Why Give a Shift?
by Wesley Wright, MASc
Everywhere we turn, we are bombarded by news about how we are destroying the planet, people are killing each other, political leaders are making fools of themselves, the food we eat is poisoning us, and so on. It’s pretty easy to find it all quite depressing and to feel powerless to be able to do anything about it. Some people do care, do want to help make the world a better place, but they feel that they either can’t make much of a difference or they don’t know how. Many others have simply resigned themselves to the state of the world, believing that there’s nothing they can do about it, and so they live out their lives as best they can, just hoping that the world doesn’t self-destruct in their lifetime.
This kind of thinking does two things: it disempowers us, and it causes us to avoid taking responsibility for the fact that it is us, humanity, who have upset the balance in our world. It disempowers us because thinking that there’s nothing we can do about things causes us to give up before we even start. It robs us of our ability to effect change in our lives—in our behaviours, our thoughts, our attitudes, our impacts. And it avoids taking ownership for the role we have to play in the situation we find ourselves in, globally, today. Even though we are all doing the best we can, the unfortunate truth is that everyone has contributed to pollution, waste and landfills to varying degrees.
I am NOT saying that we should all sell our Ferrari (if only!) and become a monk; what I’m saying is that we all have a part to play in this. The first step is not to start living in a cave, or to never again eat fast food, or to adopt a die-hard zero waste lifestyle (even though that would be really cool!); it’s way, way easier than that. The first step is just to acknowledge this: we are all part of the problem. Sounds pretty grim and depressing, right? But drill down a bit, and you’ll turn that disempowering thinking into something really empowering: If I am part of the problem, I am also part of the solution.
The Problem: Disregard (by Disconnection)
We live in an age of global connectivity—and of personal disconnection. There are umpteen ways to connect with a friend on the other side of the world, but we likely haven’t said hello to our next-door neighbour in a dog’s age. With online shopping, telecommuting, tv and movie streaming, and food and grocery delivery, it is now possible to have all of your needs met without ever leaving your home. These days, most of us don’t know where our products and food are made, who made them, how they were made, and sometimes what they’re even made of. Additionally, with more than half the world’s population now living in an urban environment, we’re also more disconnected from nature than ever before because it usually requires a trip out of our city to go hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, etc. This disconnection from nature and from people (in an intimate, face-to-face capacity) has resulted in us distancing ourselves from the rest of the world; we often default to viewing nature and other people (outside of our community of family and close friends) in a more abstract, “out there” kind of way. Because of this, we don’t generally consider them in our actions.
We all hear the news about climate change, bioaccumulation of toxins (in our food and in our bodies), rainforest destruction, islands of garbage in the ocean. But it seems so…distant, so removed from us. And THAT is the fallacy, the fundamental basis for the state of the world today. Our ego may not like to hear this, but we are each a part of a bigger whole. That bigger whole is our planet—and all of the people, animals, and plants that we share it with. And what I do over here WILL affect you over there. Why? Earth is a closed system, kinda like there’s an invisible force field around it that lets nothing leave (except for the occasional space shuttle) and nothing enter (except for sunlight, and the occasional space shuttle or meteorite). Earth, this one single closed system, doesn’t differentiate between me/you, us/them, rich/poor, Christian/Muslim, Europe/Asia, or any other divide that we perceive. Everything flows, and is shared, between everything else: the air we breathe, the water we drink, the resources we use, the nutrients in the food we eat. Those islands of trash floating in the oceans didn’t just appear; they are there because of all the trash (mostly single use plastic and packaging) that we have collectively thrown away.
The Solution: Caring (by Consideration)
Because of this interconnectedness, every action that you take, every decision that you make, has a far-reaching impact. The key is to begin thinking about these impacts, and then to strive for positive and not negative consequences as much as possible. Our health is reflected in, and impacted by, the health of the planet. When we choose a natural, biodegradable cleaner instead of one with all these fragrances and chemicals we can’t pronounce, or when we choose organic (or GMO-free) over conventional agricultural practices that rely heavily on synthetic fertilizers and pesticides [which pollute our streams and groundwater when they’re washed away by rain or over-irrigation], or any number of other greener and cleaner choices, we are choosing health—for the planet and ultimately for ourselves.
You will discover that thinking about these things makes you more conscious, more aware, of your words and actions. The ability to choose, and the awareness that we have a choice (in what we say, what we do, what we buy or don’t buy), is very empowering. And this awareness will start to change how you act. If you’re unsure what to do:
- – Consider 7 quick and easy things to make shift happen;
- – Check out our blog on Conscious Consumerism 101;
- – If you have an infant or toddler, read Eco Ambassador Ani’s blog on eco-conscoius parenting; and finally
- – Educate yourself with Eco Ambassador Audrey’s blog on how plastics impact our health.
I recently watched an excellent documentary called A Plastic Ocean—which helps to raise awareness about our global plastic waste crisis through beautiful cinematography, tugging at our heartstrings, and engaging our mind—and the narrator said something that really resonated with me: “From knowing comes caring, and from caring comes change.”
Ahimsa is a Sanskrit word which means “do no harm”—in our thoughts, words, and actions. We chose this word for our company because it embodies the shift that we want to help make happen. But we cannot help this shift to happen without your help, without your involvement.
So the next time you hear about all that’s bad in this world and start to think that you can’t do anything about it, stop yourself. Because you CAN have an impact! Be an agent of change in this world, and becoming one is easy: just start giving a shift, by creating a shift—in your thinking, in your relating to others and the world around you, in your words and in your actions. Help to make a shift from harm to heal.
Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are the ocean.
Let’s turn the tide…
Wesley Wright, MASc, Managing Director of Ahimsa Eco Solutions, is a passionate advocate for environmental stewardship. Wesley’s role includes spearheading the launch of an environmental movement to “Make Shift Happen” in an effort to move towards a sustainable and waste free society. He integrates his knowledge of different fields such as molecular biology/genetics, ecology, environmental engineering, critical thinking, ethics, permaculture, design, urban planning, organic gardening, and biomimicry to help empower people to realize their environmental goals.