Earth Day marks the anniversary of the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970. First celebrated in 1970 to mark this date, Earth Day events in more than 193 countries are now coordinated globally by the Earth Day Network.
Today may we be reminded of the importance of our relationship with nature, dissolving the perceived gap between us and the rest of the natural world because becoming disconnected from nature is in essence becoming disconnected from ourselves and what it means to be a human being. Nature and humans are by definition not separate entities. We are part of nature as much as the trees, birds, grass and sky. Humans are a species of animal like any other and if we are to begin to change attitudes and spread the message of the importance of protecting our natural home, it is essential that we know this to be true. We need to remember that our lives depend on a thriving and diverse ecosystem and that our wellbeing is inextricably linked to the wellbeing of nature.
Illustration by Laura Wildgoose
Earth Day this year is focusing on education as a foundation for progressing the change of attitudes towards climate change. All around the country on this day people are gathering to learn about the negative consequences of human life on the natural world and ways that we can begin to reverse this damage. Education and information are crucially important to changing attitudes and to understanding the impact each of our actions has on the natural world but understanding alone is not always enough.
Understanding does not always push us to act and can sometimes leave us feeling hopeless and futile. In order to feel motivated to act, to make changes and to live a life that preserves and protects nature, we must feel connected to the issue. We must feel empathy and have compassion for nature and all of her creatures. We must see that the destruction of animal habitats is also the destruction of our own deeply needed habitats. We need nature as much as we need the air that we breathe.
The deeply unnatural lives most of us live can lead to unexplainable feelings of emptiness, restlessness and discontent, we can become detached from our surroundings and this can have deeply damaging consequences for our own wellbeing and that of nature. The practice of rewilding, re-connecting to nature, is a practice of mutual healing. As we bridge the self-made gap between ourselves and the natural world, we begin to feel purposeful and connected and as we begin to heal, we also begin to heal nature. We start to consider the natural world as our home again, a home we feel empowered to protect and proliferate. As we free ourselves from our self-made domestication, we see how crucial exposure to nature is for our wellbeing. We start to consider nature in all of our actions as we see that all of life is interconnected and that we depend on nature more than perhaps we know for our survival. We remember that nature and humans are one, intertwined and when our connection with nature is healthy, it can help us to feel grounded, embodied and purposeful. It can motivate us to act in defence of our natural home. So today we focus not just on learning about our environment but also on cultivating a deep connection to it, rediscovering the simple pleasures of being outdoors and allowing our mind and senses to be completely consumed by smell, sound, sight, taste and touch.
Today may we make a commitment to ourselves, to others and to nature. A commitment to small acts of protection and promotion, small acts that ripple out through our communities to an ocean of change.
ACTIONS FOR CHANGE
Walk or cycle instead of drive for small journeys
Feed the birds in your garden (or in nature if you have no garden)
Provide water for the birds in your garden
Allow part of your garden to grow wild attracting a wide range of wildlife and helping bees
Take small breaks between jobs to go outside and listen to the birds
Consciously make an effort to reduce waste
Donate waste to food banks
Reduce food waste
Create a compost heap
Reduce packaging waste – refills/choose packaging free food or recycling packaging
Ask your takeaway restaurant not to include cutlery and napkins
Bulk quantities of food you eat often (1 pack is better than 5)
Drink loose leaf tea to reduce tea bag packaging
Carry your own cup and take it to coffee shops (they often provide money off!)
Try to buy second hand or ethically sourced clothes
Turn off the lights whenever you leave a room
Switch to recycled paper for your office
Try to promote digital working where you work to reduce paper use
Shop at farmer’s markets
Grow your own veg
Eat seasonally (reducing the need to transport foods that are not in season)
Look at how your diet impacts the environment whether it’s meat, soy, palm oil or anything else, look to reduce the negative aspects
Everything in moderation!
Take a UK nature break instead of flying
Take the train to your holiday destination
Go camping without technology
Bring your own bag when shopping
Make your own cleaning products or buy eco friendly ones
Carry your own (BPA free) water bottle instead of buying plastic water bottles
Turn electronic goods off at the wall instead of leaving them on standby
Turn lights off when you leave the room
Only charge your phone/laptop for as long as it needs and then turn off the chargers – avoid charging for 8 or more hours over night
Choose forest friendly sustainable paper and wood