Earth Matters: Attitude change needed to combat climate change

The Island Now
Dr. Hildur Palsdottir

I am reading “On Time and Water,” by Icelandic writer and activist Andri Snær Magnason. Andri writes in a way that inspires the reader to connect emotionally to the climate crisis. How can we feel the magnitude of the problem when phrases like “acidification of the oceans” seem too scientific for us to care?

To most people, the word “climate change” doesn’t signal the urgency needed to take action. Andri turns to “intimate time” in an attempt to personalize the changes taking place and imagines his daughter in conversation with his great-granddaughter.

Love inspires us to care. We need to connect with the big-picture, multi-generational story of humankind in relationship with Earth to learn to care enough to change our ways. But how do we develop that love in the first place? You need to know someone – or something – very deeply to love them.

You need to understand the interdependent nature of all living beings who share their home on planet Earth. Your extended family includes the trees, bees and birds. This is why teaching ecoliteracy has to be the most important action item to combat the climate crisis. We need to make environmental care and concern standards in the common K-12 core curriculum. We must teach children to know and love the living world. Education should aim at protection, conservation and restoration.

If you’re learning math, it should be to calculate our way out of this crisis. If you’re studying engineering, it should be to design our way through this. If you’re majoring in English, it should be to communicate more sustainable ways to live. If you’re a philosopher, aim to touch the human heart and mind deeply and inspire change.

In the next 100 years, we’ll witness dramatic changes to the water element on Earth. With just a degree of warming, glaciers are already melting, and sea levels rising faster than ever before. Oceans are turning sour after millions of years of stable pH.

We were born into a system that requires growth to prosper. Economists and politicians keep insisting on growth, while production is dependent on finite resources. Humans with their enormous capacity to record data, still don’t seem to have developed the skill to learn from history. Greed is the Achilles’ heel of every major civilization to date.

Politicians seem oblivious to the task at hand, slow-moving bureaucrats aren’t meeting the times with the urgency needed, while youth is rising and rebelling world-wide. Of course, young people care; it’s their future we are trading for our everyday comforts.

The silver lining is, youth today does not have to wonder what’s the most important thing to do. They receive the gift of a clear direction and focus on a sense of undeniable urgency. Yes, our species survival depends on responding appropriately.

Globally, we’re losing tree coverage at twice the rate we’re replacing the cut canopy, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to do the math. We are at risk of running out of breath. Europe is shooting for the moon with its aspirations to be the first climate-neutral continent.

This worthwhile ambition is met with strong opposition from coal-dependent countries such as Poland, and recently, in a self-serving gesture, Norway’s newly-appointed, right-wing oil minister, Sylvi Listhaug, has claimed she is very supportive of Arctic drilling and has called wind turbines “white monsters.”

Petroleum fuels the industrialized world economy. Our most valued commodity, oil makes most of what we do possible, while at the same time committing us to a path of self-destruction.

Could we disrupt business as usual, re-think and change our ways? Yes, absolutely. If we’re willing to make important sacrifices, we could move towards fossil-fuel-free economy and commit systematically to sustainable solutions. The technology is there, all we need is the willingness to change.

Thankfully, this year millions took to the streets in protest, thus forming a global movement at least as powerful as the magnitude of ignorance we’re met with from deniers.

We need more than a “green new deal,” we need a whole new way of dealing, a radical shift in perception, thinking and values. The efforts listed below deserve your attention and support as we enter a new decade:

1. Climate Reality Project ( Empowering everyday people to become activists.
2. Project Drawdown ( A research organization that identifies and analyzes the most viable solutions to climate change.
3. Transition Network ( Global grassroots community that aims to increase self-sufficiency.
4. Treesisters ( Women Seeding Change inspiring a reforestation revolution.
5. Extinction Rebellion ( a global environmental movement encouraging government action with civil disobedience.

Wishing you a sustainable new year


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