old, it was nice to bring our daughter to an event that was so kid-friendly.  But having a four-year-old also means it will be hard for us to run as many Climate Picnics as we would like to — so we are encouraging YOU to run a picnic of your own.


Land Acknowledgement:

Climate Picnic, The Christie Pits and all of Toronto stand on the traditional territory of many nations including the Mississaugas of the Credit, the Anishnabeg, the Chippewa, the Haudenosaunee and the Wendat peoples.  Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 with the Mississaugas of the Credit.  The territory was also the subject of the Dish With One Spoon Wampum Belt Covenant, an agreement between the Haudenosaunee Confederacy and Confederacy of the Ojibwe and allied nations to peaceably share and care for the resources around the Great Lakes.  It is also important to recognize that indigenous history is dynamic.  The Haudenosaunee Confederacy was formed from the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca nation by the Great Law of Peace (Kayanerenkó:wa) which preceded and influenced the U.S. Constitution — although “some Haudenosaunee say that, in imitating the Great Law, the United States did so poorly, for their constitution neglects some of the most important aspects: peace, the Good Mind, obligations to the natural world, the importance of families, obligations to future generations, spirituality, respect for women.”(Williams, 2018).  We also encourage Climate Picnic visitors to visit Nish Dish, just down the block from Christie Pits, before or after the picnic in order to get a taste of contemporary indigenous traditions. 

Goals of Climate Picnic

  1. Make Climate Organizing Visible to the wider public.  Millions of people are worried about climate change, but don’t know what to do about it, and thousands of people are attending different conferences and meetings about the issue, often behind close doors.  The primary goal of Climate Picnic is to bring those two groups of people together.  As Myrtle said once we got home: “I think the best thing was that we made climate action visible.  People could see that the people involved in climate organizing are fun and chill and that it’s totally normal to think about and act on climate.”
  2. Regenerative Culture.  There have been a LOT of protests in Ontario this month, and Climate Pledge Collective has been at many of them.  But marching and shouting takes a lot of energy and activists deserve to recharge their batteries.  That’s one of the reasons we chose not to have any speeches.  If people want to just zone out and soak up the sunshine and NOT think about climate for a while — they should be able to do that at Climate Picnic.  Making the event a picnic also meant that instead of trying to scarf down Tim Horton’s and then run to the rally, people had time to eat a healthy meal at a healthy pace.
  3. Educate People on a Variety of Opportunities to Act. At Climate Pledge Collective, we know there is no ‘silver-bullet’ solution to climate change — and we trust in the wisdom of crowds to choose the group or action that works for them and put their skills and energy where it will be most effective.
Photo: Yana Sery  Juggling: Bella Magic


Don’t worry about the size of your picnic.  Just by being visible you will normalize the idea of climate action.  We are scattering seeds here — one of the three people who comes to your picnic might be the next Greta Thunberg.  We’re planning to host another picnic closer to home.  It will be smaller than our first picnic and I imagine less groups will make the trek uptown, but it will be easier for my wife and I to bring our daughter somewhere within cargo bike range and we will be doing gentle activism in a quieter neighbourhood where people might be less used to tuning things out.

Minimum Requirements:

  1. People:  This could just be you and a few friends or two families or it could be a hundred people.  In the case of this picnic, it was a mix of people who heard about it through climate groups, old friends of mine with families and the families of my daughters’ preschool and kindergarten friends.  School and parent groups are an excellent group to invite, because many of them are super-worried about climate, but have trouble attending protests or evening meetings.
  2. Picnic:  Myrtle and I brought fruit, chips, water and a blanket and then bought a vegan pizza from Apiecalypse Now.  Having plant-based, low-garbage take-out within walking distance was a plus for the location.  Other people brought reusable plates and cups and cutlery and food to share.  Serving food can alter the permits required for your event — so it’s best to ask everyone to B.Y.O.Picnic and let guests interpret that however they like.  We also suggested that people bring vegan food.  Myrtle and I aren’t vegan, but we are reducing the amount of meat and dairy we eat for health, ethical and environmental reasons, and we believe that trying it out one meal at a time is a great way for people to get familiar with plant-based eating.
  3. A Sign:  We made a sign by taping printed pages to each side of an old municipal election lawn sign and sticking it in the grass — and it was startlingly effective!  I saw lots of people taking pictures of the list of Toronto Climate Groups on the reverse side.  The files I used to make the sign are here — feel free to use them as is or modify them — I uploaded them as .doc files, which might mess up some of the fonts, but will make the text easier to edit:  Front | Back

    Photo Credit: Canadian Climate Challenge
  4. Guidance about Next Steps: At our picnic, we had our pledge sheets to sign and a climate emergency postcard pre-addressed to John Tory for people to fill out and mail.  We didn’t try to do too much at the event, because we wanted to give activists time to breathe, but people were definitely networking, signing petitions and thinking about what to do next.  You might also want to have some info available about personal footprints, the IPCC report, or anything else you find important.  Adding a brief opening and/or closing speech with concrete suggestions might also be a good idea.  If you do speeches, don’t forget to do a land acknowledgement.
  5. A Location: Choose a park that doesn’t get overcrowded, but has a lot of passers-by — either on a path through the park or a nearby street.  If you choose a large park, pick a site within the park and advertise the selected spot clearly.  Some people wandered Christie Pits for a while looking for us!  Sorry.

Nice to Have:

  1. Promotion: We did four kinds of promotion: online, posters and flyers, a media release and promotion through other networks.  I will talk about the network promotions in the section on experts and groups.  Promoting through a schools or parenting groups is also a good idea.
    1. ONLINE: We made some videos about the picnic, a clear image that stated the goals of the picnic and a facebook event page and we promoted relentlessly on social media.  We are happy to help anyone organizing a picnic with this.  Just reach out to us: contact [at] climatepledgecollective.org.
    2. POSTERS AND FLYERS: We made posters and posted them on notice boards and in cafes near the picnic.  We also made flyers and dropped them in mailboxes.  I’m not sure how effective this was — although we did make a connection with another climate organizer in the neighbourhood who ran us down after getting our flyer!  But, at the very least, it will get people thinking about climate for two seconds while they read the poster or flyer.  I am happy to change the details on our flyer or poster for you as needed.
    3. MEDIA RELEASE: We did one, but we got no response.  It might be best to target neighbourhood newspapers for this.
  2. Activities: These weren’t as necessary at our picnic because we were blessed with live music — but I would definitely suggest planning something like sidewalk chalk or a scavenger hunt with a loose climate theme to occupy the kids!
  3. Volunteers with tasks: We had a few people who volunteered to share our pledges  and other groups had people going around with petitions and sign-up lists — but this was definitely an area where we could have been more organized.  I would recommend having a volunteer greeter who hangs out near the sign to welcome people to the picnic and share info.
  4. Experts and Group Representatives:  At our picnic, we had an atmospheric physicist, a city councillor, representatives from 10 or more Toronto climate groups, a government policy analyst and others.  Most of them just relaxed on a picnic blanket, but they were also talking to one another and drawing the climate community closer as well as explaining their work to the general public in a casual way.   This meant sending a lot of emails, but I was able to bring people out, partly because I did the pre-work of attending group meetings for different groups and building connections over time, partly because I am privileged to have a lot of social capital and partly because these groups are eager to reach the general public.  Your mileage may vary here, but I’m happy to help make connections in Toronto for you.  Inviting other groups also meant that many of those groups promoted the event through their lists and networks to achieve cross-pollination.



  1. Live Music: This is a tricky one — because asking musicians to play for free is not cool.  The way it worked out for us was that I have met a few musicians at climate organizing meetings and got them involved early and they reached out to other musicians that they knew would enjoy jamming in the park (we will shout them all out with links in our Thank You post coming soon).  So run through your mental rolodex (yes, I’m that old) and see if you know any musicians who are also committed to climate action and ask them if it’s something they would like to help out with.  Or, if you are in a good financial position, just pay them.
  2. Performers: A professor in my department who helped with the organizing was generous enough to pay for a stilt-walker and a glass juggler.  They were a hit with the kids and gave the parents a moment or two to actually talk to one another.  The stilt-walker is probably most useful if you are expecting a large turnout.
  3. Banner:  We made our banner with an old sheet, projected the letters with a screen projector, traced them with chalk and then painted them by hand.  56673180_779318095787567_4022861983719096320_n
  4. Permit or Equivalent: For the most part, you won’t need a permit to do this — these are public parks and it’s just a picnic.  If you are expecting a large turnout, if you are planning to sell things or serve food in an organized way, if you are planning scheduled performances or if you are going to set anything up you may have to looking into permit requirements for the chosen park.  We had the possibility of a large turnout and we had musicians playing, so we filed a ‘notice of demonstration’ with the Toronto Police Services just so we would have some paperwork in case someone complained.  Ask me for info on that if it is something you might pursue.

CLOSING THOUGHT: If you divvy up the tasks, trust people and plan in such a way that the event will be successful if one or two people aren’t able to fulfill their commitments — this is a pretty easy event to organize.  A friend who goes to a lot of music festivals looked around in surprise at the end and said “Wow.  No clean-up.  I guess that’s the advantage of throwing an event for climate people.”  And he was bang on — people brought their own food in reuseable containers, picked everything up and took it away with them.  The people who care deeply about our planet are good people and you can mostly rely on them to take responsibility for themselves and for the places they visit.