Today I wanted to talk a little bit about humanity and the environment because it has been playing on my mind a lot of late. I have always loved nature; nothing inspires or amazes me more than the beauty of the Earth and the animals, and I have always tried to do my bit to help to conserve and protect. But, a few occurrences over the last few weeks have really given me pause for thought: am I doing enough?
Recently I watched The True Cost, a documentary about the humanitarian and environmental fall-out of the fashion industry. I was staggered by the negative impact this industry is having on the health and well-being of the garment workers, cotton farmers, animals and the environment. Violation of human rights, serious illness (even death), civil unrest, polluted rivers, chemical-ridden farmland and poverty are all side effects of a growing fashion industry driven by our collective materialism, the desire for cheap clothing and the profiteering of big companies. This doesn’t just affect a few people in some far-flung corner of the globe. It affects all of us in a way that is untenable, and completely unsustainable. It is an issue that people are aware of, perhaps in the periphery of their consciousness, but what I saw in The True Cost was appalling beyond words. And I think most people (myself included) have been completely unaware of how their purchasing decisions have been impacting the world in such a terrible way.
A few days ago, I saw a post on Facebook about Earth Overshoot Day. This is the day when humanity has exhausted nature’s budget for the year – that is, what the earth would naturally provide to sustain the ecosystems upon it. This was the first I had ever heard of Earth Overshoot Day. When did it fall this year? 13th August 2015. Eight and a half months into a 12 month year we have already used up all that nature could sustainably offer us. Now we, and all the other species on this planet, are operating in overshoot. And the really frightening fact? It would take 1.6 Earths to provide for humanity’s demand on nature. We only have one. And note the phrase humanity’s demand. What about all the other species that have to coexist with us on this planet? We are depriving them of their resources, and leaving them a planet in tatters.
“You must be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi
Not too long back I completed the WWF Environmental Footprint test; I was shocked when my result came back that if everyone lived my lifestyle, we’d need 1.7 planets. Me, the vegetarian who tries to buy organic and local, who recycles religiously and who always turns off the lights. Now that I’ve been on two holidays this year – one to North Africa and one to the Mediterranean – that figure is even higher due to the plane journeys. Whilst this test isn’t a comprehensive analysis of my lifestyle, it made a point that I need to make some changes in my life.
And that made me think: how do we balance the life we want with taking action to save our planet from environmental catastrophe (and our society from the clutches of greed!)? Because these are very, very real issues that we must face up to.
I was shocked at how much my recent trips abroad had increased my environmental footprint. But, as someone with a soul urge to travel, I find the idea of giving up exploring the world very difficult. Travelling and learning about the world is a vital part of life, in my opinion. Then I realised that maybe I can compensate for it in other ways. carbonfootprint.com has a nifty little online calculator to help you calculate and offset your carbon emissions by planting trees, for example. Sounds good. I love trees, so I’d happily do that or donate to organisations that do it on our behalf (plus it has the double-bonus of creating more habitat for our struggling wildlife. Yay!).
But, what about other areas of my life? There are still conundrums that I need to figure out. For example, I could still definitely cut down even more on packaged foods. But, how do I reconcile eating a diet that will give me optimum health with the fact that some of those highly nutritious foods have to be shipped in from overseas? How can I find sustainable, ethical clothing that fits my budget? When you suddenly have to scrutinise every decision you make for how ethical, cruelty free and environmentally friendly it is, it can be overwhelming.
Fortunately, there are lots of pioneering and brave souls out there who are already knowledgeable on a lot of these things and can help us make changes and find ways to exist in an environmentally friendly way without giving up on what we love to do, bankrupting ourselves, or berating ourselves for not managing to do it all perfectly. And whilst it may involve some compromise and sacrifice, I think it is really important that we don’t approach this from a doom-laden or frightened place, but from a place of genuine joy, curiosity and adventure. It is an opportunity for self-reflection and learning about what the Earth, and our relationship to her, really is. We must keep our energies and outlook positive.
Therefore, in that spirit, I am setting myself on a quest to truly align my life to the higher values of respecting nature, each other, and making a difference in my own small way. I’m going to call this Getting Environmentally Aligned. To do my bit to help pass this knowledge around, I am going to share with you what I learn and discover. After all, I’m no expert. I’m learning along the way – just like you.
What is happening in the world is not our individual fault, but it is our collective responsibility to fix it.
Sometimes we need something to shock us out of our apathy, or shake off the wool that has been drawn over our eyes, and The True Cost does just that. Watch it here. Or take the WWF Environmental Footprint test here.
Follow me on this blog (click Follow in the side bar), on Twitter (@1AlexandraPayne) and Instagram (alexandra_indigogaia) to keep up with what I’m trying out and learning, and also share your tips, tricks and discoveries with me. I look forward to hearing from you!
With love and thanks,