Greenwashing is a practice adopted by many organizations, and even the government, in which a product, idea or policy is marketed as being environmentally friendly. For some time now, sustainability has been greenwashed to be the planet's panacea for the extensive damage done by climate change. If you google the word “sustainability,” you get pictures of not just windmills, but vegetation and greener pastures, in pointed contrast to the pollution contaminating so many urban and industrial scenes. During a 2019 TEDxYouth Seattle talk, youth speaker Sierra Robinson noted how sustainability keeps being associated with greener outcomes for our environment and natural resources, but that by itself will not be enough; moreover, it is far from actually working.
Sierra Robinson is an 18-year-old farmer, permaculture teacher, and activist from British Columbia. During her TEDxYouth Seattle talk in 2019, she advocated urgent solutions for mitigating the effects of climate change. Sustainability in regards to climate change means continuing to sustain the current system without causing further harm, but it does not, in and of itself, promote necessary healing of environmental disasters, such as dead zones in lakes, polluted drinking water, and poisoned soil. Sierra urged us to not limit ourselves to not just causing further harm to our planet, but to push ourselves to look for ways we can heal by using permaculture and regenerative designs in our current communities and lives.
Permaculture design is applying what is already there and available to us to remedy the devastation practices, to name a few, mountaintop removal and fracking, that have polluted the land, water, and air. We do not need to recreate the wheel when nature has already created a system that works. Permaculture, also known as permanent culture, is the practice of using a set of tools to reassess and redesign a community in order to live harmoniously with the natural world. Permaculture can “protect the ecosystems and organisms that, in turn, sustain human life,” says Sierra.
Sierra and I recently spoke about how looking to space as the next frontier or as humanity’s answer to global warming can be harmful. The idea is reminiscent of colonization, says Sierra, and we would be repeating patterns of pain and bringing bad habits with us such as overconsumption, pollution, and non-renewable energy practices. New resources do not mean new opportunities, if old bad habits continue.
“We see activism as marching, taking to the streets, and holding signs, but it’s also making choices in your daily life,” says Sierra. Enacting change can be done not just via voting or taking to the streets to protest injustice and change. When you’re making conscious decisions on where you spend your time and money, you’re casting your vote for the practices and things you support.
So where can we start? Sierra advises that “education is huge, too, watch that difficult movie, have conversations with your friends, family, and loved ones.” The biggest changes start from within us, so that one voice can become a million voices.
View Sierra’s TEDx Youth 2019 talk here.
To see Sierra’s most recent interview with TEDx, click here.