Even when you focus on optimism, it is hard not to be concerned about the future. You have to live in an isolated bubble (perhaps on Pluto) with no contact with this world not to be confronted with constant messages of climate change, pollution and excess plastic waste. We are delivered these messages with increasing urgency and intensity and yet the majority of us continue to go about our daily business as though nothing is going wrong.
Listening to the BBC World Service while cleaning the house, I am informed that the Amazon rainforests are now producing more carbon dioxide than they are absorbing. Now I am no scientist however even with my limited understanding of the world this sets alarm bells ringing in my ears. As I listen on, I am further informed that it is the destruction of the forest from logging, cattle ranching and agriculture like soy farming that is the cause of this change. I listened at school and I have watched enough natural history documentaries to know that the Amazon rainforests have been providing the service of the lungs of our planet throughout our existence and that alone makes them a pretty essential part of our planet. It is then an understandable reaction to be alarmed at the news that these lungs have succumbed to disease and are now coughing out more carbon than they can absorb. The evidence presented by this particular news broadcast suggested that as a consequence of human activity the whole of the Amazon rainforest was in mortal danger of whole ecosystem collapse. This takes us beyond the realms of alarm bells ringing in our ears to full apocalyptic meltdown evacuation with sirens blaring.
We spend so much time, energy and money on human health and nutrition. Exploring the next healthy diet option: paleo, vegan or gluten free. We exercise for optimum strength with gyms across the world dedicated to cross fit or yoga. We aren’t nearly as concerned however with the disease and decay our existence is causing the planet. This can only be considered insane when the two are so inextricably linked. How can we ever be supported as a healthy and vibrant population of human beings if the very planet that our existence depends upon is sick and dying. Surely this is the same as trying to become a marathon runner when you are a heavy smoker with heart disease. You are not going to reach your full potential and the statistics indicate you are likely to die trying.
The problem with the climate change issue is that it often feels too big. It is important to understand that when we are faced with a task that is too big, too complex and has too many contributing factors to it we can hit overwhelm.
Overwhelm is a form of paralysis that prevents us from any form of effective action. It is easy when we are in a state of overwhelm to pass the problem off as someone else’s problem. Our self-talk could sound something like:
“ I don’t understand science so how can I possibly contribute”
“ It is an issue created by the wealthy and the corporates therefore it does not involve me”
“ I use energy efficient lightbulbs and recycle, I’m doing my bit”
To highlight the problem with these responses lets look at how this approach would sound if we were talking about our own health. Imagine you are suffering from a critical illness and apply the same philosophy:
“I’m not a health professional so I have no idea how to help myself.”
“ My health is the way it is because I have to work so hard to make a living so I can’t change my situation.”
“I’m eating healthy food and taking vitamin supplements so surely that’s enough!”
These statements are silly because we rarely apply this level of ambivalence to ourselves. We try harder to fix our problems. If we don’t understand what’s wrong with us we seek professional advice. If we know that work is creating stress that is ruining our health we develop habits to counter this: we meditate, take a vacation, apply some self-care. If we know we live a healthy life but still struggle with a certain aspect of our health then we seek the right therapy for this particular symptom. The main point being that we keep seeking solutions until we improve our situation.
Our motivation for looking after our health is that we are acutely aware that we only have one body and one chance at life. Many of us are aware that the healthier we are the more fulfilled and happy our life is likely be therefore it is worth the effort.
We should surely hold the same view of our planet. We do only have one of these too. We rely on our planet just as much as our health for wellbeing, prosperity and comfort. The planet however is more critical in that it does not only serve ourselves but we are also relying on it to serve our future generations. This is an added burden that our bodies don’t have to endure.
As our lives have accelerated into the fast paced, modern society many of us live in today- a world bent on economic growth — we have left behind many of the old wisdoms that kept us grounded and connected to our planet.
These old wisdoms ingrained in us the cycles of life and helped us to understand our dependence on the health of the planet. We all understand the concept that we reap what we sow. We are all responsible for the changes that are happening to the planet. The word ‘responsible’ is not used to point a finger, blame or accuse. It is instead intended as a ‘call to arms’. To create more action. We all have to get active. The time for overwhelm is over. The time for using excuses is over. We have to treat our planet with the same respect and care with which we treat ourselves.
Many of us spend daily energy developing healthy lifestyle habits that are centred around caring for our own health. It is time to start applying these methods to the health of the planet. Lets push the health of the planet to the forefront of our daily habits and intentions.
Grow learning around the topic of climate change. Take an interest in what the community is already doing and look for initiatives across the globe. The hope for the Amazon lies in the Indigenous Entrepreneurs who have retained the wisdom of care for the planet and are able to build a business that incorporates solutions for all the environmental issues that their communities are battling with including carbon emissions. Are we and our local communities doing the same?
If you broke your leg today would you sit back and blame the circumstances? Would you then use this approach to sit back and do nothing about it? I think not. You would get yourself down that hospital for an x-ray and a cast so you could mend that limb as quickly as possible. Why? — For your future.
The planet is broken. We need to take immediate action. Why? For your future.