by Elizabeth Trickey
There is nothing quite like snowshoeing through a quiet forest, on white drifts of freshly fallen snow. The only noise to be heard is the crunch of the snow beneath my feet. The cold air is brisk, but I am dressed warmly. There’s nobody else around. I feel at peace.
Regardless of the season, our natural world has so much to offer. There are those of us who only feel alive in nature, surrounded by trees, freshwater, and enchanting critters. Whether canoeing, hiking, or camping in the outback, it provides perspective on life and rejuvenates us.
Our natural world is not only amazing to enjoy, but it is also necessary for life. Including human life. At the very least, we need fresh water, clean air, and crops. So why are we polluting our water sources, cutting down our forests, and engaging in activities that damage our environment along with the animals in it? Do we not care about a tomorrow for our children? Of course, many of us do. But not all. And it certainly isn’t a priority for governments/big business.
So what can those of us who care about our natural world do about it?
One key is educating our youth. Why? Not just because they are the ones who will be inheriting a world that is being ravaged to a crisis point, but because they are prepared to challenge our government on environmental decisions. Just a few weeks ago, several youths, with the support of Ecojustice, stood up against our provincial government at the Ontario Supreme Court. They were taking action against the Ford government with respect to disregarding Ontario’s climate laws, which takes away their right to live in a healthy environment. At this point, the case has been heard, and the judge is deliberating as to the verdict. Win or lose, our youth are taking charge!
We all know many ways to help our environment – recycle, reuse, reduce, compost, turn out the lights, walk don’t drive…. Many of us do our part in our homes, and every little bit helps. But is that enough? Maybe we really need to start thinking about nature in a different way, a more global way.
It is interesting that many humans don’t consider themselves as a part of nature. Some people will talk about “conquering” aspects of our natural world as though it is something they need to control or get the better of. Others believe that the Earth is at our disposal, to do whatever they wish with it. Many believe that our Earth and all its resources will always be here for us and our offspring. After all, we are at the top of the food chain. I’ll bet the mighty dinosaurs thought the same thing! OK, big bodies, small brains, maybe they didn’t think all that much….
Let’s consider the perspectives of people who used to live off the bounties of our planet – those who farmed, fished, and hunted. They took what they needed to survive and nothing more. That no longer happens. Most of us have far more than we need. Heck, we have houses full of things we don’t even want!
Our landfills are full of garbage. You might think that landfills are ugly and smell. Well, wake up folks, that’s nothing compared to the pollution that is caused as garbage decomposes, leaking toxins such as mercury, lead, and arsenic, into our soil and groundwater. Food in landfills breaks down into methane, a dangerous gas that is responsible for global warming. And did you know that cow flatulence is methane and accounts for a third of the methane in the atmosphere? Humans eat a tremendous amount of beef, so we have over a BILLION cows on Earth. We need to stop eating beef.
Aboriginal people believed that everything in our natural world had a place and deserved respect. They understood that all living things, including themselves, contributed to the health and well-being of all other living things. Indigenous peoples knew it was important to find ways to live together in harmony, and believed that we can all live comfortably without damaging nature.
When they hunted, they made sure that during the springtime, females and their babies were never killed. When harvesting crops, they waited until the plants had produced seeds for the following year. They always made sure that there was enough food for at least 7 generations to come.
Some of our governments have realized the importance of sustaining our natural environments, and have consulted with aboriginal groups to develop resource management skills and environmental laws. However, other governments dismiss environmental concerns and allow industry to destroy habitats, and pollute the air and water. So another key to protecting our planet is to become more active in petitioning governments to make laws that force industry to take better care of our natural resources. A shocking fact is that every year industrial fishing leaves 100 million pounds of plastic garbage in our oceans! Why is that allowed?
I remember watching the Bill Nye video where he had a Jenga game all set up with each block representing an aspect of nature. He slowly began pulling out species that are presently at risk for extinction. I’m sure you can imagine the complete collapse after just a few of those blocks were pulled out. Scientists do speak about “the point of no return”, an estimate of how much time Earth has before there is no more time left to fix the problems we are experiencing today.
Getting back to the first key in caring for our environment, educating our youth, schools should be spending far more time teaching science. This is an easy thing to do since it can be done through both language and math programs. Science subjects are relevant in many aspects of life, are interesting and practical, and they teach children problem-solving skills.
People need to put pressure on our government to adjust the curriculum to learn skills through science topics. Then our youth will have a better appreciation for Earth, and be more able to deal with the environmental problems that past generations have saddled them with.
Hopefully, as all people become more aware of issues facing our natural world, enough concerned citizens will put pressure on our governments to develop policies and laws that value our environment. As someone once said, “If you aren’t part of the solution, then you’re part of the problem”. Let’s all be part of the solution.