The Earth gives us many gifts – life; food, water and shelter; beauty, pleasure and experience. When we give back to the Earth, we are expressing gratitude for the gifts we have received and we are showing faith that our needs will be met. The Native American origin story of ‘The Field of Plenty’ is a metaphor for giving back to the Earth that sustains our existence.
I’ve never been a big fan of the word ‘take’, because it implies a one-sided relationship. I prefer to use the terms ‘give’ and ‘receive’ as these suggest a reciprocal relationship. I would like to propose a way of being in right relationship with the Earth, by participating in a cycle of reciprocity. When we receive something as a gift from the Earth, we give something back, in thanks and gratitude.
This new way of being is based on the Native American origin story of ‘The Field of Plenty’. When the Earth was created, there existed everything that would ever be needed by humanity. The way to manifest this abundance was through gratitude, sharing and giving thanks to the Earth. When the Native Americans showed gratitude and respect for the Earth and for each other, they were said to be walking on The Red Road of Harmony and Balance, and there was more than enough food for everyone. If they showed a lack of gratitude and respect, they were walking on The Black Road of Greed and Disharmony, and they experienced a decline in their food sources and the people starved.
Applying this concept in a modern world, if we take from the Earth through greed, selfishness and the sole desire for profit, and we don’t care how we treat animals, nature and other people in the process, we will ultimately suffer.
On an individual level, we can do many things to give back to the Earth. We can actively reduce our consumption and impact by living simply and ethically. We can take direct action and petition companies or get involved in campaigning to end environmentally damaging, unethical and cruel practices. We can become a member of, or donate regularly to, a conservation, child sponsorship, animal welfare or environmental organization and volunteer a percentage of our time, financial resources or efforts to helping others and giving back to the Earth.
This year I joined the Australian Conservation Foundation. I became a Sea Guardian with the Australian Marine Conservation Society, and donate on a monthly basis to help protect dolphins, whales and other marine creatures from the negative effects of human impact on the ocean. I adopted infant mountain gorilla Sabato through the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International and orphaned calf Blossom through the Best Buddies program at Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary. I donate regularly to help fund conservation efforts to protect sea turtles, dugongs, dolphins, whales and the ocean. Through World Vision we can sponsor children, or purchase gifts that help families and communities, for example, seeds to plant vegetable crops, fruit trees to harvest fruit for consumption or sale, and tools for farmers to learn agriculture.
We can offset the impact we make on the Earth. Through ClimateCare we can calculate the carbon emissions of our actions and the dollar cost of those emissions. We can then ‘offset’ these carbon emissions by contributing that dollar amount to projects to replant rainforests, assist poorer communities and deliver safe, clean water. On a local level, we can join a conservation group and participate in tree planting projects.
As a business, there are some great initiatives we can get involved in and give back to the Earth that supports our livelihood. ClimateCare offers opportunities to offset the carbon emissions from manufacturing products and services, through support of climate and development projects. One Percent for the Planet is an initiative where companies give one percent of their sales to non-profit organizations that invest in social and environmental projects.
There are many ways we can show our gratitude and respect for the gifts we receive, through environmental conservation, donations, volunteering our time and efforts, and helping others. Giving back to the Earth is the ancient origin story of ‘The Field of Plenty’ in action in a modern context.