Humans & Sustain(IN)ability

It is morning.

You open your eyes and see the sun peeking in through the window. A small patch of sun shines on your cheek and you can feel the warmth. You feel the soft, familiar plush of your blanket and stare outside at the gently swaying trees. You sit up and think of your morning’s to do list…

This narrative so far could be the experience of a human living in any year of the past century. However, let’s now contrast how the morning would look for someone living in 1920 vs. someone today in 2020.

1900: this morning I will dress in my clothing, make my bed, brush my hair and teeth, and eat breakfast that I will cook from scratch. I will respond to some letters, and then prepare to go to town–maybe instead of walking today I will ride in the carriage.

2020: this morning the first thing I will do is check the weather (if I go outside before checking the weather I might actually die) and see what I need to wear for the day. After that I’ll get on instagram, facebook, linkedin, snapchat, twitter, facebook again, and catch up on social media all in the span of 5 minutes because i missed so much while i was sleeping! probably a lot happened. oh…..nothing happened. well, glad i checked just in case! I’ll make my bed, brush my teeth with an electric toothbrush and running water. I’ll microwave some oatmeal with a lot of unnatural preservatives. I’ll check the mirror one more time before I leave to make sure I’m on trend (this outfit will go out of style in a week) and off I go to another part of town in my car that guzzles gas at an alarming rate and pollutes the world around me. it will be a good day i promise!

If we could travel back in time to 1900 and simply tell someone what we do in a day–what do you think would happen? probably we would be burned at the stake for witchcraft. that’s pretty likely, i think.

My point in presenting these stories from two different times in human history is this: so much has changed for us in just one century–a rapid change that has seemingly separated us from the natural world. Society driven by industrial powers has normalized wasteful practices on both micro and macro scales. None of us (except maybe Greta), although we may try, are living completely ethically and sustainably. And even if each human on Earth started to implement entirely environmentally conscious practice into every day life–it may not be enough to reverse the damage that we and our ancestors have done to this planet.

I have learned from the Wicked Problems class and The 11th Hour documentary a lot of interesting and sickening truths about our world. Like the fools of Easter Island, we know the size of the place we call home, yet we continue to waste, deplete, and disrespect our resources. The harm that we inflict on our environment is harm done to ourselves–a wound that continues to fester and may prove to be fatal.

Fortunately, there may be hope yet for us. In last week’s class, my group participated in the “Wildest Thing” activity, in which we thought outside the box, pushed the limits of traditional problem solving, and generated interesting and “wild” solutions. Our wicked problem was “Deforestation,” to which my personal favorite solution was to raise civilization to the treetops. This would mean no more man-made structures on the ground, only treehouses and living inside trees just like the Keebler Elf. Maybe in that reality we could all make some cookies and stop polluting the Earth together.

However, at the time being it seems that I need to improve my own sustainability practices at home:

I have a worse carbon footprint than average!! This is unacceptable. No more lights left on. no more cranking the AC. I don’t need to leave the TV on 24/7!!!! The future starts now, and I hope we are all looking towards a more sustainable one.

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