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  • AutorenbildFriedhelm Boschert

Aren’t we too late anyway? „Come on!“

Why we should not lose confidence despite the destruction of nature, climate change and social inequality

My most important experience during the Lock-Down is the sharpened view on two things: on what is really essential in life and how many forces can be released by politics and society once a clear priority is identified.

Social distance and closeness to nature

An opposite pole to the increased social distance in times of lock down was the much greater closeness to the nature surrounding us. How precisely we noticed and watched the blooming of the catnip and the growth of the pond reed, the unfolding of the corn poppy flowers and the yellow yarrow. The feeling of the dewy grass under our feet in the morning connected us more strongly than before with the soil and the earth. The unscratched blue sky allowed us to breathe freely, the flora and fauna wrapped us with scents and well-being. Without the experience and feeling of nature, social distancing, the lock-down would not have been bearable. But we felt more clearly than before the fragility of nature when we discovered another clear-cutting in the alluvial forest nearby, another construction site on a wild meadow or another dead animal on the road.

The experience of mankind and powerlessness

And in the news: pictures of people with face masks, wherever we looked, in Manila, Lima, Nairobi, Paris and New York - no corner of the earth, no human being was left out. All mankind with masks, all mankind exposed to the same threat. The "WE" on this planet was suddenly no longer a word, no longer a concept only. I felt deep inside and more clearly than ever before how closely we are connected. One mankind. Living on a tiny planet.

But still disturbing images of the burning rainforests, the all consuming plastic flood in the oceans, the people fleeing from water floods, the swarms of locusts in Africa and India, of starving children and dying polar bears. Or here in Austria, which is still the number one in Europe in terms of land consumption, where the area of 18 football pitches is covered with concrete every day. And again and again the nagging question crept into my mind: can this enormous force of destruction still be stopped? Is it still possible to repair all this? Can we really do anything more? Or is it already too late?

Making nature conservation tangible

Fortunately, there are always moments in life when things suddenly appear crystal clear. In mid-May, five weeks after the lock-down, I experienced one of those precious moments. The philosopher Jens Soentgen wrote in the weekly magazine "DIE ZEIT" about the failure of institutions to date in the field of climate change and how politics could still be effective by "... bringing about regional and local improvements in the environment and quality of life ...", "... providing a recognizable and tangible ecological benefit, even during one's lifetime ..." and: climate thinking should move away from reduction to one degree. "And there should be a local climate resilience that supports biodiversity". Ah, that’s it. Local initiatives that make nature and nature conservation tangible and experienceable. Which can thus, without any appeals, lead to changes in consumer habits, in investments, in mobility, in how we deal with ourselves. And the best thing about it: you don't have to go into politics or be discouraged by the small scale of local and regional projects.

Biotopes as ecological niches

Yes, we can - and must - make meaningful contributions! To make what is worth protecting more tangible and more perceptible. In order to better feel WHAT is it to be protected and preserved. This can ignite more change than purely intellectual debates on climate neutrality. Thus, neither books, reports, talks and conferences (although: since 1988 there have been global "climate conferences" and the increase in CO2 continues unabated …) should be regarded as superfluous. But they need a foundation for their effectiveness - that is personal experience, the personal experience of people touched by the beauty and uniqueness of nature. Fort hat we can create and maintain local biotopes, help to establish regional nature protection zones, plant a near-natural garden and small niches as a retreat for insects and plants. That sounds little in view of the global catastrophe. But they create more than just ecological islands for threatened plants and animals. Rather, they create an attitude and awareness among people for the preservation of the planet, because "... ultimately, our salvation must come through the rediscovery of a direct relationship with all living things right before our eyes", to quote Charles Eisenstein, the American cultural philosopher. That is exactly what it is all about!

"Come on!"

But aren’t we too late anyway? Do we need a principle of hope born of pure desperation, like the "planting of an apple tree in the face of catastrophe", which sees the end of the world as inevitable? (the quote is often wrongly attributed to Luther). That sounds nice, but I don't think that's quite enough. On the other hand, asked in the words of the Club of Rome: "Can our tortured planet wait until human civilization has gone through the trials of a new Enlightenment?" No, that's what the 2017 report by A. Wijkman and E.U. von Weizsäcker "Come on" clearly says: "Fortunately we have reason to be optimistic. Many trends are heading in the right direction to some extent. ... But the list is largely limited to people. Ecological improvements are hardly to be found yet ... Part 3 (of the report, F.B.) presents a wealth of success stories - often local initiatives. They show that we do not have to resign ourselves and that even individuals can make a big difference". There is nothing to add. Let’s go and make the difference!

July 2020

Short lecture held at a charity event for the purchase and preservation of ecologically valuable natural areas in the region

Dr Friedhelm Boschert, Managing Director of Mindful Finance Institute; honorary chairman of the board of Oikocredit's Austrian Development Association; former chairman of the board of Sberbank Europe/Volksbank International

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