There was no ‘Eureka!’ moment for the young Dr Mark Dixon. His eagerness to make a difference by advancing education and addressing environmental sustainability was innate. A youthful concern for humanity and non-human lifeforms alike, now and for the future, led him later to articulate his thoughts:
“Intelligent life will be defined as such only when it learns to live, develop and prosper responsibly and sustainably, without threatening the habitats of other organisms on our planet.”
Mark was voicing an ideal that would shape his life: that we can use our gift of higher intelligence for a greater good. But he knows that the human race has some way to go. “We need to find a way to avoid the destruction of fellow species and ultimately, of ourselves, and we need to find it soon,” he says.
That relatively little time remains to avert environmental catastrophe is now beyond speculation. Even so, if a primordial chaos of particles and gaseous matter can eventually beget an ordered, life-supporting world, Mark is hopeful that humans can yet attain the maturity to preserve it, even if this requires us to allay the mistakes of our adolescence.
The key to our continued viability is education, in its broadest sense. “It’s about using scientific research and data to improve how young people learn, particularly in numeracy and literacy. These are important skills for a fulfilled, productive life, but are also critical tools to enable people to understand the global issues- and in particular the root cause of many of our problems: unsustainable population growth.”
“We can even make a difference personally; learning more about the food we eat, the commodities we consume, how we travel, our work-life balance, the manner in which we conduct ourselves daily. What begins as a series of marginal gains can mushroom into substantive and hugely beneficial advances, but not for the reasons you might think.”
Mark is sure such convictions germinated from somewhere profound. “Deeper than social awareness driven merely by guilt; deeper than the superficial buoyancy conferred by charitable deeds. I hope – and I believe – that the will of us all to make the difference is not buried beyond our reach.”