Earth Day, April 22, 2021

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 This Monday I had the great pleasure of being interviewed by Patricia Ogura for the Retired Teachers of Ontario organization. Her brief article is about the quest for environmental literacy and the contribution that the retired educational “elders” can make for our communities and our planet. We spoke about my years of advocacy, and reflected on the need to keep this Earth Day message positive. The truth is, we’re all going to die.

I reflected back to my first Earth Day walk with my students in 1970. How much has changed in fifty-one years? Turns out, not a lot. The most significant impact for environmental improvement has been the arrival of a deadly virus that dramatically slowed manufacturing and transportation pollution. The COVID-19 pandemic also reduced air travel and ocean travel – atmospheric air quality improvement and whale population resurgence followed in the wake of human inactivity.

Fifty-one years later we are still talking about boomerang lunches and taking our own reusable mugs and shopping bags as if we had just discovered these personal actions. A TV show this morning showed children happily making art from recycling box items. Makes us feel personally good for one day, and then it’s back to the shopping mall to buy more “stuff” that will end up in  the recycling box or garage can.

Dear readers, think of this like the solutions for stopping the pandemic. You stop the opportunities for person-to-person transmission: mask, distance, wash hands, and keep to small family/personal bubbles. Period. The vaccines will only work if all those basic steps are followed. Do we want to save humanity and leave a healthy biosphere on the planet? Then humans need to stop consuming the planet’s resources like we have an additional six planets waiting in reserve. There is no vaccine for human stupidity.

Before it was disbanded by Stephen Harper, Canada had a wonderful Science Council made up of real practicing, published and peer reviewed scientists. They advocated for turning Canada from a Consumer to a Conserver Society. That is anathema to the Conservative mindset. Just recently the Conservative Party of Canada voted at their policy Convention NOT to acknowledge the reality of Climate Change. That is how far we have come in fifty years. One step forward, two steps back.

Wonderful groups from Students on Ice to Ontario Nature try their best to educate a concerned and passionate youth about using their voices to inspire change in their communities. In 1990, we had teen Severn Suzuki shaming adults on the world stage at Rio. In 2005, the Students on Ice delegation was included in the Montreal Biodiversity Convention – that UN agreement was shredded a year later by Stephen Harper. In 2020 we had teen Greta Thunberg shaming adults during her global protest tour. Good work children! Pat on the head and back to big business.

My conversation with Patricia was honest. We do these personal role modelling efforts – walk, cycle, electric car, reusable materials, sustainable renewable energy sources, doing business with ethical companies, living elegantly with less, so that we can look our children and our neighbours’ children in the eye and say, “I tried my best.”

In the meantime, in business and politics, the Economy trumps Ecology every time … until there is an overshoot and biological collapse of some major Earth system. That’s when the punch that was predicted thirty-one years ago by the World Meteorological Organization hits us right in the face: “Humankind is conducting an unintended, uncontrolled, all-pervasive experiment on the atmosphere of Earth, the consequences of which will be second only to global nuclear war.” Unanimous concluding statement from WMO, Toronto, 1988

Happy Earth Day 2021. I’m taking my dog for a walk and smiling, behind my mask, at my good neighbours.

The way I see it.


Skid Crease, Caledon

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