Happy new year to all of you! When I say that, I think of fairy tale endings along the lines of ‘and they lived happily ever after... ’ . We know by now that it never happens that way. Yet we humans have a very strong trait in us — that of hoping against hope. And that is what we must do for the environment. Not only hope, but take action to turn the hope into reality. This is what our New Year resolution should be, both for us and our environment.
Why? Well, I am sure that most of us, suffer from a hopelessness when it comes to the environmental situation and this hopelessness is reflected in our personal lives. Many of my friends have chosen not to have children saying Why bring life into a world which is doomed? It keeps us from falling into a peaceful sleep. The environment is more than ever entangled in doomsday narratives and the emotional consequences are kept under wraps mostly. I started out writing my thesis with the word ‘Anthropocene’ (an informal geologic chronological term for the proposed epoch that began when human activities had a significant global impact on the Earth’s ecosystems) in the very first sentence so I am the last person to be undermining the pressing magnitude of the problems at hand.
However, the way we communicate the problems is strewn so strongly with negativity and is so paralysing that we, without knowing it, are fuelling a culture of anguish, almost as if the planet’s fate is sealed and is beyond repair. People are being battered with issues on a scale that feels too massive, too hefty to overpower, so that they easily give in, play down, brush aside or close down completely. According to the International Journal of Mental Health Systems, ‘a quarter of children in Australia are so troubled about the state of the world that they honestly believe it will come to an end’.
When I sat in class, we asked ourselves time and again whether it was worth it. I was studying Wildlife Biology and Conservation and wrote up project proposals to fund my research but I asked myself whether one could really do anything to ‘save the planet’ given the amplitude of the challenge? Aren’t we all, plain and simply, just doomed?
But I soon realised that by fading out the nuances and specificity of contexts, and framing a single, monolithic story, we miss the positives. We are consequently left with an oversimplification of sorts. The discourse of doomsday is so completely etched in our minds that we overlook the comeback stories. Yes, nuclear zones are recovering, baby corals are acclimitising to ocean acidification, life is miraculously returning to normal after an oil spill and some whale species populations have recovered to historic levels.
My articles, in essence, try to create an interest in the animal world. Whether it is the intelligence of an octopus or parasitic birds or carnivorous plants, there is much to be thrilled about with nature.
But I have also written about the fishing cat, the passenger pigeon and the sharks, to name a few. These were not to say, that is time to bid them adieu but to say ‘listen, this is what needs to be stopped’. Now, whether, my readers took a step to create their world, a world that they would like to live in, only time will tell.
No single person can change the world. We can only strive to live well; we can be the drops of water in the ocean and imagine what will happen if each drop changed its colour to red — the entire ocean would become red. We can choose to get swayed by a world of gadgets and other distractions or we can choose to go the other way and discard consumerism. By choosing our world, we can, in essence, create it.
The very basic point after all is that the environment is the resource we use and the land that we live on, the water we drink and the air we breathe and what we change to create our everyday lives is a part of it. And how ecologically, sensibly and fairly we do that has everything to do with how fair and healthy pretty much everything is. Environment is you. We are a small part of a far bigger cause. We humans are, in fact, standing in a tiny moment on the shifting sands of time. The story neither began with us, nor will it end with us. So while we are here, why not be at peace with each other and with nature? Have a wonderful year ahead!