Polar Bears, Peter’s Wisdom and Beyond Me

by Jessica Delaney, Principal, Strategic Communications + Engagement

A few nights ago I was having a bedtime cuddle with Peter. It’s important you know I was sharing the bed with about 12 stuffed polar bears, 5 big blankets and little Peter. I asked him: “When you are older and we are vaccinated, would you like me to take you to see polar bears? We could go to Churchill together.” He looked at me and started his million miles an hour questioning. He said: “How would we get there? Where is it? How far/long would it take?” I explained we’d need to take a plane and then drive. He got tears in his eyes and said: “No… you know why? Because that all causes pollution and pollution causes global warming, and global warming is making ice melt and without ice polar bears will drown.” Basically, it was one of the stupidest ideas I have ever had and was just short of murdering polar bears with my bare hands. He then said: “I would want to see them mom, but it’s better for polar bears if I don’t.” Wow… did I mention he just turned five?

That’s the greater good folks. That’s looking beyond your preferences and wants. In engagement, we teach and practice that we engage based on impacts. People engage based on how they perceive they will be impacted by a decision, but now more than ever, I hope we can engage people on what they think is right and good for the whole, not just themselves. Taking the long view and looking beyond ones preferences is hard, but it’s in fact necessary for communities to move forward and to create significant change. It looks like having dialogue around how do we support people experiencing homelessness, while recognizing that having supportive housing on your street might be a hard change…but a necessary one. It might mean recognizing that what’s in a parks master plan isn’t your preference and might even change how you use a park, but it balances everyone’s needs…even the pickleball players.

2020 has shown us that we control precious little beyond our own actions and reactions. So, my hope is that I can channel Peter and encourage others as well, to think beyond just “me” and my preferences for how things “ought” to be, and think about the long-term, the whole community and how things “could” be.