You are your Environment

I am sure I don’t need to tell you about how on Friday the 20th of September over 4 million people – the majority of which where students and children – took to streets around the world to protest #FridaysforFuture. Their message is simple: They want a safe future. A future not dictated by climate catastrophe, species extinction, climate induced wars and further deforestation. Not a future where the destructive feedback loops of global warming foster injustice, loss of life and cause our sea levels to continue rising.

Our children want to see a world where people and nations across the planet can unite and address the crisis on hand. They want a world where kindness, justice and healthy ecosystems prevail and their lives aren’t plagued with uncertainty and fear. Maybe to this you say “Well, that’s life, that’s just the way it is.” According to Buddhist teachings; Life is suffering. Maybe instead you think to yourself “I want that to. I want a future free from greed, hatred, materialism and environmental destruction. I want to live in a time of true democracy, in which people hold corrupt political leaders to account and human rights are upheld.”

Yet, as Greta Thunberg stated in her powerful speech at the UN Climate Action Summit 2019; “For 30 years the [climate] science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away” and carry on to “talk about money and fairytales of eternal economic growth.” Similarly Sir David Attenborough quotes “anyone who thinks that you can have infinite growth in a finite environment is either a madman or an economist.” And yet our outdated, industrial style revolution, which is heavily reliant on the fossil fuel industry, trudges on with us all as implicit stakeholders.

The Japanese term esho funi translates to ‘the oneness of self and the environment’. This beautifully encapsulates how we are made up of the same atoms, elements, electrons, neutrons and protons as everything else in the universe. Our vibrating particles are distinguished from that of a table, the water, the trees and the stars by our consciousness. Our awareness of our existence may make us different but we are still of this earth.

We need to be asking why and how we, as adults, are complicit in this doomed system. We need to question why for so long we, as both individuals and as a collective, have continuously looked away. Why have we adverted our gaze from the degradation our earth systems? Why have we been complacent in the destruction of our only home? We belong to these systems. We cannot continue to separate ourselves from nature any longer.

“For the first time in human history we have collectively come into awareness of a single issue that simultaneously threatens all life on the planet. This is the first global crisis that requires the cooperation of every human. This is not a climate or environmental problem, this is a human problem. Humanity must unite behind a shared purpose.” Says author Brian Keane.Jonathan Gottschall describes humans as story-telling animals. This humbling analogy puts us in a powerful position from which we can reconsider the role we are all playing in our societies. What story are you choosing to live in? What stories do the communities you belong to act upon?

The more individuals who choose stories of unity, love, peace and respect, the more possible it becomes to create such a future. To truly transform the situation at hand we need to face and challenge our own shadows. These shadows of ours hold within them our hatred, greed, arrogance and vanity. This shouldn’t be news to anyone as it lies at the heart of many spiritual practices from Christianity to Buddhism and New Age meditation practices. Yet just because we have heard it before doesn’t make it easy. To face the climate and biodiversity crisis is to face darkness we hold in our own hearts. It takes true courage and bravery to face these truths. Just imagine if self-reflection was requirement for every political leader (especially those caught up in the madness of Brexit and the Trump administration).

The Autumn Equinox passed us by on September 23rd with hardly a moment of recognition from many. In Irish traditions the equinox was a time of thanksgiving for the bountiful harvest of the year. It was also a time to acknowledge the hardship and darkness of the winter to come. Oscar Wilde said “It seems to me that we all look at Nature too much, and live with her too little.” So as the seasons change and the world around us beings to let go and sink into slowness I invite you to do the same; Reflect, Relinquish and Regenerate. Ready yourself for the action the Earth and her children require of you.

Don’t forget: We are in this together.

Thank you.

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