"No European who has tasted Savage Life can afterwards bear to live in our societies." — Benjamin Franklin

Monday, October 15, 2007

How Does One Support The Environment? (Blog Action Day Post)

Bloggers Unite - Blog Action Day Today, October 15, is Blog Action Day, a time when thousands of writers from all over the world write about a single subject. This year's subject is “the environment”. I feel that our diets and lifestyles directly affect the overall surrounding environment, so that's the tangent I'm going to follow today.

My premise is fairly simple: one can only change oneself, and by changing oneself, one changes the world. Of course, this is both very easy and extremely difficult. There are many aspects to change, as well.

Respect & Connection

I think that the most important thing we can have is respect — respect for ourselves, respect for others, and respect for the environment. If one has respect, any other needed changes follow.

Everything is connected, in some manner, to everything else. If one has respect for one thing, it will flow along the connections to other things. Before you know it, other seemingly unrelated attitudes and outlooks have shifted.


We all eat. What do you eat? Meat? Veggies? Organic or natural foods? What you eat is what is used to build your body. But your dietary choices cause ripples outwards into the environment. If you eat something that came from the store wrapped in plastic, you've used oil (an unsustainable resource) and placed non-biodegradable trash into a landfill somewhere. As an aside, notice that it is often the case that the food with the most unsustainable packaging is also the least healthy. So, not only have you damaged your body by eating trash, you've also damaged the environment.

So, how does one go about having a diet that is not only healthy for the individual but also for the environment? There are many ways. The most important action you could take is eating locally-grown natural & organic foods. These foods have been grown without a lot of artificial fertilizers, and haven't used a lot of unsustainable resources to transport them from the producer to your table. By doing this, you probably do another important thing: supporting local stores and producers. Most large grocery chains won't carry such things as “grass-fed beef from 20 miles away”, so you may have to go to a local butcher, farmer's market, or health food store. This supports local small businesses, and is a way to build strong communities.

Another way to eat in a sustainable manner is to hunt and gather for some or all of your food. By eating local wild animals and plants, one comes to learn about one's environment and their effects upon it. Wild meat is known for being very healthy for a human being; its nutrient, protein, and fat profiles fit very closely with the dietary needs of an active human being. Literally, we are built to eat wild meat. Wild plants offer a wide range of nutrients and tastes as well, and they grow in soil that has not been depleted by damaging farming practices. And an added benefit: it all tastes so much better than store-bought food that you'll forever question the worthiness of anything from the aisles of the chain grocery down the street.


Do you drive an automobile? How often, and for how far? It is probably arguable that the automobile has done more to damage the environment than many other creations of man. Not only does it produce toxic exhaust, but it consumes massive amounts of energy in its construction and operation, and fosters the development of anti-social living patterns (picture gated suburbs where no one knows their neighbors and where everyone drives many miles each day to their jobs). Frankly, I think the best thing that we could do for ourselves, our society, and our environment is to make cars prohibitively expensive for most people, improve our public transportation infrastructure a hundredfold, and reform our cities and towns into a more mixed-use style of organization.

What can one do to bring their modes of transportation more in-line with healthy patterns? Use public transportation. Bicycle. Walk. If you have a car, only use it sparingly, and then only when needed for reasons of distance, carrying cargo, etc. If you are an urbanite, live near your work and the other places you enjoy, not way out in the 'burbs. If you live in a rural area, consolidate your trips so that they serve multiple goals, hence making your travel more efficient while reducing its frequency. If you often travel long distances via plane, consider other options: carpooling with other travelers (craigslist has a rideshare section under "community"), taking the train or bus, or reducing long-distance travel significantly (jet airplanes cause a significant percentage of the pollution in the atmosphere).

From my personal experience, I can tell you that changing from “driving everywhere” to “bicycling most places, and taking the public bus for longer distances” has been an incredible boon to my life. I'm healthier, I'm more aware, and I'm less stressed. Also, my exhaust isn't as toxic for the environment as that which comes out of a tailpipe.

Lifestyle & Socialization

Another aspect of supporting or damaging the environment is one's lifestyle. This can encompass various things such as one's job, social interactions, exercise, and spirituality. Diet can be considered a part of one's lifestyle, too, but I've discussed it separately.

What do you do to make a living? Do you have friends? How close are you to your family? Do you exercise regularly? Do you go to a church, a temple, or a mosque? Each one of these things can improve the environment, either directly or indirectly.

Let's take one's job, for example. Do you sit in front of a computer all day with fluorescent lights beating down upon you, doing the same abstract task over and over? Do you have a job that takes place at least partially outdoors? Do you work directly with others, or mostly alone? If your job is unsustainable, then it is damaging both to the environment and to your health. If you could change your job to something that would be more worthwhile and would support the health of the environment as well as you, what would that job be?

Social networks also help the individual, which in turn helps the environment. If you have close friends and family, it has been shown in various studies that you are less easily stressed. If you attend some sort of spiritual services regularly, you believe in something greater than the individual, and it improves the functioning of your immune system. Notice that I'm not talking about “having a lot of friends on MySpace”; that's not a social network, no matter what its creators may call it. A social network includes face-to-face interaction between people.

On a related tangent, anthropologists have what they call “Dunbar's Number”. This represents the largest social network that a human brain can understand. Anything larger than this is unsustainable with regards to a human's neural network. I believe that smaller, more coherent social groups cause less damage to their environment (this has actually been proven in studies of tribal societies). The interesting thing about this is that it was the predominant social structure of mankind for hundreds of thousands of years before the Neolithic Revolution; it's called “tribalism” and has a modern form called “neo-tribalism”.

Form or find your “tribe”. Share your respect, your lives, and your food with one another, and by your acts you will respect the environment.

Overall Approach

At the beginning of this post I said, “one can only change oneself”. Often, we seem to think that others can make these large changes that we seek. We give money to environmental charities, hoping that their actions will solve the problems. We vote for politicians because they say they are "green" and love the outdoors. I have news for you: this approach is backwards.

I can't change your mind; only you can do that. Yet, if you do that, other things will be affected. Instead of the “top down” approach described in the preceding paragraph, I suggest the “bottom up” approach: improve self, then improve family, then improve tribe, then improve world. You can also look at this as “individual-centric”.

Start with yourself, and the effects expand to fill the entire universe.


I have already started down the path I describe in this post. After 15 years in the IT industry, I have changed to a more fulfilling and wonderful career; I am a yoga teacher. I have changed my diet from one of junk and processed "food products" to natural meats, organic vegetables and fruits, and locally-grown items. I often grow some of my own produce in a co-op garden plot. Sure, I still have habits that are unsustainable (I drink teas from India and China, shipped halfway around the world), but nothing in this universe is perfect, especially me. And that's OK.

Some people (such as me) have advertisements on their blogs and receive a small amount of money in return. On this Blog Action Day, some people have pledged to hand over their earnings for the day to environmental charities. So, I will do something similar: if I receive money from this blog today (if you click an ad, I get a few cents; it will cost you nothing but a few seconds of your time), I will put it towards my own personal improvement. Maybe I'll take more yoga classes (hey, even teachers are students!). Maybe I'll buy a book that will help me to understand my place in the universe a little bit better. Maybe I'll buy a locally-grown, grass-fed bison steak and eat it for dinner. In any case, I will improve myself and therefore improve the environment around me.

If you have any comments, please feel free to leave them here. You must have a Blogger or Google account to comment, and comments are moderated by me before they are published. If you wish your message to remain private, just say so.

I would also like to apologize if this post seems a bit disorderly or has any grammar or spelling errors. I was unaware of Blog Action Day until this morning, and this post was written fairly quickly. Nonetheless, I hope that you find my blog useful to you.

Thank you very much for reading my blog today. I invite you come by more often and see what I've done. I would also like to suggest that you read those blogs written by people whom I deeply respect. They are listed on the right sidebar, under "Related Blogs".

Love well. Eat well. Think well. Live well, and the Earth will be well.