I often contemplate why so many people around the world disregard the well-being of our environment — the ecosystems and human systems — and I have a hard time understanding why I so intrinsically feel connected to everything and everyone on our planet. Lately I’ve begun remembering specific memories I have from my childhood, and in particular memories that pertain to natural spaces. Do you remember seeing the world as a child?
I spent my childhood camping with my family, through school, and with Girl Guides so I always assumed that is where I gained my love for nature and began to understand my role as a steward of our earth. However, as I began to remember more about my past, I realised that it stemmed much deeper than that. While camping and spending time outdoors surely has provided me with beautiful memories of mossy trees that are as tall as skyscrapers, of lakes as clear & smooth as glass, and of rolling hills that go on for miles, that is not all that has led me to the path I am on.
As a very young child, I remember believing in unicorns. I remember thinking about how majestic these creatures must be. I always firmly believed unicorns possessed magic in their horns that cured the earth of the damage we inflicted upon it. I thought unicorns dipped their horns into the river to remove the balloons that other kids had let escape into the sky, once they fell back to the earth. I know this is a very silly memory, but it clearly indicates that my mind has always contemplated (and has cared deeply) for the environment.
I remember loving Jane Goodall, and we had many of her books full of images of chimpanzees. We had binders and binders full of information leaflets about all* of the animal species on the planet. My Girl Guide leader would remind me to be resourceful with my paper when cutting shapes (“how many circles can you cut from just one piece of paper?”) and I remember my mother insisting on hand-me-downs (hand-me-ups in my case) regardless of my dissent. In Grade 2, we planted trees outside and had pet bats in our classroom. And through it all, I’ve met people from far too many countries to count and have learned their stories of home, what nature means to them, and how climate change is literally changing (and dare I say dismantling) their lives and livelihoods.
This has all led me to who I am now.
And I suppose, not everyone is as lucky as I was. Being instilled with an understanding of sustainability and justice from a young age — even though I didn’t always know there are actually words for how I felt — is clearly not as common as I have been led to believe. Perhaps I am an anomaly.
So, my question is: if memory has helped form who I am — a climate justice organizer, employee at an environmental nonprofit, and environmental (non-formal) educator — how do we get others, who have completely different memories and lived experiences, on the same page? How do we explain the urgency of the climate crisis and the legacy our elected officials (and by extension we) are leaving on this planet? How do we instill a sense of sensitivity to, and solidarity with, those who are already experiencing the tragic and catastrophic consequences of our changing climate?
And ultimately, would a paradigm shift, such as this, buy us more time? I often feel completely overwhelmed.
*Probably not all of the species, but you get the point.