I recently came across this wonderful quote by E. B. White – “I arise in the morning torn between a desire to save the world and a desire to savour the world. That makes it hard to plan the day.” I identify with his words because I am driven by the same desire to protect and conserve the environment, yet at the same time I am awed by the incredible beauty of our Earth and I love to travel, exploring and discovering our planet. As an artist, I am inspired by how we can create beautiful works of art, books, music, films, architecture and clothing. At the same time, I am aware, sometimes painfully so, of the impact I have on the Earth, its resources and our fellow beings. Is it possible to protect the world but also enjoy and experience its beauty in a sustainable way?
This is no easy task. I don’t have all the answers. We all have unique ways of viewing and interacting with the world, and our lifestyles and the challenges we face are different. I can only share my thoughts and experiences and my hopes for creating a better world, a world that can sustain our way of life, a world that can retain its beauty and diversity, and a world we can fully engage with in order to have a fulfilling human experience, to know what it means to be alive on a living planet, in these incredible times we live.
But I don’t necessarily believe it’s the Earth that needs saving. The Earth is incredibly resilient and has existed for billions of years. Perhaps it’s ourselves we need to ‘save’, to ensure the long-term survival of our species. By expressing and sharing our ideas about sustainability, and putting our collective heads together, I believe we can solve many of the world’s current issues. It will take ingenuity, innovation, commitment and sacrifice, but we can do it. Let’s do it!
There are many ways we can protect and experience the Earth. We can explore the world around us and discover its power, beauty and potential as more than just a resource – its intrinsic value. We don’t always need to travel long distances to do this; incredible discoveries await us in our own backyards, in our immediate environment. Get to know and understand the natural world on a local level. Learn about the natural environment and begin to see the world in a different way. Tread lightly on the Earth. Be aware of the plants and animals sharing the same space, and respect other forms of life.
Richard Louv, author of ‘Last Child in the Woods’ and ‘The Nature Principle’ believes “we cannot protect something we do not love, we cannot love what we do not know, and we cannot know what we do not see. And touch. And hear.” If we become more familiar with; and more compassionate towards, our environment and the life that co-exists with us, we may be more inclined to want to protect it. This is the first step in understanding that it’s not just about us, but also about others – the plants, the animals, the ocean, the forests, the atmosphere…and other people, other communities, other lives.
We can live with more awareness about the reality of the life we live and the incredible potential we have to create our lives, for either good or bad. We can choose to live simply, with respect and compassion. We don’t have to live a life of mindless consumption, with a lack of awareness about how our actions affect others. We can investigate how our choices impact the Earth by reading more, thinking critically, asking questions and opening our minds, but more importantly, our hearts. We can accept that we cannot live on the Earth without making an impact, but we know we can actively work to reduce our impact by taking responsibility for our choices, acknowledging that our actions have consequences, simplifying our lives and becoming more conscious of our behaviour as a consumer.
We can express our gratitude for the gifts the Earth gives us so we can sustain our lives by adopting a spirit of reciprocity in the way we live. We can say ‘thank you’ by giving back to the Earth. There are many ways we can do this. Use your imagination. I believe it is a privilege and a gift to live on this Earth. I see the act of giving back as a form of ‘paying my way’. I believe we can work towards a more sustainable future but we need a paradigm shift. We are the ones who have the power to make the changes. We will be exploring individual issues in greater depth in subsequent posts about reducing our impact on the Earth.
We can refuse to participate in the consumer culture currently running rampant in our society that is destroying the natural environment and exploiting animals, children and indigenous communities. We can buy less stuff and use less. We can live a simple, ethical, sustainable life. Instead of creating debt we can create financial freedom, abundance and prosperity and use our money to support the products and services that don’t exploit the Earth, the animals and other people – we can put our money where our mouths are. We can nurture our relationships, our creative talents and make the commitment to developing ourselves psychologically and spiritually. We can invest our time and our attention in more important things than material things.
We can do what we can and then we must let it go, knowing we are doing all that we are able to – and enjoy our lives without guilt. We don’t have to punish ourselves because we don’t think we are doing enough. We can’t do everything. Live your life, have fun, express your creativity, explore your potential, show respect for others and for the Earth – and have wonderful, life-changing, life-affirming experiences. We can save the world, but we need to enjoy our lives.