What do you think about when you hear the word “home”? Maybe you imagine your beloved apartment, where you wake up every morning? Or that room tens or hundreds of kilometres away from where you spent your childhood? Or maybe home is your whole hometown where every path is walked by you, every turn is taken, every park is explored and where every street remembers a story you both share?
But what if we could expand the meaning of word “home”? Make it broader and all-encompassing?
Not so long ago I found out that word “eco” – more commonly used as a prefix – originates from Greek oikos, which means a house, a household or a dwelling place. I was surprised that this frequently used word actually means “a place we inhabit” – something I would personally refer to as a home. With growing awareness of environmental issues and increasing demand for ecofriendly alternatives accompanied by greenwashing, the word “eco” lost its original meaning somewhere in between. As it turns out, it was never about natural, biodegradable, organic or bio. Or at least it is not about just that. And even when we use the prefix eco- for something that is actually good for our home in its broadest sense, do we keep in mind this picture of the big blue planet we are all lucky to inhabit?
Among many other words with prefix “eco”, there is one that caught my attention – ecocide. We already discussed the meaning of “eco”, but what about -cide? There are some other words in the English language with the same root and they have a common meaning which is “to kill something”. Therefore, eco + cide together create a new word with a heartbreaking definition: ecocide means to kill, or to destroy, the place we inhabit, our home. What can I add here?
Perhaps, any one of us can give a few examples of ecocide. We all know about ecological catastrophes, but they seem to be somewhere… there. So far away that they are almost unreal. It is not happening in our home, right?
In case you have troubles naming several concrete examples of ecocide, then here are a few illustrations:
• North Pacific Gyre, also known as The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is exactly what you think it is – a plastic garbage island floating in the Pacific Ocean. Its estimated surface area is twice the size of Texas or three times the size of France.
• Dead zones in our oceans, where life cannot be sustained due to the lack of oxygen in the water.
• Dying of corals in the Great Barrier Reef system which is connected to the rise of the average water temperature.
• Well-known deforestation in the Amazon region, air pollution created by manufacturing, overfishing,… the list goes on.
From my own experience, it can be too depressing and too overwhelming to think about the state of our planet nowadays. And without witnessing the damage we, as a collective, have done to the Earth, it is easy to deceive ourselves by thinking that it’s not that bad. I have been there and have thought that too.
Fortunately or not, not knowing does not free us from the responsibility. No one will come and scold us for all the damage we have done to our environment. That would be awkward and embarrassing, but also fair – we are all contributing to the massive ecocide in one way or another, though often we do it unconsciously.
Not only no one is coming to blame us but no Superman or Wonder Woman will come to save us either. At least because there is no way they can do it all on their own. Every one of us needs to become a hero or a heroine.
I believe that the first step in the right direction is understanding that our home is not limited by four walls or a dot on the world map. We are a part of the ECOsystem in its broadest sense. And ECOlogical catastrophes are the catastrophes happening in our home.
You and me – we might not have all the answers and readily-made solutions. And that’s OK. What is important, is our readiness and eagerness to act: to learn, to talk, to write, to share, to create, to change. The only thing we cannot afford anymore is to wait and pretend it’s not that bad.
I do not want to destroy our home. I believe none of us wants to.
And I am convinced that if we are the problem, we are it’s solution too.