Post-Covid Recovery : Let the Green Heal Us
Rachel Carson, in her book Silent Spring:
“There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after the night and spring after the winter.”
The devastation created by Covid-19 is just a reminder of our vulnerability as humans while highlighting the importance of prevention and mitigation strategies. It also provides some insight regarding the possible economic shock the whole world will face if nations fail to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement, which aims to keep the global temperature rise to 1.5 degrees Celsius. As Vandana Shiva says:
“In nature’s economy the currency is not money, it is life.”
The shock expressed as ‘economic’ is, in fact, a “life and death” shock that cuts people’s bond with nature.
Humans have lived as social beings for ages and have been in communication and interaction not only with their society surrounding him/her, but also with ‘nature’ he/she lives in. Communication channels and interaction styles have changed over the years from civilization to civilization and from culture to culture, but humans have never lost their connection with the environment. As Jennifer Nini says:
“You can’t force people to care about the natural environment, but if you encourage them to connect with it, they just might.”
This connection starts from birth and continues throughout childhood and later periods, first in the immediate environment within the family and then among larger society which all humans belong. Throughout this process, which is intense during the development phase, people get to know ‘nature’ and all the living beings in their natural surroundings. Thus, humans begin to realize their own responsibilities towards their environment and society for an equal, just, sustainable and happy world.
A green environment could make important contributions to our life not only by providing clear advantages both to nature itself as well as for all of society. Living and working near green spaces improves our mental health, wellbeing and productivity. These benefits equate to a happier and healthier lifestyle for all of us. Greenery offers us (humans, animals and plants) clean water to drink, air to breathe, shade to sit in, and food to eat. Besides habitats for numerous species of fauna and flora, greenery provide places of spiritual, cultural and recreational importance.
Looking around us, what do we see?
What are we aware of?
What are we ignorant of?
What are the deficiencies?
What works regularly?
What goes perfectly?
What are the potentials?
And what can I do for the nature environment I live in?
People should constantly ask themselves these questions which help them go through an awareness stage and reach a sensitivity level. An individual should always start by exploring her/his environment with which she/he is in constant interaction. Next, they should observe their interactions between other people around them and their environment, while continuing discover society within the whole natural world around them. Thanks to these steps, she/he could begin to realize the differences among individuals, communities, and larger societies and gain a broader understanding of their human responsibilities. The concept of sensitivity underlies all these processes and all that remains is to take action.
Sensitivity is an important concept for a more livable world and could take different forms or meanings such as ecological sensitivity, environmental sensitivity, social sensitivity, cultural sensitivity, intercultural sensitivity, and so on. It is not easy to acquire sensitivity. People should be open to encountering related concepts and gaining related qualities at a young age. So, how will this take place? In fact, the process starts with the family and will continue throughout school life. For instance, parents being sensitive to environmental issues will encourage their children to participate in activities that support their sensitivity during their children’s development process. The important next comes with sensitive teachers whose responsiveness to environmental issues will be a significant indicator and support to children and youth. At this point, the degree to which teachers’ in-class or out-of-class activities along with their interactions with learners place an emphasis on such issues will determine the level of learners’ sensitivity to the environment and nature around them. The most appropriate activity is participation in social responsibility projects. Learners will both notice differences and strive to fulfill their responsibilities towards their society which includes a very important focus on their environment. Although it is not easy to understand, internalize and apply sensitivity, the earlier this process starts, the easier it will be. Thanks to each individual’s fulfillment of their responsibilities, steps will be taken for a more livable and happy world.
Developed and implemented social responsibility projects will be instrumental in this regard. There are five basic elements of engaging in such projects and all of them enable individuals to serve the society in a selfless way:
Mustafa Mustafa Öztürk – Turkey
Rotary Peace Fellow – Class 31