We Must Be the Change

As I observe people around me, I’ve been noticing a trend –most everybody, in theory, wants to save the Earth.   The problem, however, is that far too few people are willing to make the lifestyle changes necessary to ensure a livable future.  The appeal of constant financial progress, of fast food and perfectly temperature-controlled rooms is too great.  The ease of processed foods, disposable diapers, and commuting by car to work is too alluring.  The abundance of cheap clothes, out-of-season foods, electronics, and toxic beauty products is too pervasive to pass by.  We have become perpetual children – looking to others to easily assuage our hunger, temperature, and state of mood.  We expect governmental regulations or some technological breakthrough to fix global warming and the ecosystem issues we fear.  We are unwilling to take the risk that moving toward a new way of living requires. 

We fear that we will not have enough; we fear that we will miss out on our elusive definition of “success”; we worry that it will be hard, that we will be uncomfortable, and that we won’t know where to begin.

But as Derrick Jensen is known to explain, your grandchildren aren’t going to care if you recycled, if you thought a lot about the destruction of ecosystems, if you voted for a progressive candidate, if you bought “green” products.  They’re going to care if they can breathe the air and drink the water.  They’re going to care if the Earth is still a place that supports life.

People often cry out, “but what can I do?”

The answer is not in any single action.  The answer is going to be everything.

The truth is that in the coming decades, we will need to redefine success, what constitutes a “normal” lifestyle, and how much we need.  We will be re-evaluating the choices we make at every point throughout our day.

But this doesn’t have to be a scary or negative thing.  Despite our attachment to continually accumulating more and more, a future of less stuff is actually much brighter.  There are some interesting changes that come with a simpler lifestyle…

We’ll start to get healthier.  As we consider the massive amounts of resources we consume and where they come from, we realize that many of them are directly contributing to the poor health of modern humans (mostly in the form of improper diet, inactivity, and exposure to toxins).  We’ll begin walking and biking more as we use cars less.  We’ll be eating fresher, seasonal foods that eliminate a dependency on fast food and processed items that are related to our abundance of chronic conditions including heart disease, diabetes, and some cancers.  If we start buying and growing foods from reputable sources, we’ll be less likely to introduce dangerous GMO foods into our bodies along with the related pesticides. We’ll eliminate toxic cleaning and beauty products from our lives.  In general, we will be exercising more, eating healthier, and reducing our exposure to substances that can harm our bodies.  We’ll become healthier.

We’ll be happier.  When we start growing our own food and getting outside more often, the benefits to our psychological health quickly become apparent.  Breathing fresh air, having our hands in the dirt, and living seasonally bring a sense of fullness to life that is missing when we are confined to buildings and desks day after day.  It also makes us happier because we feel more self-sufficient, we are spending less money, and we can alleviate some of the concern that we felt when we realized how our previous lifestyle was poisoning other people, animals, and the environment.  Through this new lifestyle, we will also need to embrace community again (not just Facebook) and have support, or even just conversation, with those around us in ways that are often lacking in our current paradigm.

The solutions to the environmental and economic issues that we currently face begin with us, despite how tempting it may be to assume that others will solve these problems for us.  We make choices every day that can either contribute to a new way of living in harmony with the Earth and other creatures, or that perpetuates the destructive path we’re on. This means waking up to realize that our consumer-driven, constantly growing, and perpetually needy lifestyles are inherently unsustainable and are also making us sick.

We must recognize our collective power to influence the Earth and to live as an example so that others see the benefits of transitioning to a more sustainable way of living.  We must begin to grow food for our families again (or at least know who did!), to learn ways of preventative and traditional healthcare, to feel our feet upon the Earth, to stop buying products that are toxic to our bodies and our land, to know where our resources come from and that there can be no such thing as “waste” when we are through with them.

Perhaps most importantly, we must break our addiction to this notion that success is the constant accumulation of things, whether they are titles earned in a job, the number of items accumulated in a home, or the number of cars in a garage.  Success must instead be about creating a future that is livable, enjoyable, equitable, and which fosters true prosperity for all beings.

This change toward a sustainable culture will take time, but it is entirely possible.  Eventually, we will see it lead to greater health and happiness.  We will be satisfied knowing that the activities of our days directly contribute to the health of our own bodies, our families, and the planet.  We will enjoy the entertainment found in nature again – in her stars, sunsets, and breezes – and in community, simple pleasures, and meaningful work.  We will remember the happiness that comes from freedom, fresh foods, and following our heart’s passions.

This change begins with all of us.  We can succeed in creating a sustainable future.

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19 thoughts on “We Must Be the Change

  1. I think these are the best written words I have seen on this subject! Thoughtful,well said…bravo!! So many opinions are one extreme or the other,this is balanced and just perfect,in my humble opinion. Thanks!

  2. Since we moved to our 4 acre property out in the sticks we decided to live simply. Completely and utterly simply. We are growing our own food, we are integrating permaculture principals in every aspect of our lives and we are learning everything that we can about doing things for ourselves, recycling, repurposing and re-using and you know what? We have NEVER been happier :). Your message is so true but we have to lead by example and we have to show people that it isn’t hard to change. We also have to encourage people with positive messages of hope because too many people I know have just given up bothering because “what’s the point? We are all going to die anyway…” totally negative, I know, but it sometimes seems that the environmental movement has turned into a doomsday cult over night. You catch more flies with honey…that’s my attitude and I am going fly fishing with what I have learned in the hope that I can help people see their possibilities a little differently 🙂 Cheers for this post and the reminder that we are in control of our destiny and that of our children…we can all do something and we can all change our ethos, it really isn’t hard and it certainly rewards you with more than you could ever dream of. A totally satisfying life 🙂

  3. Great post! It is difficult at times to make the switch to live a more sustainable lifestyle, but for us it has been mostly breaking old habits and just doing what you feel is right despite what other say. We have been working to rid ourselves of “clutter” and the more we let go of “stuff” the better we feel! Growing our own food has been so rewarding, it is healthier for us and makes us feel so much better. The funny thing about living sustainably is there is no down side! You consume less, you become healthier and you live a happier life!

    I think your words will inspire others to live more sustainably, as I know the keep inspiring me to continue on my path!

  4. So wonderful and very well written! My favorite part is when you said, “we must break our addiction to this notion that success is the constant accumulation of things.” I totally get that and am trying to fight against it! My life doesn’t look like some of my friends’ lives, but I can say that I am 100% happy where I am and know this is exactly where I’m meant to be. I’d venture to say that not all of my friends could say that!

  5. Thanks for sharing your thoughts. We’ve lived mostly this way for over 20 years and it used to alienate others. So, we just try to encourage others by information and encouraging them in a simple healthier lifestyle. It would be nice to engage people in a community co-op where people who like to garden could exchange goods for help (mechanics, carpentry, etc.) for produce and so on. That would be a great way to engage a community’s likes to work together. Thanks for encouraging recycling too…we need to raise awareness of it for sure!

  6. I strongly believe the path to change is the resurrection of farming on a small scale. 1/2 acre gardens, gardens on apartment terraces, backyard greenhouses/cold frames, coops with 3 or 4 chickens, 2 goats or a cow to provide milk for a family, a pair of breeding rabbits for meat, etc, etc. Once you begin growing your own food or raising your own livestock you naturally adjust your living to create a safer, healthier environment; you naturally limit yourself to what you can raise; you place a high value on simple things like clean water and healthy soil. And it’s so encouraging to see people taking on farming in small steps! Stevie@ruffledfeathersandspilledmilk.com

  7. Thanks for this positive perspective! I have found that usually when I change a habit to something that’s better for the environment, even if I think it is going to be icky and difficult, it almost always turns out that I like it better than the old way. A lot of what passes for normal these days is really very spiritually depleting. You might like this article on the psychology behind that: Tastes Like Somebody Loves You!

  8. Great observations! Our family is working on making all of those small changes too. We garden, raise our own chickens for meat and eggs, buy locally grown meat and organic produce (trying to preserve as much as we can from our own garden), and stay home rather than driving around unnecessarily. Recycling isn’t enough…we have to reduce and reuse too. Thanks for sharing on Wildcrafting Wednesday and The HomeAcre Hop!

  9. Pingback: A nation of perpetual children living in a nanny economy — Transition Voice

  10. Can we just stop trying to “save the earth.” It’s an arrogant western notion. I admire what you’re doing. I left behind a career and have gone down a more durable path in recent years as well. I tell people I’m moving towards the exit if a destructive living arrangement. I have a very long way to go.

    Unfortunately I don’t share your optimism. Those of us raised and living under the industrial model know growth and consumption. Few make changes and when it gets to the point where people are forced to change they won’t know what hit them. They will become angry (as we already see from the protests throughout the world) and looking for someone to blame. For those of us in transition it’s also too late as far as having a global impact. We have the privilege of becoming more self-sufficient. Billions are hanging on for dear life.

    I encourage people do do something different for the sake of something different. Obviously many are not happy and doing the same thing over and expecting something different is a sign of insanity. Don’t change to save the world. As you point out we should change because it will make our lives better.

    The industrial model is failing. It’s damaged lives and is pushing species including our own towards extinction. One doesn’t need data to recognize this…just take a look around. Move towards the exit and stop using the planet and instead begin living on it. You’ll feel better.

  11. Pingback: Next Hands-On Learning Day & Updates | These Light Footsteps

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