“O ruin’d piece of nature, this great worldWilliam Shakespeare, The Tragedy of King Lear
Shall so wear out to naught.”
When in 1951 Rachel Carson published her extraordinarily popular book The Sea Around Us, which galvanized huge interest in the oceans, she was not overly optimistic concerning humanity’s ability to be an engaged steward and partner to these vast and rich biologically endowed marine regions of the Earth. She said: “There has long been a certain comfort in the belief that the sea, at least, was inviolate, beyond man’s ability to change and to despoil. But this belief, unfortunately, has proved to be naïve.” Seventy years ago people thought the ocean was pristine, but in the intervening years it has lurched from one crisis to another.
Carson amplified her urgent call to protect life on Earth with her revealing book Silent Spring, for she wished to whittle away a dangerous collective prejudice that has increasingly wrought havoc. Adding to the growing destruction of the fantastically fecund coral reefs brought on in large part by climate warming and the insatiable demand for the sea’s marine bounty, including its minerals, the newest concern is the level of plastics found in the ocean.
June 5 is World Environment Day, and this year its focus was on the ending of plastic pollution. Now, at last, a UN treaty on global plastic pollution based on the full life cycle of plastics is going ahead, with the details to be finalized by the end of 2024.
We all know that there is great beauty, creativity—imagination, if you will—and intelligence in all sentient life forms. There are groups of people throughout the world who are striving to address an embedded ignorance of Nature, as there are also millions who share the recognition that the Earth’s biodiversity is unique in the universe.
As we know, the prospects for the future on this planet grow dimmer with each year as biodiversity is lost, nuclear threats grow, and climate action never seems to take hold fast enough to hold off the sheer madness of a fossil-fuelled, irresponsible and unethical growth economy that is surely epitomized by gross domestic product (GDP). That homage to capitalism at its worst doesn’t care whether this growth economy encompasses the production of more armaments or the financing and reckless forging ahead with artificial intelligence.
Nature is now given a price, but such intangibles as the inalienable right for humans and animals to have a healthy quality of life is looked upon askance and often shrugged off as some utopian pipe dream. Yet there is never a lack of ways for a person to wake in the morning and not feel beauty, even though the west would like to requisition it all by refusing to stop its extractive neo-colonial obsessions. In place of that unbridled greed courage, determination and education are fertile soil for a sense of agency that can grow vigorously.
The David Suzuki Foundation announced recently that a long overdue overhaul of the Canadian Environmental Protection Act is finally inching closer into law with Bill S-5, which spells out the right of Canadians to a robust and healthy environment. There are huge implications.
Can Canadians soon go to court and finally be empowered to make a winnable case highlighting a loss of biodiversity or clean air and water, and make governments large and small criminally responsible? Will S-5 demand that governments and corporations will no longer be able to play down and stop climate action? Can humanity slash a jagged hole through its most unconscionable values and allow a light shine through to foster peace with Nature? Bill S-5 is a strong pathway towards making federal and regional governments accountable to Nature—and, yes, humans are included.
On May 26, several demonstrations happened in Québec. Vigilance OGM organized the protests. OGM stands for genetically modified organism in French—GMO in English.
Try to speak about mainstream food systems’ fossil-fuel-pumped rigidity to the government, and often you’ll encounter an unwillingness to discuss such an important subject as the safety of our foods. CropLife Canada is the principal lobbyist for pesticides use, targeting the government.
People on some protests carried several ‘tombstones’ bearing the names ‘choice’, ‘science’, ‘transparency’ and ‘democracy’, clearly decrying the possible death of all four of those guardians that a democratic society relies on to function fully. Some solemnly carried a casket with the name ‘CropLife’ written on it. Biotechnology is the key to a better world, according to the website croplife.ca. CropLife promotes products such as “Long Shelf-Life” strawberries (proudly touted as “the first #GeneEdited strawberry to hit the market”), and represents the huge biotechnology industries that push for GMOs as the answer to everything.
I like what anthropologists Anne Buchanan and Kenneth Weiss have to say: “Life is an orderly collection of uncertainties.” We are finally coming to the conclusion that the universe is an expanding, open system. Ignorance and prejudice regarding such topics as colonialism, gender, culture, climate and biodiversity can be ended if humanity so wills.
Climate/biodiversity advocacy groups such as 350.organd Extinction Rebellion endeavour through non-violent means to shake us up. Tom Bullough recently wrote for Writers Rebel: “To be a writer today is to hold the climate and ecological emergency at the heart of your work… If the emergency is not at the heart of your work then you’re not writing honestly, and if you’re not writing honestly then you are not a writer.” Provocative words to get us to stand up and take notice of our own proclivity to sit back. I fully embrace what he offers us!
Magazines such as Resurgence & Ecologist and Orionlive up to Bullough’s admonition and are sweet antidotes to our anti-Nature prejudices. Take some time to discover their writing, which jubilantly educates us and celebrates the ability to create a better world for generations to come.
I sometimes think that those finely clipped, pesticide-ridden, over-fertilized and biodiversity dead-zone lawns that western society cherishes so highly are a mirror, a microcosm, a landmark or a cemetery, if you will, of our dead feelings for Nature, and that if we could only break through these toxic attitudes to know our place as just one biological species of many in a replenished and open macrocosm, the world would truly flourish.
The great biologist E.O. Wilson put it succinctly: “To strive against odds on behalf of all life would be humanity at its most noble.”