Article by Joseph P. Kauffman
It is no secret that the world is experiencing an environmental crisis. Oceans and rivers are polluted, forests are cut down, the air is filled with chemicals, our food and soil is sprayed with pesticides, entire ecosystems are destroyed. Scientists have stated that we are now experiencing the sixth mass extinction event on this planet, only this time the event is the result of human activity.
This may be an overwhelming reality to face, but since human beings have caused this destruction, we can also repair it—but we have to take responsibility for ourselves and our actions. We have to change our destructive behaviors and learn to live in harmony with nature. So, what can we do? How can we make a difference when so much of us is demanded in this fast-paced society?
One of the great issues in regard to climate change is that people want to find ways to sustainably maintain our current societal model, failing to address that it is our current model of endless growth and convenience that is the root of the problem. We see nature as a resource to mine, and not something that is who we are. We look for ways to continually grow our business, and to constantly expand our profits. Failing to constantly grow is seen as some kind of catastrophe that must be avoided at all costs. But nature cannot tolerate endless growth. We have a finite amount of resources with a constantly growing population. We need to be wise with how we live on this planet, and truly, we need to relearn to live with the land as human beings once did, and as all other living beings still do.
That being said, many of us still live in densely populated human settlements, with very little time or money to spare in our journey of returning to nature. So, what can we do while still living in the city?
How to Serve Nature While Living in the City
1. Vote with your dollar.
Many people are unaware of how supply and demand works in the marketplace. We think that corporations have all the power, and this is only true because we give them power by giving them our money and support. The consumer really has all the power in the marketplace. If I demand that all products be organic and ethically produced, and demonstrate this with my actions by only purchasing from companies that honor these criteria, then I am influencing the demand in the marketplace. The more people that do this, the more the market shifts. Corporations need to keep up with the demands of the marketplace, and therefore will have to produce more organic and ethical products or risk going out of business. We support companies and their practices with the money we spend. Every time you purchase a product from a company, you are investing in that company, so be wise with your dollar and acknowledge how your money influences the marketplace.
2. Plant a garden.
One of the most destructive industries today is the modern agriculture industry. It is largely because of this industry that thousands of acres of rainforest are cut down to harvest trees and produce land for grazing cattle. A report from Greenpeace Brazil stated that 80 percent of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is due to an increase in cattle raising for human consumption. Humans destroy precious ecosystems for the sake of growing cattle, and depending on who you purchase from, you could be supporting this destructive industry.
We have become disconnected from our own food source, and we now see it as normal that we have no idea where our food comes from, how it was produced, or what it even consists of. This disconnection of human beings from our food source is a serious issue, one that has allowed giant corporations that care more for profit than human or ecological health to produce the majority of our food, destroying natural environments in the process. One of the greatest revolutionary acts we can take in this day is to plant a garden and to produce more of our own food. By doing so, we take away our investment in these corporations, and we invest in the health of our bodies and the health of the earth.
As co-founder of permaculture Bill Mollison stated, “the greatest change we need to make is from consumption to production, even if on a small scale, in our own gardens. If only 10% of us do this, there is enough for everyone. Hence the futility of revolutionaries who have no gardens, who depend on the very system they attack, and who produce words and bullets, not food and shelter.”
If you have no space for a garden, try finding or starting a community garden, or support local farmers, gardeners, and farmer’s markets. The city of Seattle created a great example of this through growing the Beacon Hill Food Forest.
3. Get Involved
Take action! Find ways to creatively and practically address these issues that we face. Educate yourself, share knowledge, support and participate in grassroots movements, donate to people and organizations that serve the earth, find ways to get involved with your community, or to get involved politically. Volunteer for nature restoration projects, permaculture or natural farming operations, find any way that you feel called to contribute.
4. Connect to Nature Spiritually
Remember that your body is of the earth, that you are essentially inseparable from the natural world. Discover ways to feel and connect to this living planet. Give thanks to all Mother Earth does for us. Feel gratitude and give back—show your love through your actions. The Q’ero people of Peru connect to Mother Earth (Pachamama) through prayer and offerings. They sit with the land and offer a splash of water, rum, or wine—they give something back in gratitude and reciprocity. This opens their hearts to Mother Earth, and constantly reminds them of all she gives. We too can connect with Nature, and find ways to give offerings. Sit with the soil, the grass, the plants. Be in nature and give something of yourself—a hair, a breath, a plant, a crystal. Taking time to give thanks to Mother Earth can be a great way to keep her in our hearts and minds, and to encourage us to find ways to truly honor and respect her through our thoughts and actions.