After the participants in the 2018 Marble Mountain Polar Bear Swim dried off on the shores of the Bras d’Or Lake, the festivities moved to the North Mountain Cultural and Recreation Association hall for the annual New Year’s Day chili cook-off.

Two decades ago, we were approaching Y2K with many people waiting for all hell to break loose because of computers failing, planes falling from the sky, banking systems crashing, and other feared calamities due to technological errors brought on by a simple date entry for that century’s ending and another’s beginning.

Here we are 20 years later, in another decade, with many among us anticipating what possible misfortunes – or good fortunes – await us in the ensuing years.

Our ages can impact how we view the future. For people in their teens or 20’s, a decade or two probably appears as an eternity. For those among us who are classified as senior citizens, 10–20 years could be the balance of their lifetimes. One thing about which all can agree, those decades too will pass and the future will unfold due to the decisions made or not.

I applaud Premier Stephen McNeil’s government’s decision not to extend the lifetime of Northern Pulp’s existing treatment system, or as some would argue, its non-treatment of effluent. The McNeil government’s choice to finally end a problem that has existed for more than 50 years will impact the present and the future of thousands of Nova Scotians, New Brunswickers and Prince Edward Islanders due to that government’s refusal to permit a corporation to pump millions of litres of effluent into the Northumberland Strait. There will be major adjustments required for the forestry industries but happen they will and our climate’s and waterway’s futures, and those of our tourism industries, will prove that the McNeil government’s tough decision was a necessary and correct choice.

The majority of us, unlike our governments, do not have the responsibilities to decide on the futures of thousands or hundreds – and probably not even dozens – but we do have ourselves and our families and friends within our spheres of influences.

As history has proven, it is sometimes too easy to fall into a lockstep behind charismatic and convincing individuals, corporations or governments. Our challenges are to question what is being suggested and look, as much as we are able, into our futures – even onward to the generations-to-come – in order to consider the consequences of those proposals being pitched.

Most of us hope to enjoy the comforts of the status quo but such a wish is futile. The world continuously changes as do our needs and wants with the reality that we all eventually will be gone and there will be others replacing us.

Whenever we walk through our cemeteries, as I do in historical Guysborough, one can see the grave sites of important-in-their-days individuals who, I surmise much to their displeasures, eventually died. The deceased are at rest but we who exist in 2020, and those who follow us, will live with many of the consequences of present-day decisions.

Therein lie our challenges; to think of the consequences of choices, both in the short-order and long-term. How will decisions impact those around us?

A life lesson that I have learned through both good and bad experiences is that you go it one day at a time and choices produce their consequences. Long-term goals can appear to be appropriate and admirable but they are being made in our immediate time frames where we have the most control. We must strive to make the right choices today to assist the right conditions tomorrow.

As we move into 2020 and beyond, my sincere wishes are for our personal and our governments’ decisions to be made with hope that they will result in positive and constructive consequences, both now and in the decades to come.

Ray Bates