By Erik Leipoldt
Feeling hot under the collar? Glaciers and polar ice are melting, ocean levels are rising, hot, dry weather, huge forest fires, water restrictions, crop failures… You name it, if these don’t feature in your life yet, they soon will. Global warming and climate change are facts of life now, according to the International Panel on Climate Change, and many scientists. Huge problems beyond our control!
But are you hot under the collar? If you’re not, you probably live in a city where half of the Earth’s citizens live now and take much for granted. Because in city living we are far removed from natural processes that deliver our food, clothing and energy.
Does your child even know that milk comes from a cow – or a soya bean if you’re that way inclined – and not from a milk carton? Even in the city you cannot stick your head in the sand (or under the asphalt?) and you are not immune from climate change. Witnesses are the 15,000 mostly elderly people that died in Paris alone in the sizzling hot European summer of 2003. Or the many killed in New Orleans at the ‘hands’ of cyclone Katrina.
And if you are hot under the collar, do you think perhaps that there will be some miraculous scientific break-through so they ever-responsible ‘They’ will fix the Earth? The ultimate stem cell technology maybe that can clone a new home for us! Seriously, for many of us it is all too hard. All we want is to live a life where we may raise our children to have a future.
A future of some predictability: of schooling, a job, a family, community, of achievements and an enjoyable life – on a healthy planet Earth.
Is this a fading dream, once a reasonable expectation? Maybe, maybe not.
Our world is changing. There are great challenges ahead and it is too late to stop global warming. The Earth has changed and the processes it uses to regulate itself are adjusting themselves. And these changes will not suit human life as it is.
But you are not powerless. Each person alone can change the world, one by one. Let me explain. Do I say that these problems are under our control then? Well, yes and no. We are talking about a severely disabled world really. And from the experience of disability we can learn how to survive and thrive!
“Come on, get real”, you say? Do I hear: “Just show me the right alternate energy sources and we’ll get out of this mess.” Yes, we desperately do need to switch to renewable energy sources that do not make a greenhouse out of our home, the Earth. But all the technology in the world will never be enough to survive and flourish>.
Renewable energy sources alone will not teach us to accept limits, unpredictability and what it is to lead a rewarding life. How we have lived collectively, in our billions, for the last few hundred years, has got us to this point. And by changing what we do we can live through climate change as best as we might. Even now.
It’s simple and it’s hard work. No way out of that. Many people with severe disabilities know this. And they report the same or better life satisfaction as anyone else—under highly challenging, vulnerable circumstances.
So, we can learn to live well in a disabled world. Regardless of what is to come you and I will be well served by the beliefs and strategies that people with disabilities use to – not just to survive – but to live well.
These are true alternate energy sources. Those that guide us how to use what we have sustainably. These ‘disabled people’ believe this: * Accept that all of us are fragile and vulnerable * The world is full of limits. We need some of these to live well. * Vulnerability and dependence are an inevitable part of a whole life * No-one is independent, but interdependent * Connection with others is our lifeline and our wellbeing
And they do this: * Engage with others to build positive relationship, where you live, work and play * Pay attention to other’s needs and that of the environment * Take responsibility for the situation you’re in * Care for others and the environment competently * Be assertive and use your humour and creativity
Not all people with disabilities act in this way of course. And I’d be the last to portray people with disabilities as heroes. We’re just people – trying to get on. You try that! Talk to that elderly woman in your street. Offer a hand when someone needs it. Doing such small things will connect you with others and your environment. And do also use the ‘regular’ renewable alternate energy sources, and recycle too. You can change your local world by acting in these ways. And if all fails – regardless? Well, it’s the only way to go! Perhaps your world might be just as hot but it’ll be cooler under your collar!
Dr Erik Leipoldt has long been concerned about the effects of global warming. In particular he uses his own experience of severe disability in practical approaches towards alternate energy sources to survive and thrive in our environmentally disabled world. See http://www.alternate-energy-sources.com/
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