By: Emily Algar, Regular Contributor
According to Native American culture we are responsible for looking after the earth, we are its guardians, its protectors. We are meant to nurture it, love it, and respect it as a force bigger than ourselves. What could be more important than caring for and protecting the planet in which we have all grown up on?
How can we preach to love ourselves when we can’t even love the planet that has essentially given us everything we will ever need? I believe that once we learn to love the Earth in its entirety we can love ourselves. The two go hand in hand and there is no mistaking the consequences.
The Earth’s reaction to our mistreatment and misuse of it is leading to a slow uprising of it’s ability to tear us down and wipe us from it’s face. It is above all protecting that which makes it what it is. This is similar to the way in which we respond if someone mistreats us. We only tolerate their behaviour for so long before we ourselves react.
From the Polar vortex in North America and the subzero temperatures, to the non-stop rain and flooding in the UK, we are all starting to see the up close and personal effects of global warming. Its affects are indiscriminate. It does not care if you’re rich or poor; black or white; conservative or liberal. It is no longer in our peripheral vision or something that “doesn’t happen to us.”
It is a massive problem, a huge undertaking but that doesn’t mean we should just ignore it. As with most problems, ignoring it won’t make it go away. In fact it will only get exponentially worse. It is our problem, our children’s problem and their children’s problem. We don’t have the option to remain ignorant or to pretend it’s someone else’s issue to deal with. It is our duty as citizens of the world to take action.
What Can I Do?
1. Ditch the car in favour of public transport, cycling or good old fashioned walking.
2. Recycle! Most countries have a recycling scheme in place, which encourages you not to put so much rubbish in your bin but separate out your plastics, paper and tins. Your local Council (or waste management organization) will either pick these up for you or you can take it along to your local recycling centre.
3. Compost! This is no longer a hippy fad but something everyone is doing. Here in the UK we have a compost bin in our garden where we put our vegetable peelings, fruit, garden waste etc, which then gets used on the garden. We also have a food waste collection where anything off your dinner plate goes in a separate bin, which is taken by the Council and is then used to heat homes. Obviously it depends on where you live and what services you have but even just doing one can make a difference. This article has some really good information about what to put in your compost and if you’re feeling adventurous, how to build a compost bin.
4. Buy organic. I know this is normally the more expensive option but it is truly the better one for both yourself and the planet. Think about all the chemicals, pesticides and hormones that go into your meat and vegetables as well as all the plastic that is used to wrap it up. So try to buy from a local market or sign up to a food box scheme for seasonal fruit and veg delivered directly to your door. The Ecologist has picked their top 5 organic vegetable box schemes, but there are plenty more out there.
5. Buy local. This really goes hand in hand with the above point. Be conscious of how many miles your food has travelled to get to you and therefore how much fuel this taken. It’s not only more environmentally friendly but it’s also the more humane option.
6. Buy less. We all tend to buy ridiculous amounts of food as well as clothes that never gets eaten or worn (the clothes I mean). So instead of chucking half of your fridge away at the end of the week or buying stuff you know you’re never going to wear. Think! Be conscious!
7. Buy ecological household products. Consider how much bleach you pour down your sink or plug hole. Think about where that bleach ends up – a river, a lake, the Sea! Think about the fumes your oven cleaner is giving off or your anti-bacterial spray. Now consider how much of that you and your kids are breathing in. It’s scary to think about isn’t? Big Green Smile is just one of the websites that offer a range of ecological and non-toxic cleaning products
8. Buy natural and cruelty free make up and skincare – again I know this is sometimes the more expensive option but there are so many natural brands out there that one, aren’t too expensive and two, actually work and make you feel good. It truly does amaze me when people make the effort to eat healthily but then slather goodness knows what on their faces! I’m of the philosophy that I wouldn’t put anything on my skin that I wouldn’t eat. That’s not to say I eat my moisturizer but I’m not afraid of what it’s going to do to me once it sinks in. Our skin is our biggest organ and therefore will absorb anything and everything you put on it. Did you know that sodium lauryl sulphate, the stuff that makes your shampoo foam, has actually been linked to hormone disruption and cancer?
9. And the basics that we all forget to do but make a difference not only to our planet but to our bills; turn off the lights when your not in the room, unplug your laptop when your not using it, don’t leave your TV on standby, use low energy bulbs, buy secondhand. The list is truly endless!
Believe me, I know what you’re thinking. “How can I, one tiny human, make even a dent in this enormous global problem?” When I start thinking like this or believe that it’s all completely pointless, I remember The Starfish Story by Loren Eisley. Yes, I may not be able to single handedly save the planet but I can make a difference, no matter how small that may be. Each of us individuals has a responsibility to the earth and if we all make an effort, we can make a difference on a national level, if not a global one.
*The author would like to thank her sister, Madeleine Algar for assisting with this piece.
Emily Algar is an International Relations graduate who has just completed her Masters in International Security. She lives in a small town in Oxfordshire, UK where she writes, listens to music and walks her dogs. Since completing her studies, Emily is trying to figure out where she fits in the world and until she does, she is enjoying the ride.
Image via anartistswall.com