In Hindi, the words Vasudhaiva Kutumbam mean “Earth Family,” the democracy of all life.
(Quoted from Vandana Shiva’s Restoring the Earth in David Suzuki’s 1997 book, The Sacred Balance.) I thought of using Earth Family as a title for the poem, but reduced it to “Be.” For more on Vandana Shiva see the end of this post.
How to live? How to be?
I wrote lines one and three of the above haiku on a plane, after making notes on Suzuki’s book. The sky just before sunset on October 18th was spectacular looking West in the late afternoon from the Caribbean Airlines plane bringing us back from a family funeral.
By flying return to Trinidad, about 4055 km (2535 miles) one way, the two of us together “caused” about 5 tonnes of carbon dioxide to be released into the atmosphere. 2.5 tonnes each. That’s enough CO2 to grow about 23, 500 tonnes of potatoes – if that helps you understand the impact that modern travel has on global warming and highlight the difficult ethical choices which, if not faced right now, will produce much global suffering in the not too distant future. It will take some fortunate gardener working for a long while to turn that amount of gas into potatoes. These CO2 numbers are based on information from www.deliveringdata.com.
Something about turning 70 today makes me reflect more intensely on big issues.Thinking about the world I’m leaving for my grandchildren – not that I’m planning to resign anytime soon…
As promised, I have done more thinking about Décroissance. It is definitely going to be a while as I grow in awareness and commitment. But here goes:
What I Already Do – Or Hope To – And Remembered To List Here:
- Bike, carpool and use transit whenever it makes sense.
- Keep my 2007 hybrid vehicle for another 7+ years and stay with one car or no car after that, if I live that long…
- Move to an apartment closer to city centre from our 3000 sf suburban two storey – Wish me luck on this one. It requires a committee of two to resolve…
- Lighting: go more and more with compact fluorescents and LED’s
- Batteries: use Eneloop rechargeables if I can find them to buy. My Duracells and Energizers have disappointed.
- Unplug devices that are not in use
- Bake my bread during low peak electricity periods (same for washer and dryer, which we do). Ontario makes it worth our while by discounting off peak use.
- Increase the amount of food we grow in our yard. Our neighbours’ 17 foot cedar hedge doesn’t help much.
- Buy more local and organic food. I like bananas. Hmmmmm…
- Continue to “eat food, not too much, mostly plants” à la Michael Pollan. So far, breakfast is almost always meat free.
- Cancel delivery of my free local city newspaper that is 90% flyers and 0.05% intelligent commentary
- Home energy audit – already done.
- Continue composting (two bins in back yard) and city takes away paper and cooked food in a green bin.
- Plant a white clover/grass seed mix for a serviceable, attractive lawn. White clover feeds the grasses because its roots fix nitrogen.
- Work from garbage bag a week to one bag every ? weeks…
- Ask store managers to reduce (eliminate) packaging
- Expand the list of corporations that I boycott – Nestlés and Shell are two key items on that list.
- Push political leaders to tax carbon and eliminate urban sprawl – especially when it destroys farmland.
- Fly less frequently (… sniff…)
- Give and/or give more to organizations that fight for environmental justice and against poverty (MSF, Council of Canadians, Suzuki Foundation, etc.)
- Get involved more in the activities of the Council of Canadians.
- Continue to blog and sign petitions.
- Write more letters to the editor.
- Continue to listen to the best public radio such as the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation RADIO. Not TV. (My favorites are those that introduce new concepts or info, such as the Sunday Edition, Ideas, Writers and Company and Tapestry. Ideas are oxygen for my mind, increasing awareness.)
- Continue to walk against global “free trade.”
- Continue to walk for aboriginal rights.
- Continue to walk the talk.
- Continue to walk – simply to keep my heart healthy.
A current shorter list from David Suzuki’s website is available here.
The beautiful photo header to this post actually serves to highlight one issue – air travel. Anita is from Trinidad so we are a multinational extended family. Many people have come to Canada from around the globe, enriching it culturally and in so many other ways. Contrast Toronto the Good of the mid-20th century with today. In 1972 when we arrived from England one of my English Canadian workmates complained to me that French people should speak English on the bus. “How do I know what they’re saying?” French, I reminded him, is one of Canada’s “official” languages. I know I am richer for experiencing the joie de vivre, closeness and acceptance of the people of Trinidad and having had my close connection to that rich culture for the past five decades. When we visit, more frequently for funerals these days, I always feel “high” when we touch down in that unique island – just like I did in September 1965.
So I tell people, more frequently as Anita’s siblings and significant others age, “Buy stock in Carribean Airlines.” A rather crappy joke, but it raises the issue that if we are to radically change the way we in comfortable financial positions consume resources and churn out CO2, flying to Trinidad or England or India or China twice a year somehow becomes an issue. How are we to deal with that? David Suzuki recommends using video conferences to stay in touch. My 11 month old niece tries to touch us whenever we Skype our daughter that lives 4.5 hours away by hybrid. Skype somehow doesn’t quite cut it when a loved one has died and family are grieving.
When I contrast my cushy North American lifestyle with that of the visionaries in Maine, Southern France and Barcelona who are eating local plants and sharing all resources in experimental communities it gives this septuagenarian significant pause…
I might have done better, but there’s still a little time to “Be.”
Vandana Shiva, The “Seed Lady,” has been protecting India’s indigenous seeds from the Monsantos and Cargills of this world for about three decades. She is a dedicated activist and is involved in the leadership of many organizations around the world dedicated to biodiversity. Her work opposes the patenting of seeds and the practice of monoculture agriculture in general, preferring the planting of many things (food, herbs, medicinal plants) in natural soil the way Indian farmers have done it for centuries. Read her impressive life story here. Or observe her brilliance in this YouTube video – Part 1 of The Future of Food. Her movement, Navdanya, which she founded in 1991, is many faceted but is best known for the banks of seeds it has saved from extinction. Navdanya means “Nine Crops” – these are the essential sources of India’s food and she is fighting to save them.