Meaningful steps that inspire change

Algarve coastline (photo by Alexandra Mateus)

I was running along an Atlantic beach in southern Portugal this winter. I like to run and think. Unusually empty this time of year, seagulls were crying. I have learned a lot about the environment and sustainability over the past year. This time at the beach gave me a moment to reflect on these ideas.

“In this catastrophic ecological reorganization, unique collections of plants and animals are forming new alliances — novel ecosystems. Their formation is intrinsically linked with human activity — a demonstration of the defiant perseverance of the natural world in response to climatic and environmental change”. — George Monbiot

How might we encourage mindful steps to revert unbalance? Three pillars support sustainability and are interdependent — economic development, social development, and environmental protection. Considering all of them is to foresee solutions for the long term. If we don’t assume all three together, it misses the holistic view.

The definition above was identified during the 2005 World Summit on Social Development, which means that sustainability in the 21st century generally refers to the biosphere and human civilization’s capacity to co-exist.

Hopefully, we will retain positive effects once we overcome the current pandemic. Looking around at the beach invited me to reflect that we should consider whether it is reasonable to depend on other countries, even for essential foods once we are no longer in this acute crisis. Increased self-sufficiency can also mean reduced climate impact in transportation. It also encourages local communities and industries to cooperate to overcome the ecological footprint, be resilient and boost economic growth through fair labour conditions for the workforce along the supply chain. Self-sufficiency should also apply to fossil fuels, as renewable energy can be produced locally and decentralized.

Taking the Atlantic coast and sandy beach as an example, what if local communities and authorities could stand together and co-create long term activities that support social and economic growth on local fauna and flora regeneration? We could witness community efforts to develop leafy hub projects in a dry area to produce moisture and bring back the global water cycle. Investing only in Bio agriculture, with diversified production that encourages pollinators, can also be considered. If we could multiply the idea in millions of areas affected worldwide, that could diminish the greenhouse gases and potentially decrease mass extinction, and the weather could become more predictable.

Our time is an opportunity for reflection and a starting signal for better habits and behaviours. More often, the people and entities who work together, and are adaptable and altruistic, are more prepared for uncertainty. That might be called human evolution.