I was sitting in a Melbourne café enjoying brunch with two of my oldest friends last year when one of them told me something that completely changed my way of thinking. Layla quoted a conversation she’d recently had with a colleague about an environmental initiative she wanted to implement in her workplace. He’d asked her why she wanted to do it, and she replied, “because I want to save the planet.”
He then told her:
“The planet will be fine. It’s humanity that needs saving”.
And just like that, my entire viewpoint changed.
Everyone knows that our planet has been around for far, far longer than humans have. To really put it in perspective, scientists have calculated the approximate age of the Earth to be 4.54 billion years old. Modern humans, on the other hand, have only existed for the past 200,000 years, with civilisation as we know it in existence for 6,000 years.
Needless to say, Planet Earth is more than capable of looking after herself. We all know that the dinosaurs suffered a mass extinction event that wiped them all out (well, most of them anyway) but what happened to our planet? She was fine. She continued to thrive and thrive and before she knew it, there was another dominant species evolving at a rapid rate – humans.
In recent history, humans have completely taken over Planet Earth. Of every single species in existence, humans (or to be more specific, Homo sapiens) have been the only ones to not only populate a large variety of regions across the world, but also successfully adapt to them.
The book, ‘Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind’ by Yuval Noah Harari offers an interesting perspective on this. According to Harari, Homo sapiens exclusively occupied the Afro-Asian landmass only, and places like Australia or the Americas were distant lands with different ecosystems, all inhabited by their own unique flora and fauna.
Beginning with the colonisation of Australia around 45,000 years ago, humans somehow managed to cross sea channels hundred and hundreds of kilometres wide, spreading themselves to new parts of the world. This was the first time any large terrestrial mammal had ever left the Afro-Asian continent and ecosystem.
Harari states in ‘Sapiens’:
“The moment the first hunter-gatherer set foot on an Australian beach was the moment the Homo sapiens climbed to the top rung of the food chain on a particular landmass and thereafter became the deadliest species in the annals of planet Earth”.
This would forever remain true.
Over time, Homo sapiens continued to colonise the rest of the world, leaving a trail of destruction in their wake. From the beginning of our time on Earth, humans have been ravaging the planet for her resources, giving little thought to the consequences of doing so.
After all these years, we still can’t get our heads around the idea that if we kill the planet, we will kill ourselves.
Humans are entirely dependent on Planet Earth. Yes, there has been plenty of research into the possibility of human life being able to exist on other planet in our solar system, but at the end of the day, we all live and breathe the Earth’s air.
We need the Earth’s air.
We need the Earth’s water.
We need the Earth’s sun.
We need Earth to survive.
The idea that we should all be championing is the idea that we aren’t trying to save the planet, but instead, we’re trying to save ourselves.
It’s about OUR future on the planet, not the future of the planet itself. Like I said before, she’s going to be totally fine without us. Sure, she might be a little damaged but it’s nothing she can’t heal with time.
Humans are the ones bringing humanity to extinction as a species. Maybe that is something we deserve, given the way we’ve ravaged our planet for resources. But do you think all the other innocent species on the planet deserve the same fate as us?
Over the past couple of years, I feel as though I have changed significantly in the things I care deeply about and give my time and efforts to. As you likely already know, ‘saving the planet’ has been something I’ve become passionate about during this time. From avoiding plastic waste to becoming more conscious in my everyday choices, this has quickly become a big part of my personal identity.
I’ve been called an environmentalist, an eco-warrior, a ‘greenie’ and plenty of other names associated with people who have a passion for the natural world. But why should I have to have a passion for the planet to be an environmentalist? My passion stems from the time I’ve spent in nature and the things I have educated myself about, but in reality, shouldn’t everyone be an environmentalist?
Shouldn’t everyone who cares about the future of humanity be considered an environmentalist?
We need to find a way for everyone to find common ground on this issue. Climate change is real and ignoring the problem until it goes away is not going to work. We need to find a way to shift the perspective of people who don’t consider themselves an environmentalist and find a way to make them care about humanity.
We can’t sit around and wait for someone else to fix the problems we have with our planet. We can’t sit around and watch our world leaders disagree about climate change. We can’t sit around and wait, because we don’t have forever. The current state of the world should be enough evidence – with COVID-19 running rampant in almost every country, most of the world’s population have been confined to their homes. Outside, nature is already flourishing with the lack of human interference.
We are already facing an extinction crisis – the sixth mass extinction of plants and animals in the past half-billion years. According to the Center for Biological Diversity, extinction happens at a natural ‘background’ rate of about one to five species per year, however, scientists estimate we are now losing species at up to 1,000 times the background rate. What if our species is next?
We are in a climate emergency.
We need to act now.
To quote my hero, the great Sir David Attenborough:
The one thing I’d like you to take away from this is the fact that fighting climate change is not just for the benefit of the planet, but more importantly, for the future of humanity.
Our children’s future.
Our children’s children’s future.