When you live and breathe environmental issues, the wins and the losses, on a day-to-day basis, it’s easy to be jaded and cynical. Around the time of events like Earth Hour or Earth Day, it’s not uncommon to hear: “but, surely we’ve moved beyond raising awareness, right?” throughout our (virtual) office.
It’s not that we think the hundreds of events organised annually are terrible—in fact, kudos to everyone doing something this year. Everything from installing solar panels on your roof to organising events in your community is awesome, and what’s needed in addition to widespread policy change.
Earth Day—April 22—marks the anniversary of what some consider to be the ‘birth’ of the Western environmental movement back in 1970. Despite our occasional cynicism, it celebrates a change of consciousness. Here’s a few Verb writers about when they first started to think differently about the environment.
“When I was really little, I remember playing in the creek behind my house—catching snakes, turtles and frogs. I used to play for hours, building forts and just taking in the awesomeness that is being able to live with nature. My naive and sheltered view was shattered when a girl at my bus stop one morning explained to me that there was a huge hole in our ozone. She told me humans had to be blamed, and that the world we live in today will not be the one we live in tomorrow.”
I remember this very vividly because I did not like the feeling that I had contributed deteriorating the earth’s health. It made me want to do something about it.
Today, Andrew can be found writing about China-US relations on environmental issues.
Yi Ying Teh
“I hate to say this because he’s such a polarising figure. But love him or hate him, Al Gore and his work in ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ convinced me deeply of the urgency of climate change. I was on a family holiday in Bali during COP13. Seeing the roads lined with banners and watching civil society activists bike to the conference venue sparked my interest in the environment. It was in Bali where I watched ‘An Inconvenient Truth’. It turned on a switch in my mind and I began to see the additive impacts of my daily actions. Eight years on, it is the awareness that religious groups care deeply about climate change impacts and find within their traditions the moral imperative to act, that strengthens my involvement. I also draw beauty from the land/earth art movement in contemporary art.”
Read Yi Ying’s analysis on the role of south-east Asian countries in the UN climate change negotiations.
Sometimes I think I had an extremely unconventional upbringing for an ‘environmentalist’.
“Yes, my parents would take my brother and I to the beach and camping, but we weren’t necessarily kids that grew up outdoors and in nature. We also spent a lot of time indoors, but also overseas and in different communities too. I don’t think that an idyllic upbringing on a farm is necessary to care about the environment. What’s since drawn me to the environment hasn’t just been ‘nature’, but also, the people I’ve seen suffering from other injustices. It’s these very people who I know will be more impacted by environmental degradation.”
Here’s Linh wrapping up the final outcomes of a UN climate conference.
“Growing up in a beautiful tropical country, my parents were always taking us on weekend trips to the beach and rainforest. Being exposed to such awe inspiring and remarkably beautiful elements of nature; somehow a spell was cast and I have been bewitched with nature ever since. Deforestation in the name of progress became the norm in my country, as I grew older. I swear I could hear my heart breaking every time a tree was being chopped down, but even then, I thought it was bound to stop at some point. That things would get better by the time I was a grown up. The state of the environment has only deteriorated since and, without any change, will only get worse.”
Because giving up on the things I love is not something I am willing to do, naturally my connection with nature lead me to become part of the environmental movement.
Here is Sofía on indigenous voices being silenced in Peru.
“I grew up in the countryside spending a lot of time outdoors. I could not have known that it would prompt my interest in environmental issues. My education was in biology and this resulted in an urgency to work towards ‘saving the planet’. At university, we started an environmental club that’s now the ‘Ecology Friends Association’ which spread environmental awareness the university and Nablus. Being a Palestinian has made me more aware of environmental justice concepts.”
Read more from Sara on what Arab states are doing on climate change.
I joined the environmental movement long before I even knew what it was.
“I journeyed to the beach every year with my parents and three older brothers to experience submersion, whether by choice or by the unfortunate crashing of a large wave. My parents, who were moved by Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, made sure to remind me of how lucky we all were to see brown pelicans flying overhead—a species once threatened by the use of DDT. As I grew older, my love of the sea flourished into a passion to protect the only place I felt truly at home; on the sand with the sound of the wind, waves, and coastal creatures encompassing me.”
Here is Malcolm on just how important oceans are.
“My ‘enviro-moment’ came when I was about 16 and watched ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ at a youth conference in my hometown of Albury-Wodonga. From then I was hooked—I couldn’t imagine anything else that deserved my attention and decided to present a version of Al Gore’s slide show to my school assembly. The urgency to act on climate change has only increased since then. Carbon pricing has come and gone, international climate talks drag on, all the while pollution spews into the atmosphere.”
2015 is an important year in so many ways and we should celebrate Earth Day with a clear emphasis on the solutions to protecting our planet.
Elizabeth expands on including civil society in the climate talks.
Did you have a similar environmental awakening? You can join The Verb here.