Earth Island News
Sustainable World Coalition
Warriors for sustainability
We face huge challenges if we are to reverse deforestation, desertification, draining of aquifers, global warming, loss of fisheries, species extinction, and other forces that threaten our environment. So many of these trends are happening simultaneously, and on such a massive scale, that it sometimes seems unlikely that we can prevent a wholesale meltdown of everything we hold dear about this magnificent planet.
We can only hope that the worse things become and the more we are affected by environmental destruction, the more people will wake up and finally begin to realize that yes, the protection of our planet’s ecosystems is critical! This awakening in people will, one hopes, spread exponentially, matching the exponential consequences of the damage. The eventual outcome remains to be seen, but reaching a critical mass is essential.
Those of us who have had this awakening, for whom the health of the planet is a top priority, must challenge ourselves to be models of integrity and action – “Warriors for Sustainability.” “Warrior” in the classic Eastern sense implies fierce moral courage and impeccability in one’s actions – walking our talk. The only actual fighting is with one’s own negative habits and destructive cultural norms.
The Warrior for Sustainability knows that preservation of the planetary equilibrium that sustains life is a worthy spiritual calling. She educates herself on the state of the planet and the relationships within natural systems, as well as the best thinking on strategies for recovery, which also involves human rights and economics.
The Warrior for Sustainability also looks inward, seeking to improve personal aspects that could use more strength, flexibility and integration, knowing that effectiveness depends on a healthy internal balance. The personal arenas the warrior examines include the physical, emotional, social, intellectual, intuitive, and spiritual. Here are some essentials for healthy function in each realm:
The body works best with consistent exercise:
15 minutes of cardiovascular workout five days a week is better than a two-hour run once a week. Physical care includes a healthful diet, with a high percentage of local, organic, natural foods. Reducing and eventually eliminating our intake of meat, eggs, and dairy products is by far the single greatest action we can take personally to contribute to a healthy planet (see the well-researched statistics from Diet for a New America by John Robbins).
The losses of ecosystems and species on the planet we are witnessing, and about to witness, are staggering. If we care about the planet, then we need to be in touch with the grief this destruction prompts in order not to become numbed emotionally, which leads to a deadening of our vitality and motivation for change. One can feel the losses deeply while at the same time appreciating the beauty that we still have and staying focused on the vision of the healthy planet for which we strive. Keeping open emotionally might involve periodic breath work, specific processes like the Truth Mandala (created by Joanna Macy), and a willingness to educate ourselves about ecological losses and potential solutions.
We have a huge amount of potential power in our conversations. How willing are we to speak out to family, friends, and colleagues when we observe practices that we know are detrimental to themselves or to the planet? How willing are we to challenge others to awaken that same level of caring that we have taken on ourselves? We ought to model changes ourselves in order to challenge others with regard to a particular behavior. This is also a good test of our own willingness to “walk the talk.”
There are ways that we can help keep our brains and intellects sharp for our whole life. Constantly engaging in new learning, such as traveling and experiencing other cultures, learning new languages and exploring new subjects, is the key. Getting our news from different sources, including foreign media, is crucial to a better understanding of our world. The Buddhists define wisdom as “the truth perceived from as many different angles as possible.”
Most of us know that we are born with remarkable intuition that culture and education in general does not support. Consequently, we often lose touch with our innate abilities by our mid- to late teens. By intentionally “tuning in” often, listening for hunches, and letting our intuition be a factor in decisions, we can strengthen that intuition muscle and gradually restore our natural ability and our faith in it.
Many contemporary spiritual masters, including the esoteric traditions, now feel that work to heal the planet is front-line spiritual work, that simply going to the cave and forgetting about the world is no longer appropriate given the urgent state of the planet. However, it is important to balance our work in the world with inner recharging, which includes regular meditation (which comes in many forms) and periodic retreat where one can drink from the nurturing fountain of silence and primordial being.
When one has these aspects of being healthy and functional, one is open, sensitive, available, awake, and engaged. There is the ability to function on multiple dimensions, shift gears quickly, and exercise flexibility of consciousness. One is inclusive, caring, and generous, knowing that all living things are our kin. There is an understanding of what is at stake, and of the relative meaningless of material possessions.
However they turn out, the next few decades are going to be chaotic on a scale never before known. The more internal preparation we do now, the better equipped we will be not just to ride it out, but to be leaders and models for the new world. Let’s be warriors for a world in which we are members of the community of all life rather than of our country or religion, and in which we once again live in harmony with nature rather than exploiting it.
— Vinit Allen is the executive director of the Sustainable World Coalition.