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  • Writer's pictureJustine Braby

Perspective is the most powerful tool you have

Updated: Jun 22, 2023

Having a chat the other day with a dear friend inspired me to write a piece on perspective. I will share a few thoughts of mine - both on the global perspective, as well the individual perspective. And then I will leave you with an article I read this morning entitled Reflections from an elder in isolation.

I have been reading about how people (thanks to the news, and the fact that there is a lot of specific propaganda and information spread on the social media machine) are focusing their time, energy, emotions, and general creativity. How many of us are following opinions that are not based on fact? Anyone, does not matter how little knowledge and background they have on any subject, can seemingly influence entire (even seemingly educated) parts of society.

We sit at the precipice of an economy that is collapsing - but it needed to collapse - it was poisoning the foundations of life (environmental and social). It was coming to a point of collapse either way - COVID19 is not some random act that happened to us - it is feedback from a sick system. The fact that we depended on the destruction of life to buy things we don't need with money we don't have to impress people we don't even care about - well, I am surprised it lasted so long.

The other day I walked to the beach for sunrise, my closest beach is a nice swimming beach called Olas Altas (here in Mazatlan, Mexico). Unfortunately, a lot of the time the water is completely contaminated with chemicals. I can smell it when the breeze rolls over the ocean and finds its way to my nose (in fact it has given me a rash many times I have gone swimming). I spent a lot of the time cleaning the beach that morning. I managed to clean only a very small section (maybe two metres) because there was so much micro-trash (little polystyrene balls, straws, bits of plastic, and so forth). And it made me reflect - how much contamination nature has taken from us without complaint. In fact, in that moment, smelling the chemical fumes from the ocean and cleaning up the trash, I was surprised how long it took nature to fight back. If we continue to be in such imbalance, we will get flicked off. It is the natural order - you cannot decimate 90-something percent of biodiversity without it coming back to you (this obvious fact is ignored with such zest it takes my breath away sometimes). How many chemicals we just put down the drain, on our skin, in our hair - just at an individual level.

I think about some of my friends who are struggling and feeling victimized right now (I am speaking particularly of those friends who were living in comfort - the middle class and higher). But most of these problems would probably melt away if they embraced some level of change, recognized that many of their needs were in fact luxuries, that they were unhappy in their jobs (or realized that their jobs were not really serving the needs of a healthy society), that they were not prioritizing what was really important. Spending time on short-term pleasures, instead of self-growth and being part of their communities in a constructive and productive manner. We have let greed and envy - economically our wrong living consisted primarily in systematically cultivated greed and envy - control us.

Yes, change is scary. But for most of humanity - and indeed most of life - things were scary already. We have ended up in such a disconnected place - disconnected from each other, disconnected from nature (that feeds, sustains us, enriches us) - that we need science to prove why we need connection. Where we think the market and big investment companies are the most important - when in fact they have not contributed anything towards a healthy human system. Yes, many big companies are going under - but are any of these valuable, really? In terms of human survival? What is really valuable is healthy top soil to grow our food, clean air to breathe, water to drink, the balance of bacteria and microbes in our water and air, and an environment in which we can reach our potential.

Why do we think someone is successful if they have amassed unnecessary self-enrichment in financial terms? Why is success not measured in terms of how much someone contributes to the improvement of one's community? Why is someone who develops an app that makes the person super rich, causes mass depression among people because it enhances envy and insecurity, isolation and loneliness, seen as a hero? And someone who develops a technology that removes arsenic poisoning out of the water system thereby saving entire populations in a country is rendered invisible? Or someone like the Forest Man of India? Why do we live in a society with such a celebrity culture that is founded on the external, and at worst, plastic image of human beings? Why not celebrate the people who make the world a better place? Wouldn't that be something to aspire to rather? Wouldn't you like your little girl to dream about being someone who does something great for the world, rather than be an instagram celebrity?

What have been the happiest, most content moments in your life? How connected were you to life around you in those moments?

We don't have much control over many things right now, but we have control over our perspectives and how we see the world. We have control over how we express our creative energies.

I leave you with some words from David Suzuki, who wrote an article about his perspectives as an elder: I’m fortunate. This slowdown is giving me time with my grandchildren, who are with me, and to think about what has mattered most in my life, what has given me the greatest joy and satisfaction, and where I hope the world may go after I’m gone.

As an older male, I’m in the population facing the highest risk from COVID-19, but my reflections on this pandemic go beyond my own life and death. Difficult as it is now, this pandemic will subside and we’ll be able to think about how to move forward.

We’ve had multiple calls to change our ways because the sum of human activity has become toxic to the planet’s life-support systems. But we’re caught in political and economic systems that render environmentalists as “special interests” with impossible agendas. Rachel Carson’s 1962 book Silent Spring documented the ecological impacts of pesticides like DDT. It appeared to be a powerful tool to control insect pests, but we didn’t understand its full implications. We still don’t know enough about how the world works to anticipate the repercussions of our powerful ideas and inventions. In 1992, before the Rio Earth Summit, more than half of living Nobel laureates joined more than 1,600 senior scientists from 71 countries to sign the World Scientists’ Warning to Humanity. “Human beings and the natural world are on a collision course…Fundamental changes are urgent if we are to avoid the collision our present course will bring about,” it stated. Humanity did not act. Twenty-five years later, more than 16,000 scientists signed a second warning, saying the planet’s state has grown worse and we must act with urgency. Still little or no action. In October 2018, an Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change special report warned that a rise of more than 1.5° C above preindustrial temperatures by 2100 would make it difficult or impossible to adapt to and cope with climate chaos. We’re now heading toward a 3° C to 5° C warming! You’d think that would be big news. But shortly after the report came out, Canada legalized cannabis, and that pushed aside other news, including the possible collapse of our species. In May 2019, a UN study reported human activities threaten a million plant and animal species with imminent extinction. But Prince Harry and Megan had a baby and media stories about extinction—including our own—vanished. A trifecta of economic crises—the COVID-19 pandemic, stock-market troubles and plummeting oil prices—is exposing systemic flaws. Nature is already responding to the pandemic-induced slowdown: cleaner air over China, clearer waters in Venice’s canals, smog-free skies in Los Angeles, and more. But it’s likely temporary. If we could take a different path, away from the impossible dream that unbridled consumption and endless growth are necessary for progress, we might find our way to a different future. Can we relearn what humanity has known since our beginnings, that we live in a complex web of relationships in which our very survival and well-being depend on clean air, water, and soil and biological diversity? Or will we celebrate the passing of the pandemic with an orgy of consumption and a drive to get back to the way things were before? In this disaster lies an opportunity to reflect and change direction in the hope that if we do, nature will be generous. The above article was published on, and can be found here.


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