A New Way Forward
With the start of a new decade comes a new horizon. One where we have the opportunity to shape what this time in history will be remembered for. Whether it’s unprecedented change, disappointing digression, or both (we’ve practically seen it all in 2020). But one area at the forefront of this change, with the rise of activists like Greta Thunberg, has been the environmental movement happening across the world. The climate crisis is presenting humankind with one of the greatest challenges we’ve ever faced and in doing so has enabled a shift towards more intentional consumerism. But the question still remains where are we heading and what key attitudes or behaviors will we need to sustain our future?
When we talk about sustainability today, it’s not just about carpooling or taking shorter showers--as important as these are. It’s about every aspect of our daily routines from the products we use to conversations we’re having and companies we support. In order to save our home on this planet, we have to start making intentional choices that help rather than degrade our environment. Likewise, this year we’ve seen more businesses than ever switch from the out of sight out mind model to more progressive and thoughtful accountability. This has meant not only avoiding harmful materials, like plastic, when producing products but also taking responsibility for end-of-life disposal.
In a world where we’re all consumers and generally make purchases on a daily basis, it’s important to think about how many of these items are necessary and even more so...how many leave a detrimental impact on the environment? The expansion of our population and the acceleration of economic development is putting pressure on the world’s resources at such a rate that discounts its ability to replenish materials. So how can we become more aware of this reality and live in a way that alleviates that pressure? Through education and shifting towards a climate justice-centered perspective, especially amongst young people, we can work towards positive change. For instance, litter reduction--emboldened by movements like the global grassroots organization Tuesdays for Trash. By encouraging local-individualized action and raising awareness on what happens to our trash when we send it “away”, we can tackle the waste management issue full circle. After picking up trash once you begin to notice how prevalent it is everywhere you go, and it becomes a personal endeavor because you’ve established this connection with the environment that forces you to fight back against anything that harms it--namely those pesky cigarette butts and plastic water bottles constantly being chucked in the streets. It’s my belief that if we continue to empower movements like this, we can raise a generation of forward thinkers who understand the shameful nature of littering and regularly advocate against it.
Overall, in order to survive on this planet with the limited resources at our disposal, we must continue progress towards sustainable development. This means meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability for future generations to meet their own needs. In essence, maintaining a stable relationship between human activities and the natural world. Many cultures over the course of human history have done this and understood the necessity of building harmony with the environment-- lands they inhabited, and animals they lived with. We already have a blueprint to refer to as implored by the many Indigenous people who used to occupy sacred lands that were stolen by European colonials. So it’s time to restore these practices of balance love and intentional actions so we can be better stewards to our world today and for decades to come.