Western culture is based accumulating power through monetary wealth, material goods and the creating a hierarchy of living creatures. Women are placed under men, people of color are placed under Europeans, animals are placed under humans and the Earth is placed under personal wealth and power. Humans, and only certain types of humans, live at the top of the hierarchy.
The destruction of the Earth is tied to how humans believe in domination. Domination comes in the form of Western colonization, which resulted in the destruction of native land, and the exploitation of resources and indigenous people or non-white nations for capital. It comes in the form of destroying wildlife for factory farming and industries that exploit animals and humans alike. We have so much, and yet we demand for more. But we are running out of time until we reach a climate catastrophe.
I mourn for the Earth, for the creatures that inhabit it, for the land, the water, the plants and the people. But it is the people who are causing this destruction, and the people with power don’t care. And yes, I know that I am part of the problem.
I am a believer of deep ecology. The term “deep ecology” was introduced in the 1970’s by Arne Naess, a Norwegian activist and philosopher. To sum it up, deep ecology is the idea that human life is equal to other living components that make up the Earth.
Our planet is more spiritual and communicative than we choose to acknowledge. The Earth is speaking to us, and we are ignoring her. Research shows that plants communicate with each other through root systems, which we destroy through plowing.
I could go on and on about how big corporate industries, factory farming, transportation and burning of fossil fuels contribute to climate change, but we already know that. The issue lies in how we as human beings place ourselves at the top of the hierarchy.
In today’s modern society based on patriarchal ideas, we place human beings at the forefront, and only certain types of human beings at that. Ideas that don’t serve the richest and most powerful and don’t place these people at the forefront are ignored.
Not only are we harming the environment, the only planet that we have, but we are also harming ourselves mentally, physically and spiritually.
Time and time again, we have been told the psychological benefits of spending time in nature and in forests. But nowadays we live such a sedentary lifestyle in which many of us spend most of the week driving to work, then driving back home without much more movement or engagement with the environment than that. It’s no wonder that people are dealing with psychological damage and harming their health. We eat food that is nowhere near its natural form and create harmful relationships with our bodies.
By placing our own convenience and desire for power at the forefront, we destroy the environment in which we live in, innocent living creatures around us and ourselves.
The Earth and its energy is amazing. I can cite two times in my life where I felt true peace within myself. The first was in July 2018 when I was hiking in the Rocky Mountains National Park. My friend and I were on the Dream Lake Trail, and neither of us are very fit. When we finally reached the lake together, I can’t even begin to describe how incredibly whole I felt. The second time was when I drove my friend to the airport at 5 a.m., and there was a pretty intense thunderstorm going on outside. It was dark outside, the rain was strong and the lightning was so close. Each time the lightning struck, I could feel my entire body vibrating. I truly felt the Earth’s power in that moment.
And yet, we distance ourselves further away from all that is natural and beautiful.
As someone who was diagnosed with anorexia at the age of 15 and has dealt with other mental illnesses ever since, this is the simplified version of what I propose for anyone who wants to start taking steps toward the right direction:
Eat a plant-based diet, or at least try to eat less meat. Don’t contribute to animal cruelty and the environmentally destructive industry of factory farming. It’s better for your health, too, if done right, and it certainly helped me when I was having a hard time.
Incorporate more movement in your life. I personally walk anywhere that takes under 30 minutes (I live in a rural town where driving is the norm). I dance on my own or when I’m out a lot – and it sounds funny but it makes me so much happier.
Create relationships with non-human entities. Raise a pet, volunteer at an animal shelter, spend more time in nature, raise plants or a garden, etc. I think that physical touch and vocal communication is the key here.
Reduce waste. I think people already know about the importance of recycling and reducing plastic, but I think the root of the problem is consumerism. Consumerism is bad for both the environment and for your mental health. Declutter and live more mindfully.
And last but not least, connect with your local community. When and where are your farmers markets? Support local businesses instead of big corporations. Get involved in decision-making of the local land. Create meaningful connections with those around you.
I’m not an expert by any means. This isn’t an ultimate solution, but it is a step in the right direction toward living a better life for yourself and for the Earth.