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A few factors in the last few weeks have left me thinking broadly about the past and the future: the date roll over to 2020, my 36th birthday, and the feeling of progressing toward finishing the PhD. It has been a mingled set of feelings, but with a sad tone.

Breaking it down into components, part of it is certainly stock-taking about past decisions and outcomes and wondering about alternative courses my life could have followed. That also includes an awareness of how many contingent and semi-random things ended up having a big effect. I have certainly wondered what life would have been like if I stayed in Vancouver after my BA or in Oxford after my MPhil. I have also been feeling aware of all the travel which I have missed since I stopped flying in 2010. In particular, there have been major trips all over the world — to countries and regions which interest me but which I have never seen — which family members have undertaken in that time. I have been feeling a sense of how it’s not always possible to go back and cover what you have missed: the nature of time ensures that missed opportunities cannot be jumped back to, even if they can sometimes be re-created.

Another distinct element has been not thinking about choices or alternative possibilities, but just things which were memorable or important in the past but which are now gone forever. My pattern in life has generally been to have a few close friends who I at least interact with a few times per week. Who is in the set has changed drastically over time, however, with high school and UBC friends, Oxford friends, Ottawa friends and classmates, and then Toronto / U of T / Massey friends. It’s weird to think that there are people in the world who spent long spans as my closest social contacts and who I haven’t now spoken with in years.

All this hasn’t been getting me down too much, and it’s certainly possible to redirect feelings about all these past experiences into a sense of gratitude for having met these people, been to these places, and had these experiences. It’s also not a bad idea to be thinking big picture as I am coming to the end of the PhD and contemplating what to do after. It’s clearly going to be a trade-off between who I want to be near, what kind of work would suit me, and how that will fit in with climate change advocacy. I suppose one big advantage to having this fractured or fragmented past with many identifiable eras and sets of friends is that it avoids the anxiety of having concentrated on one place and one thing and being worried about having too much excluded various other choices.

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The CBC is reporting: BlackRock, world’s largest asset manager, changing its focus to climate change.

This is intriguing in several ways. Climate change action is held up politically in part because right wing parties have embraced climate change denial and the defence of the fossil fuel industry. Even progressive parties seem to take the Trudeau approach of promising ambitious targets for long after they are in power, making incremental positive changes, but then continuing to support fossil fuel development to such a degree that those positive changes are overwhelmed.

If the world’s vast pools of finance capital have begun to seriously question the financial return from fossil fuel investments it could do more to decarbonize the global economy than anything which humanity has done so far. It would also be interesting politically if the aims of a climate activist movement which is largely anti-capitalist and redistributive in its membership end up being adopted more immediately and meaningfully by for-profit actors than by governments notionally accountable to the public. It would be interesting too to see what effect this kind of capital shifting may have on right-wing politics.

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Periodic table mug which my father got me as a gift at Sanko Trading Co. (730 Queen St W, Toronto, ON M6J 1E8)

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436 Markham Street — The front is fake bricks on a thin laminate

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