Lakefield College School Earth Day Address

By Mike Arsenault, Lakefield Environmental Action Force (LEAF) Coach, Values Advocate: Environmental Stewardship and Biology Teacher

Lakefield College School Campus

We are a school that has always been deeply connected to our environment. The sun, water, land, and wind that nurture life—nurtures us. Our Lakefield environment is vital and it connects us together. It is important to us and right now we acutely feel that something is missing. It has shaped who we are, it informs our growth, and it anchors our community. For some of us it’s sacred. To me, it feels like LCS has been quietly celebrating Earth Day since our birth as a school, 141 years ago. Springtime and camp Lakefield has lifted the spirits of many students. Those of you new to LCS are missing that experience right now, and those of you who have been here longer know precisely the magic that springtime at LCS brings. We all feel a loss.

The 50th Anniversary of Earth Day

This week is the 50th Anniversary of Earth Day. In that short span of time, Earth Day has spread from being celebrated only in the USA to 192 countries. It is now the single biggest secular celebration that unites billions of people across the planet.

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Lakefield College School Campus

COVID-19 and Earth Day

Is there anything bigger that unites us? Well, in our face right now is something that has forced unity. It has done so in less than 141 days. 50 days ago, on March 4, Mr. Rollwagen and I were working together on a joint Chapel Talk about “The Biology of Viruses.” That seems like such a long time ago. Sometime during the March Break, it dawned on me to ask the question; “What lessons from COVID-19 can help us better understand our climate crisis?” That question and the following claims resonated with the students of our Lakefield Environmental Action Force (LEAF) club and has become a motivator for why we have worked so hard to bring you this Earth Week.

Here are some of our core thoughts.

Humanity Is In This Together

Everything is intimately connected. People and viruses. Our family, friends, neighbours, cities, and countries. Our livelihoods. We determine each other’s fate. We physically separate while remaining as socially connected as possible. Doing this helps slow the spread of COVID-19, and helps to save lives. We’ve come to realize that this is an act of love. So too is our planet intimately connected. Humanity is in this together.

The Invisible Has Become Visible

There is an unseen ecosystem of human connection and it is now more visible than ever before. We openly thank our front line workers – doctors and nurses. We thank the people that support them: the PSW’s, the cleaners, and office staff. And we thank the people that support all of us, the grocers, shelf stockers, delivery services, pickers, farmers, and processors. They are now our “essential services”. They’ve always been essential but now we see them clearly. On our planet, there are countless hidden interconnections ALL vital to our ecosystems. How might we make the invisible visible?

Lakefield College School Campus

We Are All Vulnerable

When we are in crisis we have three deeply wired biological responses: fight, flight, or freeze. Depending on the crisis, we fall to our highest level of training and skill. We immediately depend on what we have learned and practiced. In that moment of crisis, what we have done before matters. Whatever we’ve previously opened ourselves up to becomes of vital importance. As a society, we are seeing that this crisis is acting as a multiplier that shines a bright spotlight on what was already weak or broken. In each of our countries, we see this unfolding in one way or another. Right now in Ontario, the COVID-19 battleground is in our long-term care facilities. How well we prepared in the past is how we arrived at today. If we extend this to Earth Day all of the real work that we do to mitigate Climate change will allow us to arrive at a better tomorrow.

What does that look like in your country, your city, your family? What might we do now to help secure our future vulnerability? Whenever we choose to act from a place of vulnerability it is courage.

Lakefield College School Campus

It’s About Perspective

When Apollo 8 snapped their iconic photo it showed humanity how vulnerable we were. It gave rise to the Earth Day movement and modern environmentalism. COVID-19 is teaching us how vulnerable we are. 50 days from now will be June 12, 8 days before Closing. 141 days from today will be September 11. What new skills, training, and learnings will you have embraced? What do you want your future self to be ready for? What fire is in your belly?

How we act today helps shape our tomorrow.