Toronto Star mention…
In other words, a professional “wet blanket.” (Definitely someone you think twice about inviting to your next party.)
When this happens, I wonder if environmental studies has displaced economics as the “dismal science,” the phrase coined by 19th-century polymath Thomas Carlyle.
Yet while there are certainly forbidding ecological facts and alarming environmental trends that need to be highlighted and confronted, there are also myriad positive developments that are equally deserving of attention.
As we progress toward the New Year, three such signs of hope on the creation front come to mind.
First, Bolivia is on the verge of passing one of the most far-reaching environmental bills in history. The “Mother Earth” or Pachamama law, approved by Bolivia’s majority governing party, draws deeply on indigenous concepts that view nature as a sacred home.
Blending native spirituality with contemporary biological insight, the new law states that “Mother Earth is a living dynamic system made up of the undivided community of all living beings, who are all interconnected, interdependent and complementary, sharing a common destiny.”
As Nick Buxton of the Transnational Institute observes, the law is among the first to give nature legal rights, specifically the rights to life, regeneration, biodiversity, water, clean air, balance and restoration.
The law will also fundamentally reorient Bolivia’s economy, mandating not an embrace of unfettered growth but a conforming to the limits of nature. It radically advocates a public policy of Sumaj Kawsay or Vivir Bien (an indigenous concept meaning “living well”), in contrast to policies focusing on producing more goods for increased consumerism.
While mining interests and other sectors of the economy have already expressed opposition to the initiative, such legislation is a sanguine sign of renewed legal understandings of the primordial importance of nature.
A second beacon of hope can be seen emanating from Vatican City in the humble, pastoral and compassionate smile of Pope Francis, Time magazine’s 2013 Person of the Year.
He is the first pope to take the name of St. Francis, the 13th-century patron saint of ecology, who, like the indigenous peoples of Bolivia and North America, saw a familial kinship with nature, speaking of “Brother Wolf” and “Sister Moon.”
Francis’s environmental musings have already been deeply compelling.
In his cogent World Environment Day address June 5, Pope Francis commented that “we are losing the attitude of wonder, contemplation, listening to creation.” In his November Apostolic Exhortation, he railed against an economic system marked by a limitless “thirst for power and possessions” that “tends to devour everything which stands in the way of increased profits” leaving defenceless “whatever is fragile, like the environment.”
And, in his Christmas homily, before a throng of 70,000, he called on the world to protect the environment from “greed and rapacity.” (It has also been suggested that Francis is working on the Church’s first papal encyclical on the environment.)
In Francis, it appears, the environment at last may have a global spiritual defender from the heart of Western Christianity.
A third source of hope is the creative, dynamic youth who are embracing the environment as a focus of their studies, avocation and chosen careers.
From the over 2,000 students taking first and second year environmental studies courses at the University of Toronto, to the youth participating in dynamic environmental and aboriginal solidarity programs such as Alberta’s Future Leaders and Canada World Youth, there is an encouraging groundswell of interest and involvement by youth in environmental concerns.
Such interest is taking shape among a vibrant swath of under-30 environmental activists, documented in the book The New Eco-Warriors as well as a forthcoming film, both by Canadian environmentalist Emily Hunter.
The daughter of activist Bobbi Hunter and Greenpeace co-founder Robert Hunter, Emily features unconventional activists, such as Hannah Mermaid, a professional mermaid who helps protect marine ecosystems and wildlife.
Pachamama. Pope Francis. Passionate youth. Three hopeful signs as we head into the New Year that creation, and those who care for it, remain green and growing.