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Squandering Our Inheritance

Words by Sustainable Management at Bard
New Activism
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By Brooke Forde

Revolutionary inventions have taken human civilization from nomadic tribes to mega-cities. Our current behavior, however, is leaving the survival of our species to the generation just now learning the alphabet. Complacency is our death warrant; we are driving head-on into a train while sitting on our hands.

Humans hit the inheritance lottery -- evolving on a planet with an amazing and unique collection of ecosystems, spinning through space with the sun as a massive source of energy and light. While current society values monetary capital, we must recognize that natural capital is the only currency that matters. Our very existence depends on maintenance of potable water, breathable air, functional soil and biodiversity. Generations before us prided themselves on innovative progress, self-sufficiency and providing for the future. We squander this legacy.

We are better than this. We have the potential to revolutionize our industry and once again lead. This challenge is the kind that has always strengthened humans, boosted our economy, provided jobs and infrastructure, and made America the economic aspiration for developing countries. We have the ingenuity; we have the capability to change our trajectory from devastation to maintenance. More than iPhones, flat screens and fast cars, maintenance of the natural capital that underpins our existence must hold precedence.

Sending troops to their deaths for oil reserves, wiping out forests for a few dollars, and poisoning communities for the sake of comfort are not the actions of a country secure in its ability to innovate and discover. We are chasing the wrong goals. We should be creating life-enhancing technologies: innovative water purification and forest restoration. Basing our economy on renewable energy, such as solar, provides more opportunity than oil and gas, as everyone has access to the sun. With solar panels on every roof and a food garden in every neighborhood, we will increase the wealth of every family and community.

We have the power to reduce our exploitation of natural capital and give our descendants the opportunity to survive. We can use our finances and our actions to change the trajectory -- through our purchases, divestment of fossil fuels and local sourcing -- to retain and enhance our natural capital. Every dollar spent in the positive direction is a vote for our future — the strongest action we can take. Maximizing our investment in natural capital provides dual protection: for us and generations after us. Financial investment in protecting forests, oceans and resources from damage demonstrates the importance we place in them. When we purchase non-certified palm oil, we show we don’t care about the forests that are cleared to establish the palm fields.

When we choose products that preserve ecosystems, we preserve the future for others around the world and provide a richness that cannot be duplicated. Future generations will be grateful we slowed the degeneration and left them natural wealth to enjoy from this beautiful world. We will be rewarded through our continued survival -- and by knowing we did the best we could to save the planet for future generations.

Brooke Forde is a postgraduate student pursuing her MBA in Sustainable Management at Bard College.

Image credit: Flickr/epsos

 

Sustainable Management at Bard