On April 15, 2019 the world witnessed a historic devastation. The Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris, France caught fire. The blaze destroyed much of the roof as well its iconic spire.
At 8.5 centuries old, the Notre Dame Cathedral represents living history. It was built using techniques that were new and experimental in their time. Its construction spanned generations. Parishioners attended mass, witnessed weddings, coronations, and funerals within its mighty stone halls twice as long as any structure in the United States built by European settlers.
In the days following the fire, funds began rolling in to finance the repairs. Several French billionaires and their families pledged a collective $700 million dollars towards the future project. Donations from around the world poured in as well, and in under a week over a billion US dollars had already been allocated to this cause.
Without a doubt the Notre Dame Fire of 2019 is a tragic event. The cathedral is a piece of French, European, and world heritage that will never be the same. However the rapid collection of funds, over a billion dollars, to repair a burned building (in which no one was harmed) does raise some questions.
Earth-centered articles and memes flooded the internet. What about planet earth? What about this cathedral? We have 7.7 billion people on this planet (and climbing)! This planet is far more iconic, and if it burns down, there will be no one left to fund its repair!
Some articles lamented this with countless unanswerable questions. How is it that in 48 hours nearly a billion dollars was raised to fix a building, yet we cannot seem to clean up an island made of trash in the ocean? How is it that people care more for a building than for the planet that gives them life?
Some people even began questioning the integrity behind already-existing environmental organizations. “Greenpeace should have enough to at least start cleaning up the garbage patch,” they’d say, “What are they doing with their money? Irresponsible.”
We need to stop arguing about this stuff.
Ecolantis operates knowing that pointing fingers and calling each other a burden to the planet has never helped the earth. What we all saw in the social-media aftermath of the Notre Dame fire is simply a continuation the finger pointing we’ve been so habituated to do. This finger pointing locks us out of productive and meaningful conversation while training our minds that it is the individual, not the invisible and inorganic systems around us, that harms the planet.
We are Ecolantians - WE are the solution
While many environmental outlets look at the response to Notre Dame with disdain, Ecolantians see it differently. The Notre Dame Fire did nothing more than prove that people, both rich and poor, can be mobilized to fund massively great works. It is easy to look down on individuals that donated to Notre Dame and scoff at their priorities in life.
So let’s take a minute to be solution-oriented. Instead of angrily perseverating on the question, “Why does nobody care?” why don’t we ask, “What can this response teach us?” In other words, “How in the world did so many people mobilize so quickly for a building? What were the magic ingredients that made it happen?”
- Familiarity – this was an Icon. People learn about it, visit it, observe, and remember it.
- Supporting the tragedy was easy to do. Our collective focus was on something simple – a building. Fixing a building requires money. This made it very easy for people to contribute to the solution.
With Notre Dame, we witnessed the power that humans have to work together to fund change, and it is no secret that our mother earth is on fire. So why is it so hard for us to mobilize for the planet? Well, if we look at the reasons it was easy for Notre Dame, we can see why it feels impossible for the earth:
- “Unfamiliarity” (human ignorance) – Re-engaging humanity with nature-modeled systems requires a true, intimate knowledge of how they currently work. Most of us do not live lives that are in constant consideration of the natural processes of this planet. Therefore, we do not know. Because we do not know, we do not act, and the world still burns.
- Navigating support for nature is all over the place – There are hundreds of active environmental organizations out there. Most are for specific things – whales; trash; ocean; ocean trash. Sifting through these categories and identifying which to support for your particular cause at a given moment is disorienting. Many environmental organizations also do things that unintentionally have adverse interactions with the environment (blog post coming soon)
So if you are somebody who feels very angry about why Notre Dame got tons of money while mother nature got squat, there is no need to be upset; you can see that we are working with a false dichotomy. Notre Dame got what Notre Dame got because Notre Dame was a situation that spoke easily to human response mechanisms. When it comes to mother earth, well, things are a bit more complicated
How to Care
Ecolantis wonders: How much positive change could we make for our planet if we DID understand these systems? What if we intimately understood the intricacies of the natural processes around us every day? Would we care more? Would we act more quickly? The answer to these questions is of course, “absolutely.” But how do we even mobilize for all of that?
The answer lies in fixing the problems we just identified above, both as individuals and communities.
Fixing “Ignorance and Inconvenience”
- Thorough eco-education – it is time that we UNDERSTAND the natural processes around us beyond 6th grade photosynthesis and water cycles. We must learn about the cause-effect relationship of all natural systems in order to find our balanced place as humans engaging with them.
- Support sustainability-minded organizations – Many environmental organizations that are focused on one specific issue do not take into consideration how their issue intersects with other processes on the planet. Sustainability-minded organizations tend to view ecosystems (and the planet) as one organism. In order to heal the organism that is our planet, we must understand how the parts of the organism work together to keep it alive. A sick body needs a full physical examination to determine the cause and remedy, and it is no different for us.
We must become familiar with mother earth once again, familiarizing ourselves with how she (or he ;-)) works. We must educate ourselves thoroughly about natural processes taking place right outside our door, and begin treating her as the icon that she is. Ecolantis provides in depth education about the biological processes of the natural world, while teaching ways we can all do our part to make human-made systems obsolete.
So, Ecolantians, let’s stop being strangers to our burning earth. Let’s make it an icon to talk about; to learn about; to engage with. Let’s find out where the fire started; why it started; how to stop it. Whether you are a patron for Ecolantis or not, we are all Ecolantians, and rely on all parts of the natural world to survive and thrive. Let’s work together, put this fire out, and bring back Ecolantis.