Four friends laughing

We have to listen to the scientists and halve our carbon pollution by 2030. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have any fun. (Photo: Helena Lopes via Pexels)

Mid-summer we celebrated my 57th birthday.

I asked friends to join my spouse, Esther, and me at Coxwell subway station. The plan: congregate at this convenient spot and walk together to Little India’s Gerrard Street for dinner.

We waited near the fare booth, seeing each pal ascend the escalator. Up came Larry, Michael and Albert. Soon my daughter, Annika, arrived. I gave a hug to each.

We made a left out of the station and started our march down Coxwell. I’ve known Larry, who runs a contemporary music company, more than four decades. Michael and I go back to adolescence; as teens we played softball at Ramsden Park across from the Rosedale subway stop.

I met these folks in the ’70s, and here I was embracing them in 2019. It was a parade of loved ones from across my life, my history spread out along a few city blocks.

We marched beneath the trees that line the roadway. We talked about walking itself. Albert’s wife said she treks by foot across the city frequently. Strolling arm in arm, Annika and Esther hung back; they wanted to confide in each other without my snooping.

Aging, I increasingly cherish my ability to travel with pals and family self-propelled. This is how I want to proceed into the future.

Recently, I noticed it’s low-carbon. As pedestrians, we leave a light footprint. Michael and I explored the Bruce Trail one summer with minimal harm to Earth’s atmosphere. Many enjoyable things damage the planet; hiking with buddies is not among them.

Torontonians seldom conduct their friendships walking. Often we remain stationary, gathering at theatres, beaches or bars and simply sitting there. But I wanted my birthday to be about foot travel; that movement itself the celebration. Coxwell south of Danforth slopes gently to the lake. I wanted us to feel that descent in our knees.

Walking we have no protective shell. Walking we put up our hands and say, “Look, this is all I am.” It has an openness, a lovely human vulnerability. Our shoes are honest; nothing outside powers them.

The 506 streetcar turned as we arrived at Gerrard. It too is a climate solution. I’d made reservations at a restaurant esteemed for its vegetarian fare. The décor was modest. So too the physical comforts: no air conditioner, only a fan placed near our table.

I’m slender so don’t mind July heat; my robust friends found it tougher. But none complained. They accepted the evening’s premise. We ordered our dishes of spinach and chickpeas and rice. With fondness for each other, we shared our food.

The climate emergency asks us to remake many aspects of life, including ritual and festivity. We assume the transition will be onerous, but it can prove the opposite. Virtually without emissions, a walking party offers the pleasure of agency, reminiscence and camaraderie — a sparkling mix.

We have to listen to the scientists and halve our carbon pollution by 2030. But that doesn’t mean we can’t have any fun.

This op-ed was originally published in the Toronto Star.