These days I often have to take a moment, breathe, and center myself, before scrolling through the news, knowing that I will in some way be shocked by the contents. One that really got me the other day was the news that Congressman Matt Gaetz of Florida introduced a bill on February 3 to abolish the EPA, the Environmental Protection Agency for the United States. (1)
I have a particular calling to help protect the environment that perhaps started off with my first backpacking trip with my father. I was six, carried my own food and a few other belongings, up into King's Canyon in California. It was a week long adventure. We hiked all day long and camped trail side at night. Slowly, we made our way into a beautiful canyon. I remember harnessing our food up into the trees with a homemade rope contraption to keep the bears from getting our precious morsels. I remember jumping into a crystal clear lake nestled in the canyon's interior. I remember my backpack getting lighter with each passing day as we ate our food. I remember sliding on my bottom down the mountain on the crumbling earth instead of taking the switchback trails on our way home. But most of all, what cannot be described is an undeniable love for nature. The sound of birds hopping about, the sound of branches rustling in the wind, and the feeling of being so small in a vast world of nature are still with me today. In fact, these memories have inspired many moments since that time of communion with nature. Just yesterday, I sat with my daughter in a bank of snow. We watched the sun setting in the silent forest resting in a blanket of white. It was a moment of peace for mother and daughter. A moment where we could give our cares away into the cold air around us, and just be.
I have had the great fortune to travel to many places on our beautiful planet. Some are pristine and beautiful, and others are cruelly polluted and dirty. We are certainly capable of living in both extremes. I know with certainty that all is possible with the human consciousness.
What makes it alright for the person living next to the Ganges River in India to know that this sacred river is so polluted by the unchecked practices of a company upstream that he can no longer drink from it? (2) What makes it alright for the person in Guiyu China who makes a living by disassembling e-waste such as old cell phones that exposes her and her community to toxic waste on a daily basis? (3) What makes it alright for so many of us who understand the negative effects of plastic, both on our environment and health, to continue to use this harmful element? (4)
What makes these things okay, I believe, is our sense of survival. How can we take care of our planet and ourselves, when our pollution is perhaps how we either make a living or live? What if without changing our course of action, we will not be able to live on this planet much longer? It does not matter how rich we are, we will all feel it eventually. All of the ways that we pollute the planet were made for the express reason to make our lives easier. I feel like this sense of ease that we all long for, is an illusion. There is no ease. Being human is not about ease. It is about rising above the challenge, and learning the lesson of the soul, which is to merge with the One, Ek Ong Kaar. I have experienced bliss in this merger. But it is a process that requires a consistent effort to raise the spirit. This is where spiritual practice comes in. And folks, now is the time to practice! Do your yoga, meditation, and all the things that uplift you. Do them fiercely and courageously. The world needs your light and spirit now. If you need help in developing a strong daily practice, there are many tools, one of which is a book I was blessed to write, called Original Light.
As a Sikh, a yogi, a mother, a wife, and a meditator, I have come to the realization that we may pollute ourselves out of existence, and that may be the will of the Divine. However, I see a light when I close my eyes. It says speak. Speak out. Be the change. While I don't have all of the scientific knowledge and arguments to stand in front of Congress to tell them why we should keep the EPA. I can ask my Congresswoman to do that. In fact I felt that the EPA was doing just barely enough to keep environmental standards of clean air, water, and soil, in addition to engaging with the realities of climate change. Now with the new leadership in place who does not acknowledge climate change as a reality, and who seems poised to dismantle basic environmental protections in our country in favor of large company priorities, it is very clear to me that the time is upon us, as citizens to bring about the change, starting from a societal level. Here’s how I’ve begun that work in my life.
My husband loves to have cold breakfast cereal with rice milk in the morning. If you have ever purchased rice milk in the store, it comes in a tetra pack container, that is basically cardboard coated with plastic. In all the places where we have lived, I have never been able to recycle these containers and I have painfully thrown one after the other into our garbage.
Well, the other morning, I found a recipe for how to make my own rice milk.
1 cup cooked rice
4 cups water
Blend these two wonderful ingredients up, and there you have it. Delicious rice milk! It has been such a great experience, and I no longer have to throw those containers into landfill.
My contribution is a small one and it is true that the shear magnitude of what is required to change our practices and clean things up is a daunting task resting on the shoulders of humanity. But we are used to it. It’s no more challenging than the first cave man finding his dinner in the wild. There are so many little shifts that we can all do right now without much hardship. Once you start making these shifts, more ways will open up. And then please speak up to your local government and federal government representatives, to your friends and relatives, business partners, colleagues, classmates, and to the owners of the stores where you shop. This is our earth, our health, and how we leave the earth will I believe, be key in defining our legacy at this time.
By the way, here is a great resource website to understand the impact of plastic and ways to reduce the use of plastic in your life.
Here are some actions you can take to support the environment:
A bill has been introduced that would roll back the National Park Service's ability to regulate oil & gas drilling in National Parks. Tell your members of Congress to vote no on H.J. Res. 46! See this link for more information.
Support the use and growth of clean energy.
Attend a local town hall meeting with your Congress or Senate representative and bring up your concerns about the environment.
According to the League of Conservation Voters, President Trump's nominee for Secretary of the Interior, U.S. Representative Ryan Zinke of Montana, has voted against the environment 97 percent of the time, including voting in favor of fossil fuel subsidies and against keeping dirty fuels in the ground on public lands. Call your senators at 1-347-269-4100 and tell them Zinke is the wrong pick for the job of protecting our special places.