Monday, 4 June 2012

The Obligation to Endure

Today is World Environment Day 2012 and I am sitting down to read Rachel Carson's 'Silent Spring' which was first published in 1962. Her words are still resoundingly relevant to today's environmental challenges. 

In Chapter 2, 'Obligation to Endure' Rachel says: 
"The history of life on earth has been a history of interaction between living things and their surroundings. To a large extent, the physical form and the habits of the earth's vegetation and its animal life have been moulded by the environment. Considering the whole span of earthly time, the opposite effect, in whcih life actually modified its surroundings, has been relatively slight. Only within the moment of time represented by the present century has one species - man - acquired significant power to alter the nature of his world". 

We continue to grapple with the disturbing magnitude of this power to this day - and it will be challenge that ultimately makes or breaks us as a species on this planet, able to live on and sustain not only ourselves but the life and environment around us. 

"The rapidity of change and the speed with which new situations are created follow the impetuous and heedless pace of man rather than the deliberate pace of nature". 

This rapid pace of change has continued, in different forms... Rachel Carson was referring to the use of pesticides and the pollution and contamination of the planet. We now have the threat of climate change from carbon pollution. We will have more and more threats until we realise our place in nature and time. 

"The public must decide whether it wishes to continue on the present road, and it can do so only when in full possession of the facts. In the words of Jean Rostand, 'the obligation to endure gives us the right to know'. 

There is no doubt we are in possession of the full facts about our ability to destroy the environment around us. We are also in possession of the full facts about how we can actually change our behaviour to move towards sustainable development. 

Time can pass so easily, like a ship on the horizon. 

Rachel Carson wrote these words in 1962. Twenty years ago at the first Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, countries agreed on a path to sustainability and ecologically sustainable development. In 2012, we need not more pledges but real action and real change, before another decade or two passes us by. 

Young people especially need to stand up for theirs and their children's futures, and demand world leaders at Rio+20 in June 2012 to seize this time to set us on a true course to sustainable living. 

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