One passion I have developed in recent years is environmental sustainability, sparked by a growing awareness of environmental issues. This awareness came from a variety of sources, including:
- Writing and researching for a monthly environmental column in a magazine I used to work at;
- Working on my company’s sustainability report as a trainee last year;
- The movie ‘An Inconvenient Truth’;
- The sprouting of community and church environmental efforts around me;
- Working on a business proposal for an environmental website as part of a university project;
- Various prominent awareness campaigns including Earth Hour and The Plastiki Expedition; and
- Amazing environmentalist friends like Naz, who runs Green-Eyed Monster Blog.
All the above ruined my blissful ignorance of the state of our world. Life would never be the same again. Learning about a floating rubbish patch in the Pacific Ocean comprising mostly non-biodegradable plastic that spans an area the size of Texas and keeps growing because we keep producing plastic, looking at images of beautiful marine life trapped in discarded plastic rings or covered in thick oil, and watching, with my own eyes, coral reefs diminishing each time I revisit Malaysia’s East coast islands since I first started snorkeling as a child… is nothing short of heart-wrenching.
I realize, though, that I don’t talk about this passion enough, perhaps because I am averse to preaching without practicing, and I’ve always felt I was simply not doing enough.
Nobody needs to hear another overbearing sermon about how the earth’s resources are limited and we need to take care of it or risk harming ourselves and future generations. But we see the signs of human greed and irresponsibility everywhere, choking beauty and littering our streets. We know, intuitively, that there must be some better way to live. We know we could use some change.
I’ve long been inspired by Ghandi, who said, “Be the change you want to see in the world.”
I want to change. I want to talk about things that matter to me – but first, I want to be able to do something about those things before I talk about them. To do that, I need to realize that in the long run, small things matter.
This week, I started with the simplest of steps – finding a box to recycle paper at home. Hopefully, in addition to reducing my environmental impact, that box will serve as a visual reminder to use paper (and the rest of my resources) sparingly and generate some extra income for the people involved in the recycling process.
I have also started reading ‘Walking Gently on the Earth: Making Faithful Choices About Food, Energy, Shelter and More’, a thoughtful book that reflects on how we can make wiser, better, intentional, more beneficial choices about living our lives in a way that allows us and our earth to flourish. Hopefully this book will shed light on more ways we can take care of the earth we live on and ultimately, take better care of ourselves.
Another particular area in which I want to challenge myself is to eat less meat. If you would do one thing and one thing only to reduce your impact on the environment, it would be to eat less meat. Nothing else, not even transportation or energy production, causes as much carbon emissions as the meat industry.
I love my meat. Thanks to the effectiveness of diets such as The Zone and The South Beach Diet, which promote eating generously as a whole but consuming more protein and minimal carbs, I am a serial meat eater. But benefitting myself at the detriment of others – I hardly consider that a benefit at all.
I don't have a defined action plan, but if I can skip meat starting with a day a week, to perhaps every alternate day, that's a good start!
I'll close with a challenge, inspired by a witty tee shirt slogan I've been seeing people sport lately - "Everyone wants to change the world, but nobody wants to change."
What do you want to see change in our world? What's ONE thing you can do differently to be a part of that change today? This week? This year?