Sitting in my car on the drive home from work today, I tuned into my favourite radio station, CBC Radio 1. I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of a conversation about a proposed cycle track in Calgary, which if approved, will run on a one year trial basis beginning in the summer of 2015. I was thrilled to hear this topic being discussed, because I recognize the need to make investments in sustainability focused projects that will address our cities continued growth and reliance on fossil fuels, and I know that there has been a lot of conflict surrounding this specific project. Now unfortunately, I’m not going to write about the bike lanes, although I totally should given how exciting the prospect of having secure cycling lanes and a sustainable transportation system is; but instead I want to focus on the medium that allowed this conversation to take place. Let’s talk radio.
How do these projects become reality? I've been interested in the cultural component of sustainability for a long time, because I firmly believe that we have the potential to create a sustainable society, but lack the will to make it happen. I think change needs to start at the human level first; through inspired conversations, group consensus, and motivated individuals who are willing to take action after buying into an optimistic worldview. This is where radio comes in. It’s open structure allows for fluid, semi-spontaneous conversations with intriguing guests about topics of public interest; and the real potential of radio is that it creates a real time, two-way dialogue with the public. In this case, it allowed cycling experts John Collier from CAN-BIKE, and Dan Godin from Bike Calgary, to speak about the potential impact of the proposed bike lanes and the overall cyclist experience. And while they both shared some interesting information, what was more exciting to listen to was the response they received from CBC listeners. Hearing people call in with their questions and comments was inspiring, and I myself wanted to join in on the conversation (darn you distracted driving laws!). What I heard emerge from the conversation was an exchange of perspectives through shared dialogue, resulting in something resembling a consensus.
And you don’t get this same kind of result with other mediums. Print is impersonal, and TV is to the point, and neither are very good at creating a two way conversation. When trying to discuss possibility, values, and development, there is really no better medium than a focused radio program. As people come together on these issues, they create a clearer path forward for an idea or project to follow, and in this case we shall hopefully see some motivated Calgarians purchase a bike and cycle in support of this project. Now let's change gears (get it?!).
Being the diverse medium that radio is, CBC changed over to a documentary series called In the Field with David Gutnik at 1pm. I love these kind of shifts, as they balance out the station’s intellectual and emotional programs, embracing the totality that is the human experience. This week, In the Field featured 3 animal stories in honour of Earth Day.
The first short was called “The Whale’s Choice”, a story about an encounter with a humpback whale off the coast of Alaska. Without spoiling too much, I’ll tell you that it was one of the most beautiful stories I’ve heard in a while, having brought me to tears in face of the staggering intimacy of the moment described. If you have a moment, I recommend you listen to it.
Now after reflecting on this amazing listening experience today, I began to think about the impact this programming has had on my life. I've grown to love the radio so much that it’s now rare for me to turn on my own music anymore, except when I want to turn on the latest episode of CBC’s “Ideas” podcast on my phone. I've learned to love the chaos of the dial, accepting whatever comes my way as a kind of adventure. This openness to possibility has introduced me to all sorts of new ideas, music, and people that I would have never searched out myself, and I’m thankful for the the exposure. It's allowed me to listen to others, and reflect on my own life. It’s become a friend I can look to for inspiration each day, pushing me to listen more, learn more, feel more, and work harder to make Calgary better. And most importantly, it has connected me to where I live, making me feel truly at home. I feel like I've failed to describe the impact that radio has had on my life, but I just don't know how to express this tremendous gratitude I feel inside. My hope in writing this post is that more people discover the beauty that radio has to offer, and choose to embrace it. It's story is our human story.
Happy Earth Day.