In my previous entry I spoke of the road towards sustainability and how we have to start somewhere, without feeling like hypocrites just because we can’t become 100% eco-friendly over night. We can’t expect to extract ourselves from a culture of waste and wastefulness – unless we literally drop all our ties and live as a hermit on a mountain. For most of us that’s not a realistic scenario. But that doesn’t make doing SOME-thing useless. Doing a little bit, and then a little bit more is the way of nature. It’s the way everything grows – incremental, bit by bit. And that’s how we have to transform our current culture of waste and wastefulness into a culture of sustainability and regeneration, of cycles and systemic consciousness… We have to grow into it and we have to grow the culture itself. But sustainability is only one aspect of the culture that we need to create.
Let’s face it:
If we want to have a harmonious existence on this planet, as humans, with as many of us as there are… Things have to change. We can’t continue on with the lifestyle that we’ve adopted, nor with the values that we’ve agreed upon. It’s important to note that we are talking about something incredibly radical and big, that cannot be solved with one solution – nor as I’ve been saying, with one step. We’re going to have to start thinking in multiple layers. The economic crisis, wars, ecological crises, climate change, psychological crises, growing cases of degenerative diseases, violent crimes etc. are all part of the same challenge that we are faced with. They are all symptoms of a fundamental disharmony.
Of course to this “a challenge” is a bit weak. The word ultimatum comes to mind: We figure this out or we are finished, as our resources diminish and our world becomes more and more toxic… At least this is what it seems like at the moment: a kind of dooms-day scenario. The way we approach this should be, without hesitation, on all frontiers. The systems we’ve put in place serve no longer. They should not be our downfall. We are flexible beings, we have adapted to so many modes of life in the past, we can adapt to a new way as well, so the image below doesn’t become our future…
A few things we need to re-learn:
- Human nature is not evil, there is no original sin that makes our touch destroy…
But the way we understand ourselves and value a certain manner of perception, a certain form of reality, an agreement to value one thing or object over another, without watching for its true value, confuses us to the point as that we make choices and take actions that are detrimental to our own well-being. An example to clarify what I mean: we value plants that produce fruits or can be eaten by humans, over plants that seem “useless”. So we create mono-cultures, ignoring the notion that all plants and animals alike flourish only in an eco-system that is diverse, interacting with each other. So the insects, the weeds, the patches of land that are wild and uncultivated, have enormous value to the community of life, and we are part of that community. The value we believe in is artificial and acting upon it causes harm to ourselves. Monocultures are prone to pests, weaken the plants in general and soon become dependent on toxic pesticides, fertilizers and a large amount of human care. Plus they reduce the space for wildlife to flourish and so are damaging to the overall ecosystem. (i.e. replacing the rain forest with palm oil or soy plantations is not a good idea, even though it’s all plants…)The whole concept of the human touch being evil is a truly insidious and powerful thing that is limiting our growth and ability to live harmoniously with our life-support system, we call environment. The first thing we think of when we think of pristine nature is “untouched” nature, meaning untouched by us. This implies how evil and dirty we feel the human touch is! How could we conceive of a future in which we live as stewards of the land, in balance and harmony with the seasons and cycles of nature, when this story of our diseased nature is so ingrained into our thinking? We must learn to separate the effects we have had on our environment from what is truly our nature. They are NOT our nature. They are truly against everything that our nature is, and that’s why we feel so sick and troubled in our current world!
- We perceive all things as separate and out there, rather than interwoven, in relationship with each other and deeply dependent on the angle of perception. We see nature as something that is over there, and humans over here. Humans do something and nature gets damaged. But humans are a part of nature, in a sense at the top of a natural hierarchy of consciousness, in a different sense participants in a global community of inter-living. What we do to ourselves we do to nature. What we do to nature we do to ourselves. Can you feel that? Is that part of our reality? Or is it just something we say?
How we see the world is dependent upon our internal development and state. We participate in the creation of a world void of meaning and beauty, or world full of it. The world is not just some static object that is out there. We are actively forming that world, not in a telekinetic sense, but in the sense of: our perception really does hold the key to changing the world from a dirty, war-ridden, hostile place to a world of harmony and balance, a world of abundance and unlimited freedom. And this is not something we need all people to agree on to arrive to. Personal development, meditation, spiritual practices can get the individual to that level of awareness. Imagine if enough people arrived there!
- We selectively blend out facets of existence, hiding what we deem ugly and unpresentable, only for those facets to come back to haunt us, while we’ve blinded ourselves to them and face them now with total ignorance. On an internal level we call this the creation of shadow – repressing and denying the existence of certain emotions, memories, experiences – good or bad. We can repress our own intuition or talents or we can repress our own anger and frustration. Either way the human mind or organism is a closed system and there is no away – by repressing we only blind ourselves to these things, but they are still there, like a festering wound or ghost, they will make their presence known in ways that is uncomfortable to us, and they will limit our growth, poison our character and with it all our choices. In psychology you learn to re-integrate the shadow by re-cognizing it as yourself.On a collective level we create waste and bury or burn it, fill remote areas with where we cannot see it, or ship it off to other countries (This is referred to as externalizing costs – someone else pays for our mess). We create conflicts in foreign countries to perpetuate lifestyles that are clearly not only unsustainable from the perspective of the resources they require, but also from the perspective of the health they slowly but surely deteriorate (mental and physical). The planet is a closed system, just like our mind. There is no away where you can throw your trash, it all feeds back into the system that you are hooked up to. It all goes back into your lungs, into your blood stream. Make no mistake, you cannot make it go away… So we would need to two things: 1) re-integrate that which has been repressed/externalized i.e. upcycling and re-using trash. Mining the garbage dumps etc. And 2) eliminating the concept of trash or obsolescence. Everything is part of the cycles of nature, everything gets transformed, never tossed.
- We are eternally unsatisfied and afraid and try to sooth our anxiety and needs with impermanent and virtual solutions, leading right back to dissatisfaction and fear when yet again our fix evaporates or turns out to be dissatisfactory. It is perhaps exactly this that is at the heart of the problem of waste. The use and value we initially place on an external object is tied to its ability to sooth our internal yearning of wholeness. But it fails to do so, because nothing external can sooth that void, and hence it becomes worthless to us. If we have no intrinsic equanimity and joy, it cannot be produced from the outside. Everything we try will turn out to be just a substitute gratification for the internal quality we are truly looking for, and what seemed like a beautiful castle turns to ashes before our eyes. But it’s hard to understand that, when we are taught to always look for external fixes. We are soothed with food and toys and money and sex and medication from the start, and never once are we instructed otherwise. Our society is lacking in technologies to really deal with unhappiness. And yet almost everyone suffers from it. Practices such as gratitude, meditation, yoga and prayer can lead the way to finding happiness internally, to living in a world of abundance and confidence rather than a world of perpetual dissatisfaction and fear.
- Our lifestyle relies on the potential for limitless growth on a limited planet… Our entire economy is based on growth and more growth, with the obvious question hanging unanswered in the air: How can we keep growing if we only have a limited amount of material to work with? How can we expand further if we’ve already taken the entire globe? At what point does this system collapse and we come to our senses, reshaping the way economy works and what its goals are?
- The food we eat is incredibly toxic to both those who ingest it and the eco-system that is forced to produce it. From factory-farming to large mono-cultures, GMO plants, top-soil depletion, deforestation and the loss of bio-diversity because of it, not to speak of over-fishing, coral-reef destruction through trawling, the death of millions of by-catch species and the simplification of the eco-systems as a result of all that, leading to less productive and less healthy communities of living beings – it’s destroying our capacity to live quality lives and be healthy. And then to top it off, we rely heavily on processed foods that have chemical additives that are often addictive (like sugar) to make them “taste better” or look better or to make them last longer, but very often have the effect of making them more toxic for ourselves, causing diseases down the line. The processing also destroys nutrients and removes us cognitively from the actual nature of the food, impoverishing our experience of reality and our health. And finally the processing and packaging of foods is wasteful and pollutes the environment.Eating less or no meat, organically grown vegetables, unprocessed and unpackaged foods is the way to go. If you have the opportunity: grow your own.
- Many people seem to think that if we could rationally explain the world’s problems to everyone through education, then everyone would get on board with finding a solution. We’re confused when it doesn’t work.But the world’s problems cannot be readily understood by everyone. It requires cognitive development in order for a human to be able to think “that big”, and while many reach that stage naturally in young adulthood a large amount of the population doesn’t. One of the big problems here is that the notion of cognitive development is often frowned upon when referring to humans who are no longer children – where it is thought that the brain does not develop any further. This idea is actually outdated and has been proven wrong by many scientists. We continue to develop until we die or our brain functions deteriorate because of disease/injury. But without the understanding that growth continues and the encouragement of society to continue this growth, many individuals stunt their growth inadvertently. Another problem is the myriad of unhealthy paths development can take and often does take naturally because of sub-optimal circumstances, injuries, fears, experiences etc. and the complete lack of intervention from the side of society in these cases. Apparently it is ok for someone to be an ego-maniac, even to the point of making them the head of a country. Apparently it is ok to be narcissistic, apathetic, neurotic, depressed, anxious, self-absorbed, aggressive, nihilistic etc. Anyone who falls into those categories will find it difficult to care about the world’s problems, about a global community, pollution or anything else, besides their own immediate problems, no matter how developed or rational they are.The balanced human being who is interested in their own growth, not as an escape from pain, but because of an intrinsic alignment with an ever expanding and growing universe, is actually very rare. But it shouldn’t be. This should be the norm.We need to put in place education about human development and encourage it on all levels and in all forms that it comes in. We need to intervene when people develop in unhealthy ways and it must become socially unacceptable not to do so. While this may sound a bit like methodologies used in sects, what is the alternative? Allow the mentally and emotionally unbalanced people to perpetuate destruction and wreak havoc? At the very least, destructive tendencies must be contained so that they don’t influence the greater aspects of society and human togetherness. People must be able to tell a healthy human character from an unhealthy one. We must learn more about mental disorders from a very young age, in order to be able to identify and take care of them. They cannot remain stigmatized taboos or be denied out of existence. Development requires support, and requires the right conditions. We should help each other in this, provide the conditions not only for ourselves but for each other to grow and find balance.
It is all these things and more that need to be approached and transformed in order for our species to prosper well into the future, as far as I can see. The good news is, that none of these things are in our genetic make-up or laws of nature. In reality, all those things I’ve mentioned, they are all just agreements and stories we’re telling ourselves, or modes we’ve fallen into. Most of us don’t know better, because these things are like a lens through which we see the world – “This is normal. This is how the world works”. But it’s just a lens, it can be changed for another one.
We can change this!
I’ve mentioned some possible ideas for solutions above, and in the last post, but this kind of thing will take time. The idea of changing everything at once and suddenly having the perfect society is utopian, a fantasy, and that’s not what we’re aiming for. Let’s not aim for a 100% solution just yet. Let’s start with 1% or 5%. Let’s do a little every day. And when that becomes normal, let’s do a little more. We can’t really see too far in advance anyway, our solutions have to grow with the changing of the world, so let’s start with what we can do now!
For this purpose I suggest 7-day challenge, that is meant to be repeated, every week, every month, for the whole year and then grown and expanded as we see fit… Every day we try to address a different aspect of the crisis we face, to raise awareness and take actions towards a better future. We can pool our ideas for solutions through social media, or just show that we care.
We lean on some events/actions/hashtags that have already taken off, that we believe are steps in the right directions, but try to be more integral about the solution, including both internal and external solutions, as we believe they must go together.
The seven days are set up as:
- #MindfulMonday or #meatlessMonday
- #SpeakOutSaturday or #SilenceOnSaturday and
Below are a few ideas of what actions to take on each of these days. But there are no strict rules. Any actions aiming towards sustainability and harmony are welcome, and being creative is desirable. So add your own ideas!
For the sake of creating a movement with momentum, if you join this challenge, connect your posts with the hashtag #PlanForThePlanet
#MindfulMonday / #meatlessmonday
Have the intention to be in awareness of all your actions. The modalities of Monday are to help internal development towards more balance and greater capacity for love and care. A greater capacity for self-reflection also means better choices can be made in all aspects of life. Through meditation and similar practices we can come to the realization of unity and interconnectedness, and lose cravings for material fixes. Things like Shadow work and journaling can help us heal psychological wounds which are keeping us from developing further or living harmoniously to our full potential. Additionally meditation and similar practices can also help internal development of the states of consciousness available to us thus opening us up further to our full potential, which we could use to solve our problems.
- Walking in Nature
- Qi Gong
- Spiritual Practice
- Shadow work
As an alternative or addition for all those who are not vegetarian, the self-explanatory:
#MeatlessMonday to reduce carbon emissions and suffering on the planet and improve health. (Vegetarians and Vegans, please don’t be judgmental. Not everyone’s body and conditions are made to be vegetarian/vegan, but by reducing the consumption to what the body really needs, rather than eating what we are conditioned to as normal, would already make a huge difference and be much more sustainable than what we have now)
- Turning something ugly into something beautiful– in a SUSTAINABLE fashion!
- Take a picture of before and after cleanup where you remove (plastic) trash.
- Take a picture of an abandoned lot and turn it into an urban garden
- Paint a local community building
- Make stuff better…
Share creative Solutions and alternatives to waste and say NO to single use. We don’t all have to be super creative – a lot of stuff has been invented a long time ago, but isn’t being used anymore, because it’s not trendy or just forgotten. Let’s just show how we can live without the concept of waste.
- Papaya leaf straw
- Zero waste alternatives
- Electriciy and Water waste reduced– eg… take a walk instead of watching a movie
- Water recycling system
- Getting something repaired rather than throwing it away
- Take bike instead of a car/train or #WalkonWednesdays
- Tell your female friends about Moon Cups
- Clothing Swaps
Our brains are wired to find problems, so that we can fix them in order to survive. That means that we are more likely to find something wrong with a situation, our life in general, a feeling, another person, etc. rather than seeing what is good and wonderful about it. Practicing gratitude can rebalance that view to seeing how good things actually are. This is a great way to reduce craving for material fixes, creating a more balanced human that can take more harmonious actions in the world. Studies show that gratitude is the key to happiness!
- Gratitude journaling: write down 3-10 things that you are grateful for this day (optional: why or how those things affect you)
- Express your gratitude to the people around you
- Allow yourself to be fully satisfied with everything that is
- Be grateful for your food before you eat it.
- Practice recognizing abundance
Do something to halt climate change/carbon emissions or similar, or join the world-wide protests that already exist under this hashtag.
- Write to your government
- Write or speak to educate others about sustainability, climate change, eco-lifestyle,
- zero-waste-life etc.
- Plant trees
- Offset or lower your carbon footprint in some way
#SpeakOutSaturday or #SilcenceOnSaturday
- Be vocal about moving towards a sustainable future, educate others
- Host an event/ dinner / talk with a topic related to a sustainable future
- Writing Letters,
- Blog/Vlog or Social Media posts
- Create a mini documentary
- If you see something say something (eg. If you notice someone littering let them know why it’s not the best idea or open a dialog about what would need to change in order for littering to stop etc.. It’s a challenge to get people to listen rather than to just ignore you and call you a bad word for calling them out, so let’s pool some strategies here that may work better than pointing the finger!)
Unplug and do a digital detox. Use as few machines as possible (no cars!), as little electricity as possible. Take a nap, recharge your batteries. Your mind will work better if you are truly rested, and being online, answering emails and messages or browsing and being radiated by that computer-light is not conducive to rest. If you’re up for it, make silentSaturday a real silent day, vipassana style -no speaking- or Nyepi style (like the Balinese celebrate) without leaving the house, working, or any kind use of electricity or phone/internet connection. If you opt for #silenceOnsaturday, use the #FridaysForFuture tag for your educational blog-posts and documentaries and #socialSunday for events/talks/dinners.
Service to others and your community, Karma Yoga. Moving forwards is going to be less about the individual and more about the community and our connections to one another. Self-centeredness in the egoic sense is detrimental to our health by being detrimental to the environment. We need to learn to care for others and our surroundings and how good that actually feels.
- Help on local community project
- take time to help someone / offer support for their growth/healing/flourishing
- Donate – clothes, blood, food, time, energy, money
- Share your love
- Rescue animals or help out in a rescue center
- Start a community garden
- “Fund-raising” barbecues (doesn’t have to be about money, but can be)
Now, remember, this is not a competition. We shouldn’t feel like we haven’t done enough if our #trashtagtuesday wasn’t a glorious 5-mile radius cleanup that can be seen from space. Even if it was just a street corner, or under a tree, posting it, making it visible for others will help encourage others to do the same, or do more. It will create momentum. And while karmically speaking we would want to do things without seeking recognition for them, I think at the moment what we need is to encourage each other, or rather to make all these actions and practices socially acceptable or the social norm, and for that they MUST be seen!
Please remember to connect all your posts with the general hashtag #PlanForThePlanet
Start today! (this is my #fridaysforfuture contribution for today!)