"Ho, Mitakuye Oyasin", "We are all related" - We say in the Native American tradition, specifically Lakota language...And indeed we are....But, in today's fast-paced, high-tech society when we want everything NOW and are constantly urged on by media marketing about what we NEED and WANT and MUST HAVE....our central focus often becomes ourselves - our families...and what we absolutely need to get by on a day to day basis. But what do we really NEED? How our actions affect not only the other people around us - but also the earth we share - often becomes lost to us. The decisions we make on a daily basis from the coffee we buy and brew each morning, to the car we drive to work, to the clothes we buy our children affect the entire world around us. And we are not affecting it in a positive way. Synchronistically, as I was ruminating over this blog post, I listened to an episode of Fresh Air on NPR with Terri Gross and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Edward Humes, the author of "Door To Door," which he describes as "a transportation detective story about the hidden characters, locations, myths and machinery driving our buy-it-now, same-day delivery, traffic-packed world." (http://www.npr.org/2016/04/13/474075142/door-to-door-reveals-the-magnificent-and-maddening-story-of-traffic) In the interview he talks about what it takes to get coffee in our coffee mugs, socks on our feet and Iphones in our hands. The costs via transportation, storage, fuel, etc. are staggering. The waste is even worse. I was re-inspired, after listening to this interview, to try to downsize my own life and be even more self-sufficient and self-reliant. If we are truly to live consciously, we must take the first step to realize where what we buy comes from - whether it's our groceries or our clothes or our cars. Once we take inventory of our consumption - we can begin to look for ways to live lighter on the earth - to leave a smaller footprint....What can we do without? What can we make ourselves (be realistic here - there are only so many hours in a day, and the vast majority of us work full time jobs and only have so much free time to make art, make food, make love)? What can we source responsibly from local farmers, growers, artists? Is there a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) we can join in our community? Speaking of community - how much of our time can we volunteer to get involved and volunteer /get connected? Can we trade services/products to our neighbors for other services/products? There are many ways we can all look at our lives and make a few changes. It doesn't have to be drastic - at least not at first - because if we suddenly try to ride a bike to work, mend our clothes, cut out the internet and make all of our own food, we will become overwhelmed and give up. Try changing one thing - and then maybe another. But start with something that feels do-able. Some of my friends make their own bread. I make my own cereal and my dog's food. Maybe ride a bike to work on sunny days or ride metro or carpool more often. But most importantly, learn where the things you buy come from and whether or not they come from people that have the same values as you do. For instance, are you aware of how much agribusiness in the U.S. we have sold to foreign investors who do not necessarily have the same values we do? For instance, did you know that a Chinese company owns Smithfield pork processing company in the U.S.? (For more information on Chinese holdings and the Chinese partnership with Swiss company Syngenta, see: http://www.takepart.com/article/2016/02/22/china-syngenta-smithfield?cmpid=foodinc-fb) Then there are the Industrial-scale Concentrated Animal Farming Operations (CAFOs) popping up across the country in agricultural areas and destroying our farmland, polluting our water sources and the very air we breath - all for the right price. (See http://boldnebraska.org/project-rawhide-secret-corporation-uses-city-of-fremonts-government-as-mouthpiece/)
When you start looking at what you are supporting when you consume products - whether it's the food you eat or the clothing on your back, it can be extremely eye-opening - and allow you to make different choices. It doesn't mean you have to necessarily give up eating certain foods - but by all means, buy the food (especially meat) you do consume from a local grower - and, better yet - a certified organic grower. In addition, maybe cut back a little on consumption. How much do you throw out each week from your refrigerator? Take inventory of what you really use and scale back accordingly. As you begin to become more aware of where things come from and what industries are cropping up right in your own neighborhood, it might also encourage you to get involved in local politics to change how things are done in your community. You might attend community council meetings or call your Congressman or woman and ask them not to support these polluting industries. You might meet other like-minded folks in your own community and learn how to work together to keep big industry out. The Great Law of the Iroquois Indians holds appropriate to think seven generations ahead (about 140 years into the future) and decide whether the decisions you make today will benefit your children seven generations into the future. The Iroquois knew this was a good law to live by. What if we all acted in this way? Thinking about our future generations and not just about our present situation? How will the decisions we make today affect future generations? our children's children's children? Cultivating mindfulness of our own consumer habits is cultivating consciousness of how we are related to all living things and how what we do and how we act today will affect the planet tomorrow. Namaste.