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We Are The Environment

It's entirely understandable that we find the climate emergency extremely frightening. It is here and we can see it happening somewhere in the world every day. It feels impossible to imagine how anything we do as an individual will have any impact - a feeling of powerlessness, of being unable to control things. It leads to the temptation to give up, to do nothing or to avoid it in the news because its too painful to think about.

I have written about this feeling before and talked about how, if we accept we are limited in our power to end all suffering, we can then perhaps more purposely see that the small things we can do are valuable and do make a difference. We can then consider this to be enough - to be our contribution. Changing the world one action at a time rather than thinking what we do is too small to matter.

There is also another insight I think important on this theme.

It is, I think, common to see the world as separate from us. We perceive the environment as one thing, the impact the human race has on the world as a species as another and then ourselves as individuals interacting independently within these dynamics. However, according to Tich Nhat Hanh "the environment is not outside of you, you are the environment". With a little reflection this can seem evidently true - we are born from the planet and its materials and we go back to it too. There is nothing coming from anywhere else to create us nor does anything leave when we pass. We are made of the Earth entirely not something independent and separate. It can be easy to believe there to be an entire universe in existence that is connected piece by piece - and then you as a separate independent entity. This surely bears no real logical analysis. We come from these elements.

I think it helps when we realise there is not a thing (the planet) and then us as separate things. There is simply one thing that we are created from and will return to. Consequently, when we take care of the planet it doesn't have to be about huge gestures but just the care we might take when we care for ourselves. Small gestures and acts of care and love - this of course alone is not likely to be enough by itself but it is not nothing - a million small gestures matter. And of course the planet will survive - if we make it hard for us to live on it will still be here in a million years nonetheless and we will still be part of it as we return to the Earth at the end of our lives.

So each gesture or act of consideration does not have to be hugely "planet saving" but more an act of kindness to ourselves - it is something - it is important. A way of thinking of this is remembering our left hand and right hand are different hands - but they are part of the same you. One can tend to the other.

The way we choose to live our lives is a contribution to the planet we are part of and is part of us. The choice then becomes do I continue to live in a way that is self harming or one that is nourishing to the planet and all those other parts of it which I am also connected to?

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