Our Responsibility For The Earth

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“Anxiety is typically the result of being placed in situations that we cannot understand or control. We are most anxious when we cannot find a way to make sense of what’s happening, and when we feel as if there is nothing we can do to change our circumstances”. In today’s busy, consumer centric world it is clear we are no strangers to anxiety. Entrenched in a culture of never-ending innovation, full schedules, time lines, due dates, and dozens of “must buy” items being thrown at us every day, it is often easy to feel as if the world is slipping away on us, and sadly for the most part it is. Our lives in the western world remain so busy that we are often ignorant to what is happening right on our front step.

Our consumer culture is causing our planet to waste away right in front of us, and we are so blinded by our habits we neglect to pay it any attention. I often find myself wondering if society chooses to neglect the reality of our environmental collapse unintentionally, or if we are doing so as a means of coping. It appears that we have hit the limits of our finite earth, and we as a collective are not ready or eager to accept that fact. Stated more accurately, it is not that we have hit the limits of a finite Earth, we have reached the limits of how much we can continue to be disruptive before the consequences become too dire to recover from.

This truth is not one which any reasonable person wants to acknowledge. To acknowledge the fact that the earth and its ecosystems are failing at an exponential rate would be to acknowledge that we as the dominant species, the shapers of the earth, are to be held accountable. In my own life I have just begun the process of coming to terms with this ominous, or unfavorable truth. Having had the gift of being born and raised in New Brunswick, Canada, and spending my developing years both in Fredericton – our provinces beautiful but quaint capital- and the shrinking coal-village of Minto, I had an opportunity to grow up with a lifestyle which has grown foreign to so many young people today.

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As of 2011, only 18.9% of Canadians lived in rural areas. Though urbanization is a necessary in managing the technicalities of population growth, as Canadians and many westerners make the move into cities and human-made environments, it has become all too easy to forget what unvarnished beauty was here for us in the beginning. I believe it is this disconnect from nature which makes it so easy for many to ignore many things, and when it comes to climate change if you can’t see it, it might as well not be happening.

For myself, it has long been my hope to eventually settle down in a rural area and adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle in an off-grid home to live out my days. No matter how romantic the idea, I have recently come to the realization that in doing so I would be doing little if anything to better the world. I have been in denial. This idea was no more than a means of coping with my own anxiety surrounding the worsening environmental conditions of our planet. I was hoping to escape my problems, ignoring my anxiety by trying to avoid the issue from which it stemmed. It is within the past year that I decided no longer to be ignorant, act against my overwhelming anxiety.

Having had this feeling for some time now, never knowing how to best describe it. I have come to realize that Jensen put it best, I am overwhelmed with anguish. This realization however, has birthed a concept of accountability within myself that I am unable to ignore. If I hope to better our situation, I need not only hold myself accountable for my own actions, but also carry myself in a way which might help others become more aware of the consequences of their actions. Following this realization, I experienced a change in career aspirations, instead of working as a consulting engineer, building myself a sustainable home and withdrawing, I have birthed a newfound interest in pursuing a career in developing sustainable and affordable housing for many.

As Jensen questioned, is it possible humans are an evolutionary failure; that the nature of our dominance as a species will be our own downfall? Perhaps, but also perhaps not. I would like to believe that humans have what it takes to undo the damages of our mistakes. For this hope to be realized, we must realize it is not only the responsibility of governing bodies and legislators to take action against climate change, no large-scale entity will be able to cure our planets ailments. The responsibility lies at our own feet, at the feet of the people of the world. Humanity has proved resilient time and time again in the face of adversity. It is our unitedness that differentiates us. Despite our cultural, religious, and political differences, we all share one thing in common; our home. There is no sense ignoring the reality of climate change any longer, anxiety will do us no good in the face of adversity, instead we must accept the concept of Jensen’s age of anguish and redirect our energy. It is time to clean up our home.

Sources:

  1. Government of Canada, Statistics Canada. “Canada Goes Urban,” April 13, 2015. https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/11-630-x/11-630-x2015004-eng.htm.
  2. “Census Profile, 2016 Census – Minto, Village [Census Subdivision], New Brunswick and New Brunswick [Province],” February 8, 2017. https://www12.statcan.gc.ca/census-recensement/2016/dp-pd/prof/details/page.cfm?Lang=E&Geo1=CSD&Code1=1304022&Geo2=PR&Code2=13&Data=Count&SearchText=Queens&SearchType=Begins&SearchPR=01&B1=All.
  3. Jensen, Robert. Arguing for Our Lives: A User’s Guide to Constructive Dialog. City Lights Books, 2013.
  4. “The Anguish of the Age: Emotional Reactions to Collapse.” Common Dreams. Accessed September 30, 2018. https://www.commondreams.org/views/2010/06/22/anguish-age-emotional-reactions-collapse.
  5. LeDoux, Joseph E., and Jack M. Gorman. “A Call to Action: Overcoming Anxiety Through Active Coping.” American Journal of Psychiatry 158, no. 12 (December 1, 2001): 1953–55. https://doi.org/10.1176/appi.ajp.158.12.1953.
  6. Moore Lappé, Frances. “Thought Trap 3: We’ve Hit the Limits of a Finite Earth.” CSR Wire. Accessed September 30, 2018. http://www.csrwire.com/blog/posts/366-thought-trap-3-weve-hit-the-limits-of-a-finite-earth.
  7. “Thought Trap 6: Humans Have Lost the Connection to Nature.” CSR Wire. Accessed September 30, 2018. http://www.csrwire.com/blog/posts/390-thought-trap-6-humans-have-lost-the-connection-to-nature
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