In 1969, during the Vietnam War, John Lennon and Yoko Ono held two week-long Bed-Ins for Peace in Amsterdam and Montreal, which were their non-violent ways of protesting wars and promoting peace. It was a memorable event, iconic even, representative of how one voice can be the voice of millions, heard by millions. The success and impact of the event is debatable, but one thing is certain, their voice was heard.
The Bed-In has since been re-created, re-interpreted and re-used by many over the years, in protests of various kinds by a number of artists since 1969. Well, I’m no artist and I’m not making a protest but the opportunity to take a stand and raise my voice for something I care about is what this event is all about.
In the spirit of John Lennon and Yoko Ono, I’m bringing the Bed-In to Calgary. I’m not protesting war, or promoting peace, instead I’m using the Bed-In to highlight another issue that affects us all: the future of our city and our world.
On June 24th I’ll be hosting the Bed-In for Sustainability with my friends at the Obasan Mattress shop in Kensington. Obasan has graciously allowed me to use their beautiful new store with the bed in the window to stage this Bed-In for Sustainability. Joining me will be several community leaders in the sustainability movement to share their insights and ideas about making Calgary a more sustainable city.
You’re welcome to join us too. Stop by the Obasan store at 106A 10th St. NW in Kensington anytime in the afternoon to see what it’s all about.
In the 16 years years I’ve been living and training in Calgary I’ve seen it transformed from a small-ish city in the West to a mega-sprawl, cosmopolitan, traffic-ridden, smoggy and congested, yet prosperous, dynamic, vibrant and innovative city with loads of potential. With the recent election of Mayor Naheed Nenshi I feel more optimistic than ever that Calgary can remain prosperous, dynamic and vibrant while tackling the issue of sustainability. I look at massive cities like Chicago, Seattle and Copenhagen and see the amazing things they have accomplished in such a short time, like inner city on-street bike lanes, green roofs on office towers, city-wide composting, green space revitalization and so much more, and I know that we can do the same in Calgary.
We’ve been slow to start, but the potential is there.
I’ve made some progress in reducing my own personal impact; by installing a new high-efficiency furnace, low-flush toilets, energy star windows, a front-load washer, and a smaller energy efficient refrigerator, by composting, ditching the clothes dryer, replacing light bulbs with CFLs, riding my bike, buying local meat and produce when possible, choosing Bullfrog Power, and a low-flow shower head… with much success. Our little house only uses on average 170 kWh of electricity, 4-6 cubic metres of water and 2-7 GJ of natural gas each month, significantly below the national household averages of 800 kWh, 26 cubic metres and 3-23 GJ of natural gas each month.
And I joined up with Clean Air Champions to reach school kids and deliver the message about the issue of climate change and air quality. I signed up to David Suzuki’s Play it Cool program for athletes to offset carbon emissions from travel. I helped establish a Sustainability Committee for Speed Skating Canada.
But lest you think I’m tooting my own horn, let me tell you, I’m no saint. Far from it in fact. I’m well aware of the impact my occupation has on the planet. I fly all over the world to race in circles inside massive, artificially refrigerated indoor speed skating arenas. I sometimes drive to places when I know I could bike or take the train. When I renovated the bathroom some of the leftovers went to the dump. I buy stuff I don’t always need. And why do I make these choices? Because it’s often just plain easier to jump in the car, throw stuff out or throw down the plastic. Somehow, no matter how little I drive, what improvements I make to my little house, or what kind of food I buy, none make up for the massive toll my lifestyle has on the world around me.
But what if became easier to make a better choice? Where jumping on the train is easier, faster and cheaper than taking the car, or renovating an old bathroom means having easy places to recycle or reuse old materials, or where the things you buy last forever? The great thing about Calgary is that it is constantly changing. There is so much potential for this city to grow in a sustainable, intelligent and progressive way that will make it easy for people to choose sustainability. Complete streets, bike lanes, work where you live, community shared agriculture, public transit and so much more can, and should, become a natural part of our lives – where you don’t even question car vs. bike because it’s so obviously bike.
So, the Bed-In. The idea is to have a conversation. A conversation about ideas and solutions. A conversation to determine a vision and establish a goal for what we think this city could become. A conversation about how we can choose to make that choice so easy it’s not even a choice anymore.
When I first started speed skating I was terrible. I mean really terrible. I was a skinny, weak, awkward little kid with gangly limbs. But I had potential. And over the next twenty years I transformed myself into one of the best speed skaters in the world. You have to start somewhere, and to you, Calgary, I say let’s start today. It may take twenty years but we just might end up being one of the best cities in the world.