I thought it important to share something which challenged my thinking this week. It happened while I was carrying out further research about how we can live more sustainably and help life flourish. Grappling with the fallacies which lie unchallenged as we call physical infrastructure development progress, I suddenly overheard a retiree worrying that leaving money to his children would not really help them. In an instant I knew I had caught another fleeting glimpse of an important attitude which was undermining sustainability. And in particular, an apology was required.
In 2008 we had perhaps the most famous apology in Australia’s colonial history. The Prime Minister made a landmark speech to say sorry to Australia’s indigenous peoples. For many years people had tried to persuade various Prime Ministers to offer an apology on behalf of the population for the grief which had been inflicted. I realised today that another apology is due, but not one where I could shift the uncomfortable mantle of guilt onto the shoulders of our leaders.
Today I say to my children and their future generations, I am sorry. I was born into the most wonderful, awe inspiring and beautiful world imaginable, to live in community with a veritable cornucopia of diverse human and other species of life. However, by the time I took responsibility for bringing you into this haven, I had lost track of reality and shifted my sights on to a more abstract landscape.
I had got caught up chasing the illusory goal of collecting monetary wealth. Like so many, I have tried to save money for my retirement and hope there would be some left over as an inheritance for you. In seeking to leave you money though, I realise I have made a grave mistake and ignored the other side of this bargain. I wish I could find a leader or someone else to blame, but I can’t. It is all of my own doing and it is for me to apologise, deeply and without reservation.
I am sorry, your real inheritance will be a planet with a corrupted atmosphere and which bares the deep scars of my generation’s unceasing determination to convert its natural resources through an all too rapid industrial cycle into unnecessary consumer trivia and then ugly scrap.
I am sorry you will rarely be able to find the wilderness which defines your relationship with nature and your place in this world, and during your lives you will lose sight forever of the 50% of species which my lifestyle choices are rapidly making extinct.
As I have fuelled the single great edifice of my generation, economic growth, I have turned my back on the degradation of the soil and the dwindling fresh water reserves on which all our lives depend. Even with my passion for open water swimming I have turned a blind eye to the dumping of vast mountains of trash into our oceans and the acidification which now fuels torrid climate mayhem. I am leaving all this to you all as an appropriate example of the great power I have wielded.
Somehow I lost track of the lessons and values I learned as a child from your grandparents and have created a society where fear, competition and isolation have replaced freedom, community and inclusion. I have brought you up to desire hi tech wizardry and the things we humans can make and make money from rather than to revere the infinitely more fascinating and complex wisdom of our Mother Nature.
I know you are smarter than me and you will need to be as you will inherit challenges of such a magnitude that any paltry money I may leave you will be irrelevant.
For all of this, the true inheritance I am building for you, I am sorry.