My increasing realization of the interconnectedness in life has been truly eye-opening. With the exposure to one issue comes the inevitable connection of and exposure to another issue. This continuous cycle of realizations at first seems overwhelming, but in fact became increasingly empowering. With this empowerment through education and exposure, social justice becomes a tangible goal. We must all look at what’s happening in our lives and in society to find solutions to the problems we all find frustrating and disempowering. It starts with the individual and inevitably will lead to the global and universal change that the world is in dire need of.
Since the explosion of technology and the growing disparity and concentration of wealth, a severe disconnect from nature occurred. Food is no longer sourced from our backyards and neighborhood farms, but is sold instead in supermarkets through products that contain more synthetic chemicals than actual food. While we watch our televisions and read our magazines that tell us what to think, eat, wear and buy, we are slowly losing our ability to see the bigger picture. Every purchase and decision we make has an impact on the environment, economy and well-being of the people. For the sake of cost and convenience, we have ignored the importance of voting with our dollars. In fact, it seems we have forgotten the importance of voting at all. We fear natural things; we cannot bear to have an ant crawling on our skin and cannot live in the same room as a spider. We have become a separate entity from the very world that allows us to exist and thrive. We are now called consumers rather than human beings. Our philosophy has become us versus the world. This reality and competitive perspective towards the things in nature has proven to be more harmful than ever imagined. Our reliance on pesticides, addiction to pleasure, fear of inconvenience, and overconsumption of resources poses a guaranteed threat to current and future generations in innumerable ways.
Global Environmental Crisis
The world is facing crises we never could have imagined a few decades ago. It’s estimated that there will be no more edible fish within a few decades. Bees, the single most important source of life and reproduction in nature, are facing extinction. The consumption of food increases every year while the population continues to rise at uncontrollable rates. Viable land to grow food and build homes for future generations is running dry. Without a change to our lifestyles and ways of thinking, there will no longer be enough trees for fresh air, land to live on, or food to eat.
We tend to imagine the end of the world as a sudden, unexpected event, not realizing that we may be the direct cause of such an event. Our individualistic lifestyles that ignore consequences and seek temporary pleasures are pushing the world to its tipping point. Humans are the single most destructive beings on Earth. Countless species go extinct each day because of our practices and lifestyles. Forests are being cleaned out at incredible rates. Over one million animals are slaughtered every hour to produce food, clothes, and cosmetics for humans.
Yet, many still claim that humans have a right to use animals and nature because of our unique ability to reason and be self-conscious. But, with that rationality, logic, and self-awareness, should we not then be the most mindful, compassionate species on Earth? When we take away the idea of what is superior or inferior and begin to focus on the fact that all living things have a meaningful purpose in life, we can begin to feel the interdependence and oneness of everything in nature. In exploiting the environment and dominating entire species and immense resources, we are unintentionally destroying our own well-being. Our water sources are running dry, food security has become a thing of the past, and our health continues to deteriorate.
The Downfall of Pleasure
My religion professor gave a speech last week that explains this problem that is unique to humans. From the perspective of Indian renunciants, “we have come to depend on a regular supply and input of external temporal stimuli in order to find pleasure in life… As we become more accustomed to such stimuli, take them for granted, and label them as necessary, their ability to create the same level of pleasure they once did diminishes, so we have to find new or stronger stimuli to bring about the desired sensations… We no longer find pleasure in food without spices, functional clothing that does not happen to be in fashion, the sounds of nature, the simple touch of another, or in just being. We come to be controlled by the need for increasingly unnatural and external stimuli in order for our pleasure centers to be adequately activated to make us happy. We [have] become addicts to increasingly temporal stimuli for increasingly temporal pleasure.”
We must begin to make the connections between the suffering in the world and our addiction to pleasure and external stimuli. In a time of growing depression, mental illnesses, and violence, there seems to be something missing from the way many of us live our lives. We continue to rely more and more on material products, television, and prescription drugs, not realizing we are supporting an unsustainable system – a system that continues to make us dissatisfied and a system that has abandoned ethics in the name of maximizing profit.
In viewing the problems the world faces, we must not only look at their effects on humans, but also consider their effects on all species of the natural world. We must be mindful about the foods we consume, the things we buy, the waste we generate, and the way we view our environment. We have become known as Generation Rx, a generation reliant on drugs and synthetic products, but in my eyes, we have the ability to become a revolutionary generation that demands a better world for our children and grandchildren. We live in the information age, and with constant access to smartphones and internet, we now have the ability to choose whether we will absorb what’s shown to us in the media or whether we will dig deeper and ask for honest answers. We can all empower ourselves through action with mindfulness, compassion, knowledge and positivity. Check out my next post to see what you can do as an individual to do your part! Happy Earth Month!