It’s becoming pretty nearly impossible to open a mainstream newspaper, magazine, online news source or other media these days without tripping over stories about climate change, how humans are wrecking the earth, and so on. It’s also becoming increasingly difficult to go out into the marketplace without tripping over green shopping options. If you know me at all, you’ll know that I’ve been trumpetting these stories for a good few years now. A very big part of me is obviously pleased that the spreading of common knowledge about the problem and the proliferation of many local, green solutions is so abundant and seemingly widespread.
And yet is it?
I can look out into the sphere of people I know or just the local main street and see habits that die hard. Habits regarding consumption, perceived “necessities” and status symbols and the like. I can look no further than my own self and my own household and see ways in which we are falling short, and we actually care, as do growing numbers of others around us.
It feels like the media’s coverage and the marketplace’s adoption of green stories and solutions is just so much white noise that most people are comfortable or accustomed to switching off or tuning out. And it’s easy to see why when our governments and big corporate entities are still largely ignoring these very real, huge problems. No, there are no easy answers, but that shouldn’t let any of us off the hook, nor should it keep us from trying in small ways every day.
I frequently surf over to ted.com (“ideas worth spreading”) when I have a few spare moments. This great resource was pointed out to me by George Wright of Castor River Farm in Metcalfe some months ago, and it’s a great place to wake up the brain with things that matter. Amongst the telling-it-like-it-is talks on ted.com that I really appreciate is How we wrecked the ocean by coral reef ecologist Jeremy Jackson. No hand holding or excuse making here. And Jackson nails it when he says that the fact that so many folks are used to being able to buy cheap fish at Costco (or wherever) has kept them from bothering to realize that there is a catastrophe going on in our oceans.
And then right in our own backyard we have Diana Beresford-Kroeger of Merrickville, a self-described renegade scientist who has been on a lifelong mission to save the world’s trees and, in turn, the planet. Her latest book, The Global Forest, will be published this month. In an interview published in The Ottawa Citizen this past weekend (see what I mean about mass media?), Beresford-Kroeger says “Time is not on our side anymore. This is our last chance for everything. We’ve been attending the Church of the Holy Dollar for too long.” She’s far from the only person or expert saying this. She’s one of many loud and credible voices. And yet…white noise it all seems to be, because what are we doing?
It’s not easy to make a u-turn in an aircraft carrier (nor can it be done too quickly), which is sort of what we need to do for the planet, but it’s still the task that we’re faced with and we have to apply ourselves to it.
Maybe the analogy I’m really searching for can be found in a book that I just finished reading. My oldest wants to be a pilot, which is an interesting challenge for our family to be facing as it’s one of the least “green” things a child could want to do today. I’m not raining on his parade, however, as a pilot is an amazing thing to aspire to be and I believe in technological advances that could improve that record. To keep up with his interests I read some of the books on his reading pile whenever I can. The latest was “Highest Duty” by the captain of the plane that landed on the Hudson River in January 2009.
By all accounts, flight 1549 is one that was expected to have ended tragically, and yet the pilot and his co-pilot, with the help of others, applied everything they knew, remained extraordinarily calm and focused and solved the problem. They did this in the incredibly compressed timeframe of three minutes or so. Everyone survived. There were a few shortsighted dimwits on board the plane who tried to evacuate with their bags or rush the doors, but most of the people on board that day exercised common sense and worked together.
I’d like to think that if our leaders could get it right and exercise the same dedication, focus and calm in putting our planet on a more sustainable footing, we’d be on the right track. We’d be in good hands. But it would also be up to most of us to keep our selfish impulses at bay and to act with the larger community or group in mind, which I’d like to think we could do.