Is the environment teaching us anything?

Multiple lightening strikes hitting the earth

(Photo: David Mark)

It seems the environment is trying to teach us something. One natural disaster after another fills our TVs and radio waves, and the lives of hundreds of thousands of people have been torn apart. OK, I don’t believe the Earth is an intelligent being that consciously decides to teach us things, but if we aren’t learning from the events over the last year, we are very slow learners.

To me the biggest lesson is that we are not above nature. If we build in flood plains, we’re going to be flooded. If we build nuclear power plans in earth quake zones, we are going to have radiation leaks. If we don’t care for the environment, we are going to suffer the consequences.

We seem to keep putting off action on climate change because we can’t afford it. Surely the question is can we afford not to take action? As has been demonstrated time and time again, natural disasters have a huge impact on economies and, more importantly, on people’s lives. Scientists are increasingly suggesting that climate change is going to increase the likelihood of extreme weather events and we need to act now. I can’t see the sense (economic, social or any other sense) in forcing future generations to deal with our failure to act on climate change. (And no, I’m not inferring that earthquakes are linked to climate change.)

It is also going to be interesting to see what happens with the nuclear debate. I’ve heard various people saying how recent events demonstrate that nuclear energy is safe. It depends on what sort of time frame we use. If we think short-term, they have a point. Despite the extreme events, the long-term effects of the current events unfolding in the Japanese nuclear plant may not be extreme. For me to be convinced about the advisability of nuclear energy, however, I need to be assured that it will be safe in the long-term. How can we be sure that the political situation will not change dramatically and that nuclear power plants will not become victims of war? How can we be sure that we can safely store radioactive waste products for the hundreds of years?

We need to change our perspective and follow Oren Lyons call to ensure decision-making is “guided by consideration of the welfare and well-being of the seventh generation to come.” He asks, “What about the seventh generation? Where are you taking them? What will they have?” At the moment, it doesn’t look good for them.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
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