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This Earth Day, can we consider mindset and long-term sustainability?

Can we be mindful of how we think and talk about people and the environment? As a mother, it’s breaking my heart to see children and young adults suffering from the cognitive and emotional load of the idea that people, including themselves, are the “plague of the Earth”. What exactly did they do to deserve […]

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Solar and wind powered Earth. It's in our hands.
We have never been so close to saving the world.

Can we be mindful of how we think and talk about people and the environment? As a mother, it’s breaking my heart to see children and young adults suffering from the cognitive and emotional load of the idea that people, including themselves, are the “plague of the Earth”. What exactly did they do to deserve this burden from an early age?

My son is trying hard to be a lesser “plague”. As much as possible he avoids plastics, buys groceries in bulk, and avoids purchasing new clothes. Anxiety often overwhelms him. Separated from friends and peers, “Mr. Social” is spending his second year at university in the solitary confinement of a small, rented room. With COVID, all the normal problems are amplified. We are lucky this is not a world war. We may see wiser, more mature generations to come because of this suffering if only they don’t break from it.

Several years ago, at the Vancouver, Canada high school science fair, two of my son’s classmates, looking sad, were showing us their space colony project. These bright and sensitive girls were expecting to have to abandon their home planet in the next couple of decades. “Earth will no longer be suitable for living.” You may have seen this with your own youth, how fatalistic they can be.

As parents and adults, could we please stop and reflect on how our words, the information environment, and media, spin and shape our minds and our lives? Could we do the math and put the responsibility for being the “plague of the Earth” where it is appropriate? There is no equality in how much damage a single person or company can do vs. millions of others.

As humanity, can we also give ourselves big credit for the speed of innovation in sustainable solar and wind energy, low- and zero-emission transportation, organic and “carbon smart” agriculture, the circular economy, and numerous other Earth-friendly new technologies and practices that are taking off? These are accelerating despite the inertia and resistance from established interests and inadequate support from most governments.

We have never been so close to saving the world. Our common dreams are becoming reality as we speak. And it is about time we switch from gloom and doom, alarmism and panic to long-term thinking, objectivity, hope, and empowerment. It is about time we talk, behave, create and invest with the long term in mind. Can we please do this patiently, and wisely? Peacefully? Listening to all sides? Being democratic and inclusive, instead of divisive and hateful? 

Can we please scale down the fearmongering based on outdated ideas like resource scarcity and promotion of large-scale solutions like nuclear energy and geoengineering, unpredictable, dangerous, and capable of large-scale damage to people and planet alike?

There are better ways, and it is time we commit to them, starting with being mindful about how we think and talk about people and the environment.

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