The guiding theme of the 2022 edition of the World Environment Education Congress international conference underscores the vital need for Building Bridges as a compelling affirmation of the warrant of our times. As the world increasingly becomes a global village with the relentless expansion of the world-wide web of connections among peoples and nations spanning multiple spheres, developments in one part of the globe can have varying degrees of impact on societies and communities who may otherwise be separated by neat geographical boundaries and distinct cultures.
“Only connect”, is the timeless advice of sage E.M Foster, after all!
Whether it is the impact of global warming and climate change, the consequences of natural disasters or human-induced catastrophes, the virus-pandemic or social inequities, the human family is in it all together. Old certainties are no longer certainties. It is, therefore, important to weave a common fabric for mutual survival and mutual flourishing as the human of the species that shares this little space with a multitude of other beings who call this Planet Earth their home.
Building bridges among peoples and nations, professions and occupations, sectors and disciplines, individuals and institutions, and indeed between humans and humans is, therefore, a vital strategy to navigate through these challenging times of unprecedented global upheavals and uncertainties.
As important as it is to build new bridges relevant to the rapidly changing needs of societies against the backdrop of a fast-globalising world, it is vital to repair the many broken bridges which have been neglected in mankind’s headlong rush towards an uncertain future unaided by the benefit of time-tested foundations that have stood us in good stead through the ages.
We have to begin by re-building the most basic of relationships – the relationship between us the human beings and Mother Nature. We need to feel again the soil under our feet, feel again the air that we breathe, feel again the water that we drink, and discover the many gifts that lie hidden everywhere.
We need to reclaim with our senses the sights that our eyes are meant to see, the sounds that our ears are meant to hear, the sensations that our hands are meant to feel, the smell that our nostrils are meant receive, and the taste that our tongue is meant to register.
As the human of the species, we need to feel the delicate intimations of our Mother Nature with our bodies, with our heads, and with our hearts, above all. We need to seek refuge in the womb of Mother Nature and be born again with the gifts that we have long forsaken and forfeited.
We were all born human – just human – with the same gifts and blessings, the same faculties to think, to feel, to imagine, to create, to dream, and to marvel at the mystery of Nature’s work. Over time, however, we trifled with and trivialised our supreme humanity and froze into races, tribes, castes, communal bands and divisive affiliates.
We need to re-connect with the humanity that we have lost and feel together again – just like us humans that we are meant to be.
Then again, we need to re-build our relationships with the great foundations that have set us apart from other species – beliefs in the indestructible nature of Truth, the distinction between Right and Wrong, and the tension between Good and Bad. Humans and only humans have the unique ability to make these distinctions that sustain individuals, families, societies, nations, and indeed Life itself.
We need to build bridges between what we say and what we do, between our public self and our private self, between our conscience and our action. We need to re-connect our role with its soul, above all else.
Our lives, our families, our institutions, our neighbourhoods, our societies, our nations, and indeed our dear Planet Earth will either flourish or flounder on the quality of our relationships. We need to build bridges to the sunnier side of life.
A better world, a more beautiful world, is possible. Building and re-building our vital relationships, connecting and re-connecting with what nourishes us and sustains us and the generations to come, I humbly submit, may be the way to go.
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Thakur S Powdyel
Former Minister of Education
Royal Government of Bhutan