For months in between the other songs the juke box of my brain ratchets through, and prying its way through the familiar carols, one refrain has inserted itself many times each day. “This could be the last time; this could be the last time; may be the last time, I don’t know.”

And typing that refrain it occurs to me that line can be read more than one way. A way that brings up grief, or one that wakes me to noticing what matters most.

What it has brought up each time it appears in my inner ear has been to jolt me into noticing whatever my attention is focused on at that moment. “Click” Take a brain photo and ask myself, Could this be the last time? … The last time I watch the birds on the feeder? Click. The last time I stir the veggies in the pan? Click. The last time I lie in bed listening to rain trickling through the gutter and melodically dripping into the rain barrel outside the bedroom window, harmonizing with the wind chimes? Click. The last time I walk across the quiet street to pick up mail? Click. The last time my spouse says, “Can I give you a hug?” Click.

I could name the lasts in my life this year as I am certain, you, gentle reader also can. If not the certainties of loss by death of loved ones, the loss of some small act cherished now and previously taken for granted. The “normal” we hear people say they want to return to. So much that was normal either has already happened for the last time, or we need to ensure that it does not return.

When the last time happened, we did not know then it would be the last time. Only later, looking back, do we realize whomever or whatever that last time was, or who we were with who is no more, was the last time. 

Last chance for 350

The atmosphere first exceeded a CO2 concentration of 350 in the late 1980’s.

Due to seasonal and annual fluctuations of the measured amount of CO2, it may be difficult to pinpoint the last moment when the atmosphere passed the 350 ppm threshold. As far as the measurements made on Mauna Loa, that point was in 1990. We have been soaring into the 400 part per millions territory ever since. The latest (November 2020) measurement is 410.8 ppm, dropped from the spring (northern hemisphere) record of 417ppm with the trend continuing upward. We may dicker about what the number should be, and how far we may be able to reduce it and how. But chances are 1990 was the last time any of us alive today will know an Earth with an atmosphere developed over millennia, one that supported most if not all the lifeforms familiar to us 

Governments are tinkering with ways to reduce emissions. At the same time some scientists claim even if we were able to get to zero emissions within the next year or two, we also must find ways to sequester massive amounts of carbon to avert more catastrophic loss of life, the mass extinction already racing into oblivion. We have seen the lasts of more species than any previous generations of humans has experienced. 

Not only that, but we are seeing the loss of the one proven technology for locking up carbon, forests. The forests that remain are losing their ability to sequester carbon at rates needed to restore equilibrium to the atmosphere.

Even if we initiated a massive tree planting and forest recovery effort, it may be too late. 

Before I leave you with this sad prospect for 2021 and beyond, there is still small hope. We have not seen the last of people joining together to help each other and lift each other, our neighborhoods and communities out of the morass of 2020. While no one of us alone can make a measurable difference, and while the wheels of government and business grind too slowly towards changing systems and practices, there is a middle ground where shift can happen. It happens when neighbors band together and social media spreads ideas that neighborhoods, communities and municipalities can coordinate. 

Maybe the day will come when we realize the last gas station has closed or converted to a wind powered charging station for shared rides and the last development using the cul de sac design has been breached by walking and bike paths. There are ways we had yet to do things within my lifetime that have already had their last gasp, or soon will. What comes to mind for you?

A request and experiment:

And this is how we do what needs to be done. When you read this, try an experiment. Copy the URL for this post. Then send a link to someone you know and ask them to post the link to someone they know. Ask each person this is shared with to click the link and leave a comment of one thing they have realized they experienced for the last time, and something else they would be willing to give up to create a new normal, one that is an improvement over the old normal. Maybe something that could replace something being let go. 

How far could we make this experiment go? Could this be the last time we give up and click away before deciding to do one more thing that just might make a difference?

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