Environment well being

Pierangelo Soldavini • Journalist of Nòva24 - Il Sole 24 Ore

Changing habits: should we go forward or backward? The future is in our hands.

“This year as well, the appointment of the UN climate summit was an opportunity to reflect on the situation and reevaluate goals and objectives to reduce Climate Change at a global level.”

Was COP 27 in Sharm el Sheikh a success or a failure? Hard to say. The most striking result, was, of course, an agreement to establish an international compensation fund for the countries that, in recent years, suffered the harsher consequences of Climate Change. Good news, no doubt, even though there is not yet any allocation nor a time frame to meet the target. As for the rest, very few strategic decisions!

No concrete results on mitigation efforts to the ongoing severe changes of many ecosystems around the world: no commitment to reduce fossil fuels nor any agreement to limit global warming to 1.5 degrees or above pre-industrial levels.

Of course, Paolo Giordano is right and in his latest book he bitterly states: "The environment is a boring, slow subject, devoid of actions and tragedies, if not only of those “potential” environmental tragedies. Precisely on the theme of "potential" tragedies we must agree. There is no doubt that this is an extremely complex, slow, and widespread problem, and yet it is equally clear that "potential" episodes are becoming more and more "normal".

If it’s true that the countries most affected by Climate Change tend to be also the poorest and are therefore more in need to receive financial aids as compensation for natural disasters, because they are more vulnerable to these emergencies, we must admit that no country is really immune to environmental disasters. The natural disasters that hit Italy in the last few months only confirm this perception: from the collapse of the glaciers to the summer drought that has had only few precedents in history, from the desertification of entire areas of the country to the landslide that hit Ischia with its dramatic load of deaths. We too cannot consider ourselves safe from the effects of Climate Change. The slowness and tediousness of a phenomenon that appears irreversible contrasts with the increasingly concrete evidence of an interconnectedness of effects which demands urgent actions to reverse this trend.

It is a problem of perspective which is becoming more and more relevant, and yet we continue to be in denial. To address the increased complexity of this eco-crisis, we favor only linear responses in our behavior. This is the way we responded, for example, when we were confronted with the energy shortage that hit Europe in the aftermath of the Ukraine war: Rather than planning for the future we buffered the immediate needs (and the needs prompted by the imminent winter season ahead) and by doing so we missed the opportunity, as a country, to deepen of vision with an eye to the future. Part of the challenge was indeed to address the immediate energy needs, both as individuals and as a community, and we were and we are anxious to address the very serious problems of increasingly high utility cost that jeopardized people well-being and the entire economy as well, nonetheless our priorities should shift in order to address both the immediate instability and avoid more serious outcomes in the nearest future.

We need to systematically plan toward the future, and while promoting economic growth, we shouldn’t lose sight of the big picture and that requires a radical change in behaviors, as citizens, companies, and public administrators.

In this perspective, while is understandable that for the immediate future it was decided to hold on closing down the country's coal-fired power plants, because they are the most immediately available energy resources in Italy, we should also understand that this represents a short-term way of thinking. We mustn’t postpone planning strategically for the future and we should insist on pushing towards renewable energy sources, the only ones that can guarantee energy autonomy. If we had pursued this approach earlier, this energy crisis would, perhaps, have had less severe consequences.

This is the long-term vision, but even in our everyday habits, how many of us have questioned the beneficial impact of individual behaviors to reduce energy consumption? True, the soaring utilities bills have been a direct incentive to change habits, turn down the heating system, turn off the gas, cut a few showers and turn off the air conditioning despite the great heat, but that attention to energy efficiency and alternative sources must become a priority for everyone, regardless of the emergency.

I believe that this is a collective responsibility, and everyone should contribute in tackling the crisis, both as individuals, as a community and as economic subjects. Only by doing so will we be able to approach the future in full respect of people, territories, and the ecosystem. We often think of the Earth as a whole, but everything starts from the individual, the people, and their well-being. It is really a circular concept that does not allow discontinuity, each step has consequences on subsequent ones. We start with people, plants, and energy sources, because we must care about the future of planet Earth. Which is more than ever in the hands of each one of us.

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