A slap in the face is exactly what was needed to wake people up to some hard truths about our times.
It’s come in the form of young students bringing the climate emergency to the streets.
It’s the intensity and frequency of bushfires, floods and droughts that were predicted in a Garnaut report exactly 20 years ago.
It’s the systematic failure of governments to adequately address vilification of various ethnic groups for decades that have led to “Black Lives Matter” protests. Same goes for any form of bigotry.
And of course, it’s the COVID-19 pandemic that has drastically changed the world.
I’m constantly hearing people in hysterics, asking “Why is all this happening?” Well, let me tell you, it boils down to two things:
- The people in power.
- Apathy, indifference and inaction from many people of means that have allowed these things to go unchecked. It’s been going on for years. I’m talking about us. The working middle class.
The system has been set up to keep us working longer hours to support ourselves, our families and whatever indulgences we want to satisfy. There are distraction methods such as 24-hour social media, mind-numbing reality TV shows and fake news that get us all worked up beyond rational thought. There’s also the constant pressure to build more, do more, be better, smarter, faster and stronger. Who then has time to turn up to rallies or stop that bulldozer from destroying 500-year-old trees, which have been carbon sinks for so long?
It’s not enough for us to feel bad about something, and say “I don’t agree” with whatever injustices we’re seeing. We need to actively start calling it out when we see someone being vilified or doing something destructive to the environment. We need to drop the sugarcoating, stop transferring the problem, face up to it and do something other than more pointless discussions that don’t eventuate into something tangible.
Because while we’re fumbling, governments are still approving coal mines and dirty energy, and selling our water to foreign investors while our farmers are suffering and can’t grow our food. We’re not even on track to meet our Paris Agreement commitments and time is running out.
After the bushfires, a lot of us said let’s leave 2019 behind and 2020 will be a year of change. Boy, did we get what we asked for. Now, as dire as it all may seem, I’m actually optimistic for once. Because for the first time, I’ve seen school students en masse demanding that governments take action to protect their futures.
We’ve seen people of all backgrounds speaking up against racial injustices. The more we call it out and force people to face up to harsh realities, the more power we take back from the destructive elements of our society…and believe me when I say there’s more of us than them. We just need to reach that critical mass and show certain “leaders” where the real power is.
And as for COVID-19, what’s my take on this? Working from home has allowed me to save money by not having to travel to work, so I’ve effectively reduced my carbon footprint. I’ve also saved money on not having to buy lunch every day.
Multiply this by millions of people in the same situation and we’ve effectively reduced our global carbon footprint.
Many businesses have been forced to re-evaluate how they operate, and downgrade office sizes because the new norm of working from home is going to save them thousands of dollars in energy and water costs. It’s a win-win for both employee and employer. In my line of work, I’d like to see more sustainable retrofitting of existing buildings.
Things have changed, and I’d like to believe for the better even though it’s unchartered territory for many of us. We’re being forced to acknowledge that a paradigm shift towards a more altruistic society is required for us to survive.
We need to individually ask ourselves what our purpose is and what legacy we’re leaving behind for future generations. It’s just unfortunate that human beings need a slap in the face for any drastic changes to occur. But that’s how we learn. That’s how we adapt.
Davis Demillo is ESD team leader at Cardno.
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