“Climate change isn’t an ‘issue’ to add to the list of things to worry about, next to health care and taxes. It is a civilizational wakeup call.” ~ Naomi Klein
If there is one thing that distinguishes us as human beings, it is our capacity to care. What makes human caring unique (and morally significant) is that we can develop into beings who care for non-human species, forests and oceans, indeed, for the planet itself.
No doubt you are thinking: “Well, if that is really true, then why have we done so many things that cause such great damage to the earth, and inflicted unnecessary pain and suffering on other animals?”
It is important to grasp here that the capacity to care, like any other human capability, must be nurtured, developed and strengthened through education, mentoring and in practical contexts of action.
When we experience sorrow, pain or loss in our lives and someone gives up their time to be there for us, we begin to grasp what it means to care. At a broader level, when we see others gathering together and engaged in community projects and initiatives that demonstrate love, caring and respect for the biosphere, the land and the water, we are captivated and motivated to act.
In a very real sense we become caring beings when we act in caring ways toward each other and the planet. We communicate the meaning of caring to others by recounting stories of people who embody it in their daily lives.
That we don’t often seem to act in a caring way toward the environment has a lot to do with the fact that since the industrial revolution, we have acquiesced to an economic system, which views our planet as nothing more than a “commodity,” or a means to the end of individual wealth, rather than a precious and fragile Earth that provides the very conditions of possibility for life itself.
What environmental science and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change have made abundantly clear to us in the last year is that we need to care much more about our planet in the present for the sake of the future.
A new 39-minute documentary from the UK called The Race is On: Secrets and Solutions of Climate gives us a clue about what it means to care. It is both a sobering account of why governments avoid taking serious actions to mitigate climate warming, and an inspiring story of how we can rise to the challenge of climate disruption, encourage each other to care more and build a better future. Filmmaker and director of Global Sustainability Solutions Dr. James Dyke talks to leading scientists, economists, activists and entrepreneurs who not only understand what we need to do, but remind us that the solutions are out there; they are only waiting for us to act on them. This documentary is online, free and available to all.
What we learn from it is that caring for our environment is not merely a feeling but more a way of acting toward the earth that demonstrates respect and love for the precious gift of life itself.
Climate Action Powell River Society is a non-profit society committed to helping the residents and businesses of Powell River to reduce their greenhouse gas. Fred Guerin is a philosophy professor at Vancouver Island University.