Being on the Environmental Warrior path can be difficult at times. There are many things at work in the world today that are difficult to accept or comprehend, particularly for those of us who are sensitive souls. We need to find a way to live in the world, so that we don’t become overwhelmed. You may have heard The Serenity Prayer before: “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” When faced with the task of creating lives of environmental awareness, cultivating the inner qualities of serenity, balance, courage, responsibility, wisdom and action can assist us on the path to peace.
This is my Environmental Serenity Prayer:
“God (or whatever name you give the guiding wisdom in your life), grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change (what we don’t have direct control over), the courage to change the things I can (what we have direct control over), and the wisdom to know the difference (and to also not feel guilty or depressed about what is out of our hands).”
We need to be able to recognize and accept what we cannot change in the world, and to approach this exercise with a sense of inner peace and calm. For most of us living in the modern world, we are reliant on others to supply us with the products and services that sustain our physical existence (food, clothing, shelter, transport, communication). We may not have direct control over the business practices of the large corporations who provide these products and services (unless we run the corporations ourselves, where we have a wonderful opportunity to set a positive example of socially and environmentally ethical and responsible behaviour), but we can indirectly control their level of influence in our lives, and their wider influence in the world.
We have direct control over our own behaviour within our immediate environment (our ‘sphere of influence’). If we don’t agree with how a company operates, we can choose not to purchase their products or services. We have an incredible opportunity to send a powerful message that we won’t tolerate or support unethical or damaging business practices. We cast our vote when we decide how, where and on what we spend our money. We design our own lives, according to what is important to us. It’s tough to stand out from the crowd, to have the courage to say no, to take responsibility for our choices and to live up to our principles, but the rewards of living a conscious, aware life, one that is well lived, are incredible.
It takes trial and error, practice and wisdom to find the place of balance within our lives where we can live without guilt or unhappiness. Being able to discern (and accept) the difference between what we can and can’t change is a skill that takes time to hone, and the way this manifests in our own lives is dependent to a large degree on our individual personalities, circumstances, values, likes and dislikes. We are all different and our lives have their specific opportunities, challenges and limitations. We need to work within the parameters of our own lives and do the best we can with the resources we have available to us.
It’s important to care about how our choices impact the environment and the Earth. But we can’t do everything, and we need to accept that, otherwise it will be difficult for us to live our lives. We need to be able to participate in life, without worrying or feeling guilty that we aren’t doing enough. We need to make the commitment to reduce our impact, focus on what we can do, take action, and then let go and trust the ongoing process, learning, exploring alternatives, simplifying and streamlining our lives more and more.
On a wider level, understanding what we can and can’t change is more difficult. Many people have committed their lives in the fight for change as environmental and social activists. This is admirable, but I believe we have to choose our battles. That’s not to say we shouldn’t tackle the bigger issues (we should!), but sometimes the smaller goals are more realistic and achievable.
How can we apply these ideas on an individual and global level? Using the example of crude oil – it is unrealistic to expect the world to stop using oil. But it is within our power to make small changes in our lives now. As individuals, we can choose to consume less oil, drive less, use less plastic, and offset our individual carbon dioxide emissions with an annual contribution to projects that replant rainforests or ensure clean, safe water for people in developing countries. We can actively campaign to improve safety protocols on oil extraction infrastructure, to prevent major disasters like the Exxon Valdez and Gulf of Mexico oil spills from re-occurring, or we can work to halt oil exploration and extraction in areas of ecological sensitivity, with high environmental values or where endangered animal populations are located, such as the current campaign to protect Virunga National Park in Africa.
Navigating our way through life in a modern world can be a difficult and overwhelming process. Approaching our lives with serenity, balance, courage, responsibility, wisdom and action helps us to create a calm, peaceful, conscious, aware and proactive existence.