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Motorizing motivation

Lezlie Lowe will get around to it, eventually.

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Nike---the super-sports mega-marketer, not the fair-ankled Greek deity---has a hold on the essence of humanity.

The company’s most famous sales slogan, “Just do it,” has got us all pegged. Why do I think the marketing giant’s message is so prescient? Because when it comes to just doing it, for the most part, we just can’t.

Actualization---making a move on our ideas---must be humanity’s biggest failing.

OK, OK, some of us are capable of actualizing change. Sometimes.

British Columbia premier Gordon Campbell did it last week, when he became the first premier in North America to introduce a carbon tax, adding to the cost of all fossil fuels sold in the province.

Now Campbell’s being lauded as a savvy, ballsy enviro-hero who has taken a first step toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions in British Columbia by a proposed staggering 33 percent by 2020.

Here’s my theory, though. It’s not just the context of Campbell’s change that’s news, but the fact that he made one at all. He’s coming off as a superman because---my god---he actually got up off his arse and did something.

And so few of us ever do.

We all want some cocktail of self-improvement---to get more exercise, watch less TV, become more educated, get a better job, be kinder to our spouses, read more books, have more sex. Everyone’s got an idea or 20 that they’d like to act on. There’s something to the fact that every third Facebook page you visit has Gandhi’s “Be the change you want to see in the world” listed under the favourite quotes heading.

And recently, the move to concretize our schemes---albeit ones often grounded in, if not fully sane at least interesting concepts---has indeed taken off as a social trend.

There was that couple in Ottawa, who challenged themselves to fill only one bag of garbage over a year. There were Manhattanites Colin Beavan and Michelle Conlin, who went “No Impact” last year, eating only organic and local, producing no trash, and using no paper and no carbon-fueled transportation. A dozen or so acquaintances and I took up a buying-nothing-new challenge I wrote about in this paper; we finished our year in the commercial hinterland February 1. And there’s Esquire writer A.J. Jacobs, whose book, The Year of Living Biblically, I am reading now. Jacobs embarked on an endearing, difficult and hilarious-to-read-about experiment---he followed the rules of the Bible literally for a year, the regulations both well known---no adultery---and those not so much on the tip of the tongue---the ban on wearing clothes made from mixed fibres.

Other people pay big money to get motivated to make change in their lives---you’ve seen the size of the self-help section at Chapters. You can get $100-plus-an-hour life coaching to help you work toward your goals one-on-one or, if you prefer, you can get a stadium-sized kick in the ass. Inspiration-seekers in the VIP seats for Anthony Robbins at the Metro Centre paid $395 to channel their “Power Within.”

But seeking the power within isn’t finding it; slapping inspirational jargon about change on your Facebook profile isn’t changing. Understanding too much TV rots our brains like Pepsi corrodes our teeth doesn’t mean anyone’s rushing their thumb to the clicker to switch off Oprah. (Turn off Oprah!? But she’s so inspiring!)

And when does this failure to graduate from thinking to actually doing really matter? When it comes to the environment.

I mean, don’t you feel like people actually get it? Am I right or am I right? There’s a critical mass of people who are totally clued in to the hammering certainty that we need to change our habits to keep the world afloat.

Problem?

There’s a gap between understanding the ways to slow calamitous climate change and remembering to bring your friggin’ coffee mug when you leave the house in the morning.

Everyone knows they should curb the car. But we’re all still finding excuses to drive.

We’ll be the change. Totally. But only from behind the wheel, drinking from a disposable cup, on the way to pick up the dry-cleaning.

Why?

To answer, I’ll borrow from someone in a workshop with me a few weeks ago who referred to a scene from The Simpsons, where Lisa is having a hard time after joining an all-boys military academy with Bart.

Bart: I thought you came here looking for a challenge.

Lisa: Duh! A challenge I could do!

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