One of the best decisions I’ve ever taken is to become involved in green issues –not only at the professional level but also in my personal life. I took this decision some years ago and it has completely transformed my life. I knew that from that point on my path would be a series of modest but firm steps towards becoming a better person and a better citizen.
I confess, I’m a born environmentalist. After almost six years of professional dedication to this issue, I admit that my passion has not waned, but if anything has grown. Throughout this time, I’ve been able to see for myself how majestic and essential nature is for the societies of today (whether or not we are aware of its importance).
However, I don’t want to focus this article on myself or on the professionals who devote their lives to environmental matters. I want to focus on each and every person living on this beautiful planet, as we have an intrinsic shared responsibility to ourselves and to the environment around us –and we must do something about it for our own good. In other words, it should be important to you whether you’re a lawyer, doctor, engineer, economist, athlete, student or homemaker, as we are all part of the biosphere, to give a simple term for such a complex system.
The planet is suffocating. We’re losing biodiversity. The forests are dying. The environment is being destroyed. We are on the threshold of an imminent “point of no return”, directly linked to climate change, which will dramatically alter our way of life, the geography of the planet, and –I hope– the selfish mindset of human beings. Some time ago I read in a book that the human race is the animal at the top of the chain and they “should” therefore have the skill and intelligence to be able to reverse something’s course.
So, how can we change that selfish approach to an “environmentally selfish“ one?
It’s chilling to see how our selfishness as a society is sometimes even greater than the planet’s fantastic natural systems. We act as though we were the managers and owners of natural resources; we decide how many trees to cut down for our own personal and economic benefit, we throw our waste into the ocean to avoid fulfilling our legal obligations, unconcerned that these serious actions affect everyone else.
In spite of all this, there is a glimmer of hope, and that is that many people have understood the seriousness of the current situation, so whole communities are at this very moment safeguarding and protecting our heritage (both natural and cultural), and generating positive feedback from their own people.
Most of the world’s communities have the motivation to do something for the environment, as they have witnessed first-hand how the environment has changed over the years. Local communities are prepared to act to combat climate change, environmental pollution and poverty. They want a better life without destroying the environment, and they want to adapt to future changes.
There is no doubt that public and environmental policies are important and necessary, but I am one of those who believe that it is crucial for people to want to make things better. If we don’t feel the need to improve our current situation, it’s very difficult for politicians to be made aware of that and start to do something to correct it. Initiatives are flooding in from every corner and micro location on the planet, and are having a global effect (this is what I call acting “glocally”).
While reading a publication some time ago entitled “Local communities take the initiative to mitigate climate change”, I came across an interesting reflection that I’d like to share: “What would happen if one billion people came together and started 1 billion actions to safeguard the environment and halt climate change?”.
I personally believe that if we joined all the local forces for global environmental awareness, we would see more than one billion actions. But this is still not sufficient if we consider the fact that the planet today is home to 7 billion people, all consuming natural resources, building infrastructure, using unsustainable modes of transport, and producing ever greater quantities of food, among other things. If we’re going to continue being selfish, why don’t we use that energy to help conserve the environment? Let’s be selfish with pollution, fossil fuels and deforestation.
Could human beings change their selfish nature and think/act with greater consideration of the world around them? Could this shift usher in a new attitude to the environment? Could this new attitude be the cornerstone of an “environmentally selfish” model?
Maria Eugenia Rinaudo
B.S., Environmental Studies and a Specialist in Environmental Management