It’s interesting how one idea can permanently impact our lives. This article was born out of such an idea; a simple yet powerful statement that showed up in multiple ways, compelling me to listen.
It began while I was scrolling through the myriad of choices for something to watch on Netflix. The title I Am caught my eye, so I decided to see what it was about. I Am is director Tom Shadyac’s love letter to us human beings. The film became a catalyst for me, when this one sentence—“Nothing in nature takes more than it needs” — permeated my consciousness.
THE Big Topic — Climate Change
Almost daily we hear about the deteriorating state of our planet and how climate change is the issue we all need to actively do something about. On both a personal and global level.
The big news has continued to revolve climate change and its impact on our planet’s future. We all know that in Paris, at the UNFCCC COP 21 climate change conference last December, the vast majority of countries signed the legally binding agreement to curb carbon emissions. Its future is now in jeopardy with the latest results of the U.S. election. Does the world take climate change seriously enough?
Nothing in Nature Takes More Than it Needs
This idea that nothing in nature takes more than it needs speaks profoundly to how we humans have ignored this vital lesson from the natural world around us. In fact, it’s almost diametrically opposed to the human economic growth model that breeds rampant over-consumption and is no longer sustainable.
As I learned watching the movie, when something in nature does take more than it needs, it becomes subject to this law and dies off. We call something that takes more than its share in the human body — cancer.
Humanity’s Disconnection from the Natural World
Well-known environmental activist David Suzuki concurred that the heart of our problem is the separation of humanity from the natural world and our ongoing belief that the economy is a living “thing.”
Not long after watching I Am, my big takeaway from a lecture I attended, was again how man has become disconnected from the natural world. Not only from the natural world, but from ourselves. We’ve become slaves to technology and won’t leave home without it, more interested in ‘capturing” nature and sharing it online, than experiencing and living it in the moment.
On vacations we flock to the ocean, or to the mountains, to be in nature. We’re moved by breathtaking sunsets or sunrises, in awe of nature’s wonder. City dwellers rarely get to witness these, as more than 70 per cent of the population is now living in urban centers removed from contact with the natural world, creating a disconnect from it.
This Changes Everything
My yearly trip to Sedona, Arizona, reaffirms how powerful and inspiring nature is. Ironically, on an unseasonably cold, damp October day, I was led to the Sedona Film Festival’s one-day screening of the Avi Lewis film, This Changes Everything, inspired by Naomi Klein’s NY Times best-selling book on climate change. The film’s message of hope and possibility captured my imagination.
The premise of the film fueled me. “What if confronting the climate crisis is the best chance we’ll ever get to build a better world?”
Power to the People
This Changes Everything is an epic re-imagining of the vast challenge of climate change. Filmed over 211 shoot days in nine countries and five continents over four years, it presents seven powerful portraits of communities on the front lines. From Montana’s Powder River Basin to the Alberta tar sands, from the coast of South India to Beijing and beyond.
Climate change no longer lies solely in the hands of governments. We see that grass roots movements forming all over the globe are standing up to big corporations. Demonstrating the power of people movements.Klein’s narration is interwoven with these stories of struggle, connecting the carbon in the air with the economic system that put it there. Throughout the film, Klein builds to a controversial and compelling idea. We can seize the existential crisis of climate change to transform our failed economic system into something radically better.
Man’s Greatest Challenge
Here was the same message showing up again. The economic system and our disconnection from the natural world is man’s greatest challenge.
Consider these staggering statistics:
- Two degrees Celsius is the internationally agreed upon “safe” limit for temperature rises
- Five times more is the amount of fossil fuels we have, compared to how much we can burn and stay below two degrees Celsius
- $88 billion is spent YEARLY by the fossil fuel industry to find new sources of fossil fuels
- 75 per cent is the drop in the price of solar energy over the past six years
Our world continues to be addicted to fossil fuels. Yet unless we change, there’s no longer a question we will exceed the 2 ℃ ceiling. What 350.org continues to suggest is taking personal action and telling world governments who signed the Paris climate agreement to keep their word. “We need a climate deal that’s in line with the imperatives of science and justice. Keep 80% of fossil fuels in the ground and finance a just transition to 100 per cent renewable energy by 2050.”
Choices for Change
There are solutions we can all contribute to by being willing to make choices and changes. Here’s just a few to consider:
- Pay bills online. If everyone in the US did this, the estimated yearly savings would be 2.2 billion tons of greenhouse gases, 1.7 billion pounds of solid waste and 18.5 million trees.
- Recycle newspapers. 69 per cent of the 63 million newspapers printed daily in the U.S. will be thrown away. More than half a million trees would be saved weekly if just the Sunday papers were recycled and 25 billion trees yearly if we recycled all of our newspapers.
- Cut down on using non-biodegradable plastic bags. 500 billion are used yearly worldwide.
- Stop using bottled water. It takes more than 1,000 years for a plastic bottle to biodegrade. 2.5 million plastic water bottles are thrown away HOURLY.
- Eat Less Meat + Buy Food Locally to lower greenhouse gas emissions. Going vegetarian cuts your diet’s greenhouse gas impact in HALF. You save more water by not eating a pound of beef than by not showering for six months!
This is a complicated topic with many facets to it. I’ve barely scratched its surface. For a look at the climate change issue, James Cameron’s nine-part documentary series, Years of Living Dangerously, offers in-depth information, plus ways to participate and contribute.
The Power of One
If the power to change things lies in our hands, how will you use your voice? We cast our vote daily by what we do and what we don’t do. A great example of this is last years election in Canada. New voters turned out in record numbers, surprisingly electing a new Liberal government led by Justin Trudeau. A government that promised hope and change. The jury is still out on that as well.
This reminded me of a favorite quote by Margaret Mead. “Never underestimate the power of a small group of committed people to change the world. In fact, it is the only thing that ever has.”
If you want change; be the change. Remember the power of one. If you don’t do anything, nothing will change. So do something. Our future depends on it. No act is too small. How will you contribute?
postscript: This post was originally published on the Huffington Post in November, 2015…just weeks before the historic Paris Climate Summit. With recent current events in November 2016, I’ve updated it to reflect where things are today.