In February 2021 I wrote about how we could learn from the pandemic to address the climate crisis. A year later, every day still brings us closer to the 2030 planetary tipping point for irreversible ecological change. As the new year begins in 2022, 2030 seems a long way away. But we have just 96 months to change the course of the climate — just under 3,000 days to ensure that future generations, human and non-human, will inherit a livable planet. When we break it down, we do not have long at all. But by expanding our view into a long-term window while keeping this “point of no return” in mind, we can act quickly and meaningfully.
Short-sightedness is one of the common flaws of human nature, so for us to succeed in making lasting change, we must learn from the stories of the past. A relevant example is the Northwest’s salmon populations — for millennia they remained abundant under the stewardship of indigenous peoples, yet today they face extinction. The causes of this decline are multi-faceted, but the common theme is a lack of understanding of the interconnectedness within the natural world and a mindset geared toward instantaneous gains, regardless of future impacts. While communities and organizations like Friends pour resources into repairing the damage through actions such as culvert removals, shoreline restoration projects, and stormwater quality improvements, our starving orca remind us that the actions of the past will continue to echo through the present.
3,000 days is not a long time. We must redefine our relationship with the planet, considering how today’s actions will reverberate for decades and centuries to come. By addressing the climate crisis in a way that overcomes our tendency to focus on short-term benefits and instead is based on long-term effects, we will ensure that future generations inherit stewardship of a livable planet, for five or five hundred years into the future.