I’m an environmentalist.
I have been for as long as I can remember. But really, as a child of privilege raised in the bubble of American suburbia, it didn’t cost me anything to embrace the cause of our environment.
My parents’ jobs weren’t on the line when I took up causes like protecting the oceans and recycling. If anything, it was too easy for me to choose whether or not I wanted to do anything.
And therein lies the problem, as I see it. The sustainable relationship with our Earth and its natural resources is not a political issue, but a personal one. While, lately, the science behind climate change seems to be on an ever-expanding political chopping block (perhaps right after the “liberal” press and minority rights), I simply cannot see the issue of the environment through the lens of politics.
It is a human issue, a deeply personal one that speaks to our values as a society and demonstrates our paradigm of physical relationship between beings. Perhaps the real issue is the capitalization of natural resources by corporations that do not have the greater social good as a part of their founding principles. Some look upon the Earth only as an exploitable resource and tell us to drill until we hit the bottom.
Where does this sense of entitlement to take more than we give come from? When the financial bottom line becomes our temple of worship and takes precedence over a peaceful relationship with the environment that sustains us, we have lost our moral center. With our eyes blinded and our hearts hardened, we bite the gracious hand that has been feeding us all alone…while unchecked greed and the flaws of market capitalism erode the fabric of society.
But, I have to ask: is it really a surprise?
Our often unspoken notions of hierarchy and hegemony are writ-large in the world, like a giant open book of our minds and heart. We literally imprint the Earth and its ground with our beliefs.
Our treatment of the Earth bears an uncanny resemblance to how we treat our own bodies.
How bad does it have to get before you listen to that pain in your knee? How many times do you have to suffer colds and flus before you realize you’re running yourself too thin? People—myself included, sadly, often need a harsh wake-up call before we are willing to hear the voice of our body, crying in pain.
As a human race it makes perfectly tragic sense that we have not woken up to the call that our Earth is suffering at our hands, that we are running its resources too thin. While it is possible to debate any scientific hypothesis eternally (just think how much time and resources went into proving that the world was flat), the issue for me isn’t about whether or not you believe climate change.
Instead, I like to think about the relationship that I have with the Earth like any other relationship. Rather than waiting for my friend to get mad at me, or my husband to lose his temper because I’ve overstepped boundaries, I treat people the way I’d like be treated myself.
In the same way, you don’t really need scientific proof to figure out what the kind and gracious way is to relate with the people whom you love. You only need to feel it in your heart and be a little aware of the impact that your actions make on others. So the issue for me is and always has been about treating the world and all the people in it with respect and kindness. It’s about leaving the world in a better place, about equality in every relationship whether between you and your partner or between your community and the Earth. No matter how much we may try, we do not live in isolation. Our choices impact those around us both on the small and large scale.
Even if you think that climate change is a hoax, the question in my view is still why do you want to treat the Earth like this? Why not leave your grandchildren a paradigm of respect and sustainability that elegantly solves the issue of resource distribution?
I’m disheartened by the political process. By lobbyists who run the country with dirty money and gerrymandering politicians who entrench themselves in power.
But I know one way that we can be heard. We can speak in a langue that corporations hear loud and clear. Vote with your dollar. Research the companies whose products you buy and spend your hard-earned money on products made by companies that do good in the world.
Become a conscious consumer and spend your money in alignment with your heart. That’s not the final solution—but it is a step in the right direction. And if enough of us come together, we can make a difference. We need a team of new fresh leaders, a replenishment of hope and a wind of change to sweep through and reset our moral compass once more on the straight and narrow path.
We need faith and strength. We need love and kindness. At least that’s the world I dream of.
Editor: Waylon H. Lewis
Photos: Author’s Own