Who is going to fix the environmental crisis ?

The global environmental crisis that we’re facing can make our individual efforts seem completely futile. The unprecedented scale of our problems makes us feel insignificant and can discourage some of us from taking action, while pushing others to deny the very existence of the crisis. Since we’re talking about a vast global problem, it’s really easy for individuals and institutions to divert their responsibility by pointing the finger at other people, countries, governments and corporations…We’re facing a global crisis, but at its source the crisis is comprised of the actions and ideas of individuals. Some people have a bigger impact than others, and some people are in a better position to take action than others. But what is certain is that any action, no matter how big or small adds up to the rest and creates the reality of our world. Our bright ideas and our mindless delusions,  our success stories and our failures are all pieces of an ever changing global puzzle. Unlike a normal puzzles where we know how the picture should end up looking, the reality of human civilization can take many shapes and can lead to many different scenarios, for us and for the rest of life on this planet.

As citizens

It is precisely this undetermined nature of our future that should give us hope to keep on trying to fix our problems, even if we don’t get to see our wildest dreams come true. Maybe we won’t see a world where the oceans and the air will be clean and where deforestation will be a scary story from the past. Even we don’t get there, the efforts of each individual to protect the environment are going to have a distinct influence on the course of history. We can’t afford to wait for a powerful person or an honest government to solve all of our environmental problems, each of us have their hands on the steering wheel of our planet. The problems  are deeply embedded in our institutions, economies, cultures and even in our own minds. For example, we can’t hope to get less corrupt governments if we’re not willing to use the rights that we have and fight for serious reforms of the electoral system and the legislative process. We can’t hope to get more adequate legislation and better environmental protection as long as our laws are written by the lobbies of the industries that are profiting through the pollution and destruction of the environment. Non of us has the perfect formula for a complete legislation on environmental protection, but we should be able to put our other political views aside and raise our voices together for reforms promoting transparency and reinforcing our democratic processes. This is not true only for the US where we can easily see that something is very wrong with a “two party system”. In some regards the legislative and election processes in Europe are even less transparent and more vulnerable to the influence of special interests.

As individuals

Beyond our political duties as citizens, each of us is also responsible for the direct personal impact of our everyday actions. We should control the activities of companies through regulations, but we should also understand that our personal choices are creating the demand which drives the production. The impact of simple changes in our behaviors might look small  and insignificant at first, but the positive consequences are far stretching and add up over time. For example in the context of the deforestation we can take action by asking governments and companies to assume their responsibilities, but we can also eat less palm oil, less meat and animals products, recycle, use less wood, etc and have direct impact through our choices. When millions of individuals start making changes in the right direction their actions can become a serious pressure, and can push culture away from its destructive path.

Nobody can fix all our problems, but there is no limit to how much each of us can do. When we talk about trees we can’t not mention the example of Jadav Payeng an Indian who over the course of 30 years has single-handedly planted a tropical forest the size of central park. He didn’t only plant countless trees, he also worked to increase and protect the biodiversity of the new forest. Today the “Molai woods” are home to many threatened species of birds, deer, rhinos, apes and even tigers. His passion and determination made him achieve tremendous accomplishment for a single person. Let’s use his example as an inspiration, and even if non of us gets to plant a whole forest, at least each of us can plant a couple of trees !

The examples that we give with our lives speak louder than our words or ideas and can influence not only the people around us, but human society in general as well. Each and everyone of us has the power and responsibility to change themselves and change the world.

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.  – Margaret Mead


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