Your Planet, Your Choice

Here’s a thought: in the years to come generations and generations of our kind will come and leave this planet till that one day. The one day that the world ends– rumour has it this will happen through the opposite of the Big Bang (the most prominent theory for how the universe began), they call it ‘The Big Crunch’, where all the matter expanding outward at the edges of the universe is being affected by our universe’s gravity which will eventually cause this expansion to slow to the point where it halts, and begins to contract instead. This contraction will bring in all of that material– planets, stars… everything; then finally, we’d be left with the same conditions that the universe had before the Big Bang where all the matter of the universe is condensed into an infinitesimal point. And that’s the day we bid farewell to any of our kind.

The thought of this one day is actually tremendously terrifying, except it appears a little distant and far away; some are convinced it’ll happen so many generations after us, it’s effortless to be apathetic toward the idea.

But recently I’ve been reading How to Run the World by Parag Khanna, another one of my non-fiction reads and in Chapter 9 titled “Your Planet, Your Choice”, he discusses what we call the ‘ecological debt’ as a result of our mindless pursuits for material returns and tangible rewards. He discusses the importance of measuring income not just in GDP terms, but also weighing a nation’s health and environmental stress factors; or a standard for calculating the carbon emissions consequences of deals between firms that regulators could use in determining the legality of mergers. He acknowledges how this appears to be hard work, but the key, he says is we should know better than to live behind the lies of numbers divorced from the ecosystems. I personally find it difficult to feel strongly about the ecological damages we inflict because the implications that has on me appear bearable; but this is simply a classic example of our inability to look further into the future to make informed decisions.

This year with my Youth Corps Singapore project team, we embarked on a environmental project advocating and researching extensively in this area. From the initial obligation and curiosity that the choice of this project came with, the experience transformed into a realisation that, in Khanna’s words, “a hero (for the environment) is someone who realizes that simple, individual steps matter as much as high-level negotiations and the latter is, in fact, meaningless without the former.” We like to push the big problems to ‘big people’, as if they are the most important stakeholders and most influential powers– while this is valid in some occasions, it’s not in the environmental debate. I suppose the idea that we should constantly advance as a planet and not as individual states, countries, nations, nation-states and whatnot is a difficult one to grasp, because it’s simplest to relate to those closest to you and think from our narrow view of what matters, or not. But I remember it vividly when I read the President of Uruguay’s expression that “We can almost recycle everything now. If we lived within our means, by being prudent, the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed. Global politics should be moving in that direction. But we think as people and countries, not as a species.”

I find the notion that ‘the 7 billion people in the world could have everything they needed’ promising and I’d like to be a protector in playing my own part– so just as I promised and completed the #50cans Campaign (found on dosomething.org), this holidays I shall challenge myself to the De-cup your Decaf Challenge (found on http://www.carbonrally.com/challenges). Here’s to playing our own part for our planet!

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