The planet is running out of time—humanity is utilizing the resources of the world faster than it can recover naturally. That is the United Nation’s blunt assessment of the climate crisis for the occasion of World Environment Day, celebrated June 5th.
This year’s theme is, “Only One Earth.” But beyond the catchy slogans, the fact is that we do not seem to realize that we indeed have only one place to live: Planet Earth. We continue to shoot at our own feet with our reckless actions towards our surrounding environment.
In spite of how many people keep shouting, talking endlessly about the environmental crisis, how many meetings take place, and how many decisions are made, nothing seems to help. Either we just leave the state of the planet as it is now, ignore all the problems and wait for the next disaster to happen, or we admit that everything that we have done up until now is ineffective and fruitless and finally make the sharp turn required.
To raise awareness about the precarious state of the planet, beginning next year, Israeli schools will make classes on the climate crisis mandatory for students of all ages, the Education and the Environmental Protection Ministries recently announced. They will begin integrating an environmental program equivalent to one hour per week into the curriculum for students from kindergarten to high school.
Will this make a difference or will it be as unsuccessful as previous efforts to solve environmental problems? The answer does not depend on the hours spent on these studies or who will develop them. Rather, it depends on what is taught and the extent to which students understand the causes of the climate crisis and how to solve it.
We know that the severity of the global environmental crisis can be compared to a spaceship coming toward us to destroy the planet, and that we who live on Earth must prepare to avoid being harmed by it. And how do we prepare? We have to explain that the climate crisis is a consequence of a human crisis. So, the solution that will ultimately bring the world into balance is for us to change ourselves to cultivate positive human relationships and grow closer to each other internally. That is, the heart must expand, not physically, but emotionally. To start feeling the entire world as a part of each and every one of us and for us to care for the entire world as we care for ourselves.
This is true because nature is a system of integral connections that operates through a hierarchy. What happens on any particular degree in the system affects all the other degrees. The intensity of the impact on the system corresponds with where it stands in the hierarchical ranking. The human race is the highest level in nature, above the inanimate, vegetative, and animal. Therefore, the part of the system that destroys the ecological balance the most are the egoistic actions of human beings that disregard the interests of others, including the other parts of the system of nature.
Humanity can do nothing to correct this self-focused tendency until it recognizes that its harmful instinct rules all its decisions and is the primary source of the imbalance in nature. By learning how to build relationships based on mutual understanding, care and cooperation, a positive force is created which is capable of restoring harmony in all levels in nature. This is the crucial truth that must be taught.
When we learn how to transcend all of our negative egoistic tendencies and recognize that we are all individual parts in a single, connected and completely interdependent mechanism, we will also comprehend that doing good to others is also good to us. Just as today we are the ones who destroy all of nature, we also have the power to repair it. The planet’s countdown is on but we still have a window of opportunity to control it if we change our thoughts, actions, and desires to upgrade our human relationships.
Environment Day sand sculpture is seen at the Bay of Bengal Sea’s Puri beach as it is creating by sand artist Manas Sahoo for awareness among people on the coastal area on the occasion of World Environment Day at Puri, 65 km away from the eastern Indian state Odisha’s capital city Bhubaneswar on June 5, 2021. (Photo by STR/NurPhoto)