I have just published a small post in the blog of the Institute of The Environment at the University of Ottawa, where I am currently a student for a M.Sc degree in Environmental Sustainability. It was written upon a request and it is about our first week of the M.Sc program, my reflections on it, and my thoughts on the meaning of sustainability.
Yesterday saw the publishing of The Leap Manifesto, initiated and implemented by a group of five top-tier Canadian environmental activists, actors and musicians, each one of which barely needs an additional introduction – Naomi Klein, David Suzuki, Leonard Cohen, Donald Sutherland and Ellen Page – and it calls for an immediate shift of Canada’s internal policy towards a more green, sustainable, and democratic future.
According to the Manifesto, Canada’s current direction is way out of line.
“We could live in a country powered entirely by renewable energy, woven together by accessible public transit, in which the opportunities of this transition are designed to eliminate racial and gender inequality. Caring for one another and caring for the planet could be the economy’s fastest growing sectors. Many more people could have higher-wage jobs with fewer work hours, leaving us ample time to enjoy our loved ones and flourish in our communities.
Canada is not this place today – but it can be.
The time for this great transition is short. Climate scientists have told us this is the decade to take decisive action to prevent catastrophic global warming. That means small steps will no longer suffice.
A dying seabird covered in oil. A sea turtle whose body is divided into two halves because of a plastic ring she could not escape from when she was young. A seal whose neck is slowly and painfully being cut in half by a piece of a copper wire that somehow got wrapped around. A sea bay full of toxic waste and a lake filled with dead fish, and other photos that colorfully exhibit what we, humans, are doing to this planet. Our pleasures, convenience, and comfort – the cornerstones of the modern living – do not come out of thin air, and are taking its toll on the planet. Garbage left after making us pleased does not go anywhere, either.
According to the latest findings, the number of animal species that went extinct as a result of a squandering human activity since the rise of industrial society is so enormously high it is possible to speak of a sixth mass extinction of species already underway and running in full speed.
Barry Commoner, an American biologist, leading ecologist and one of the founders of the modern environmental movement, would’ve turned 98 today.
In his 1971 book, The Closing Circle, he was one of first thinkers to bring the idea of sustainability to a mass audience, suggesting an eco-socialist response to the poverty vs. population growth debate, and in 1990, he published Making Peace With the Planet, an analysis of the ongoing environmental crisis, pointing out that the way human society produces goods needs to be revised.
He formulated the so-called Four Laws of Ecology, which remain relevant even today and will still be relevant for a long time to come. Here they are:
Everything is connected to everything else. There is one ecosphere for all living organisms and what affects one, affects all.
Everything must go somewhere. There is no “waste” in nature and there is no “away” to which things can be thrown.
Nature knows best. Humankind has fashioned technology to improve upon nature, but such change in a natural system is likely to be detrimental to that system. We need to be closer to nature, but we need to learn to co-exist with it, using natural resources sustainably.
There is no such thing as a free lunch. Exploitation of nature will inevitably involve the conversion of resources from useful to useless forms.
Recently, I was reflecting about current situation of our beautiful planet, browsing through some terrible pictures and worrying news from 2014, and I could not help but go sensitive and scribble a few words – my wishes for the upcoming year.