Where are you from?

Most of us have a concept of home. It is something that is critically important to us. A place we feel comfortable and protected. We care much about our home. We like to keep it warm, clean, dry, safe, comfortable. At a most basic level, our home is a house or an apartment.

Some of us think beyond the physical building we own or rent. We think about our neighborhood also as home. We are proud of our neighborhood and want to keep it clean and safe. We would not knowingly damage our neighborhood.

Some of us think of the town or city as our home. In the countryside, there are geographic areas. In Ireland, it’s the parish or the county. Some Irish also consider themselves as being from Leinster or Munster, which are regions, though that is not as powerful as feelings for your county. Then there’s the country itself. I’m Irish. Ireland is my home, many will say. Some think beyond that and think of Europe as their home. They are Europeans.

I remember chatting with Michael Rada, a pioneer in waste reduction, and him saying that he was a human and that Earth was his home. We must start thinking and feeling that Earth is our home. It’s not enough to think of ourselves as human, though. We must think that we are natural, that we are part of Nature, and that what affects Nature affects us. Earth is our home and we live in Nature.

We won the universal lotto. We got the greatest prize of all, a livable environment. We are squandering the greatest prize of all, ruining the greatest prize of all. We treat Earth and its environment like we would never treat our home. We actually think we’re being clever in the Global North when we dump our e-waste in the Global South. That’s not our home, we think. It’s okay to poison the women and children there, the land, the soil, the water. We think we’re clever to do all the mining in the deep seas or those far away, remote places. Those places are not home, so we can dump trillions of tons of toxic waste into the seas or on those remote lands.

We are, as Pietro Jarre told me, practically the only species that dirties and dumps in their own home, while thinking they are clever. If you consider the Earth as your home—which it is—you cannot ever throw anything away because there is no away, because everywhere is the center of somewhere. Everywhere is the center of life, of Nature, of the environment, of our home. What we dump, what we throw away, sooner or later comes back around. Microplastics in the air. Chemicals in the water. Degraded soil. Biodiversity devastation. Climate boiling.

We—our generation—have wrecked and devoured our home one thousand times more than any previous generation. With our vast technologies and innovations, we have become the Great Devourers of our home. Not alone have we not learned some humility, we are arrogantly doubling down with AI and data centers and EVs and a whole explosive plan to double the quantity of mining in 30 years to achieve the greenwashing of our home. It is so hard to think of humans right now as anything other than a tragic and manic species bent on its own destruction and the destruction of its home and the home for all Nature. Is it too late for us to champion wisdom over arrogant techno-fix intelligence?

Podcast: World Wide Waste
Interviews with prominent thinkers outlining what can be done to make digital as sustainable as possible.
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