Now that we’ve looked at large-scale sustainable economies (aka regenerative), our final installment in the series looks at the entire planet Earth. If we think of the Earth as one, integrated living system, how can we make sure it continues to sustain a robust, resilient and high-quality standard of life? Of course, each installment leading up to this plays an important role.
It seems fitting that this week the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released a major new report on climate change. Its coverage in the NY Times leads with the headline “Stopping Climate Change Is Doable, but Time Is Short, U.N. Panel Warns.” This captures the spirit of my entire series on sustainable living - that sustainability is doable but we do have to start doing it, and start doing it now.
It’s certainly not easy - the IPCC report concludes that the human community as a whole must reduce greenhouse gas emissions by roughly 43 percent by 2030. That gives us 8 years to almost cut current emissions in half. So, on top of all the steps we’ve discussed in this series, perhaps the most important one we need to take is activism. We need to band together as a human community and demand that this target be reached. This is our generation’s moon shot.
In fact, 8 years is the same amount of time between President JFK’s famous speech to congress announcing the goal of landing on the moon in 1961 to the successful moon landing in 1969. In a speech at Rice University rousing support for the moon mission, JFK made the following statement that resonates just as powerfully today:
“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”
Can we collectively say today, with the same conviction, that we choose to end global climate change, that we choose a sustainable Earth. We choose to end not only the harmful emissions but all the legacy systems of human domination - yes, colonialism caused climate change — that contribute to an unsustainable planet. We choose to do this not because it is easy, but because it is hard.
Those of us who live in wealthy countries especially have the great responsibility to form the collective will to place sustainability as the central, organizing goal towards which we marshal all necessary resources until we can genuinely declare victory. We are all allies in this mission. Even the vested interests — those who continue to generate wealth from fossil fuels and similarly harmful legacy structures — can play an important role. They have useful knowledge and if they too take on this mission as their own we will be that much more likely to succeed.
We need not make enemies of each other in this process. The goal of leaving a better world for the future generations is one which we all share, fundamentally, as humans. It’s as important as freedom itself, because as the Earth loses capacity to sustain a dynamic, growing living system, our freedom is lost with it. True freedom is the freedom to breath, eat, drink and make homes of the Earth’s abundance without harming the future generation’s ability to do the same. Indeed, our goal is to increase future freedom, to leave a legacy of bounty, health, unbounded growth and creativity, and the culture of stewardship to ensure it is sustained over time.
This is our goal - planetary sustainability — and it is doable. We must act now, as one people with a shared vision. I ask you to spread this vision in your community however is doable for you right now. Feel it as something inspiring and joyful to undertake, like the mission to the moon. A great human success story is waiting to be written and we each may contribute a verse. Quoting again the great words of Walt Whitman:
What good amid these, O me, O life?
That you are here—that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.
About the author:
Recovering lawyer, training to be a meditation teacher. Anxiety used to define me. Now I am devoted to bringing peace to the people and communities that continue to suffer from it.