A central principle in the Environmental Warrior ethos is giving back to the Earth in gratitude for the gifts we receive from her so that we can live. These include the food we eat, the water we drink, the clothing we wear, and the shelter that keeps us warm and protected from the elements, but also those experiences that bring us joy, pleasure and happiness, that allow us to express our creative beings and inventive spirits. We rely on the Earth to provide everything we need to survive and thrive.
I am lucky enough to live in a country where I enjoy a high standard of living, with none of the challenges to my life, health, safety or freedom that others have. My basic needs are met. I have nutritious food to eat, clean water to drink, comfortable clothes to wear and a roof over my head. I am formally educated and earn a living wage. This is much more than most people have.
I believe in giving back to the Earth in gratitude for the life I live. I think it’s important for those of us who are blessed with enough have a responsibility to help those who don’t have as much as we do, in any way we can. I don’t think this way out of guilt, or because of an elitist, patronizing attitude. I live very simply and am certainly not well-off by Western society’s standards.
Too many people are only out for what they can get for themselves and never consider the impact of their actions and choices on others and the Earth. We are each one small part of a greater community that includes other sentient and non-sentient life. I’ve never bought into the idea of humans as the superior life form with the right to dominate and exploit all other forms of life.
The consumer lifestyle is environmentally and socially unsustainable
The lifestyles we enjoy in the Western world are only possible because of how we treat the Earth, the environment, the animals and people in other parts of the world. Our gain and privilege is their loss and suffering. Our wealth is their poverty.
For example, Western society’s demand for palm oil causes loss of forest habitat for orangutans, and if deforestation continues, these beautiful creatures will become extinct, all for our favourite shampoo or chocolate bar.
Even though we’re not the ones cutting down the trees, we’re using the end products containing palm oil, so we are indirectly contributing to deforestation, habitat loss for orangutans, and species extinction.
Is this the legacy we want to leave for future generations?
We must consider the impact of our individual choices on the wider world. We need to focus our awareness beyond our own lives, needs and wants.
A new approach to giving back
I support a ‘polluter pays’ approach to managing environmental impact. If we make an impact on the Earth, we are responsible for cleaning it up. But this approach as it is currently interpreted and applied in government and business doesn’t address the issue of overconsumption. None of the strategies we implement to green or offset our consumption matter unless we also reduce our overall consumption.
I take a three-tiered approach:
- Reducing our individual levels of consumption, automatically reducing our impact
- ‘Greening’ our consumption choices and ‘offsetting the carbon’ generated by our impact
- Donating a portion of our income to helping others and the Earth
Reducing our consumption reduces our impact
Everything we do has an impact, and the easiest way to reduce our impact is by reducing our consumption. We can learn to live with less without sacrificing the things we enjoy. Living simply is not about deprivation, it’s about being aware that we live in a world of shared resources that must be managed sustainably.
Greening our impact and offsetting the carbon we generate
We cannot live on the Earth without making an impact, and it’s important we accept this or we can’t move forward and make better choices about how we manage the impact we do make. We have already explored many of the ways we can green our impact:
- Ensuring most of our food is organic, unpackaged fruits and vegetables sourced from local farms, not from distant locations
- Opting for whole-body exercise not requiring equipment or special gadgets
- Using minimal, plant-based skin care not tested on animals
- Choosing products packaged in recycled, compostable and recyclable packaging
We will explore the concept of ‘carbon offsetting’ in the next post.
Putting our money where our mouths are
We can give back to the Earth by donating a portion of our income to our chosen charities. Depending on our interests, we can focus on environmental conservation, animal welfare, child sponsorship or indigenous and marginalized communities.
My creative and professional focus is marine conservation, so I make a monthly donation as a Sea Guardian to the Australian Marine Conservation Society. For less than five dollars a week, I am helping to protect the ocean, dolphins and whales. I support the Australian Conservation Foundation and The Wilderness Society in their protection of Australia’s unique flora, fauna and environment.
Animals have a right to live in their natural habitats free from human impact. Every year I adopt an infant mountain gorilla through the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund which helps protect the last remaining populations of mountain gorillas. I support Edgar’s Mission Farm Sanctuary through their Best Buddies sponsorship program for neglected and abandoned farm animals.
I give and receive World Vision gifts to help families, children and local communities become self-sufficient and self-governing, through farming and agriculture. I support the Tibetan cause through Australia Tibet Council and the rights of Tibetans to preserve their culture without fear of torture and imprisonment. I purchase products by Loving Earth and Niugini Organics because I prefer to help indigenous communities create an economic livelihood.
What can you do to give back to the Earth? How can you contribute to give others an opportunity to thrive?
Text by Environmental Warrior © 2015
Photo by Matthew Henry on Unsplash