December 2013


When Someone Litters


While walking through the Guelph Arboretum I saw a youth toss a plastic water bottle into the bush. I picked it up, ran to him, and asked him to reconsider what he had done. I told him that when I see people litter I can almost hear Mother Earth crying out in pain from the assault. He stared at me, seeming to think I was a very weird lady, and put the bottle back in his daypack.

I hope that he later thought about this encounter. At the very least, I rescued a water bottle; at the most I may have inspired change in one person. And that’s where it all begins, with one person — each person.

We know about the interdependency among all people, and we have a similar relationship with our planet. It depends on us as we depend on it; it feeds us as we feed it; it nurtures us as we nurture it. The outer physical world will become healthier when we ourselves become healthier, physically and emotionally; and the reverse is true.

The connection between ourselves — as part of Creation — and our Creator can be found in all of the major religions and many other non-affiliated bodies of thought. This is an eternal, spiritual truth.

The Baha'í International Community emphasized this by stating “the grandeur and diversity of the natural world are purposeful reflections of the majesty and bounty of God . . . nature is to be respected and protected, as a divine trust for which we are answerable.”

Given the broad recognition of our responsibility for taking care of the natural environment, what’s stopping us from doing so?

There are many reasons, with disunity as a major contributor. Surely nothing is more wasteful and damaging than war. We also suffer from practices that are driven by short-term financial motives, such as over-harvesting of rain forests. And then there are politically-motivated decisions about resource management and energy policies. Sadly, this is just part of the list.

Another factor is materialism. Accumulation of things. Super-sizing and over-packaging. Rapidly-passing fashion trends. Measuring progress through material gains rather than through social development.

Admittedly, sometimes it seems hopeless, even depressing. The physical world is such a mess, what can I do? It’s tempting to conclude that the pace of deterioration is faster than the rate of recovery. Yet the Baha’i Writings promise that we have a future. And so it follows that our planet will survive and even recover from its current damaged state.

I am encouraged by this promise, inspired to keep trying. I can’t single-handedly save the planet, but my actions do matter. Beyond developing environmentally-sound habits on my own, I can support conservation and clean-up efforts. I can join with others at a community level and seek changes at a government or policy level.

And on a daily basis, when I see indifference to our planet, I can speak up as I did in the Arboretum. This is something we can all do, and we can be confident that it will help Planet Earth.


© Jaellayna Palmer 2013