Friday, April 22, 2011

Every Day is Earth Day

I love to watch the sun rising, bursting forth in glorious proclamation of a fresh start; the commencement of a new day when all is possible. Birds chirp their morning serenade, the cat curls up on the patio after a night of prowling and all seems at peace with the world. But, unfortunately all isn’t in concord on Earth today and as dependent inhabitants we must take more positive steps to change our behaviour patterns to ensure the future sustainability of ecologically sound life on this beautiful planet.

Nature is a force that exists without us and doesn’t rely on our intervention, however much we interfere. In broad terms it means the universally recognised aspects of substance that informs and sustains being, both seen and unseen, and compels and restrains existence throughout all space and time – although commonly we think of this as the visible results of the spontaneously occurring environment on our planet. The natural world as we say, consists generally of animal, vegetable and mineral, although we could add gasses that make up atmosphere and phenomena such as gravity to that small list.

Over recent years science, or the established community that substantiates research into verifiable facts, has shifted its focus from the ‘natural order’ of classical systems toward chaos and dynamics to examine life as a continuum expressing varying degrees of repetitive form and uncertainty.

What they discover in most cases, for those that needed confirmation from others, is that deep within structures, regardless how seemingly chaotic on the surface, is logic of organisation and communication between various entities and components. There are recurring patterns in nature, from spiralling galaxies to water funnels, from the roots and branches of trees to the veins and arteries of the human circulatory system, from the ‘curve of space’ to the way we perceive time.

We can also look to the prevailing social order to see how patterns repeat and structures emerge. Festivals and holidays that are human inventions exist to mark special occasions and commemorate significant events and have been celebrated since the beginning of recorded time. We look to signs in the sky such as phases of the moon, the solstice and equinoxes or even the gathering clouds that announce the coming rainy months. These indicators of passing time coincide with the movement of the earth on its axis and through the heavens. We utilise change as reminders of the transformative power of the world we live on and the seasonal fluctuations that mark the grand procession of life as gauges for the eternal movement of being, and as good reasons for coming together in the spirit of sharing good food, conversation and of course the expression of love.

We keep note of those days that alter our lives in meaningful ways; wedding anniversaries, birth and death days, special days to remember our mothers or other loved ones, days to remember important people or historic victories in war, holy days that indicate a period of religious ritual and, since 1970, a particular day to think about the environment and our impact on the earth.

Interestingly, we humans can think of time on many levels simultaneously. We count chronologically, marking our age in numbers of years passed, while we think in cycles of seasons and months and weeks to maintain a regular and often repetitive pattern of activities. For generation upon generation we have divided our lives into recognisable segments of childhood and adolescence, adulthood and old age and usually expect that life will follow a certain plan of school, job or career, marriage, children and eventual retirement from work. All of this is changing in this new age of free expression and popular culture, and interestingly diverse examples for living and meaning within life are emerging from this changing world.

Many people don’t marry as young as in the past, and some have chosen to avoid that commitment completely. Some choose to raise children while others seek only career satisfaction. There are fewer ties proportionally to organised religion than in the past, but an awareness of personal spirituality is prevalent as people become increasingly conscious of the potential in their own lives and others seek sense in a chaotic world.

The advent of new technologies has not only enabled discourse between culturally and ethnically diverse people from around the globe, but also created a bizarre fusion of philosophies that pick and choose amongst many varied belief systems. A syncretism of religious ideas that often draw their inspiration from unrelated sources has generated an assortment of novel creeds but they generally share one thing, the idea that love of others and love of the earth is essential to spiritual progress. Neither of these ideas is new, what is unique is their manifestation in so many curious ways through an amalgamation of advanced technology and ancient rituals.

People seek to harness the confusion and instability, to gain control in their lives and make the technology work for them in a measurable way. Many of the so-called ‘new age’ religions, although they incorporate utilising computers or other mobile communication devices whilst simultaneously chanting mantras and waving crystals, are essentially guides to living in a harmonious way with the elemental forces of the earth and have been influenced by indigenous animistic beliefs and modern pragmatism. Perhaps more importantly, they combine knowledge of contemporary technology with magical rituals associated with influencing the spiritual realm creating an amalgamation of ideologies that attempts to unify apparently incongruent theories into an original paradigm for living in our world today.

If one reads the literature of the web then it is easy to suggest more people are becoming spiritual environmentalists, that is: individuals devoutly conscious of a connectedness with their surroundings and living in awareness of the influence their daily living has on the earth. In fact, the latest trend in developing self-help manuals to methods of better living is cashing in on the new consciousness of the ‘counter-culture’ of ecological thought. Personally I’m all for it, if it really helps the earth to heal from the disastrous consequences the past few hundred years of human progress has wrought. But, how many of these fashionably spiritual people actually follow these self-assured stated beliefs to their logical conclusion?

For a multitude of reasons it's a good thing to buy organic foods, but does it really matter if you are driving the over-sized 4x4 to the shopping centre to purchase these items? It’s great to buy natural cotton clothing, but will it help anyone if the material was produced in a crowded ‘sweatshop’ mill where children are working 14-hour days with barely a dollar to show for their effort? It’s wonderful to procure only energy saving light bulbs, but how much difference will it make if you leave the computer and television on stand-by all night? It seems to me that before we can mature as spiritual beings we must grow and evolve as truly earth-conscious creatures.

Many people aren’t keen on insects, they squish spiders, swat at bees and step on snails, cracking their stunning spiral shells. But most creepy-crawly creatures play a vital role in maintaining the cycle of pollination essential to the reproduction of plants, or sustain the equilibrium of soil rotation and even keep other species fed so they too can contribute to the delicate balance of life and death that we humans require though rarely acknowledge in daily life.

There are those insects we class as pestilence, and mosquitoes and flies are among that disease carrying breed that have evolved from our own waste. Increasing amounts of these strains along with a downturn in honeybee numbers signifies a hazardous new development in attempting to preserve our own healthy ecosystem.

Bees play an important role in nature’s way and also freely provide us with the deliciously sweet honey that so many around the world regularly enjoy. Spiders not only spin beautifully intricate webs but also help keep other more harmful insects from becoming too populous. Worms are great little ‘machines’ that plough the ground and refresh nutrients so necessary for plants to grow.

Most people, particularly in Western societies, are fond of eating meat, and few give serious thought to the damage rearing animals for food has on the environment, having themselves been raised simply to accept eating other mammals as part of an ordinary healthy diet in a normal life. But what are the consequences of cultivating livestock to feed a hungry world?

Did you know it takes about twenty-four pounds of grain for a cow to produce one pound of edible flesh? Are you aware how much soil erosion takes place due to stripping away trees for grazing land, not to mention the destruction of oxygen-producing plants that are burned off or chopped down to clear the land for cattle production? Do you know that cow manure gives off methane gas that harms the atmosphere? Many farm animals are also fed hormones and steroids that find their way through the food chain into your body. Yes, there is more to eating meat products than the heart disease you are giving yourself. Perhaps it’s time to think about some of these other effects.

Real changes have to start with individual behaviours that so many of us take for granted in our consumption-oriented western world. It isn’t just about buying low usage bulbs; it’s about turning the lights off when not using them. It’s not just about buying organically produced food, it’s about changing routines and thinking about how every thing we do affects the world around us. Do you need a monster truck to go to the shop, or will a bicycle or even walking be a more efficient method? As well as keeping your own body healthy and fit these simple things will make a difference.

Here’s an idea: support your local market trader instead of going to the big supermarket out of town. That way you cut down on petrol costs and pollution and you increase community spirit instead of helping large faceless conglomerates to enrich themselves – it might even make you a few friends as neighbourhood businesses are supported and the people who own these mom-and-pop enterprises get to know you as a person.

There are lots of ways to increase your impact on the earth in a positive manner. There are web sites and books and magazines out there to help you get started on this way of living. Take a few minutes from your hectic schedule to investigate an eco-friendly lifestyle; it will benefit you and the earth to make a few changes for the better, and you might even feel good about it. And who would argue with the notion that feeling good makes us think more optimistically, and being a happy person helps the spirit grow substantially too.

So, as the sun goes down on another beautiful day on our world, and the moon fills the sky with its reflective radiance, take a moment to think about all the blessings of the earth and the abundance of life that exists alongside us on this delicate and fragile planet.

All of life is connected in an ordered system of being in this fractal chaos, and everything depends on us doing the things that are essential to maintain this balance, a homeostatic relationship within our bodies and holistic understanding with the planet we need to survive. Think about your place in the scheme of things, and think about the future. We all need the planet to be healthy for us to be well and strong in body and mind. If everyone thought about this special ‘Earth Day’ to make one change to create a positive difference then perhaps all those modest life modifications could add up to a truly significant revolution, a spiritually focused and ecologically-centred lifestyle for all inhabitants of this globe, our Earth.

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