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The Power of One

Gay Nemeth

MCA Advisor

A graphic passed across my computer screen the other day. A bunch of pink lines1. They showed how the corona virus spreads. One person spreads it to three others, then they spread it to three others and on…

It was a video.

It then proceeded to show what happened when one person took action to stop it’s spread. The effect was profound.

This brought home, for me – The power of one.

Sometimes it feels like you are spinning your wheels, you are without traction, without effect. We can’t always see the effects of our actions…

But we, each of us, walk in this world, and create our own unique footprint wherever we go.

We are, each of us, always transforming the world.

We are at a point in time like no other. Ahead we face further travesty as carbon emissions continue to warm the planet, as plastic replaces fish in the oceans, as species are going extinct at a disturbing rate. And all, caused by our own (mis)doings.

This coronavirus is our wake up call.

It’s not a gentle rub on your back coaxing you out of your slumbers, but a ringing!, jaRring!, klaxon meant to bring you quickly to full consciousness.

The similarities between this corona virus story and the climate change story are eerie. (It’s like a message from the earth… a dress rehearsal before the big show!)

Both are global in scope.

Both are democratic (no one escapes the effects.)

Both require us to act now for an result in the future.

Both will reveal whether these actions are effective by showing no change. (or little)

Both will cause more suffering for the already disadvantaged.

Both exhibit positive feedback loops2.

Both require collaborative action to solve.

Yet, both are influenced by the power of one.

This COVID19 crisis is our pivot point.

The whole of human society has embedded the use of fossil fuels to drive all that we do. The use of this source of power is the very thing that is creating the climate crisis.

The momentum, and the weight, and the deep roots of this system, is daunting.

How do we stop it?

How do we change direction?

Where do we begin?

Then along comes this itty, bitty corona virus. Like Muskrat of the Indigenous Creation Story3, it is showing us what can be accomplished.

Over just a couple of months, we have seen the dramatic reduction of carbon emissions4.

This virus is giving us the opportunity to reset how we interact with the non human world.

This virus is giving us the vision we need to restore balance in our relationship with our Mother Earth – the source of all life.

We are living in an exciting, powerful time. A time like no other.

While this virus has deeply affected our economic system, as it’s danger recedes, (and it will), we will have a choice to make – to re-establish the old way of interaction or to make a course correction.

Quite literally, if we are not setting bold, new goals and policies right now – today – in April 2020 – we will not make the changes we need to avert the worst of this climate crisis. And you probably know the litany5 of bad effects by now.

This is our moment to create the world anew.

I predict a period of innovation, of creativity and entrepreneurship. I predict a time of collaboration. I see a world where each of us gifts the world with that which brings us individual joy.

It is a time for reflection; it is a time for imagination; it is a time for deep love and caring; it is a time for humour and comraderie. It is a time for active hope.

And it is a time for us all to come awake; to follow our bliss; to bring our best to the world, and mindfully exert our own unique power of one.

(I need you!)


P.S. Always remember that you are absolutely unique. Just like everyone else.

Margaret Meade



1. pink lines

2. Positive feedback loops

A positive feedback loop occurs in nature when the product of a reaction leads to an increase in that reaction.

ie. the climate crisis – (so many to choose from!) As the arctic heats up, permafrost melts, releasing more greenhouse gases causing more warming.

ie. the corona virus – as more people are infected, the medical system becomes overwhelmed resulting in more casualties in other medical cases.

3. Muskrat of the Indigenous Creation Story

Note: In the Indigenous culture of oral tradition, stories are the receptacles of knowledge. They have a history and provenance which speaks to their truth.

“This is the song Keewaydinoquay taught me to sing, as a way of showing respect, before I told a story that I suspect was an Aadizookaan – a story that is considered a cognizant being and that knows when it is being told.

Hey oh way

I tell a story,

A story from the Ancient Ones

Hey oh way

I place Asemaa [tobacco] for their spirits

Hey oh way

I tell a story.

Listen! And Learn!

Stories are alive, and they go where they wish”

from “Plants Have So Much To Give Us, All We Have To Do is Ask”, by Mary Siisip Geniusz; 2015


The Creation of Turtle Island

The world was covered in water. There was a log floating on the water and all the animals were holding on to it. The birds flew high to see if they could see land. The animals remembered being told by their grandfathers that there was Earth at the bottom of the water.

Wolf, being the biggest, decided to go to the bottom to gather the sediment there. He did not make it. He returned empty handed.

Beaver tried to go to the bottom, but he could not make it.

All of the animals took their turn and tried to go to the bottom to gather the sediment.

The smallest of them all was Muskrat. It was his turn, so he went down. He pushed himself right to the bottom. He gathered up some soil from the bottom and he started to head back up.

Wolf was concerned about Muskrat because he had been down too long. He went looking for him. He found Muskrat floating in the water. He retrieved him and brought him to the surface. Muskrat had drowned, but in his paws that were tucked to his chest, was the soil from the bottom.

Wolf took that soil from Muskrat and put it on the back of Turtle who sat on the log, and from there the great land was created.

The smallest and the weakest was the brightest of them all, and today, we walk upon Turtle Island.

That is the creation of North America.

By the teaching of the grandfathers.


I first heard this story, as told above. Muskrat – the least of the creatures – was the most important person in this telling. The lesson I took away, was to realize you might be surprised to know who will muster their resources and come from behind to win the day.

(The power of one!)

I have since learned that this is a part of a greater Creation Story. And in it, there are many other lessons to discover. It’s fun to listen to the various tellings, to see the variations, and note where the emphasis is placed, and to find all the wisdom buried within.


(Here is the telling of the story by an Algonquin elder

4. Dramatic reduction of carbon emissions

5. Litany

Some noteworthy effects of a changing climate;

ever warmer weather



extreme weather events (hurricanes, tornados, etc)

food shortages

resource wars

rising water levels

acidification of the oceans

increased incidence of infectious diseases(!) (ie. Zika virus, dengue fever, malaria, Lyme disease)

And more!

Coming soon!

A post shared by Mississauga Climate Action (@saugaclimateaction) on Aug 27, 2020 at 2:53pm PDT

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