Father, teach your children
As a long-time conservationist I cannot help but notice that images and sentiments abound about Earth and its plight to be healthy.
There is a whole lot of positive about the mainstreaming of the environmental movement. It doesn't seem so long ago, that I was eight or nine years old and, after having Greenpeace knock on our door and converse with my Dad for ten minutes, I finally felt I found people like me and immediately wanted to pack my bags and run away with them. Later, it was Sea Shepherd wtih whom I wanted to disappear. In any case, back then I was a total geek. Misunderstood and typically an annoyance to people who didn't care to hear what I had to say.
Times have changed. And, while we face a whole lot of challenges in the world, there has been a tremendous amount of positive change. World consciousness is changing as a whole and important concepts and ideas are reaching critical mass to make the most impactful change ever.
But there is one small branding error that has me seriously peeved. It's an error that's made over and again in news media and by companies attempting to convice us that their products are "greener" and more favorable than others. It is a mistake made in content directed towards adults but irritates me even more so when it's geared toward children.
We don't own the place. We never have. People have no greater right to the beauty of the Earth or the fruits that it bears than the rest of the living beings we share it with. Fungi. Plants. Animals with (slightly) different DNA than ours (people). We are here by special privilege, visiting. Except that we've ransacked the place. We've pillaged. Consumed its cherished fruits. Slurped its waters from what we thought was a bottomless cup. She trusted us to watch her children, and we've put them directly in danger's way.
But we keep on tougting off her name and her beauty like it's our own -- and not as something we have a stake in protecting. We've ravaged our victim and assert our dominance over her by convincing ourselves she needs our protection.
We humans always have a charming way of making it seem like we have dominion over all the other life Earth fosters. It hurts us to call ourselves animals (although we are). And we have intellectual conversations about whether intelligent life exists in the universe when we can't simply witness the intelligent life all over this planet.
The truth is, Mother Earth doesn't need us to protect her. She'll exist with or without us. She isn't the one trying to communicate with us. We are! Humanity needs us to protect US. If our ways don't change, Earth will no longer be able to sustain US.
So our story needs to change. And fast. We've lied to ourselves for long enough. Don't our children deserve the truth so that they may be free to be the vehicles of change that humanity needs to exist here on Earth?
Of course, the dialog we have with our children should be inspiring, full of hope, and with the promise that if we all do our part, we can make positive change. Our messages cannot be full of doom and gloom, but they do need to be honest. Our children are far more resilient and creative than we give them credit. They just may surprise us with a solution or two.
Examples of typical dialog directed at children:
These messages are obviously not in and of themselves bad. Chipping in, recognizing the environment is in some way at risk, doing beneficial activities such as planting trees are all useful exercises. The issue is that while these are all well-meaning, they neglect to challenge children with the one thing that will make lasting change: taking personal responsibility because our own existence depends on it.
The trite messages that would have us planting trees and picking up garbage from fields and waterfronts only to send them to landfills where they are out of sight, out of mind, do nothing more than make another academic activity out of Earth day, when what it needs to be is a challenge to our lifestyle, no, to our entire existence. A true test in ecology: how we exist and relate to all other life around us. It must be an ongoing dialog, not one day of the year in which we turn out the lights for a half hour and pretend that the activity has as direct an impact as does a life-long commitment to simply live in moderation. It's easy to commit to Earth day like it's a holiday like Hallowe'en. But we are in dire need of more commitment than that. Ironically, faced with simple facts, children often tend to be the ones who find commitment to a cause a logical and natural progression.
So if we aren't simply teaching our children about turning out the lights and putting waste in bins, what can we do? The same thing we can do as grownups --
I'll make an example of the issue of weight loss: for students that are pre-occupied with their weight (whether that is a positive or negative thing, or whether they are actually healthy is a whole other blog post) and ask me questions like, can I lose weight with yoga practice? (Barring no other considerations for that student,) my response is typically to change the nature of their relationship with food. Make it a spiritual practice. When we offer our actions up to our highest aim, versus small, self-focused desires, the whole nature of our relationship with those actions change. The same is true of our relationship with Earth. When we offer up ourselves in service and have a genuine understanding of our place within that relationship, we become capable of amazing things.
3 Practices to Cultivate Understanding of our True Place in Relationship with Earth
(And Inspire Positive, Lasting Change)
If we come to a place of understanding of human's place in the dynamic between us and Earth (she's the one in charge; we need to honour her for her to sustain us), and understand our personal responsibility, we can then easily work with our children on developing the relationship needed with our environment in order to make lasting change, and in a way that is positive, uplifting, and hopeful for a futre of beauty and bounty. Are we committed enough to our children to be up for the challenge?
Happy Earth Life!
Yoga Therapist. Mom of boys. Conservationist. Accessibility advocate. Self-described bibliophile. A believer in the power of stories. Personal stories. Communal stories. The power to change lives and the world, one breath, one moment, one story at a time.
About this Blog
The intention of this blog is to offer various resources for grownups and children to practice mindfulness & share stories together.