It’s Pay Back Time

Image Credit: Danilo Rizzuti

Written & contributed by Mama Donna Henes, Urban Shaman

Well, the world as we know it seems to be going to hell in a hand basket. And our great nation is majorly implicated as a super destructive power, displaying, as it does, a shortsighted, selfish disregard for the health, safety, and spirit of the rest of the planet.

The recent release of the latest environmental report card issued by some 2500 scientists from around the world, exposed the full extent of the global environmental emergency and our direct responsibility for its deplorable condition.

We were the only country out of 200 developed nations to refuse to sign the Kyoto international agreement to work to reduce the proliferation of greenhouse gases and reduce the wanton depletion of Earth’s resources. And we have pretty much ignored the situation and our contribution to it.

Although we represent only five percent of the world’s population, we are the source of fully one-fourth of the greenhouse gases produced in the world today. This outrageous fact has failed, so far, to convince us to make the slightest alteration to our greedy, consumptive ways.

We continue to defend our right to drive cars that get eight miles per gallon of gas, our freedom to cool movie theaters to the extent that we need to wear sweaters inside in July, our liberty to live in luxury at the expense of the rest of the world.

We have been convinced that conscientious environmental awareness and improvement would be bad for the economy. According to Jerry Falwell, “The whole (global warming) thing is created to destroy America’s free enterprise system and our economic stability.”

But we can’t just blame the big guys, the government, and industry. We are, all of us, delighted to do our part by diligently acquiring as much as we can, lusting after what we cannot obtain, and wasting what we do have — even those of us who are careful. We are all responsible for global warming.

Lately I’ve seen several outrageous television commercials that blithely extol the benefits of throwaway dust rags, hand towels, floor mops and disposable baby bibs, of all things. Apparently the landfills are not yet filled to overflowing capacity with Pampers, as I had assumed. As it is, every American uses an average of four to six trees a year on paper goods, wood products, and newsprint.

Buckminster Fuller once posed a most provocative and challenging question: “If the success or failure of this planet and of human beings depended on how I am and what I do, how would I be and what would I do?”
What is a well-meaning woman to do? What have I done lately? What did I do today?

I have come to understand that this is an important distinction: what did I do versus what did I not do. The issue is not how many trees did I save, but how many trees did I plant? I should have planted a few hundred trees by now to replace those that I have used in my life. While I have conducted quite a few tree-planting ceremonies over the years, I still owe the Earth a new orchard, at least.

Maybe it is self-defeating to think that we should be giving up comforts and luxuries in order to be more environmentally correct and connected. Such negative terminology doesn’t make acting conscientiously seem like a very attractive prospect, but rather like some sort of deprivation that would appeal only to martyrs. That’s just bad psychology. Unproductive. The medicine does not have to taste bad in order to work well.

Perhaps it is more fruitful to think not of giving something up, but of giving something back. It is the most elemental and universal rule of etiquette that if you take something, you put it back; if you use something, you replace it — plus some.

While saving and conserving are admirable virtues to be commended and encouraged, being generous and proactively responsive is equally crucial to our survival, body and soul. Take less. Give more.

It is pay back time. So I pledge to plant trees this spring — as many as I can to make up for all the tissues, toilet paper, napkins, notebooks and printing paper that I have used over the years. Not to mention those ten-pound Sunday New York Times newspapers.

It’s the least I can do.

Mama Donna Henes is an internationally renowned urban shaman, eco-ceremonialist, ritual expert, spiritual counselor, award-winning author, popular speaker and workshop leader. She currently writes for the Huffington Post, Beliefnet and UPI Religion and Spirituality Forum.

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