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Jan 23, 2009
Anyone who hasn't seen it yet, simply must visit a website by photographer Chris Jordan. Jordan uses his photography combined with the power of Photoshop to illustrate how our waste adds up on a daily basis. It's truly illuminating, and is a must-see for anyone concerned with humanity's impact on the environment.

Another small piece of highly-necessary viewing is a short web-video called The Story of Stuff. It's a brilliant explanation of how our addiction to material goods is affecting the planet, and us. One statistic that stands out in my mind is that for each bag of trash that we put out at the curb, another five (unseen) bags was wasted to produce it. In other words, each bag of trash actually equals six. That's one reason why recycling simply isn't enough. We must put into practice the first two steps in the ecological slogan, "Reduce, reuse AND recycle." Recycling is the final step, but the first two are perhaps even more important, and more effective at cutting down our actual footprint.

Reducing our consumption significantly is something that the economic situation will force us all to do eventually, but there is no need to wait until that happens. Our addiction to material goods and to the never-ending cycle of replacing old with new keeps us enslaved (deliberately, by those who profit from it), and it keeps the planet in slavery to us. Ironically, our desire to consume, if left unchecked, will consume the very planet itself.

There is a practical way to cure this addiction. We can fulfill our needs while maintaining our ecological integrity. I believe that this requires a two-fold shift in values. First, we must break free from the belief that one's consumption is a direct indication of one's wealth and therefore social status. Second, we must break free from the idea that an item's value deteriorates as it gets older, whether or not it is still functioning.

In the United States, for example, items of clothing in perfectly good condition are thrown away in vast quantities on a daily basis. Some go to the thrift stores and end up being thrown away anyway, because the amount that is discarded is simply too much. Imagine what people in Bangladesh or Haiti would think if they could see video footage of all the clothing thrown into the landfills every day. With the items we waste, we could clothe the entire population of the world, while Westerners keep flooding into The Gap and department stores and Wal-Mart, and buying designer underwear and Doc Martens, while people in the under-developed nations wear rags and no shoes at all.

For the things that we do need, buying second-hand can be very empowering, allowing us more financial freedom, and fuelling our self-esteem, as we take pride in the fact that we have met our needs without demanding that the planet use more of its resources to make new stuff.

I believe that the economic crisis, along with our ecological crisis, will force us into a situation where we are required to re-evaluate our needs. Before that happens, those of us who are aware of this situation have a head-start. Instead of waiting for a crisis to push us into limiting our consumption, we have the opportunity to do it ourselves, right now. All it takes is the willingness to change the way we think and feel about material goods, and the willingness to question whether or not our purchases are driven by need. If the answer is no, then perhaps we are motivated instead by a hunger for fulfillment on a deeper level, which more than likely will not be satisfied by another trip to the mall.
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Posted: Jan 23, 2009 12:00am
Jan 19, 2009

I have been giving a lot of thought to the question of how to write about a subject as big as "the environment." Just putting those words on paper makes the issue seem far smaller than it actually is. I am reminded of a time that I heard political talk-show host Bill Maher speaking about the importance of protecting the planet. He remarked on how people are marginalized when they speak out about "the planet," as though it were a fringe issue, not at all essential to the very survival of life as we know it.

So how does one write about such a hugely important subject? I look to my surroundings for inspiration. I am privileged to live in a place of magnificent natural beauty. In this valley, there are two (yes, two) rivers that you can drink from. The water to my house comes from a spring. When I turn on the tap, whether it be to drink, shower, do laundry or water the garden, spring water comes pouring out in a limitless supply. In a world where people die every day for lack of clean drinking water, I am embarrassed to admit that I take this gift of nature for granted.

A set of solar panels transforms the energy from the sun into a force that actually powers the computer I am writing on, as well as many other appliances in our modest home. When I stop to give it a thought, which is not nearly often enough, it's nothing short of a miracle.

Outside my window, an outdoor shower is fed by a coiled black pipe that lies underneath a piece of glass. It generates water so hot that it needs to be mixed with cold in order to shower with it. How incredibly fortunate I am, to stand under the sky and bathe myself with spring water heated by the sun, surrounded by the beauty of a colorful garden that I tend to lovingly, with my own hands.

I can't help but wish that everyone in the world could feel this way. What a different world we would live in if every man, woman and child had the opportunity to experience the beauty of nature so intimately. If they only could, I don't know how we would possibly feel anything but awe and respect for this planet that sustains us.

Planet Earth gives so abundantly of its treasures that not only does it have water to drink, and air to breathe, but it also has soft, green grass for us to walk barefoot on, glorious flowers that are a delight for our eyes and fill the air with intoxicating fragrances, multi-colored butterflies that dance and play above our heads, birds that speak to each other in melodies and soar in a vast blue sky. And all this is made possible by the life-giving warmth of the magnificent sun, and its golden light that illuminates this beautiful planet.

This is what "the environment" is. It is not an abstract concept, nor is protecting it a marginal issue to be brushed aside as if it is nothing but another slogan on a bumper sticker. It is our home, and our very survival depends on it.

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Posted: Jan 19, 2009 12:00am


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Angel Flinn
, 1
Kapaau, HI, USA
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by Rock H.
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