Time to think of Earth as child, not mother

A summary released this week detailing an exhaustive report on the health and future of our Earth compiled by 500 scientists from 50 countries offers a grim warning: humans are decimating the planet and, if we don’t immediately make “transformative changes” at every level, we risk the extinction of one million animal and plant species as well as an unsustainable future for humankind.

“The overwhelming evidence … from a wide range of different fields of knowledge, presents an ominous picture,” Sir Robert Watson, chair of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) group that wrote the report, stated in a press release. “The health of ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating more rapidly than ever. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, livelihoods, food security, health and quality of life worldwide.”

The report summary — the full, 1,500-page document is scheduled to be released later this year — shows a bleak future for our children and grandchildren if we don’t act right now to reverse the damage we’ve inflicted on our planet.

Without widespread changes, including reigning in climate change; altering the way we farm our land, log our forests and harvest our oceans; and learning from indigenous peoples living in a more sustainable relationship with the Earth, the scientists predict “a looming extinction crisis with extinction rates currently tens to hundreds of times higher than they have been in the past 10 million years,” according to a New York Times article on the IPBES report.

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) didn’t mince words when writing about the report: “This is Earth being driven towards a ‘mass extinction event’ — only the sixth in the last half-billion years.”

The warning is extreme, but should not be shocking. Scientists across the planet have been sounding the alarm for more than a decade, telling us there will be horrible, irreversible consequences for the actions we seemingly refuse to change.

Most of these “we must act now or face horrible consequences” reports do offer solutions. The question is: why aren’t we willing to listen to them and demand immediate changes?

Is it possible our reluctance to help the Earth has something to do with how we view our planet?

We label the natural world “Mother Nature” and then we consider the planet a mother figure — something to give us shelter, protect us, soothe us and feed us, no questions asked. We expect the Earth to love us unconditionally, even while we’re demanding she make us dinner after she’s worked all day, clean up our messes and forgive us when we forget to call her on her birthday.

If we were to view the Earth as our child instead of our mother, would it make a difference in how we treat our planet? Would we worry over the planet’s fevers, make sure it got enough sleep and prepare it healthy, plant-based dinners every night? Would we, when dozens of doctors (or hundreds of scientists) tell us our child is very, very ill and unlikely to recover if we don’t change the way we’re living, just chalk it up to the doctors overreacting and trying to play politics?

As we celebrate all things maternal this Mother’s Day weekend, let’s work on reevaluating our relationship with “Mother Nature” and try to rewire our brains to treat the planet like an only child. Let’s wake up wondering if Earth is feeling OK and listen when the doctors tell us she clearly is not and that, in fact, her fever is the highest it’s ever been.

The report released this week shows that humans can help our planet feel better, but we are likely past the point of healing her completely. As Jake Rice, a fisheries scientist who researches biodiversity in the Americas, told the New York Times this week, “At this point, our options are all about damage control.”

To read the IPBES report summary, visit ipbes.net.

A call to action: We would like to highlight the ways individuals, businesses, nonprofits, government agencies and others in Camas-Washougal are operating in a more sustainable way.

Do you know of a local company that is drastically altering the way it does business to help protect the Earth? Has your family switched from a meat-based to a plant-based diet to help make a difference to climate change on an individual level? Is your nonprofit dedicated to reducing its carbon footprint or advocating for environmentally sustainable changes?

Let us know. Email story suggestions to Editor Kelly Moyer at Kelly.Moyer@camaspostrecord.com.

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