By Wayne Saalman
[Photo by Mark Harpur]
WHAT WE HUMANS WILL BE one day will astonish us. We have already surprised ourselves in too many ways to count, but tomorrow promises to be even more astounding. Tomorrow will take us into the heavens. It will take us to the stars.
Going to the stars, however, is only of value if it enriches humanity in profoundly important ways. After all, this Earth of ours not only provides us with all that we need to survive, but with luxuries and pleasures that satiate us to an immeasurable degree. We have mountains, rivers, forests and oceans. We have delectable selections of food and drink. We have cultural and technological amazements in abundance, a variety of arts and entertainment to thoroughly fulfil us, not to mention comforts that relax us and leave us contented.
In our rush to obtain all of these things, however, we neglected to do the one vital thing that was essential to such forward progress and that, of course, was to deal with our waste properly.
So, yes, we can indeed shoot for the stars, but that will only happen if we look after the launchpad from which tomorrow will spring. That launchpad is the Planet Earth as a whole and, tragically, her foundations are cracking and crumbling at present.
Like it or not (and none of us do) we are faced with a very serious dilemma. We cannot achieve the infinite promises of tomorrow without awakening from our perceptual myopia and realizing with sufficient wisdom that we have been squandering our energies mainly in a quest for shiny trinkets, flashy threads and a myriad of pleasures at the expense of the planet from which we extract these things.
Having mastered basic survival and having subsequently gained countless simple luxuries along the way, humanity has grown intoxicated and spellbound by what it has been able to conjure on an ever expanding scale. That is not a bad thing in and of itself. In fact, it speaks to the power of humanity’s innovative genius and astonishing levels of inventiveness. We really are an astounding species.
The problem is that along the way most of us lost sight of the fact that abundance on a finite planet cannot — through mere wishful thinking — somehow magically continue to generate an infinite amount of resources. In other words, infinite abundance is unsustainable when certain resources are indisputably limited.
Smart as we are, it seems, we are not quite smart enough to use our knowledge in the most sustainable manner. That is not down to a lack of information, but a lack of collective willpower.
It appears that we are too near-sighted to see how our actions in the present are generating peril, not only for our own future, but even worse, for our children’s future.
Quite recently, thousands of young people walked out of their schools around the globe in order to scream out at the older generations to please take action on climate change on their behalf.
We who profess immeasurable love for our children, however, continue to put profit ahead of planetary health.
This is why we must finally accept what we are being told by the planet’s top scientific boards and think tanks. It is these professionals alone who possess the investigative tools to assess the state of our planet at this hour and make recommendations on how to remedy the situation. They have done so and informed us, in no uncertain terms, that we have but little over a single decade to turn things around where climate change is concerned.
A single decade.
While it admittedly sounds alarmist to say that, we are ethically duty-bound to note it and to take action. The choice to remain polite and quiet now is to become an accessory to criminal conduct. It is to participate in the unlawful destruction of our very home and our own species.
The time for industry to act without accountability is over. We have acted for much too long without consideration for the fact that we are still pouring pollutants into the air we breathe, toxic chemicals into the soil upon which we grow our food and more again into the rivers, lakes and oceans which provide vital necessities for us.
We have a set of accords — the Paris Accords — that offer a pathway back from the brink. If the price each of us must pay to meet the agreed upon goals is severe and drastic, then so be it, we must pay that price and live with it. Yes, it will mean that we must do without certain things or find other, less damaging, ways to obtain them.
Is there hope, however?
There is! Humanity is blessed with genius. It is blessed with countless scientists who are willing to keep inventing new devices that can make a decisive difference in this battle against time.
We are also blessed with billions of loving parents who are willing to sacrifice virtually anything in order to ensure the survival of their children, not to mention the mother planet upon which we and those children all reside.
After all, can we really be deliberating on whether or not to save our own lives and the lives of our children?