The past few weeks have seen a massive increase in the amount of news pieces dealing with global warming and climate change in general. From those forecasting some really scary ‘mass extinction’ scenario as early as 2050 already, to those coming up with feasible (if insufficient) solutions to deforestation or species retention, media companies are slowly picking up on the need to generate enough momentum for people to begin doing something about climate change NOW.
That our window for positive action is growing smaller and smaller by the day is no news to almost anybody who has been alive for the past three to four decades, if only. Most of us have had a chance to witness the rapid change of our places of residence and the ecosystems around them, and this has also been the case for remote rural areas. And so, a great deal of the autochthonous species of plants, insects, and other animals we used to see around or play with as kids in the 80s are nowhere to be found anymore and this has almost gone by unnoticed, as has the rapid transformation of fields and green areas into oceans of concrete, asphalt, and artificial light.
Here in Bali, for example, the past 4 to 5 years have seen a dramatic rise in the number of rice paddies and green areas that have been rapidly replaced by concrete storefronts, myriad of cafes, and hotels so that the island can be more attractive to western tourists coming here to do fast-food tourism. We all have mixed feelings about this global dynamic, of course. And yet, the number of us acting as passive observers of climate change is still too high. Why is this so?
Act local, think global
There is, of course, an element of disassociation from the narrative of climate change that must be taken into consideration and this is directly connected with the fact that most pieces of news about the global warming/climate change crisis come to us through television and other visual media. After an entire life of exposure to these slightly drama-thirsty and disaster-friendly sources, it is only reasonable for us to grow a thick skin. And so, for the average news consumer, it takes more than a dramatic headline to strike a chord.
But perhaps another component to the passive observer recipe has to do with 1) having too complicated an image of what being a ‘conscious human’ means, and 2) being far too removed from the reality of what happens to the waste we daily generate. And this is the reason you’re reading this piece. Because, it really ain’t all that hard to make conscious choices, minimize your impact on your surroundings, and begin doing 'conscious humaning' now.
You don’t necessarily have to join any movement, NGO, or association unless you want to to make 'conscious humaning' part of your daily agenda. All that 'conscious humaning' requires is ordinary humans doing (extra)ordinary things in a conscious, good-for-everyone way. And while it is true that small individual gestures are just a small part in the overall equation, any small gesture is better than no gesture at all. It is often small gestures that create a habit, and habits do have great impact on the way we live, act, and consume long term. Act local, think global is still a good rule of thumb!
'Conscious Humaning' for Dummies
We take as our point of departure, then, the fact that one is only responsible for her own actions and that we cannot do much to change the minds of people who are not resonating with the question of taking responsibility for the worlds we inhabit and make. The world wasn’t made in a day, goes the saying; and its ‘unmaking’ will probably take just as long. And so, though when it comes to climate change, large corporations and big world players have the highest ability to make things better faster, the tiniest and most apparently insignificant person on the planet can still do her/his fare share to steer things in the right direction –and this, in turn, will eventually affect corporations.
Think of it for a minute: could any corporation or business out there exist if no consumers bought their products in the first place? As consumers, we really have more agency that we’re taught to believe. We often forget how active a role we play on what gets to be produced and circulated and not merely bought. Our choices matter, which is why if thousands of us decided to go ‘conscious’ and buy only world-friendly, ethically produced, recyclable, non-animal tested, long-lasting, conscious products those companies out there still lagging behind on riding the conscious-business wave would be forced to think twice about some of their most polluting habits –among these, the utilization of single use plastic for packaging, for example.
Indeed, plastic is one of the most polluting and hardest to disintegrate substances the human intellect has ever come up with. And when it comes to the products we use daily in our households, we often fail to realize how many of the elements we consume have plastic in them. From the useless packaging of many of our fruits and vegetables at the local supermarket, to the containers of many popular cosmetics and cleaning products, our appliances, packaging for clothes, or drinks… There are just plenty of viable alternatives out there already to minimize the use of single-use plastic if we choose them.
Of course, it takes conscious effort to make conscious choices and this can sometimes come at a bit of an initial extra cost. But for our world to have a chance at preserving much of its diversity and beauty, we must stop looking at how cute the packaging of whatever the products we buy is and start paying attention at the actual composition of what we are buying and its overall impact on the planet. 'Conscious humaning' is the future of our species –provided there’s even such a future for our species anymore.
There is no planet B
A lot of our worst habits as consumers, in fact, come from being completely removed from how what we consume is processed after use; and the word ‘processed’ here already does its trick by hiding the ways in which our waste products get to be handled after we separate them for disposal. This, of course, is assuming we do separate them as needed. Because, we know for a fact, for example, that many people in countries like Spain, Italy, France, or Portugal still don’t separate their waste materials as required. This is simply unacceptable. Hiding behind excuses such as lack of time or confusion as to what goes where is not ok anymore. We’re not trying to lay blame, but there is plenty of information available out there for anyone to separate their waste materials into the right trash can if one has the intention.
Overall, we need greater awareness about how we consume, and for that, we need to analyze our consumption habits and desires and get to the heart of where the need to buy something ‘new’ actually comes from. Are we buying our products? Or else, is our desire being mobilized by external factors and interests, and thus coopted by capital and the product itself? That’s a question we all must ponder on.
Perhaps one of the most valuable lessons we have learnt thanks to traveling and relocating abroad so many times has been reassessing the need we have for many of the possessions we have acquired over the years. As a species, we think it's fair to say that –at least in developed parts of the world– we have been taught to consume too much, to accumulate too much, to buy too much without second-guessing the impulse; in essence, we desire too much. And in the process, we have forgotten how to make do, how to up-cycle, how to recycle, how to share. Where does such an unquenching thirst for more and more even come from? Yoga has a theory or two about it, of course, but that's not the point of today's blog!
The point is not even to stop buying new stuff altogether. That’s not really it. But rather, making conscious choices in general and taking a minute or two to really consider our actual need for the products we choose to buy; to opt for long-use ones over fast-use products in all spheres. This and giving away whatever is no longer needed to those who can still make good use of it, is a good place to start. Recycling, up-cycling, and sharing can be a great form of sadhana even, one we feel there’s a great need for overall.
Live and let live
Overall, what we’re speaking about in this short entry on the blog is not different from our usual yogic chatter because 'conscious humaning' is about being able to finally understand that we do not own the planet, nor are we in it merely to conquer, reap, and dominate. We are part of a living organism where every single one of us, animal or plant, counts.
Life exists and will continue to exist beyond the human if it comes to that point. It did for millions of years before we ever evolved. So, for our species to have a chance at making it on earth for a few more millennia, we must find a way to reconnect to what’s around us and empathize with more than just 'us humans,' investing more effort and time into establishing a true relationship with the earth under feet, the water in our rivers and oceans, the air we breathe.
Whether news reports and scientists are exaggerating the effects and consequences of climate change or announcing catastrophes way too early is altogether secondary. The point is ‘conscious humaning’ doesn’t need a world crisis to make sense. It just does.