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Posts Tagged ‘Sustainability’

You have a favorite piece of clothing.

One day, you notice that a button is loose and some of the fabric’s weave has unraveled, leaving some threads dangling.

If you really like this piece of clothing, you’ll probably try to fix these imperfections so they don’t get worse.

If however, you don’t care for it enough to expend the energy to fix it, you might tell yourself that it can be replaced—or that you can find something similar, or better. If you lived in Cuba or the DRC, replacing it wouldn’t actually be an option.

Another possibility is to do nothing. Just let it unravel, missing buttons and all, until it eventually becomes unwearable. Maybe use the remaining fabric for an art project.

Relative to your lifestyle, would you do what’s sensible? Or are you more inclined to do what’s easy?

What if this piece of clothing was a space suit or something you actually couldn’t survive without in a region like say, the Arctic tundra?

Keep Asking Lots of Questions

Does the average first-world person prefer to replace a worn garment with something new? Are there too few seamstresses and tailors in the western world? Why do people who can sew and repair garments primarily work for in third-world sweatshops or for the wealthy? Why is this skill-set so absent and relatively undervalued in America? There was a time—in Europe, in my parent’s generation—where sewing was on par with driving as a valuable skill.

Why does an internet search for “world’s poorest island communities” reveal absolutely nothing? Why does a search for “world’s poorest islands” reveal only a scant handful of bloggers, some of whom comment on the ‘obscene disparity’ between say, Haiti, and the tourists who pay to be disgorged there from a Royal Caribbean cruise ship that sits quietly in the distance awaiting their suntanned return for unlimited food and booze?

Haitian disparity-on-the-beach

For that matter, why is there unlimited access to booze on a finite planet while 783 million people don’t have access to clean water? Are we not aware enough that the present ways of our culture are unsustainable?

 

 

Where am I going with all this, you may wonder…

Those of you who understand the art of the metaphor and the unmistakable theme of my work, know all too well where I am taking you.

The Biosphere (aka., Life on Earth)

Despite our (collective) limited understanding of what creates a healthy, sustainable world, we are nevertheless aware that all of life depends on the health and well-being of our planet.

Helen_Christiansonsaving ecosystems

We’re talking about an organic living system. The planet is an organic living system that our singular species (7 billion of us) share with 8.7 million OTHER species.

What we know with surprising certainty is that it is the web of life as a whole that has made it possible for our species to exist. Like your favorite piece of clothing.

As David Suzuki states, “To tear at the web in such a massive way with so little regard for our own future is a kind of collective insanity that is suicidal.”

Come on now, why would you tear up your favorite piece of clothing?

 

A Fertile Future

A fertile future rests on three things:

  1. Organic, thriving uncompromised ecosystems;
  2. Wise, compassionate stewardship of said ecosystems;
  3. The re-creation of human systems that unequivocally reveal the long-term value of the first two.

You can quote me on this.

Yes, your children are equally precious. So are mine. What kind of world do we want to see them grow up in? Being a parent opens our hearts to ongoing, unconditional love. What would it take for the planet that supports us unconditionally to experience that love too?

If this single statement of what I believe a fertile future rests upon contributed to the foundation of entirely new human systems and thus, ways of thinking that were based upon sustainable ethics, we would be able to turn things around. Maybe not in my lifetime, but maybe in our children’s lifetime.

Please don’t wait for another spark of inspiration. Join a group that’s actually doing something to make the planet healthier.

Share your and others’ ideas far and wide.  Talk with me on this blog.

Move out of your comfort zone and speak for that which does not have a human voice but needs yours to survive.

Every act and expression of thought has the power to change things.

Happy family

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evening people at beach dinner

Last night, while my partner and I were preparing food for a group of friends, the subject turned to things that we would rather not know about—like how many animals were euthanized at the local shelter this past year; the huge sadness of discovering that the already fragmented rainforest ecosystems are still being destroyed at the rate of 60.7 hectares (150 acres) a minute, or why my interest-bearing checking account yielded only 17 cents interest at year-end.

Although I did find out about the 17 cents (the interest rate was exceedingly low), the real subject was that we were both aware of topics we’d rather not get into. Why? Because basically it would bring down our mood. And it was Friday night…

What I noticed was a theme emerging.

What if, I wondered, instead of dropping the subject, we allowed ourselves to experience the pain that sat just behind the undesirable topic? The pain of injustice…of making a colossal mistake…of cruelty…or even simply the pain of aging. It was at that moment that I reacquainted myself with the frailty of life–something I’m not particularly keen to hang out with as my tendency is often to bring sallow subjects to a higher vibe and then hang out there. Yet…

There was some learning to be had there…I could feel it coming in…like a cloud drifting closer.

The Willingness to Look Into and Beyond

That a single hit of emotional pain can trigger resistance, avoidance, fear, self-criticism or just plain negativity—reminded me that what lies behind fear is a valueoften more than one—that re-connects us to our wholeness.

In that sense, what first strikes us as some form of pain (emotional or otherwise) reveals something in need of healing…of care rather than avoidance…of action rather than inaction… In fact quite often, the greater the pain, the deeper the passion. That 17 cents pales in comparison to an ecosystem extinction, but it’s nevertheless an indicator of something not right. It’s really just a question of magnitude.

On what order of magnitude is the issue really?

Mary Oliver-one wild and precious life quote

Solid As Air

The distance we put between ourselves and whatever we don’t like is actually the activity of creating space. And the ability to create space is a skill that us westernized, 21st century humans have nearly lost the ability to do. I’m not talking about resistance–that’s a pushing back of energy. I’m talking about how to step back and view a situation with objectivity, a cool head and a warm heart. This requires the ability to create space, something I’ve referred to in previous blogs as ‘creating pockets of peace.’ Inherent in the ability to create space is room for a broader perspective, new ideas and a regenerative sense of well-being.

Isn’t that what we all really want deep down?

Think about that scene in The Abyss where a sense of wonder and curiosity for connection brought the crew to make an amazing and unexpected connection with a higher intelligence manifesting as autonomous ocean water. A sense of wonder, openness and curiosity is what creates the space for new ideas to emerge. To ground oneself with space is also the ultimate personal freedom. No one can take that ability away from you.

Without mental or physical space, there is no room for growth.

new-zealand-fern koru

A Regenerative Renaissance

Creating space has both a regenerative and a productive purpose. Changing what you’re doing and the context you’re doing it in activates different areas of your brain. It comes from eliminating stuff in your life that isn’t actually that important to you. In the process, you re-acquaint yourself with the essence of who you are.

The biodiversity of ecosystems that still exist are infinitely precious, particularly since they have taken over two billion years to manifest in just the right way to support life. Think about who would do well if we were to become dependent on government and big business for our clean air, clean water and healthy food. Not you or me. And certainly not any living creatures who are perceived as ‘less than’ by humans.

Imagine a holistic scale, where something given a ‘1’ contributes to creating the greatest imbalance and fragmentation of life. At the other end, a ’10’ indicates something that contributes to creating the greatest balance and wholeness for all living things.

Where does your idea land?

New ideas, set against the background of early 21st century technology, should be explored in terms of their contribution to creating greater wholeness for all living things. From a common-sense view and one of personal passion–this is ultimately a win-win perspective. It’s the widest lens we can optimize, so nothing is left outside of this equation.

Use your free time to live out your passion, no matter how small the seed seems right now. Allow it the space to germinate and grow.

Choose to look at whatever you have resistance or fear about. Just behind it will be one or more values you cherish and probably yearn to re-connect with. Let discomfort become the ally that it truly is.

Sometimes it’s hard work, true. But consider why you might otherwise feel ‘too busy’ in such moments. Feeling ‘too busy’ is a clear indicator that you’ve run out of space, and are therefore making decisions from a place of scarcity. You don’t deserve that. And neither do your kids.

Go ahead, release what doesn’t serve your greatest good and watch what happens.

Yes, you can create miracles. Just do it.

how-precious-life-is-quotes-2

 

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As a planet-populated species, we’ve just moved through a powerfully catalytic full moon eclipse (the ‘pink’ full moon of 25 April) that’s ushered in a potent time for being fully present with one’s self and being fully present with others.

Full moons are peak points of brightness amidst the darkness and eclipses are doorways—opportunities to vision, sense, receive and strengthen ourselves through connection. In particular, the feminine principle is growing in strength.

What does this mean?

                                     We’ve entered the 20 Year Make-It-Or-Break-It

                                    crossroads of  human fate and must gird ourselves for

                                    the long haul as we wrestle truth from illusion.

                                                           ~ Mark Borax, Metaphysical Guide

Imagine—as you awake, to fully experiencing the day as a flower—unfolding and opening in this ever-expanding now … offering a lifetime of memories right here, right now—so expansive is this special time as it entwines with our souls …

Notice your response to the images these words evoke. Do you feel attuned, more open? Self-protective? Perhaps doubtful? Do you have to re-read the paragraph to begin imagining the words?

The real question is, will you choose to fearlessly walk a path of beauty that motivates every quadrant of your life? Will you allow the beauty of the natural world to work upon your soul and reveal a world of harmony in which you can co-exist? Or does this seem impossible?

What if your every thought and action was directly related to the well-being of the earth?

The feminine principle is about space and wisdom, which embodies the whole of life, much like a mother embodies her child for nine months before giving birth.  Like a container that creates the space for the content—much like a cup of tea—the container is the feminine principle.

Masculine energy is the skillful means within this space.  Whether you’re a man or a woman, the yin-yang of the feminine and masculine exists in each of  us—on tap as it were—for wholeness. Yet how many of us drink from this tap? How many of us recognize and attune ourselves to this ‘tap’ daily?

When viewed this way, it becomes apparent that as a species, we’ve been in the grips of a sort of ‘tunnel vision,’ focused on activity for the sake of more activity.

When we tune in to the subtle interplay of tangible and intangible elements in our daily lives, we begin to see the bigger picture between what is truly feminine and what is truly masculine. Holding the space for life to grow and evolve is core to the feminine principle.

And at the end of the day, what do we truly need?  Space … peace … unfolding … this is the feminine principle at work in our daily lives.

Where do you find solace?  Peace?  Authentic experience?

Where can we as a species co-create a constellation of wisdom?

Enjoy this beautiful presentation by Jane Fonda on the feminine principle that comes alive in our ‘third act.’

Consider living as a human of radical peace.

 plant-love

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Dear Earth,

Re-claim yourself. 

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 It’s what all living beings here need to move forward in solidarity with your well-being.

Winds of change are blowing everywhere it seems.

What are your deepest desires, dear Earth?

May the emerging soul of your being invoke encouragement and joy from the continuous music of your fertile soil, vibrant oceans and vivid skies.

May your evolutions move us beyond the limitations of our minds and emotions…to help us see and experience the Divine Infinite as only you can.

In humble gratitude,

human beans of earth…7 billion and rising….

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Photosynthesis and the Art of Sound

truecolors-of-mind

Ask any physicist.  There is no ‘thing’ at the root of life and livingness.

The tiniest subatomic particles are described as ‘interference patterns of various sound frequencies’ otherwise known as ‘nodes of resonance.’  This got me thinking.

In many non-westernized cultures, a commonly held, tacit belief is that sound precedes manifestation of all forms and energy.

That sound plays a catalyzing role in creation—that sound itself is a continuum spanning the macrocosm through a hierarchy of iterations that range to the infinitesimal microcosm…

Creation is a beginning.  Something becomes where there was previously non-existence. How can such concepts be made evident in this culture?  There seems to live within me a deep purpose for connecting that which does not have an obvious connection.

photosynthesis

What has the power to create has the power to heal.  And so I began some weeks of reflection on the relationship of photosynthesis to sound. 

 

It came to me one night around 3AM as a profound question for which I initially discovered there is little commonality other than this: sound and sunlight are both wavelengths that impact life on earth.  The next morning I realized, that’s a fairly good start.

As a naturalist, I couldn’t help but then wonder—what of nature’s plant, atmospheric and oceanic worlds that quietly regulate our daily lives?  All create sound.  All aspects impact life on earth—not just human life.

So at November’s annual Daily Acts’ fundraiser breakfast, I discussed the relationship of photosynthesis to sound with friend, wise teacher and dear colleague, James Stark.  He reflected on this for a few moments, and in his inimitably savvy way, pointed out that outside of photosynthesis, the dawn chorus was a living example of the relationship between light from the sun that activates photosynthesis and…the activation of dialogue…of meaningful connection…of life.  The dawn chorus is nature’s daily symphony of news–what an exuberant way to start the day!

DawnChorusAnd so at a macro fundamental level, light activates sound which catalyzes life.  I’d love to extrapolate beyond this with more living examples.  Got an example?  Know someone who does?  Reach out and connect—I’d love to hear from you.

What an awesome way to see the roots of a new earth…

ClarkLittle-golden-waveLooking forward,

Catrina

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You must first be who you really are, then do what you really need  to do, in order to have what you want.    

                                                                        ~ Margaret Young

The more I let go of what other people think, the more I realize that authenticity is an ongoing practice.  I’m actually choosing how I want to live moment to moment, every day.

When I choose to show up and be real, I’m letting my true self be seen.  I’m not selling myself short to please someone else.  Brené Brown does a beautiful job of describing the anatomy of authenticity—I love the gift of Brené’s presence in the world.

“Authenticity is the daily practice of letting go of who we think we’re supposed to be and embracing who we are.  Choosing authenticity means ~

 

  • cultivating the courage to be imperfect, to set boundaries, and to allow ourselves to be vulnerable;
  • exercising the compassion that comes from knowing that we are all made of strength and struggle; and
  • nurturing the connection and sense of belonging that can only happen when we believe that we are enough.”

(from Brené’s book,  The Gifts of Imperfection)

Sacrificing who we are for the sake of what other people think just isn’t worth it.  Staying vulnerable while sharing an unpopular opinion or idea is really the hard part.  Staying in presence while keeping your heart open—whooo, that is a true act of courage.

Every time we trade our authenticity for safety, we can expect to experience anxiety, unhappiness, resentment, anger, blame and sadness.

So where’s the connection to living sustainably?

Living sustainably—living so as to not compromise the ability of future generations of living beings (human, flora and fauna) to meet their own needs—reflects a holistic understanding of life rather than a surface understanding of life.

Most people settle for a surface understanding and try to get by on that.

But we’re living in a time where entire human infrastructures are imploding and governments (that should actually be governing) are running out of money to artificially prop these infrastructures up.  This has become so obvious that most of us see and feel the need for big change.

 

Yet, every time we trade holistic living for surface living—ignoring our individual impact on the planet no matter how small (remember, there’s 7 billion of us)—we can expect to experience the same range of emotions… anxiety, unhappiness, resentment, anger, blame and sadness.  Wow!

Ah, but when we develop a holistic understanding of life at its very center—when we experience learning in the REAL world (growing food, exploring a watershed, restoring a wetland, making preserves, raising chickens) such learning overcomes our alienation from nature and rekindles as sense of place—a sense of genuine belonging.  Living in harmony with the organizing principles of nature IS authentic living. 

Exploring our natural world

Teaching ourselves and our children that the fundamental facts of life are dynamically interwoven, with living systems nested within living systems—returns us to our wholeness—our authenticity—and revitalizes new ways of thinking and living within the earth’s resources.  Were we ever not part of the earth’s living systems?  Only in our heads.

Deciding, Choosing and Instinctive Values

While it’s true that we don’t need to understand how electricity works to light up a room, we do need to become ecologically literate to understand the principles that govern all living systems—including ourselves—that have evolved to sustain the web of life.  This way, we can truly live in authentic alignment with the world that sustains us.

Did you know stewardship is an instinctive value within the human being?  Joy and compassionate care of the natural world are instinctive in children who spend time in nature.  These behaviors don’t need to be taught except where the connection is lost.  That’s really something to ponder.

At some point you may, like me, prefer to use the word decide rather than choose.  I make this distinction because decision points are turning points.   They are reflected in our daily choices.  Like a fulcrum, decisions drive choices.  Otherwise choices are just choices, and there’s no uber consciousness guiding any given choice.

Blessings on your summer!

Darling Ohana relaxing in nature

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Les choses qui s’écroulent sont une sorte d’épreuve, mais aussi une sorte de guérison.                                                               ~ Pema Chodron

(English translation)

Things that fall apart are a sort of test, but also a kind of healing.

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Two weeks out from the Spring Equinox and the air is ripe with life.

Some mornings, I feel a thrill run through my body as the birds’ dawn chorus inspires me to rise and step outside to stretch in the cool morning air.

Spring has gently yet powerfully moved in, bringing new life and longer days of light.  And to think that a season as lovely as Spring is borne out of the cold, wet darkness of winter.

One of my favorite permaculture design principles is:

‘Use Edges + Value the Margins.’

Edges in nature are transition zones—the places where the composition of the terrain, flora and fauna change.   Edges and margins are also the places in our lives where real change occurs—where we are sometimes tested far beyond our comfort zones.

In nature, edges and margins can be where a forest gives way to a field of wildflowers, or where the firm footing of solid ground begins to soften and goosh, filling with dense ferns and mangroves before giving way to a riverbank.   It could simply be where crunchy beachfront sand yields to undulating clumps of sedge, tall grasses and scrubby brush.  It’s where life yields to life, and recombines to create new environments.   Each environment provides habitat for plants and animals that have adapted over millenia to that particular arrangement of life.  These are the earth’s ecosystems.  And they are incredibly precious.

This same perspective applies to each of us.

When we find ourselves thrust into experiences that we didn’t ask for—or would never consciously choose—you can count on those situations as opportunities to be stretched—to move beyond predictability into unfamiliar terrain.  In such situations, our primal instinct to survive sheds light on our life as a whole. Recognizing aspects of our lives that are out of balance—those that don’t truly serve our greatest good—end up defining our future.   This is the human version of edge.

Edge forces us to grow—to reassess.  Real growth happens when that which no longer serves our greatest good is released.  Real growth actually moves us to become more symbiotic—with ourselves and with all of life around us.

We instinctively know that solutions to big problems are found beyond the familiar boundaries of our self-prescribed lives.  When we are willing to embrace larger actions—lifestyle changes that reflect a holistic way of life—we rapidly become more symbiotically interconnected with life.  In this way, you could say that our lives parallel the edges and margins of an ecosystem.

John Francis, also known as Planetwalker—rediscovered rhythms in nature that western culture has nearly forgotten by walking the continent of North America in silence for 17 years.  In his book, The Ragged Edge of Silence, John shares that the single most valuable thing for people to know is this:  The basis of nature is cooperation and democracy. 

Indigenous peoples have long since recognized that each unique ecosystem yields it’s own unique set of bio-restorative offerings.  It requires only that we are able to distinguish the unique qualities, characteristics and properties of the plants and creatures living therein.  It’s worth repeating that this same perspective applies to each of us.

There is infinite possibility within the natural world to restore itself as well as what ails humanity.

Through our senses of wonder, curiosity and inquiry, our individual connection with the natural world has the direct capacity to restore ourselves as whole human beings at all levels.  Our greatness, our compassion and our authenticity become buried beneath the parts of ourselves we’ve become disconnected from.

Exploring your edges will take you on a journey to your most authentic self.  A place where you feel at home with who you are; where you recognize your weaknesses and your strengths, admit your imperfections and bask in your gifts.  In honoring this most human of journeys, we automatically honor the earth that has silently supported us all of our lives.

Making peace within our inner ecosystems, we become capable of restoring lasting peace for the earth as well.

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