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Do you have time to speak about the environment? – The Varsity

Do you have time to speak about the environment? – The Varsity

Stop Ecocide Toronto members stood outside Sidney Smith Hall on December 1. We wanted to raise awareness about ecocide massive environment destruction and the proposal that it be made an international crime. We gave flyers to passersby and asked if they would like to have a chat.

What was the reaction? The majority of people turned their attention away and ran.

Sidney Smith Hall students are likely to be interested because they are university students at one the most prestigious institutions in Canada. The fact that they are young, have had some education about climate change, and live in a country that is considered to be climate-progressive all indicate that they have some interest in the future. We were unable to ask passersby if they had the time to talk about the environment.

This is why? There are a few possibilities. They might have been late to class or another engagement. They might not have wanted to speak to strangers who offer flyers. Or they just didn’t care.

These reasons are not sufficient, unfortunately. It is unlikely that lateness could explain the people who stroll down St. George Street on Wednesday mornings at 10:32 AM, sipping coffee and chatting to their friends. I wouldn’t be surprised if three young environmentalists with cheerful smiles and free donuts would intimidate passersby.

I find it difficult to believe that U of T students don’t care about solving environmental destruction. They may want to stop deforestation and oil spillages, but the question remains: at what price?

This leads me to conclude people avoid street-side environmental conversations because of a fourth reason. Other, more pressing commitments, such as studying, clubs or working on other social problems, outweigh the benefits of such conversations.

This is not meant to shame those who didn’t stop. Instead, I want to highlight an uncomfortable and self-destructive characteristic of our society: Our tendency to put environmental concerns on the back burner, prioritizing short-term gains over long-term sustainability.

Scientists all over the world know for decades that we are in a climate crisis. Global warming causes disruption to weather systems, increasing droughts as well as fires, storms or floods. The majority of Canadians are aware that climate change is happening and are concerned about its effects. The earth’s temperature is increasing rapidly and we are approaching a point where there is no return frighteningly fast.

We are simultaneously facing a biodiversity crises due to both the climate crisis and separate but inextricably connected practices of ecosystem and habitat destruction.

Humanity is at risk of common extinction. Why is this imminent, irreversible disaster not at the forefront our conversations and a factor in every decision we make? I don’t have all the answers. It is evident, however, that we have created a culture which facilitates and even encourages industrial activity. This culture does not prioritize environmental issues.

See Also
Mandatory Credit: Photo by Maureen McLean/Shutterstock (12879001d) Pollution on the Jubilee River in Taplow. During 2021, water companies discharged raw sewage into rivers in England 372,533 times. By 2040 the sewage discharges into rivers is targetted to be reduced by 40%, however, many environmentalists say this is too little, too late Pollution, Jubilee River, Taplow, Buckinghamshire, UK - 02 Apr 2022

It is possible to change your mind, and that is the good news. There are many ideas that can save the planet: innovative recycling methods, laws against ecocide and clean energy technologies, sustainable agriculture and so on. There is a way but we must have the will to make it happen.

We must rethink nature as a living entity that has rights and deserves our attention. The environmental crisis must be seen for what it is: an imminent extinction-level threat.

So I ask everyone who is reading this: Do you have a few minutes to talk about the environment. I hope to get to a point where every person answers Yes.

Amalie Wilkinson studies second-year international relations, conflict and justice at University College. They are the founders and directors of Stop Ecocide Toronto (a local chapter of international Stop Ecocide).

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