Look to the past for a path to a better future

Many will tell you that we can’t possibly stop using oil, gas and plastic. We can’t possibly stop spending on throwaway stuff because that is what our society thrives on. We can’t possibly adopt regenerative farming practices and stop clearcutting and burning forests because that is how civilization works in the twenty-first century.

Not true; all we need to do to move forward on climate action is to look to our past. I was reminded of this recently reading an article in EarthBeat by Matt Naveau on what his grandma  taught him about sustainable living. My Nana saved rubber bands, wax paper, jars, and cans and made meals from scratch. She grew vegetables on her fire escape in Brooklyn. She taught me how to scrimp and not waste even when she could afford to throw things away. She dried clothes on clothes lines and homemade noodles on the backs of chairs, and reused things like there was no tomorrow because she lived during times when she wasn’t sure if tomorrow would come. 

Look to the past and perhaps the path to the future will be revealed. Regenerative agriculture is not new. Indigeious people were farming that way centuries ago. Windmills first appeared in the 12th century in Europe and Persia. Electric cars weren’t invented by Elon Musk – they were invented in the 1800’s. At the turn of the 20th century, electric cars accounted for about a third of all cars on the road. And whole foods were what we ate before hyper-processing of foods was invented. 

We don’t need far-fetched magic bullet solutions of the future to save us from an impending climate disaster. All the solutions are already in our hands, many which we discarded long ago in the name of so-called progress and efficiency.

We can either close our eyes and continue business as usual, all the while destroying the planet for future generations or we can look to our past, learn from it, and adjust course to create a more just and sustainable planet that we can happily pass along to our grandchildren. But we need everyone to work together to make this happen. 

As Pope Francis said back in 2015, “We received this world as an inheritance from past generations, but also as a loan from future generations, to whom we will have to return it!” Margaret Mead also said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” 

Working together, we can help take care of our common home. 

Paul Litwin

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