Anyone who has an interest in the environment has looked at a few lists of “things-to-do-to-save-the-planet.” Most of us have even adopted some of those tips into our daily lives. Great, we all need to make a few concrete changes such as recycling, or taking a reusable bag to the grocery store. But determining how humans can conduct their business while keeping the natural world around us in the best shape possible will take deeper digging.
Here are ten ideas that take a slightly different approach to the question of our relationship to nature. They aren’t tips, but guiding principles, mind prep for taking a closer look at the way we live.
1. Care of the land and water has no end point.
The natural world is always going to be there and will always support us, but the result will be far better if we also support the natural world. We’re part of a vast system that can’t be eternally bent to our desires without eventually breaking down. Look for ways to work with nature rather than trying to remove it from the equation.
2. It all starts with the elements.
Whether you’re gardening, building, traveling or fishing, the air, the soil and the water were there first and must be thought about first.
3. Nature is more powerful and knows better than you.
When deciding how to form your life, remember that nature calls the shots. Ignoring natural forces will cost far more in the end. Understanding, embracing and working with nature will pay dividends you can’t even imagine until you try.
4. We all make mistakes.
With all the variables at play in the environment, nothing we do is black and white. Scientists work every day to find out what’s what and share that information with the rest of us. In dealing with our impacts on the land and water we need to use the information provided as best we can, just like we do when choosing our food or raising our children. When you learn you’ve been making a mistake, admit it and take another tack.
5. Take risks and escape the tyranny of “the way we’ve always done it.”
From goat milk shampoo to riding a bike to work, new ideas for less invasive lifestyles come along all the time. Give some that seem outlandish an honest try. As Helen Keller said, “Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.”
6. Helping to heal the world will heal you.
Chemicals can make our bodies sick. They’re no better for the land and water. Exercising outdoors is good for us. It’s also good for the earth because we care for what we inhabit on a daily basis. Get outside, enjoy what wildlife does in your place. Taking part in a beach clean up or stream restoration benefits our hearts and minds while benefiting the land and sea.
7. Decide what you’re here for.
Why did you come to to the place you live? Because it’s beautiful? For fresh air? For a job? For culture? To play at the beach? To raise a healthy family? Why are you here now? Are you here to watch life happen to other people on television, or are you here to live your own great life? The place you live is more than a job, a city, a series of buildings. It’s a part of the natural world. Look carefully at the place you live and find the great things about it. Keep answering this question. Keep acting on the answer.
8. Work hard to make taking care of nature easy.
Get rid of habits, products and processes that don’t benefit nature, or you, or anyone. We do a lot of things out of habit, without thinking about why. Do the hard work of choosing between what you really want in your life, what’s worth spending time, energy and money on and what’s simply been sold to you.
9. Know your limits.
Some tasks we need to do on our homes, our land, with other people, require more than trial and error. Some choices are confusing. Some technical problems are beyond our knowledge. When you run into these kinds of problems call for expert help. Get that help early. Scientists and other professionals often have the answer, and if they don’t they can help find the answer. Experts really appreciate being called in before a situation turns into an emergency.
10. Learn to value a different set of rewards.
Instant gratification is nice, but it’s difficult to come by when working with nature. In this realm you have to take the long view. When you’re accustomed to seeking control, letting things be, letting the pieces fall where they may, can be the ultimate torture. If your biggest thrill is planting your petunias precisely 10 inches apart, on center, you’re in for some changes. But give it a try, the rewards for learning to stand aside and let nature work will be great.
A version of this post previously appeared the South Whidbey Record.