Issues such as:
Ecosystems – Continued destruction of our fragile ecosystems which all life depends on.
Climate Change – Our climate changing at a pace where many species of plants and animals are not able to adapt quickly enough to survive.
Poverty – a world spending more than a trillion dollars per year on military purposes at a time when 20% of the earth’s people are chronically hungry or starving.
Collapsing World Economies – world economies collapsing and generally being out of touch with reality.
Resources – using up renewable resources faster than they can regenerate and continuing to exploit non-renewable resources at unprecedented rates.
Population – a world population of six billion and growing exponentially (growing by 70 million in just 2007). Rather than feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of these issues, let’s consider that these problems provide the impetus for a global awakening, which can bring about the social and environmental change that we need. Throughout the world, there is overwhelming evidence that this is happening. People, both individually and collectively (via approximately two million grassroots organizations), are gathering together to discuss and promote a more sustainable environment and "socially just” human presence on this planet. The recent election of Barack Obama in the U.S. is a very strong indicator that people want change and that "want” + "action” can bring about remarkable change.
Life is a constant change. Every moment is a beginning, a rebirth – another opportunity to grow, to connect with each other, to discover our individual and collective role in the universe. Each one of us has a part to play in how this change unfolds and how it is directed.
So how can we play our part? As individuals, we can encourage dialogue. We can encourage change and be the change we want to see in world. However, it is extremely important that we elect wise leaders at every level of government since it is here where the biggest changes are set in motion. For example, additional funds equalling 1/6 of the global military budget, if re-directed, would eradicate poverty, stabilize population and restore our damaged ecosystems.
Expressing our concerns and ideas is very important. Elected government leaders want to stay in power so they are apt to listen to a populace whose collective voice is wise, strong and credible. Our voices can be heard more clearly with proportional representation (or fair vote). In BC, we can vote "yes” for this in a 2009 spring election referendum. Forty countries already have proportional representation.
To make wise choices, we need to be well informed. It is very important that we provide our youth – the leaders of tomorrow – with both early education and continued education particularly in the areas of conservation and social responsibility. This has started to happen to some extent. For example, The Artist Response Team (www.cycleoflife.ca), through its highly effective program of eco-education through music in local elementary and secondary schools, effectively brings together children, parents, and communities with their thoughtful work and delightful Voices of Nature concerts. Another example: Free The Children organization – initiated several years ago by young Canadian, Craig Kielburger (www.freethechildren.com). Here is an organization, primarily of young people, affecting the lives of millions of other young people, other students, families and communities all over the world.
We desperately need an economy that supports our ecology – contrary to what has been taking place for many decades. During a recent visit to Nanaimo in the fall of 2008, David Suzuki pointed out that "the economy is a human invention while nature is what all life depends on!” He reminds us that we need to have an economy that recognizes the value of a tree being much more than just a value after it is cut down. Paul Hawken, in his book "The Ecology of Commerce”, provides a blueprint to make this shift – the greening of our societies. We can learn from, encourage and support more sustainable projects all over the planet. We still need to ask – Are these projects wisely researched, well planned and thoughtfully implemented? In his book, "The Geography of Hope – a Tour of the World We Need”, Chris Turner documents many pioneers of sustainable projects around the world.
Currently on Vancouver Island, two projects in the research and planning stages include a 200-Megawatt Wind Farm at the north end of Vancouver Island and a Tidal-wave Project at the south end.
In addition, the problem of "Homelessness” is being addressed and hopefully eradicated in Nanaimo using a program similar to the ”Streets to Homes” program which has been proven highly effective in Toronto and in Portland, Oregon (www.toronto.ca/housing and www.stophomelessness.ca). Our every choice – our every action – matters, individually and collectively. As Archbishop Desmond Tutu says, "Every single one of us can do something to make a difference”. Consider the destructive nature of our runaway Consumerism and extreme wastefulness, particularly in North America. We can simply change our priorities – rather than being "consumers”, let’s be "human beings” who consciously care for each other and our shared earth.
Winds of Change! Let us be the generation that wisely and joyfully uses these winds to move our world onto a path of sustained, humane progress. Right here, right now, let’s engage and co-ordinate our minds, our hearts and our actions to benefit our planet and each other. As author Alice Walker reminds us, "We are the ones we have been waiting for!”
Lynn Burrows is a Nanaimo-based writer and photographer working for positive change on Vancouver Island.