When I wrote about the Hippocratic Oath back in May of 2011, we had just experienced a week with a strong, drying Spring wind that blew almost non-stop, and daily radio news about wildfires in Alberta -- most notably, one that destroyed almost half the town of Slave Lake, population 7,000. These days, we're experiencing abnormal weather patterns that caused severe flooding in Southern Alberta, my yard has already seen three hailstorms, and we've faced several severe storm watches and warnings, another one expected tonight.
In our developed world, we usually manage to cope with Global Climate Instability (I'll call it that because it's easier for people to recognize the sudden volatilities in our climate than it is to see long term climate change a la Al Gore and his graphs). The people of Calgary, High River, and Canmore are pulling together, pooling their considerable resources, and getting on with things. The Calgary Stampede organizers vow that the show will go on "come hell or high water." But there was a flood in India as it began flooding here, and close to a thousand people in Uttarakhand State died. In Alberta, we were so absorbed in the loss of homes and property, and our pride in our resilience and resourcefulness, we hardly noticed the disaster affecting our brothers and sisters in India, people who don't have the kind of resources we do to deal with disasters on a large scale.
It seems that our recent disaster has converted more people when it comes to climate change. We're starting to realize that our highly energy consumptive lives are heating up our planet and creating these incredible storms that cause major damage. Of course, we must light and heat our homes, transport things and people and cook our meals, but the problem is that we never think about the "hidden" energy it takes to run the factories that make the stuff that fills our lives, and the harm that a lot of our large companies and corporations do because no one calls them to account for their environmental impacts. We also don't give as much thought as we could to our personal conservation strategies. It's always easier to use throw-away paper plates instead of washing dishes when a large crowd comes to visit...
At a Social Justice institute some time ago, the keynote speaker, Dr. William Cavanaugh, mused about what the world might be like if corporations were forced to live by the Hippocratic Oath to do no harm to our planet. And my mind wandered off, thinking about the shape our Earth would be in if all governments and people had focused our energies not just on doing no harm, but on having a positive impact on our world. Unfortunately, harm is built into The System, no mistake about it. And too often we feel powerless to change The System.
Facing facts, neither the world's corporations nor its governments will ever take an oath to do no harm. But individuals can. And while we may not be able to do NO harm, if all of us, together, reduce the harm we do to the lowest common denominator, and call corporations and governments to account, that's a start, the best start we can make. It seems that enough of us raised our voices about the poor conditions faced by factory workers in Bangladesh that many corporations took notice. We can also raise our voices, write letters, and start online campaigns against other things that are messing with the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants. We have a lot more power than we think.
So, to improve the earth's well-being today, I am redoubling my efforts to do no harm. I also planted a few more green, living things that make oxygen, rode bikes with my daughter to her swimming lessons, washed some "disposable cups" from yesterday's Canada Day party for reuse, and gave air conditioning a miss (ha, we don't have it... but our basement is nice and cool, so I'll head down there in a few minutes). There are always ways to do less harm and more good. They might be less convenient, but what's convenience in the grander scheme of things?
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