Monday, June 7, 2010

Honor the Earth

The Indigo Girls, Amy Ray and Emily Saliers, co-founded Honor the Earth with Winona LaDuke. For the past few days, the Indigo Girls have been in Montana touring and promoting the amazing work that Honor the Earth is doing in aboriginal communities.

Amy's been keeping a diary. You can read it here.

She is a powerful writer with a poignant message. This is the sentence that grabbed me: We owe it to the earth, to ourselves, and to Native communities to do the work to support and to heal the eco-system and the human family.

I've been thinking about it all day. Outside in the sun and wind with the kids, watching them catch bugs, and roll in the grass. They are so eager to learn whatever they can about the world around them. I've been sent home with assignments, all from playground observations - to identify bugs we found, to confirm that a bush in the corner of our lot really has edible'd think that I was the student. And in fact, they teach me as much as I teach them.

Whenever I think about the oil spill in the Gulf, my heart breaks. The more I read, the sadder I become. It appears that the spill is still largely uncontained, and looks to be much bigger than many politicians and BP officials are letting on. All that destruction, for the sake of satisfying worldwide greed and dependence on fossil fuels.

It's almost too big to comprehend. And while it may be easy for us to fool ourselves into thinking that this is not our problem, and really there's nothing we can do, we will all feel the impact of this disaster and others in the years to come. But we can all make a difference, just by changing a few simple things in our lives and in our lifestyles. Because if we don't reduce our dependence on fossil fuels, the natural environment will be slowly destroyed. Oil in the Gulf. Drilling in environmentally sensitive natural areas. Mountaintop removal coal mining. Tar sands operations that waste and contaminate soil and water.

Amy wrote:
Let me just say, it starts with something so easy, we just don’t believe it could make a difference - conservation. Conservation is the beginning and it’s something we can all start doing today. Educate yourselves on where your energy comes from and at whose expense. Grow some of your own food. Shop less. Drive less. Give money and support to the folks out there developing renewables. Find a way to use clean energy. Fight bad energy projects.

It is easy. And it can make a difference. Most of us have probably already made some changes in  our own lives, in order to use less fuel, to support viable alternatives, and to make this world a better place. Little changes can make a big impact.

Here are some of the things that I do, simple, little things that are small steps towards big change. Perhaps they will inspire may also inspire you to know that my life, and my health have been vastly enriched by the changes I've made. Rather than suffering for the sake of my Mother earth, I am reveling in her abundance.

1. In spite of the fact that I am a city dweller, I grow a lot of my own food. I have a community garden plot, and I've devoted a fair amount of space in my back yard to gardening. This year  I'm growing tomatoes (and more tomatoes), peppers, zucchini, lettuce, onions, beans, eggpant, squash and melon. What I can't eat in season, I'll preserve. Last year I used my freezer, and this year I want to try canning. It's all new to me - while my grandmothers knew the secrets of preserving, they were unable to pass the knowledge on to me. There is nothing, absolutely nothing better than eating a tomato that was picked three minutes before it went in your mouth.

2. What I can't grow in season, I buy locally as much as I can. Buying food within a 100 mile radius ensures that the food is fresh, and that our dependence on fuel is reduced. My city has two excellent markets, and because I live in an agricultural area, I can often buy food at the farmgate. But even with markets, it's better to be careful...if the vendor can't tell you where the food was grown, even though it's advertised as local, chances are good that it's not as local as you would like. "Locally grown" has become a selling point that many are taking advantage of. I also try to buy organic as much as I can, as long as it's local. There's not much benefit in buying organic food if it's been transported three thousand miles by truck. I've found local sources for eggs, and the small amount of meat that I eat.

This year, I'm going to try and buy more local foods in bulk, to can and freeze for the winter months. Strawberries, and strawberry jam. Yum!

3 I have issues with the way animals are treated in commercial operations and slaughterhouses, but besides this, meat production is a huge waste of natural resources. It takes 2500 liters of water to produce a single pound of beef. I do eat meat, but most of the time I eat chicken that has been locally raised in humane conditions. Yes, it's a bit more expensive, but once you taste the difference....

4. I've reduced my consumption of commercially prepared, prepackaged foods. Simply put, I make it myself. No more cans of soup and Kraft Dinner. I bake my own bread, from organic flour, and my friends will tell you that I make the best cookies on the planet. It does take time. But even with a full-time job and a budding career as a writer (and a girlfriend, don't forget that I have a social life) I manage to make it work. I take one day and cook, and make what I need for a week or more. The food I make myself tastes better. And I know what's in it.

5. Reusable shopping bags. They are incredibly easy to find here. And I hate plastic packaging of any kind. Birthdays and kids' toys drive me crazy.

6. Composting keeps garbage out of the landfill and can keep your gardens rich in nutrients. I have a smallish composter in my nonexistent back yard. But even if you live in an apartment, you can compost, using a vermicomposter and worms. My city also has a municipal compost program.

7. In summer I dry all my clothes outside. In winter, I put my socks and underwear in the dryer.

8. I can't remember the last time I bought a new piece of clothing for myself. I always said that when I lost weight, I'd buy myself a whole new wardrobe. Well, I had to, since I lost 125 pounds. I think I bought myself a pair of new dress pants, at my daughter's insistence. But I find the most amazing things at local thrift shops, and I really don't need anything new. There is so much waste in the world (just wander to the toy section in a thrift shop and look at the junk that people accumulate and then throw away....). But there's a lot of good stuff out there. Just ask The Girl, who convinced herself that nothing from a thrift store would fit her. She was wrong. As a society we've convinced ourselves that buying stuff is good for the economy. Keep the money Canadian (or American as the case may be). But what are we actually accomplishing?

8. I live in an area that is central to almost everything. Sadly, I still need a car for work, but I can walk to the grocery store, and just about everywhere else, except for wal-mart. And I don't shop at wal-mart anyways. That being said, I think this is an area where I fall short.My drive to work is about fifteen minutes, that's okay. But my girlfriend lives in a city that's a two hour drive away. And I have a summer full of road trips ahead of me, which I don't want to give up.

9. I don't drink bottled water unless I absolutely have to. Like, if I'm stranded in the desert and I've forgotten my stainless steel water bottle. Plastic is a petroleum product and recycling doesn't completely right the wrong. I also try, really hard, to use a travel mug for my morning Tim's. What I really should do is give up my morning Tim's altogether and make my own coffee, but I'm not quite there, yet.

10. Educate. Our friends, our family, and most especially the children. 

This isn't an exhaustive list by any means. And there is more that I can do. The co-op I live in is looking into purchasing solar energy panels. The way it works here is that the government buys the energy you produce from solar panels, and deducts that money from your hydro bill. I would love to live off the grid someday - at least partially, but my dream home is a few years away, yet.

So, what do you do to conserve, to cut back on consumption? I'm sure that some of you have good ideas to share with me...


Earth Muffin said...

We're members of a community garden, too. We don't garden ourselves, yet. We'll see about next spring.

My clothesline is finally on its way! I've been hanging clothes in our laundry room for years, but there just isn't enough space for the 4 of us. Sometimes the weather stays mild enough here to hang clothes well into the fall. I'm practically giddy awaiting it's arrival!

I've been using cloth, reuasable shopping bags FOREVER. I cannot stand to have my kitchen overtaken by plastic shopping bags.

We each have our own stainless steel water bottle, plus an extra one in the fridge. We make our own coffee every morning. My kids take reusable containers with chips, crackers and other foods in their lunches. Buying in bulk is the way to go, both ecologically and economically.

Many of all of our clothes come from thrift shops. With kids, it's just the smartest way to shop, IMO. They outgrow everything so fast!

We regularly recycle and compost. Our yard isn't quite big enough to use all the compost we make, but we give some to our neighbor and take the rest we can't use to our community garden. They can sure use it!

Great post! Thanks for sharing the Indigo Girls info. They've always been one of my favorite bands!

Anonymous said...

I saw one of the first of these shows! It was in Flagstaff, AZ on an unseasonably cold night and the Girls were all "You people are hardy!" And "Are you sure we're in Arizona?" jokey because Flag is so high up altidudinally. (7200 feet) It was seriously cold. And there was a guy who was an amazing hoop dancer. Unbelievably good.

I think the biggest thing I do is a completely vegetarian diet for the last 19 years. And I'm moving (albeit slowly) toward a vegan.

Second is for the last 2 years I lived in a huge city and didn't have a car. (This reflects better on me than it should, as it wasn't by choice.)

I do some of the things you do, but I still have lots of room for improvement.

Camlin said...

I'm going to see the IGs at Michfest this summer - I can't wait!!!

I never buy packaged foods for Emily's lunch either. She's not allowed to throw away the garbage at school, so it all comes home. It is not fun to empty and clean her lunch bag when there are used juice boxes and yogurt containers inside, so everything goes to school in reusable containers. It's so ingrained that I never even think about it.

Nulaanne said...

I would love to take the bus to most of the places that I go, however where I live it runs only every 30 minutes. That adds 4 hours on my work day when driving is only 20 min.

I do buy localy as much as possable. The local famers in the spring put out a paper that shows where they are and what goods they sell. It s very handy.

I am very much a meat eater and have almost left beef behind to switch to buffalo. No hormones in that.

I have a resuable metal water bottle. Make most of my own foods, I do buy tomato rice soup and clam chowder, just to have something quick on hand.

I wish I could garden but allgers, work and no space put a block on that.

Plus I love the library, I get most of my reading materal from there.
I would also love to shop at thrif stores however, it is hard to find scrubs for work at any of them. So those I do have to get new or have someone make for me.

Melyss said...

I was watching the news and saw a reporter walking on the beach in Florida watching a bunch of kids aged 10-12 with what appeared to be a shovel in one hand and a bucket in the other. I gave the report a bit more of my attention and I discovered that these kids were not collecting shells in their buckets, they were scooping clumps of oil from the sand and placing it in their bucket. It was so humbling.
I do whatever I can to cut down on waste of any kind. I feel conscious of it now more than ever. If we all did as much as we could, rather than one small thing, the world would be a different place.

Making Space said...

I just did a spinoff post here:

Thanks for this thought-provoking post. I couldn't contain myself to comments so I had to go blog my own thoughts. Heh.

Camlin said...

Making Space - I'm so happy that the conversation can continue over at your house! The more the merrier!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Hi Camlin. I’m new to your blog, but I like what I’ve read and I like how you think. Your (written) voice speaks to me.

So, I’m new to a lot of things (coming out, blogging, conservation for starters). But I am making an effort to be a more conscious being on this planet. And to teach my children to be as well.

What am I doing?

1. Gardening – I also live in an urban area, but I have moved to a place with a backyard where I’m starting my very 1st garden. 3 types of tomatoes, radishes, jalapeƱos, green peppers).
2. Rainwater barrel to water this garden.
3. Recycling of my cans and bottles.
4. CFL light bulbs through my house.
5. Re-usable metal water bottles. With two active children, the plastic bottles added up quickly.
6. Consignment stores – (again children driven). The clothes that they grow out of so quickly.

Every little bit helps, right?

Camlin said...

Hi Anonymous! Welcome! Every little bit does help - that's what it's all about.

Sinnerviewer said...

I love community gardens. I have a big garden in my back yard. I give away more than I eat... I just love to garden. It makes me happy.