July 16, 2020 8:00:33 am
“Something valuable can be best understood not by its presence, but by its absence,” begins environmental activist Kristine Tompkins, in her recent TED talk. Talking about her own childhood, she says she grew up with her siblings on a farm in California, which was ultimately sold to a neighbour because no one in the family was interested in ranching. “It was impossible to know then just how powerful the absence of those things we love, would have an impact far into my future.”
She goes on to trace her life from her time in Patagonia Inc. to becoming a to passionate conservationist. She called herself a “refugee from the corporate world”, when she found herself surrounded by primeval rainforest in Chile. It was that she begun to realise that beauty and diversity are being destroyed everywhere.
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“The last wild protected places on earth were still wild mostly because the relentless front lines of development simply hadn’t arrived there yet… I know that progress is viewed generally in very positive terms, as some sort of hopeful evolution. But from where we sat, we saw the dark side of industrial growth,” Tompkins says.
She goes on to say that when industrial worldviews are applied to natural systems that support all life, we begin to treat the earth as a factory that produces all the things that we think we need. “As we are all painfully aware, the consequences of that worldview are destructive to human welfare, our climate systems, and to wildlife,” she explains.
At a time when the world is struggling with climate change, global warming, extinction of wildlife, loss of forest cover, and disease and destruction, Tompkins asks if we are prepared to do whatever it takes to change the end of this story.
“The changes the world has made in the past few months to stop the spread of COVID-19, are so promising to me, because it shows we can join forces under desperate circumstances. What we are going through now, could be a precursor to the broader potential damage as a result of the climate crisis. But without warning, globally, we are learning to work together in ways we could never have imagined,” she remarks.
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