It will take hope, inspiration and action to save the earth

11 min read

Education & Career Trends: February 12
Curated by the Knowledge Team of ICS Career GPS

In the journey towards hope and action, humanity finds itself standing at the entrance of a lengthy and dimly lit tunnel.

In the whirlwind life of a globe-trotter, one encounters a myriad of perspectives, and among them, a prevailing sense of despair among the youth is unmistakable. The grim statistics of rising suicide rates only serve to underscore this disheartening reality. It’s a dire situation, for if hope evaporates from the hearts of the young, a wave of apathy threatens to engulf us all. In the face of such a bleak prospect, action becomes imperative.

With extensive time spent amidst the lush embrace of rainforests, the intricate dance of life within becomes apparent. From the intricacies of chimpanzee behaviour to the delicate balance of every flora and fauna, it paints a picture of interconnectedness—a vibrant tapestry of existence. Yet, human encroachment, driven by cattle ranching and rampant deforestation, unravels this tapestry thread by thread. The consequences are dire: a collapse of ecosystems looms large on the horizon.

Central to this crisis is the realisation that humanity is not an isolated entity but an integral part of the natural world. Yet, the bustling urban centres often shield us from this fundamental truth. The reality is stark: our sustenance—be it food, water, or clothing—is intricately linked to the health of ecosystems. Nevertheless, the relentless pursuit of a materialistic lifestyle continues to wreak havoc, necessitating a paradigm shift.

Engaging in conversations across diverse spectra of society—from children to CEOs to government officials—reveals a common truth: mere argumentation falls short in inspiring change. Finger-pointing and admonishments only serve to erect barriers. Instead, the path to transformation lies in touching hearts. It’s a journey of storytelling, of weaving narratives that resonate deep within the human spirit. For true change to manifest, it must sprout from within, rooted in the fertile soil of individual conviction. And so, every encounter with decision-makers becomes an opportunity to sow seeds of transformation, one heartfelt story at a time.

Sustainable Narratives

In a recent encounter with a group of CEOs in Singapore, one individual, heading a major multinational corporation, shared a compelling narrative of his journey towards sustainability and ethics within his company. Over eight years, he recounted his persistent efforts to align his company’s practices with principles of sustainability and ethical conduct, spanning sourcing practices, global operations, and customer relations. His motivation, he explained, stemmed from three key factors.

Firstly, he acknowledged the stark reality of resource depletion, recognising the unsustainable pace at which natural resources were being consumed in various regions. Secondly, he highlighted the mounting pressure from consumers, who were becoming increasingly discerning and vocal about ethical considerations in their purchasing decisions. Questions around fair labour practices, environmental impact, and animal welfare were becoming more prevalent, urging businesses to reassess their approaches.

However, it was a deeply personal moment that catalysed his commitment to change. Recounting a conversation with his 10-year-old daughter, who expressed concern about the company’s impact on the planet, he confessed that her words struck a chord within him, underscoring the profound responsibility he felt towards future generations.

Amidst discussions at Davos on pressing global issues like conflicts in Gaza and Ukraine, he emphasized the imperative of not losing sight of environmental challenges. While acknowledging the urgency of humanitarian crises, he urged for simultaneous attention to climate change and biodiversity loss, recognising their enduring implications for the welfare of generations to come. Despite grappling with the enormity of these issues, he remained resolute in his belief in collective action and the imperative of addressing both immediate and long-term challenges facing humanity.

Navigating Towards Hope and Action

In the journey towards hope and action, humanity finds itself standing at the entrance of a lengthy and dimly lit tunnel. At the tunnel’s far end flickers a small star of hope. Mere optimism won’t suffice; sleeves must be rolled up, and obstacles overcome. Challenges such as climate change, biodiversity loss, soil degradation from agricultural practices, ocean pollution, and poverty loom large, prompting desperate measures like deforestation for survival.

Amidst these daunting issues, champions are tackling each problem head-on. Yet, the lamentable reality often sees efforts isolated in silos, addressing specific concerns without holistic consideration. Take, for example, the closure of a coal mine to curb carbon emissions—while commendable, overlooking the resulting job losses perpetuating deep poverty. A holistic approach ensures a win-win-win scenario for all stakeholders.

Collaboration and immediate action are imperative. While conferences foster networking and inspiration, intentions to curb emissions often remain unfulfilled. The time for mere rhetoric has passed; tangible action is the need of the hour.

Hope springs eternal, particularly from the younger generation. Back in 1991, encountering despondent youth disillusioned by compromised futures, Dr. Jane Goodall embarked on a mission to prove them wrong. Thus, the Roots & Shoots program was born, empowering young minds worldwide to undertake projects benefiting people, animals, and the environment. From its humble beginnings in Tanzania, the movement has burgeoned into a global force, with passionate youth effecting change through tree planting, plastic collection, and fundraising endeavours. The world is witnessing a transformation in action.

Sustainable Narratives

A distinguished individual found themselves amidst a gathering of CEOs in the bustling city of Singapore. Among them stood the helm of a prominent multinational corporation. Reflecting on the past eight years, this leader recounted their relentless pursuit to imbue their company with principles of sustainability and ethics across global operations, from supply chains to customer relations. Their motivation stemmed from three pivotal factors.

Primarily, the leader recognised the alarming pace at which humanity was depleting natural resources, outstripping the planet’s capacity for regeneration. Secondly, the mounting pressure from an increasingly discerning consumer base underscored the imperative for ethical practices. People were beginning to probe beneath the surface, questioning the true cost of cheap goods: Were they produced through exploitative labour or environmental degradation?

However, it was a poignant moment with their 10-year-old daughter that truly catalysed a profound shift. In innocence and sincerity, she questioned her parent’s actions, grappling with the notion that their choices might harm the very planet she called home. This heartfelt plea struck a chord, driving home the urgency of their mission.

Amidst global turmoil – be it political strife or humanitarian crises – the leaders found themselves grappling with existential questions. While acknowledging the immediacy of conflicts such as those in Gaza and Ukraine, with their harrowing human toll, they refused to sideline the looming spectre of climate change and biodiversity loss. The juxtaposition of geopolitical strife and environmental degradation served as a stark reminder of humanity’s interconnected fate.

Confronted with daunting challenges and unanswered questions, the leader confessed uncertainty about the path forward. Yet, amidst the chaos and despair, they remained resolute in their conviction that addressing climate change was not just a moral imperative but a collective responsibility spanning generations.

Navigating towards hope and action

I see humanity as at the mouth of a very long, very dark tunnel. And right at the end of that tunnel, there’s a little star that’s hope. And it’s no good sitting at the mouth of the tunnel folding our arms and hoping that the star will come. No, we have to roll up our sleeves. We have to climb over, crawl under and work our way around all the obstacles that stand between us and the star: climate change; biodiversity loss; killing of the soil with agricultural poisons, pesticides and herbicides; harming the ocean with our artificial fertilizers; and poverty. Poverty drives some people to destroy the environment simply to earn a living by making charcoal or by clearing the forest to make more land to grow food for their growing families.

Climate change, loss of biodiversity, killing of the soil with agricultural poisons, pesticides and herbicides, harming the ocean with artificial fertilizers and poverty. Meanwhile, people are destroying the environment to eke out a living making charcoal or clearing forests for more land to grow food for growing families.

The good news is that there are groups of people tackling every single one of the problems we face today. Every single one.

The sad thing is that so often, people work in silos. They are concentrating only on solving their problem. For instance, imagine that we are a group fighting the closure of a coal mine because of all the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. We’ve closed it but haven’t been thinking holistically; we haven’t been thinking of all the people who will lose jobs and how we are plunging them into deep poverty. But if we start thinking holistically from the beginning, we can find ways of helping all these people who lose their jobs to make a living so that we get a win-win-win situation.

We need to collaborate and take action now. Many of these big conferences are fantastic – they create networking and people meet and inspire each other, leading to much good. But as you all know, there are a lot of intentions and commitments to reducing emissions but very seldom are those commitments honoured. The time for talk has passed. What we need today is action.

My greatest hope lies in young people today. In 1991, I was already meeting young people worldwide who had lost hope, were angry, depressed or just apathetic. And they said, well, you’ve compromised our future and there’s nothing we can do. I said that’s not true.

We do have a window of time; if we get together, we can start to make a change. So that began the Jane Goodall Institute’s Roots & Shoots programme.

Every group of Roots & Shoots chooses three projects to help people, animals, and the environment because they are all interrelated. And what began with 12 high school students in Tanzania is now in 70 countries around the world. And these young people are planting trees, collecting plastic and raising money for projects that they’re passionate about.

Hope through nature, innovation and human spirit

In the eyes of the observer, there gleams a beacon of hope amidst the gloom, and it is found in the fervent hearts of the youth. They stand as pillars of resilience, embodying the spirit of transformation that this world so desperately craves.

Moreover, the observer finds solace in the enduring fortitude of nature itself. Despite our heedless exploitation, nature persists, resilient and undaunted. Even species teetering on the edge of oblivion can find redemption through our collective efforts.

Yet, it is the remarkable ascent of human intellect that truly captivates the observer’s optimism. While acknowledging the intelligence of other beings, the strides we’ve made in technology inspire a glimmer of hope. From rockets venturing to distant planets to innovative solutions for carbon capture, humanity’s ingenuity offers a pathway to redemption.

However, amidst the clamour for technological panaceas, the observer discerns a quieter, yet profound truth: nature’s mechanisms offer potent remedies. Forests, oceans, and wetlands stand as guardians against the ravages of climate change, their efficacy oftentimes surpassing that of our inventions.

Undoubtedly, the indomitable human spirit emerges as a beacon of hope in these tumultuous times. From the collaborative efforts of Roots & Shoots groups to the resolute determination of individuals, there exists a prevailing sentiment: “Together we can.” It is a rallying cry for unity in the face of adversity, a testament to humanity’s capacity for collective action.

Yet, amidst this tapestry of hope, the observer poses a poignant question: Do we possess the will to enact the changes necessary for our survival? It is a challenge not just for governments or institutions but for every individual. Together, we stand at a precipice, with the fate of our world hanging in the balance. And so, the observer implores: “Together we can, together we will, together we must save the world.”

Have you checked out yesterday’s blog yet?

Why Well-Being is the Basis of Career Success

(Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in the article mentioned above are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of ICS Career GPS or its staff.)

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