Global suffering is rife. What kind of world do we want to live in?

Photo by Soroush Karimi on Unsplash

Now is the time to take action to resolve our two biggest global crises – coronavirus and climate change. We can no longer be mere bystanders.

Has the outbreak of COVID-19, or coronavirus, really come as a surprise to governments, the United Nations, or even the World Health Organization? We only need to take a look at the state of our environment and the way it is suffering to know that it was only a matter of time before humans also would begin to suffer. We can no longer continue to lead the lifestyles we have been living – either by choice or due to self-isolation rules – and this could be a very good thing for our personal health and wellbeing as well as environmental wellbeing.

As world leaders shift their focus towards containing the COVID-19 pandemic, climate change is slipping off nations’ agendas. The United Nations’ climate change initiatives have been moved online or put on hold, and UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, has made it clear that all resources are to be directed towards stopping the coronavirus pandemic.

But are these two global crises – coronavirus and climate change – as separate as they appear? Or are they interconnected? Could we go as far as to conclude that their root cause is the same?

The way we live is unnatural

To understand the root cause of both coronavirus and climate change we need to look at the way we live our lives. In truth, our way of living is unnatural. We have deviated from how we are meant to live.

Most modern lifestyles involve a combination of overworking, overeating, poor diet, excess spending, minimal exercise, debt, and limited time in nature. It’s no wonder the world is in crisis. We seem to be running a never-ending treadmill, forever trying to reach the finish line. But we are chasing an illusory goal; the prize of contentment through material pleasure can never be won, because this happiness is as fleeting and fickle as the seasons. 

To cope with our hectic lives and the consequential mental and emotional challenges, we desire and consume many products, services, and experiences. We rely on technology to plan our days and entertain us; we eat fast and processed unhealthy food; we hurt, kill, and slaughter to appease our senses; we desire things to make us temporarily happy and consume at astronomical rates; we dump billions of tonnes of plastic and other waste into landfill each year; and we act in silly ways without thinking about the consequences for ourselves, our neighbours, our communities, our future generations, and our planet.

Our environment is suffering; now humans are suffering. These two global crises provide us with the opportunity to stop and cocoon for a few months, hang out for a while in the one place and reflect on what we have done, and then eventually emerge as radically transformed human beings.  

We know the problem and the solution

We are intelligent and capable human beings. We know the problem, and we are aware of its simple solution:

1. We need to be fearless to face uncertain times

If we were more connected with our natural surroundings and nature:

  • we would not fear the uncertainty that coronavirus brings to our economic systems by being in lockdown or self-isolation, and
  • we would not fear the uncertainty that addressing climate change brings to our economic systems by reducing emissions, changing to more renewal energy industries, and consuming less.

2. We need to be less transient to cause less destruction

If we were living a less transient lifestyle:

  • we could have prevented the fast-paced spread of the COVID-19 global pandemic, and
  • we could have prevented global warming through a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions.

3. We need to stop destruction and killing others for sense pleasure

If we did not destroy our ecosystems and kill and eat animals as part of our diet:

  • there would be less chance of such infectious diseases, and
  • there would be less impact on the earth from feeding, slaughtering, cleaning, processing, and transporting.

4. We need to be stronger psychologically to make the necessary changes

If we possessed psychological resilience:

  • we would accept that coronavirus is transient, take responsibility by changing our way of living, and embrace the opportunity to focus on global and individual wellbeing, and
  • we would accept that climate change is real, take responsibility by changing our way of living, and embrace the opportunity to focus on global and individual wellbeing.

COVID-19 and climate change require sacrifices to change our way of living

Whether it is coronavirus or climate change that we are endeavouring to resolve, we need to make sacrifices and change our way of living.

To stop the spread of COVID-19, we know what we need to do. We need self-control and seclusion. We need to stay at home. We need good hygiene and to wash our hands. We need to minimise our needs and personal consumption so we demand less from others. We need to find ways to help and serve those who are suffering.

Is it possible that COVID-19 will instigate the change necessary for us to develop new ways of living? When our global health is restored, will it be easier to continue our new lifestyle practices so we can resolve climate change and restore our environment back to its natural state?

By the time that situation arrives, we will know what the benefits of reducing our consumption are for our planet. We will know what impact self-control and staying closer to home has for our global ecosystem and communities. We will know how to minimise our desires, so-called needs, and personal consumption so we demand less from our planet’s resources. We will know how to develop new ways to help and serve humanity and Mother Nature.

The future is brighter if we are willing to enact new ways of thinking

Let us learn from these two global crises so we can transform our attitudes, our habits, and our destructive lifestyles. We need to focus on our wellbeing – for the environment and humanity. This requires individual and global unity and action. When we do this, we will be healthier and our planet will be healthier.

When we begin to change our approach and our lifestyles, the economic systems and structures around us will begin to alter. Over time, governments, businesses, and leaders will respond to what we require for our wellbeing and what Mother Earth requires for her wellbeing. Wellbeing will be the central focus, and it will be a stable foundation for us to lead meaningful and contented lives. A healthy mind more naturally takes care of the environment, and a healthy connection with our environment cultivates mental wellbeing and psychological resilience. The two are intimately linked.

This may be challenging for many individuals, especially for those who believe that they are ‘losing’ something by having to give up their destructive desires and habits – for either their own wellbeing or the wellbeing of the environment, or both. If enough passionate individuals are strong, courageous, and determined to transform the world we live in, then the challenges will be worth it.

All you need to do is ask yourself, what kind of world do I want to live in?

The future is in your hands.

If you are interested in exploring what you can personally do to fix our environmental problems and change your own lifestyle, you may be interested in our short book The Environmental Fix: How Reprogramming the Mind Achieves Wellbeing and Resolves Climate Change – coming April 2020.

Copyright © James Golding and Leisa Golding 2020

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