IT WAS EARTH DAY a week ago. The happy stories abounded and there were also the reminders that make us uncomfortable.
We love our home and thus on Earth Day we do things to show that: we clean up riverways and beaches, and we plant trees (no balloons please!). It’s good, of course it is, but I cannot help but think that we’re past the time when one day out of 365 will do any good.
That’s because the reality of where our planet is at is dire, and there’s no sugar-coating it either. I know it’s usually frowned upon to be ‘negative’ and bring up uncomfortable news and realities, but there is no good way to introduce this topic.
When headlines read that Earth is ‘firmly on track towards becoming unlivable’ and there’s floods and fires in various corners of the world, positivity takes a back seat. Here’s the thing.
Positivity and hope are great, when rooted in reality. When we first acknowledge a situation, then seek for solutions to make it better, positivity has a place, and it can strengthen the process.
But have we truly allowed for the reality of climate change to sink in (no pun intended)? The latest IPCC report reads more like an ultimatum than ever. It’s now or never that we need to act. Yes, we’ve been hearing that for a while.
But we’ve been through heat domes, horrific wildfires and flooding too and we’re hoping for neither as we head into the warm seasons, but the risk is high. The world as we know it is changing and that is concerning.
Because these changes mean loss of livable habitats, drastically reduced crops, and natural hazards our human abilities (and technologies) are no match for.
The IPCC report came out as the world was being subjected to a lengthy repeated analysis of a slap by a Hollywood actor. That included articles on how to talk to children about the slap. Not to sound cheeky (pun not intended), but that does not pose a challenge for me as a parent.
However, I find it hard to talk about things that are unfolding as we speak and are beyond heartbreaking: wars (including in areas that the media forgets to talk about), famine, and climate change.
They are all connected in some ways, and there is also a common denominator: greed. Which brings us to an important question: is there anything individuals can do when the powers to be are still talking about fossil fuel projects and approving new ones?
I believe there is. If for no other reason than sanity and for being able to have that talk with our children in which we say, ‘I did all that I could’. It’s the world they’ll inherit, after all.
The thing I struggle with the most is the pursuit of economic growth and prosperity in the face of our natural world approaching collapse. It’s not a figure of speech. We’re really not doing great. We’ve lost many wild species and we’re clear-cutting large, forested areas at a time when we can afford neither.
The argument is that we all need to drive and live, and for that we rely on fossil fuels and other natural resources. True, but the scale of it matters. Also, there are other ways. And while transitions are not and cannot be instantaneous, there is food for (much) thought in considering the scale of our consumption.
We do not need half the things we think we do as far as quality of life is concerned. Most of the things we buy require resources and energy for manufacturing, transport, and storage. The word that has unfortunately come to define the reality of how the developed countries are impacting the world is excess.
We do know that the gratification of having things is short-lived, compared to the long-lasting one that comes from experiences. We also know that having clean water, air and sustainable food sources matter the most. Neither can exist for a long time if the climate of our planet is not allowing for it.
Hence the plea to go past Earth Day in extending our concern for the planet and finding ways to curb our emissions before we reach the tipping point. There is still time, but less than we had last year around Earth Day or after.
I still believe it’s possible to turn things around, but we need to make this the most important headline periodically. Because it is.