Finding hope for the planet in an old sweater
During the pandemic, many of us have spent several months at home. To pass the time, some of us have started tackling projects that have been on our to-do lists for months, even years.
For me, that meant cleaning out our spare rooms, which led to unearthing a number of treasures, including a sweater I thought I’d given away. Pulling it out of the storage bin, memories (and the overwhelming smell of dust) flooded back. I resolved to wash it and wear it as soon as I could, because although it is old and ill-fitting, that sweater holds for me a message of hope and resilience. It’s a great reminder of the power that global action can have on the health of our environment.
Earth as seen from space (Photo by Pixabay)
You see, stamped across the front in bold white letters are the words “Protect the ozone.” A relic of the early 1990s (some might even call it “retro”), I wore it with pride over my uniform on my way to school on chilly mornings.
The sweater represented my growing personal mission to raise awareness about the impacts of our actions on the environment. My writing assignments started turning more toward topics such animal testing and environmental issues. I began to think about a career where I could use writing to communicate the importance of protecting our natural world.
Eventually, the sweater was stored and I forgot about it, thinking I’d given it away. I went to university and studied biology, English, then environmental communications. Then, I found my way into a career where I was doing exactly what I’d planned to all those years ago: communicating about the importance of protecting our natural world.
Yet still I secretly hoped that one day I’d come across the sweater in a thrift shop. Because by now, I realized it held a message about the power of collective global action. Along with the success of global actions to curb acid rain, the hole in the ozone layer represents one of the best examples of international cooperation to solve complex environmental problems, some might even say at the 11th hour.
Like the hole in the ozone layer, climate change and nature conservation are two examples of global issues that require worldwide action at all levels. We need the concerted commitment of governments, corporations and citizens if we want to ensure a sustainable path forward.
Thinking back on it, the timing of the rediscovery of my high school sweater couldn’t have been more perfect. Found again in a time of a global slow down during a pandemic, it’s a reminder of the importance of taking time to reflect about the world we want to return to, and what the new normal could look like.
With a collective slowing down of society and a decrease in travel, scientists reported drastic reductions in emissions worldwide in the beginning of the pandemic; but global carbon emissions are on track to surge as parts of the world rebound. Many of us have had more time to notice the animals living alongside us. What can we do, collectively and individually, to ensure the gains made during this time continue, once society begins a gradual reopening? How can we continue to live more slowly and deliberately, to be more aware of the impact of our own actions?
As we return to the next normal, the decisions we make will have global, long-lasting repercussions. We can start with our own homes, now — whether by planting native plants in our backyards to provide habitat for native pollinators, sharing our wildlife sightings through citizen science apps or supporting a conservation organization like the Nature Conservancy of Canada. Even taking five minutes with nature each day can help us reconnect with it. Nature has been with us this whole time. Let’s make sure that this time of reflection means we are there for nature, too.
As I write this, the sweater has just come out of the wash. It’s sitting in my laundry bin, to be folded and stacked in my closet; ready to wear the next time I need a reminder of why my individual actions matter in our global efforts to protect the natural world around us. In fact, I think I’ll pull it out tomorrow for our communication team’s video call.