Image of canary whispering

The Catalyst

Come along with me as I dive into what prompted me to start writing about what's going on in humanity regarding our relationship to the natural world.

Custom artwork by Laurie Cullum

It started out as pretty normal day for me. I got up early, stretched a little, did my morning routine, made a cup of tea. Things were slowly waking up in my home as I began to make breakfast and leisurely pack school lunches for my kids. The morning minutes roll on as we eat and chat and play, but eventually we actually need to be ready and get in the car. This is the time of the morning where things can and sometimes do unravel. My son can’t seem to find some toy that he absolutely has to take in the car, so the rest of his responsibilities are totally side lined, not to mention he is wearing the same outfit for the third day in a row, including sleeping in. My daughter is upset at her choice of clothes and has to redo it once or twice, plus she still wants me to braid her tangled and bone dry hair. Pretty much guaranteed to be late for school, the car is started, all the stuff’s already in there, minus the kids and myself. I start thinking, “why is it like this so many mornings? What can I do to help this go a little more smoothly”?

I drop my kids off at school, there’s no going inside with them today as we are running a little too late. My son blissfully runs off without his backpack, stomping on freshly frozen sheets of ice with his snow boots. My daughter is deflated thinking it’s her fault that we are late because she was the last one in the car, and that my silence during our drive to school somehow means that I am upset with her. Which of course I’m not at all, I’m was just busy thinking about how to do school mornings a little differently. I barely get a kiss goodbye as I utter, “T.G.I.F.” like my dad did on Fridays when I was growing up.

My yoga class starts in an hour now so I was going to get a hot chai and do some writing. But I forgot my mug and I don’t really want to pay $5 for the chai today (it’s expensive to choose almond milk) and then probably have to pee during yoga class as a result, so I skip it and go straight to the yoga building. I’m just going to sit in the car for an hour and read the library book about John Muir that I stuffed in my bag as I ran out the door. Instead I decide to read one of the 200 tabs that I have left open to read at some point on my phone’s Safari browser. It’s an article that a former coral reef science colleague had posted to his Facebook feed a few days earlier, I knew I wanted to look at it at some point. A well written and informative article by Eelco Rohling from the Research School of Earth Sciences at the Australian National University: “Perfect Storm Threatens the World’s Reefs”. As someone who has studied coral reefs for most of my career, I knew it would be a disheartening read for me, and one that I already know the storyline to, but I think it’s important to keep up to some degree with what’s going on. Ignorance is not bliss.

I carefully make my way through the article feeling emotions starting to bubble and eventually burst. This Earth has been so damaged at the hands of humankind. Humans, so amazing and so reckless at the same time. How is it that we can have smart phones, for example, that can practically run the world, yet we can’t care for the air, water, or soil? Talk about misappropriation. I don’t know about you, but when I observe the multitude of ways this planet is being destroyed by humans, I feel angry, scared and desperate about the future for all the beings, not just humans, that share this planet and have the same basic needs for survival. I have a need to know that my kids, for example, will have clean air, clean water and food security (which is already a massive issue all around the globe), and that we are all working to create a planet where everyone’s needs are being met compassionately. My request is for all humans to put the health of our Mother Earth first, because like any human mother, she can only care for her children when she herself is healthy.

I often think that the canary in the coal mine has long since sung, the writing is on the wall. I sometimes want to quit, but of course I won’t – I care too much, and my kids are watching, as they should be. I wonder what I could possibly do to change the tide for this planet and all the beings that are 100% dependent on her? On a large-scale, maybe nothing, but change starts in each of our hearts and I’m not comfortable just sitting here keeping quiet and doing nothing. Lest the world comes to a crashing end for humans, it’s never too late to right our ways. Maybe I’ll go down in a ball of flames, but I’ll be shouting my truth.

Contributing and participating is what I want to do, not waiting passively for some magic technological fix or for other people to solve problems. There is a sense of purpose and a call to action that is much larger than myself. Planting seeds, helping people think of alternatives while being conscious of what they are needing and feeling, that’s something I can do. I can make choices in my life that are in alignment with my environmental values, and teach my kids to do the same…because they are getting handed a plate full of really urgent and grisly problems. And I can certainly get my voice out there, speak my truth on pressing issues, and at least try to create dialogue that will call us into action. Remember that old adage about ‘actions speak louder than words’? Ironic that I’m using quite a lot of words here to remind you that we each must live what we want others to learn, people learn more from what we do than what we tell them.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world”  ~  Mahatma Gandhi

I am not interested in blame, criticism, or judgement of others, or of myself for that matter. The type of activism that provokes people through anger and disrespect often leads to violence which solves nothing, it only stokes the fire. And we have seen a lot of this through the years in environmental activism. Instead let’s focus on empowering ourselves and others to live more in line with our values and deeper needs by transforming each other in positive ways (please have a look at my post on nonviolent communication for some inspiration on this). This starts with connecting with what’s alive in each one of us, and then enjoying our willful contributions to each other’s wellbeing. All humans have the same needs, and to choose to connect on that level shows our oneness, not our differences. Our needs are not in conflict with each other; only our strategies for meeting those needs can be in conflict.

It’s my mission to encourage people to make actionable choices that support a thriving planet. With human population growth continuing to explode, and Earth’s resources being squeezed as hard as ever, all of our actions (and inactions) matter deeply and urgently. Some changes are simple; some are very difficult. It requires taking an honest look at our lifestyles and the choices that we make day in and day out that have an impact, positive or negative. It’s not cliché to say that everything is connected, we are all connected. The air we breathe, the water we drink, the soil we touch – they all carry the tales of history.

It’s a very shocking and humbling time to be alive. Perhaps it was Voltaire, or maybe Uncle Ben in the Spider-Man comic book, that states, “with great power comes great responsibility”. I view environmental stewardship as an obligation, especially given that the pendulum has swung so far in the other direction. With mass extinction occurring before our very eyes, which it indisputably is, driven by our lack of environmental stewardship, we must stand up for all Earth’s creatures. When you see suffering staring you in the face, do you turn your back or extend your hand? Each of us has infinite free will in this scenario. Please choose again and again to express your courage and extend your hand.

If you are interested in knowing more about me, please visit the ‘About’ page.

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