Surely we have all seen, or read, the news, we have all been bombarded by green this, and green that – so much so that we have likely just shut off our receptors to anything with the prefix “enviro”.
So, let us take a step back, and a deep breath. What is truly going on here? I think we are past the point of debating whether humans are having an impact on the world around us. That much, we know is true. The question then becomes – do we do something about it? Or do we just sit back and pretend like nothing is wrong? If we do act, is there even a point? With 7 billion people on this world, it’s easy to feel a little insignificant.
Putting all that aside, for the moment, I think the more pressing issue is that we’ve lost our connection; to each other, to nature, and to life itself.
A lot of people ask me how I got into all of this and why I care so much, I truly wish I had the perfect answer for them, perhaps they would follow suit. However, it’s not really about any one reason, by one individual – for there cannot be one universal reason for why anybody does anything. What I have come to realize is that it’s less about a reason, or any one specific issue, and more about a feeling; that feeling of connectedness, enabling you to feel personally attached and responsible to your impacts, your neighbor’s impacts, and the world around you.
It is at this point when, the extinction of a species, or the devastation of a forest, now means something to you, because you realize that you are connected to those animals, and that forest, and if it is a loss for them, it is a loss for you, too. You feel it in your heart, deep within you. Charles Eisenstein refers to this as a shift in consciousness, when the heart becomes present. The heart is a very important variable in our sustainability journey, you see.
My one hope is that this feeling can be re-ignited in all of you. As it resides in all of you, it always has, albeit potentially hiding under some other emotions whose perceived importance took precedence over the deeper meaning and understanding to why we are all here, but, it’s there. Once we find that feeling, we realize that a profound transformation takes place. And, it is within that transformation where we realize that these “environmental actions” (for lack of a better word), we’ve either been told to do, or feel we ought to do, no longer become chores, or guilt-ridden tasks, they become habits, habits to which you, then, cannot fathom straying from. For, if you did, it would simply feel wrong, fundamentally, deep within you.
Shall we find that feeling?
How did we get to this point?
We were not always like this, you know – careless and destructive - which means we do not have to continue to be like this. It is certainly not innate to destroy beauty, pollute our living areas, and limit our ability to enjoy these natural, pristine areas. It is just that, for so long, we have had such conflicting mentalities, and inconsistent goals. For the most part, we have been told to focus on growth, especially after World War II. And, since then, we have continued on this path of continuous growth, rarely taking moments to reflect on whether this was still the right path for us; all the while slowly chipping away at what makes us human, and what we need to survive.
“We must keep growing” we are told, but why? In hopes of reaching that point where we can all live happily, care free, with enough money, and ample leisure time? Will that point ever be reached? We are busier now than we ever have been, despite all the technological advancements that are supposed to make our lives easier. What a conundrum!
Despite our knowledge that we cannot grow infinitely on a finite planet with finite resources, we seem to keep on going and growing, assuming that it will eventually work out, no time for questions. Why? What for; and, more importantly, at what cost?
Nature has given us everything – no matter what religious, political, socio-economic beliefs you hold, you would not be living if it were not for nature and all its gifts. If the trees were not able to provide oxygen for our intake, we would cease to exist. In fact, everything that makes us human, and helps us live is derived from nature, in some form or another. Should not we work to restore that, and ensure its prolonged use so we, as humans, may continue to thrive?
Nature has been giving us numerous warning signs and it is about time we listen, if not for her, for us, for our own personal wellbeing and sanity. Nature does not need us at all, however we absolutely need nature to live, there is no room for debate in that. We need clean air and clean water – that is a biological fact. As Jesse Lemieux, founder of Pacific Permaculture, noted, in his recent talk Healthy Soil= Healthy Veggies = Healthy You, "Nature and life will always be here. What we face now is how we will choose to participate in that. Will we continue to work against nature or work with it to support and restore function in living systems and thus our own societies; building time, and lasting wealth, in healthy soil and non-discriminatory biodiversity?”
Take a look at the albatross on Midway Island, as Chris Jordan puts it “On one of the remotest islands on our planet, tens of thousands of baby albatrosses lie dead on the ground, their bodies filled with plastic from the Pacific Garbage Patch”.
Is it right that because of our care-free disposable life-style, we are compromising the lives of millions of sea and land creatures? Or, as Captain Charles More describes, “feminizing the waters, and tricking fish into eating plastic (which ultimately ends up in our stomachs) disrupting every aspect of their lives (and ours by default) and their precious ecosystems?” (Hear more about his talk at UBC here).
Is it right that far away, on the south east cost of Hawaii, at Kamilo Beach, mounds of plastic continually wash-up on shore, despite the locals’ best efforts to clean it up?
Is it right that due to our unsustainable, chemically induced agricultural process, where pesticide use runs rampant, we are seeing millions upon millions of honey bees dying? What has now been classified as, Colony Collapse Disorder (“CCD”). Though a strong indication of our misgivings as responsible humans, this is about more than a few bees dying. Lest we forget, everything we eat, essentially our livelihood depends on bees for fertilization. Are we willing to give that up, for crops which are genetically produced in a lab?
The list goes on and I ask myself, is this nature we intended? Is this the world we want to live in?
We are literally changing the way all species act – and not for the better. The direct consequences are plentiful, and yet we remain paralyzed, either with doubt, ignorance, fear, or helplessness. Worse, are the indirect consequences which flow all throughout the food-chain, affecting all species. Bio magnification is a huge problem, and one that is, in the grand scheme of things, a relatively new concept. A great example of this is in women’s breast milk, wherein some women have been told to refrain from giving their babies milk as all the harsh toxins in the woman’s body are being concentrated in that area – from all the make-up, hair products, creams, gels, and pesticides ridden fruit we unknowingly ingest.
We are all connected, even if the issues seem far away – on gyres in the middle of the Pacific Ocean – we are all connected. We are all a part of this.
In short, our environment has limits, and we are at a point in time where we are breaking those limits (as we all know) – we have heard it so many times that it’s become the norm and we just smile and nod, and continue as usual when we hear it. Frighteningly enough, we’ve accepted that we are messing up the planet, but we keep on, business as usual. Why? I urge you to reflect, and challenge the initial, hurried, response of dismissal.
In our race to the top we have veered so far away from that which makes us human, indeed, that which flourishes our survival – community – that sense of connectedness. We are not individualistic beings – though our current economic system would have us believe we are. We are social beings, and we need community – time with family and friends. We yearn to feel that sense of connectedness to others, and to the earth, whether we are aware of this or not and we truly benefit from these ties. We may notice it when we hang out with friend; we just feel good, or when someone is lost, and they ask you for help; we want to help them out, and we feel great doing it.
What can we do?
When you are feeling hopeless and overwhelmed, remember those around you, those who bring you joy, laughter, and love. After-all, what is life for? Remember that anything you can do, no matter how minute it seems, does have an impact – never give up hope.
When you are feeling perplexed and paralyzed from the bombardment of environmental impacts and consequences, you are not sure how to move forward, and you feel like your actions are insignificant, remember that you can make a difference, and there are people who care, too. You are not in this alone, and you’ll always have your network of people to help you out.
Remember that, we all benefit when those around us benefit and when nature benefits – as we are, in essence, nature, too. And, when you are faced with a decision and you are not quite sure the best choice, remember the quote by Scott Nearing, “Do the best that you can, in the place where you are, and be kind”.
We must not forget how perfectly precious this world we exist in truly is, and we must remember that it is okay to feel. Feelings are what make us human, and what ultimately evoke action. Let us not be afraid to feel, and let us not be afraid to act, we are here, now, and life is a gift. Let us start living in a way that reflects this – after all, it is in your own best interest, too.
Consider the quote from the astronaut, Rusty Schweickart, seeing it from so far as a pale blue dot really changes ones perspective:
From the moon, the Earth is so small and so fragile, and such a precious little spot in that Universe, that you can block it out with your thumb. Then you realize that on that spot, that little blue and white thing, is everything that means anything to you -- all of history and music and poetry and art and death and birth and love, tears, joy, games, all of it right there on that little spot that you can cover with your thumb. And you realize from that perspective that you've changed forever, that there is something new there, that the relationship is no longer what it was.