There’s No Time Left to Kick This Can Down The Road

Evolution. Adapt to the changing environment or become extinct.

This is one of Charles Darwin’s epic contributions to the evolution of thought and global education. I don’t think he could have ever imagined the human population climbing to nearly 8 billion and that we would become such a force upon the earth as to change the climate. We have in fact created our own epoch; the Anthropocene.

Human activity has been the dominant influence on climate and human expansion since the industrial revolution, a period that provided us with the gift of time, opportunity for education, and leisure. What cannot be ignored is the devastation that industry has had on the creatures we share this earth with and the impact it has had on the soil, air, fresh water and ocean.

Dead turtle in plastic pollution

Human impact has devastated our wildlife, environments and communities.

Adapt to the changing environment or become extinct.

That is where we are. The very health of our ecosystems on which we and all other species depend is deteriorating before our eyes. We are eroding the very foundations of our economies, food security, health and quality of life worldwide. Researchers estimate that as many as one million animal and plant species could die out within decades.

Adapt or become extinct.

It is more and more common to hear people say we humans are a virus upon the planet. Earth, our mother, is ancient and we humans are no more than mayflies in the scope of astronomical time. The simple fact is that if we are a virus, we won’t survive if we kill our host. We must develop a metaphorical vaccine that will change our thinking and open our eyes to environmental reality. We must find a vaccine that will put the value of sustainability and harmony with the earth over unfettered consumer consumption and waste.

Extinction protest in London

Extinction Rebellion protesters march through London. Photo: Rupert Rivett

This requires political will and global education. Darwin’s holistic view of nature included “dependence of one being on another”. He stressed the value of co-operation over struggle within a species. Dependance and co-operation. There’s the rub. How can we get 8 billion people to agree that there is a problem that must be solved? In the US we are living through a political polarization that threatens the foundation of democracy. There are powerful political leaders and heads of wealthy corporations that continue to deny and ignore climate change. This problem is unfortunately shared by other nations. How do we get these nations to co-operate for the good of all?

The frustration lies in not being able to find satisfying solutions that industrialized nations will agree upon and accept. Profit is their only focus and reward. If saving the planet, and the species we share it with, cuts into profit they promise to address it in the future. There will be no future. With the growing population, the consumption of Earth’s limited resources, and the constant violation of the water, soil and air, there is no time left to kick this can down the road.

We can look back in time and find an example to illustrate this moment we are living. The extinction of the dodo bird. The dodo bird didn’t go extinct on its own. Dutch sailors ate them to extinction after finding that the bird was incredibly easy to catch and had no fear of humans. This is the sad fact about who and what we are as a species.

Matthew Modine

Matthew Modine.

Matthew Modine is an actor, filmmaker, photographer, environmental activist and serves as a Global Ambassador for Plastic Oceans International. He has starred in such films as Full Metal Jacket, Memphis Bell, Married to the Mob and The Dark Knight Rises. He has appeared in several television series, including in the Netflix hit Stranger Things. IMDb page.