What can just one person do?
David Hawke/Special to the Packet & Times Environmental destruction cannot be 'collateral damage' for the sake of economic development. To remove mature forests, to endanger the protection of groundwater, to place hundreds of residential septic beds atop permeable soils and beside riparian wetlands, is irresponsible and immoral. Whatever happened to the notion that our natural environment is to be considered equally, perhaps even more greatly, than the greed to make a few bucks on a hot real estate market?
A number of years ago, way back in the early 1980s, a document was printed and released to the general public. The authors of this document were several and international in origin, and while it came out under just one name, that of the Prime Minister of Norway, it was unique and timely for it addressed how humans were to manage themselves on this planet. It was called the Bruntland Report.
This report was read by millions of people around the world as it finally, clearly, honestly, stated what world powers had ignored or misunderstood for centuries: that all decisions must take into equal account the three pillars of our survival: the social, economic, and environmental impacts and effects of said decision.
Heady stuff. Especially that part about the environment needing to be included, equally. That was a bit of an eye-opener for the times. Remember, this was prior to general public awareness of an extremely limited oil supply, an out-of-control world population, and a not-yet-full understanding of environmental pollution. Since then this 'third leg of the stool' has gained prominence in the process of planning and decision making.
Blue, green, and grey box recycling, upgraded mass transit, reusable containers, low emission vehicles ... there is an impressive list of achievements that we can congratulate ourselves on over the last three and a half decades. At this point one could now start listing all the missed opportunities, all the oversights that need to be addressed, all the idiotic foot-dragging, name-calling and nay-saying that still plagues us. Instead, let's look at how some of the better earth-altering programs have come into existence.
There is quite a simple plan that goes with these successes, something I call the Triple-A Plan. Perhaps not as catchy as reduce, reuse, recycle, but self-explanatory none-the-less: awareness, appreciation, action.
Before you can persuade someone to take action on a cause, and I mean solid, long-term, fully committed action, that person needs to get from "don't care" to "this is my life's calling."
Maybe that's a bit dramatic, but you get my drift.
Step One: becoming aware. This is done by reading the newspaper, listening to the radio or TV, getting an email from a co-worker, or a tweet from a friend. Maybe it's news to you: a drought in Africa, a high rate of cancer in a community, a municipality giving the go-ahead for mass destruction of a habitat. Whatever the issue, if you're not aware, you're not going to care. However, once you do become aware, you are also at a crossroads: do you dismiss the new item, or continue learning about it?
Perhaps we dismiss the new stuff because we don't have time to focus on learning more. But the next day, or next week, or in a follow-up conversation, there it is again. What's up with that? Like it or not, you may learn more about an issue.
Step Two: appreciation. Brace yourself, as this new information might somehow be a link between your daily business and to the issue at hand. Is that apple you're eating at lunchtime from Ontario or New Zealand? The trash can at home is full of newspapers and cans, along with the broken radio and left-over kitchen slop, and now they're saying the dump is full? What's up with that?
Appreciation for an issue comes from involvement. You may have to swim in Lake Simcoe before you realize there is a weed problem; you may have to attend a guided hike through a wetland before you realize the amazing web of life that can be found there; you may have to buy a few hundred dollars worth of garbage tags before you realize we have a big problem on our hands. Without first-hand experiences, appreciation is hard to comprehend.
And now we come to Step Three: action. What does it take to change or rectify a situation? An email to a friend? A signed letter to a politician? A placard waved in the air? A peaceful arrest? Depends on the issue. Depends on you. Do you care enough to take an action, do you truly appreciate the concerns of the issue?
Action can also be accepted as compliance. You want me to sort my garbage, then give me the boxes and services to do so. You want me to limit my food purchases to a 100 or 500 mile limit, then provide me with good options. I didn't have to sit on a committee or join a club to take action, I just have to accept that a good decision has been made and will support it with my compliance. That's an example of taking action.
We live in the age of instant communication. Our continual awareness of new issues can become a hindrance, as with so many issues being thrown at us how does one decide which one, if any, to learn more about? That's the learning curve we're all on, welcome aboard.
For me it goes back to the Bruntland Report and those well-defined three legs of the stool that supports us: economy, society, and the natural environment. If one leg is shorter than the others, the stool wobbles. If one leg disappears, the stool falls over. How simple can it get? But we haven't got it, not yet, not globally, sometimes not even locally. So that's where you come in.
Awareness-Appreciation-Action. Choose your issue, choose your course. Step One of so many issues is already far behind you, that leaves just two more steps to get the problem rectified. Good luck with that!
David Hawke is a columnist for the Packet & Times. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.