Tuesday, February 04, 2014

LIVE from…The Environment!

WELLINGTON — Emma's dream is to be a writer. Typically, someone who dreams of being a writer embarks upon a journey to get a book published. Emma, a 35-year-old New Zealander, has indeed been down that road. But there's something else: Emma's dream has taken a sharp turn from what she expected.

When Emma was 16, she was invited to represent her school at an environmental conference in Hawaii. She'd been hearing about big issues, things like "deforestation" and "losing the Amazon" and, most worrisome for Kiwis like Emma, "ozone depletion." Ozone depletion is a particularly pressing issue in New Zealand, because there's an actual hole where the protective ozone layer ought to to be. Trust me, if you lived beneath a gap in the ozone layer, you'd care too.

Well, Emma returned from the environmental conference thinking that, "It just all seemed stupid. It's not just about 'saving the planet.' It's about saving the human species!" She felt like these issues should be important to everyone, that they should be front page news. So Emma started a youth group of like-minded students who cared about the future of our planet. But, she was just 16 and as she put it, "It all fizzled fast." Life got in the way. Emma got distracted. In fact, Emma got distracted for nearly 20 years.

And that's familiar, isn't it? Don't we all get distracted? Isn't it a lot easier to pursue your dream tomorrow than it is to take even a single step in its direction today?

Recently, Emma began to do some thinking about all this. Not about the environment, not at first anyway. At first, she began to think about her original dream to become a career writer. Her dream had begun to feel like it was fading, and she'd had some dark times with it. But then Emma began to wonder if her dream wasn't tangled up in ego, if maybe she was pursuing it just to prove something to the world. As a teenager, Emma had even gone so far as to fantasize prizes she would win in writing competitions she would enter. "Dreams and ambitions driven by those kinds of aims aren't going to make you happy," she said to me today as we sat in a Wellington cafe.

So how does someone force the evolution of a dream that isn't quite working out as planned? How does someone move forward when the dream is dragging its feet? Well, for Emma, she would reignite an old passion, which would give her old dream to write a very timely purpose. This process, this slight shift, would create an entirely new dream.

Emma asked herself this: "What do I want to write about that I care about?" And with that, she began to tap once again into her passion for the environment. Motivated by curiosity, Emma did some digging. She uncovered some things she simply could not overlook, like the fact that a very critical rung on our food chain is being killed off by warmer waters. Or the fact that our planet may lose a quarter of its animal species by the year 2050. This scares her the most. Once again, Emma discovered her old passion for the environment. And suddenly, she realized that it was this she would write about.

But where? And who will care about it? The issues Emma hopes to tackle are enormous and theoretical. They feel un-tackle-able. The environment feels like somebody else's problem. How can she inspire other people about an issue that isn't necessarily important to them? Not only that, Emma will be facing tough opponents: industry, government, ambivalence.

Emma knows she's facing an uphill battle. In fact, she seems to be quite looking forward to it and to the challenge of writing about it. She told me that if she gets just five people around the world to change their environmentally-unfriendly habits…that that would be enough for her. (Yeah, I asked the same question: 'Just five?' And Emma smiled as if she knew, or maybe hoped, her impact will be far greater. Something tells me it will.)

"In thirty years' time," Emma explained to me, "I imagined myself having a conversation with my granddaughter. I didn't want to her to ask me what I'd done about global warming and tell her that I'd been too distracted to care."

*Disclosure: I happen to know that something very big is brewing for Emma and her new dream. So, what you just read in this week's dream-following episode will be followed up soon by a dream-come-true story. Fingers crossed for Emma and her new dream. See you next week! (And if you're following a dream, write me! I'd love to hear from you!)

LIVE from Mongolia, the book, is the true story of what can happen when you follow your wildest dream. It's available on Amazon (both hardcover and Kindle), in Barnes & Noble, and in bookstores internationally. "Light, humorous, and relentlessly optimistic." -Publishers Weekly review of LIVE from Mongolia 

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