Life and death: the environment

Last week, in response to a thoughtful and complicated question that one of my friends posed, I wrote 4 reasons Pagans aren’t environmentally responsible. I don’t want to be all doom and gloom and complain without offering positive and actionable things people can do to help the environment.

The Life and Death writing prompt is as good as it gets for talking about the environment. This beautiful, dangerous little planet of ours is, of course, the only planet that provides us with life, and we are wreaking havoc on it. But enough doom and gloom! Let’s talk about what we can do.

In my last entry, I touched on some reasons that people ignore environmental issues. Every day we’re bombarded with messages about what’s wrong in the world – crime, unemployment, natural disasters, disease, and so forth. In light of everything that’s going on, the environment might a mid or low-level worry. We may not be as informed as we could be or we might struggle with separating good information from bad.

We’re also struggling with our immediate concerns. Maybe we’re looking for work or caring for sick child or a dying parent. We know how to fix the broken window, but fixing the environment is a much bigger problem that we can’t tackle right now. We feel insufficiently informed, overwhelmed, and so we lose ourselves in shopping, eating, Netflixing and chilling.

It’s not that people don’t want to help; it’s that they don’t know how and they are not conditioned to be good Earth-stewards. So, what can we do to be more environmentally responsible?

1. Be gentle with yourself. Thinking about our troubled Earth can be overwhelming and can quickly lead to feelings of helplessness and despair. Acknowledge your feelings, talk about them, and take this slow.

2. Fall in love with the Earth. Not all of us can be so fortunate or privileged to experience the breathtaking beauty of the Grand Canyon, the Amazon rainforest, or the Great Barrier Reef, but the beauty of our planet can be found anywhere. Visit a park, go to the beach, observe the birds. Fall in love with Earth and it will be much harder to ignore her cry.

3. Consider what you already do. There are a lot of ways in which you might already be making sound environmental choices and not realise it. For example, do you recycle? Do you walk or bike most of the time? Do you hang your clothes out to dry instead of using a dryer? These are all great choices. Don’t sell yourself short. Now let’s step it up.

4. Consider the messages you take in everyday. We are constantly bombarded with messages and these have two basic goals: to make us feel inadequate and to distract us. The purpose of the first is to drive your purchasing habits. The purpose of the second is to make you forget there’s a problem and, more importantly, that you can indeed do something about it. Waking up to the problem is a big step.


5. Consider your consumption habits. We often buy stuff to fill voids in our lives, not to fulfil our needs. We have an obsessive relationship with material things and it has been proven time and time again that it doesn’t make it us happy. Consumerism is a significant problem and buying green is not necessarily better.

6. Be willing to have conversations about environmental issues. Be willing to educate yourself and talk with family and friends to see what they think and what they do. Talk to strangers too, especially those that are passionate about environmental issues. They’ll inspire you and teach you a thing or two.

7. Start small. Here are 50 ways to help the planet.

8. Support a cause that matters to you. Maybe you were touched by the beauty of a rainforest. Maybe you’ve swum in the Great Barrier Reef. Maybe you saw elephants during your African safari. Is the monkey your spirit animal? All these need your help.

9. Go bigger. You’ve made some small, but important changes and are now financially supporting a cause you’re passionate about. You keep up with research and commentary around some issues. You realise this hasn’t been too hard and now you’re ready to do more, but what? Make another change, a bigger change, a harder change, one that moves you slightly out of your comfort zone. It will be worth it. How about starting a veggie garden? Switching to vegetarian lunches if you’re a meat-eater? Reducing your use of plastics?

10. Get active. There are many ways to be environmentally active. Obvious ways include participating in demonstrations, blockades, pickets, and protest marches. These are ways too. If you are part of a policy-making system, you may be able to find ways to help make a place or process cleaner. Join an organisation and get involved with its campaigns. Write letters to your local leaders and publications. Activism is important because we can only do so much as individuals and as consumers. We need to put pressure on government and corporations and work on changing or dismantling systems.