“To be fully alive, fully human, and completely awake is to be continually thrown of the nest” Pema Chodron
Environment refers to both the physical domain of air, wind, fire, water, land and ethers as well as surroundings of every event in life including color, fragrance, geometry, texture, shade, aroma, through the levels of the senses. Our environment creates an atmosphere that either nurtures and promotes growth of the total human organism or hinders it. The brain and all cellular memory is programmed through the environment. In addition, events, people, attitudes and beliefs as well as physicality also make up the learning environment. The brain and body are entrained to be conscious to whatever is exposed- real, illusionary or virtual- and transforms it into personal reality. Human life is impacted in both subtle and overt ways whether natural, manmade or invisible to the senses, not just the earth, air, fire, water and ethers that are measurable.
The more synthetic the environment, the less likely human potential is maximized fully. After generations of using bleach and antiseptics, powerful cleaning agents in offices, homes and schools, glues in particle board, lead and toxic paints, cleaning agents in rugs, insecticides, depleting the soil of nutrients, polluting air and water, using materials that don’t bio-degrade, spraying and seeding clouds to alter weather, emissions from coal and gas and the industrial revolution, chemicals in clothing, shampoos, soaps, toothpaste and additives in foods, is it any wonder that our environment affects our lives, allergies are on the rise, immune systems are compromised? Upon discovering that formaldehyde is used to keep soft pretzels from decomposing and DDT was used to spray strawberries and ALL corn is now genetically modified, is it any wonder nothing in the environment could be defined as ‘natural’ anymore? The environment is a conduit for learning, acclimating, absorbing information in order to navigate in the world. When the navigation system is broken or disrupted, maneuvering in life is difficult even painful.
Biologist Steve Macko from University of Virginia and the NSF recounts in his documentary film King Corn some remarkable environmental influences affecting our DNA. Since the 1970’s when corn syrup was introduced into most processed edible products, the genetic makeup of hair has been transformed from the healthy agrarian configuration to one of predominantly corn- corn syrup, corn tacos, corn fritters, corn additives, corn oil. Corn has dominated the food culture so pervasively that it has become part of the genetic code! But the human being is not a closed system; interacting with environment from every direction. When the body is dis-eased, look to the effects in the environment, the home, office, school, yard or community for possible answers.
The second leading cancer is lung cancer in the US. Yet, many people who are diagnosed never smoked cigarettes. Besides second hand smoke, which was not always a factor, this leaves environmental factors as the culprit. Childhood allergies are multiplying at a fast rate. Our immune systems are so bombarded by subtle unnatural chemicals and substances that until the next generation is replete with deadly illness at earlier ages, no one notices.
- Is it REALLY to our benefit to kill every germ in the kitchen and bathroom or are a few germs good to build immunities? Ironically, all the ‘sterile’ products have polluted the world environments. A friend traveling in the African desert was shocked to observe white plastic grocery bags blowing across the landscape.
- Are virus more prevalent because so many insecticides, antibiotics and anti-bacterials are abundant?
- Is capitalism, marketing and consumerism the peril of the planet?
- Are mammals leaches in every environment they inhabit?
- Have we lost our minds and our common sense?
Are we really better off and more ‘civilized’ than previous generations? What would the US be like today if the Indians had won over the Europeans so many years ago? As a card carrying member of the Appalachian Cherokee Nation, it is reasonable to assume that humans would most likely be more conscious stewards of the earth, more connected to the environment and more aware of surroundings. When Native people take from the land, the relationship requires a return in exchange. This is the principle behind sustainability- the circle of life giving and taking equally. Traditional Native children are taught to revere all life, respect elders and honor the gifts the earth puts forth. When a Native child is young, picking an unripe apple from a tree is considered a sacrilege because the fruit tree, as living being, lovingly releases its fruit when ready, not to be ripped from its limbs, unfinished. The child picks up the apple from the ground, consumes it and replenishes the earth by planting a seed in return. The reciprocity agreement between man and land comes full circle.
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Refurbish, Rethink
Humans are stewards upon this planet. If the entire day light hours are spent in school or in an office, in synthetic lighting, eating artificial food, breathing unnatural air and toxic chemicals, how can humans be connected to the environment much less understand it? The more synthetic the environment, the less less likely the human is connected to it. Sustainability is not something you DO but something you are.
Sustainability cannot be maintained as long as food storage is an imperative because in order to fulfill the need, much energy must be wasted in the form of turbines, machines, disease prevention of livestock, petrol for production and transport at many different points in the process, animals polluting the underwater streams, toxins used in packaging, waste of unwanted or expired goods and plain old garbage. The notion of clear cutting forests, mass producing and storing food, living in one location throughout a lifetime, having landmass or neighborhood boundaries, distributing insecticides and poisons on the land, killing animals into extinction or hybridizing them, discarding any natural product as ‘waste’ like banana peels or apple cores, manufacturing synthetic products that do not biodegrade and pollute land, air and seas, all would be unthinkable if the Natives ruled the landscape.
The spirituality of Native People is a way of life- honoring the wisdom of elders; respecting the opinions of women as final voices in law making (because they are the ‘keepers’ of culture, custom, tradition and social values as well as genetic continuity ‘Mother Earth’); keeping the land, air and water pristine for next generations; remembering those that have come before as past, present and future are one great unbroken continuum; understanding that as humans we are part of our environment and that when the body is at dis-ease then natural remedies from the surrounding environment are most beneficial to wellness; that death is part of the process of life to be memorialized but not feared or prolonged but honored and remembered; that any decisions made incorporate future ramifications and consequences. The Traditional Native way of life is one of service rather than self-serving to the earth and its inhabitants. This lifestyle is ingrained in reducing consumption, reusing old, recycling into something new, refurbishing discarded and rethinking the rest.
Indigenous People understand the sacred relationship between the human being and its environment. How are the human body and the earth interrelated and interconnected? The connection is interrelated to personal and global health and well-being, WELLNESS and the EQUILIBRIUM of the planet. The examples are found in this metaphor:
- As the oil is extracted from earth then blood diseases increase (anemia, Sickle cell, diabetes)
- As the tectonic plates shift from lack of lubrication from extracted oil then a rise in bone discomforts (osteoporosis) & arthritis
- As trees are clear cut (flooding and deserts increase) then dry arid skin, exposure, skin cancers • As the soil erodes then skin diseases, sensitivity to the sun increases; food supply dwindles
- As land is raped then increase in human rape and abuse; animals extinction
- As water and land pollution increases then cancer increases; water supply decreases
- As air pollution increases then breathing difficulties abound
- As the rhythm of nature is tampered then the human heart beat becomes irregular (attacks increase);
- As surface heating increases then more bugs lead to more insect diseases (Lyme’s or HPV’s), fever, virus, bacteria out of control;
- As house electrical voltages increase then electro-magnetism is altered;
- As resources are depleted then inability to fight infection, resilience; famine
- As land respect diminishes then lack of respect for each other increases
- As insecticides destroy soil nutrients and runoff into water supplies then toxins destroy human nutrients, plant as food, nutrients gone
Honoring the ‘sacred’ in nature is the way back to recovery for the planet as well as future existence and habitation of the planet, global warming not withstanding through QUOTIENTS IN:
Allergens- clothes dyes, iridescent colors, unnatural chemicals
Building Materials Non-Toxic
Building Trades Eco
Nature, getting outside
Heating/ Cooling Systems
Insulation- straw and non-toxic materials
Land Pollutants- fertilizers, boat cleaners, insect sprays
Landscaping with Wild and Edible Plants
Low Flow Toilets and Water Spouts
Mineral, Chemical, Pharmaceutical Toxicity
Plastic Playgrounds and Children’s products, toys, pacifiers, bottles
Jay Leno quips about by-gone days. TO ALL THE KIDS WHO SURVIVED THE 1930’s, 40’s, 50’s, 60’s and 70’s!!
First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they were pregnant. They took aspirin, ate blue cheese dressing, tuna from a can and didn’t get tested for diabetes. Then after that trauma, we were put to sleep on our tummies in baby cribs covered with bright colored lead-base paints. We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, locks on doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had baseball caps not helmets on our heads. As infants & children, we would ride in cars with no car seats, no booster seats, no seat belts, no air bags, bald tires and sometimes no brakes. Riding in the back of a pick- up truck on a warm day was always a special treat. We drank water from the garden hose and not from a bottle. We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and no one actually died from this. We ate cupcakes, white bread, real butter and bacon. We drank Kool-Aid made with real white sugar. And, we weren’t overweight. WHY? Because we were always outside playing…that’s why! We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the streetlights came on. No one was able to reach us all day. And, we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of scraps and then ride them down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. After running into the bushes a few times, we learned to solve the problem. We did not have Playstations, Nintendo’s and X-boxes. There were no video games, no 150 channels on cable, no video movies or DVD’s, no surround-sound or CD’s, no cell phones, no person al computers, no Internet and no chat rooms WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them! We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no lawsuits from these accidents. We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever. We were given BB guns for our 10th birthdays, made up games with sticks and tennis balls and, although we were told it would happen, we did not put out very many eyes.. We rode bikes or walked to a friend’s house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just walked in and talked to them. Little League had tryouts and not everyone made the team. Those who didn’t had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of. They actually sided with the law! These generations have produced some of the best risk-takers, problem solvers and inventors ever. The past 50 years have been an explosion of innovation and new ideas. We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned how to deal with it all.
The Good-Old Days cannot be retrieved or recaptured and maybe did not even exist except in our minds but what IS achievable is a simpler way of life that reduces the destruction. Awareness, DISCERNMENT AND EQUILIBRIUM are keys. The oceans are full of plastic so much so that it not only floats next to the surface in large quantities but feeds the fish who mistake it for food and intermix into the sand along shorelines. When the surface plastic is heated by the blazing sun, PCB’s are emitted into the oceans, air and skin. Consumption is garbage and garbage is pollution. The only direction forward is awakening for future generations to survive and thrive on this planet lest they join WALL*E.