34. The Planet and You

Good morning and welcome to your thirty-fourth meditation. There is no denying it. Our earth is in peril. In the last fifty years we have lost 68% of our planet’s biodiversity. We are losing up to one-hundred fifty species every single day. The situation is dire, and the scientific consensus is that this is the result of humanity’s impact on the globe. Although other species have largely borne the brunt of our catastrophic negligence, we are beginning to see all the ways we too will become victims of our own carelessness. The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration states that: “The changing environment is expected to cause more heat stress, an increase in waterborne diseases, poor air quality, and diseases transmitted by insects and rodents” and that “Extreme weather events can compound many of these health threats”. The ensuing natural disasters, combined with rising sea levels that are the result of melting polar ice caps, will lead to millions of displaced persons. As many as 1.2 billion by 2050, by one estimate

But the purpose of listing all these grim facts is not to sadden you, or to make you feel guilty. Rather it is to reinforce that climate change is a fact that we will all have to reckon with at one point or another. The question is how. The truth is that your guilt and sadness won’t protect the earth from destruction any more than your wilful ignorance of the reality of climate change will. So don’t bother. It is not your fault that the entire history and evolution of humanity into an industrialized race has led us to this critical moment. And sad as the loss of so many of our planet’s species may be, our tears will not restore them to life. We must focus instead on doing what we can to preserve what we have left.

Of course, this can seem a daunting task. How can we as individuals do anything that could possibly make a difference in the face of an industrialized world that has depended on the use of destructive fossil fuels for so long now? How can we even be critical of the use of fossil fuels when we all depend on them every day. Isn’t that just flagrant effrontery and hypocrisy? …No. It isn’t. We did not choose the world into which we were born. We inherited it with all its flaws, with its already-established means of production, and with all the demands it makes upon us. The younger generation of today is not responsible for where we are, but for where we will go. So, although we may currently depend on technologies whose production requires the burning of fossil fuels, we ought to consider what we can do, as individuals, to promote a transition to greener means of production. If we have money to invest, perhaps we buy stock in companies that only use green energy or that promote the transition to a greener economy themselves. Perhaps we fly less. If we drive, perhaps we switch to an electric or hybrid vehicle; or, if possible, we ditch the car for a bicycle. We can reduce or eliminate our consumption of meat. Or have one less child. We can also contribute to environmentalism in our communities by volunteering to help with local conservation efforts. Conservationist Ralph Toninger says opportunities of this sort are “endless,” citing “citizen-based science monitoring initiatives, undertaking community-based restoration and planting events, public education and outreach opportunities” as just a few examples. So clearly there is a lot more we can do than to simply be morose about the current situation. Why not pick one of the above suggestions and try it out to start? Whatever it is, it will help. And we, together with our planet and every living thing upon it, need all the help we can get right now. Keep it up. You’re doing great. Have a wonderful day.

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