Giving Life Back to Gaia

It’s always interesting to discover that you’re a member of a new target demographic you didn’t realize you’d joined. I refer to the term “Lohasian.” I first came across it in an online search about sustainable living, and later in Spirituality and Health magazine. It comes from the acronym l-o-h-a-s, standing for “lifestyles of health and sustainability.” Most of the people I know in the holistic spirituality community fall into this category; it’s all about being conscious of one’s impact on the environment and making an effort to live in a healthy, fully sustainable manner.

When we poison Gaia, she has no choice but to poison us in turn. It is not her intention to do so (she’s a life-giver), but there are only so many toxins she can absorb before they begin to redound upon their sources (us). The poisons we pump into the air, the water and the soil find their way back to us: we breathe in pollutants, we drink tainted water; we eat food grown in toxic soil.

It can be frustrating–even depressing–to ponder how little power we have over the world’s patterns of consumption. This is particularly true in the United States, where our energy consumption and resulting pollution levels are higher than in any other country (although China and India are currently in a race to join us). Can our efforts to conserve energy and limit our carbon footprints compete with a worldwide policy of burning fossil fuels? With presidential candidates advocating “personhood” for corporations whose only concern is profit, how can our efforts to recycle and limit our energy consumption have any real impact?
I submit that the situation is considerably less bleak than it may seem. Yes, global warming has already reached dangerous levels and continues to increase. However, until a few decades ago, pollution was hardly talked about at all.  The Environmental Protection Agency is a scant four decades old; the terms “global warming” and “climate change” were virtually unknown outside scientific circles until the 1990s. Today, “going green” is one of the most pervasive topics in the global lexicon. New companies are making a point of being environmentally conscious from the start; even manufacturers of plastic trash bags try to find a way to make their products (or at least their advertising) more environmentally-friendly! The point is that it takes time to raise global awareness of an issue; but once it is raised, the purchasing power of ordinary people often causes corporations to do the right thing. And young people raised in a culture in which environmental concern is a given are much more likely to make environmentally sound decisions once they reach positions of influence in business and politics.

Meditation (something that most of us “Lohasians” do regularly) is all about awareness—awareness of what’s going on within you and in your environment. If you sit with awareness of your carbon footprint in meditation for twenty minutes, you’ll arise knowing exactly what changes you need to make. Here are some of the changes our environmental meditations have led us to make in our household:

  • Limiting water use. Simply turning off the water when we’re brushing our teeth or shaving saves gallons of water. Since that water is usually heated when we’re shaving, it’s even more important to do it then.
  • Avoiding driving when possible. We try to walk or ride a bike whenever it’s feasible. We share rides and recently joined a carpool. We’ve resolved to take public transportation more frequently.
  • We’ve resolved to drive smaller, more energy-efficient vehicles. When we buy a new car, we plan to choose a hybrid model. In the meantime, we’re finding out where hybrid fuels (fuels which mix gasoline with ethanol) are sold and filling up there whenever possible.
  • We’ve been recycling for years; we want to improve in the areas of reusing, repairing, and re-purposing.
  • We now bring our own reusable bags to the grocery and drug store. We’re trying to avoid plastic bags when we can.
  • We’ll soon be buying a water filter for the tap and reusable water containers to take the place of hundreds of plastic water bottles.
  • In cold weather, we’re wearing extra layers of clothing at home, so we can comfortably turn down the thermostat. During spring and autumn, we’ll be opening the windows as often as possible, using heat and air conditioning as seldom as the weather allows. In summer, we try to set our air conditioning no lower than 77 degrees. It’s really cool enough for comfort; we’ve found that we don’t need to chill our home to unseasonably cool temperatures to be comfortable. We plan to set our thermostat on a timer so it isn’t pumping out heat or air conditioning when no one’s around.
  • We’ve switched to low-wattage bulbs and we’re trying to get into the habit of turning off the lights when they’re not in use.
  • Eventually, we’ll be installing solar panels in our home. We have an appointment with a contractor to check and maintain the insulation.

These are just a few changes we’ve made; it feels great to be kind to Gaia! Your own sustainability meditation will no doubt yield even more ideas for reducing your impact on the environment. Thich Nhat Hahn recently promoted a worldwide “No Car Day” – choosing one day each week to not use an automobile–as a way of reducing emissions. If even a small percent of the world’s population were to join him in this project, the reduction in greenhouse gases would be highly significant. Don’t worry; we’ll be switching to renewable energy sources soon—the fossils are running out! (Isn’t it madness that we power the whole planet on dead dinosaurs? If ever there were a more obviously finite resource, petroleum products have to be it!) Hybrid and fully electric cars are becoming more affordable and mainstream; solar power, wind turbines, and other sane energy sources are in their ascendancy.

“Lifestyles of health and sustainability” can be more than a target demographic; we can make them the new “normal.” Gaia will thank us by giving us clean air to breathe, pure water to drink, and fully non-toxic foods to eat.

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