Together, We Change the World

 

How do you know what you have done that will change the world?. Photo: © FotolEdhar - Fotolia.comWhether or not we realize it, we each play an important part in the world. Photo: © FotolEdhar – Fotolia.com

This past February, Blue Planet Green Living published a post by Dipak Singh, a writer from India who advocates for safer conditions for the people of his country. His post, Notes from India: We Are Poisoning Our Planet, described the horrific effects of spraying the chemical Endosulfan on crops in India and other nations. He wrote, in part:

The grapes you and I eat could be from a vine that was sprayed 30 times in a single year with pesticides such as Endosulfan. That makes 300 sprayings in a decade. This chemical has nowhere to go, so it just gets washed into the groundwater.

Endosulfan has a half-life of up to 20 days in water and 60 to 800 days in soil. So, think of the accumulation of this pesticide in crop-growing villages. In the Indian state of Kerala, Endosulphan has been linked to the birth of malformed children. . . .

Three months after we posted his editorial, Dipak sent me a Facebook message with the following comment:

Hello, this is just to tell you that yesterday the Indian Supreme Court put an interim ban on Endosulfan, despite the lobbyist asking for an eleven year time frame. This is one of the sentences from the judgement:  “When a certain something affected right to life, then every other right, even the fundamental right to business, took a backseat.”

Dipak followed by thanking me for making a difference in the fight against Endosulfan. Me? All I had done was post his editorial. How could I accept any credit?

I wrote to this man I greatly respect, expressing my appreciation but declining any thanks. He was the one who had been fighting the environmental injustices in his country—he and thousands of nameless others. I had done nothing, really.

Dipak wrote back, “How do you know your website did not affect the judgement… [Here’s] a little thank you from me and maybe a billion Indians. How do you know ?”

I pondered his statement for a while, then mentally set it aside, still convinced I had done nothing at all to deserve his kind remarks.

Later in the summer, a friend who is a professor at the University of Iowa startled me at a neighborhood street party. “You started something,” Barbara Eckstein said. “Because of what you wrote, a group of professors and scientists are now working with a small Iowa town to remediate their sewage treatment problems.” (That’s the gist of what she said though it was months ago, and my memory is not exact. So, please consider this entire reconstructed conversation to be correct in spirit, if not in absolute fact.)

I was startled—and none too certain anything I did could have resulted in a team of professors helping a small community.

“A man from the town contacted the University of Iowa,” Barbara explained. “Their  waste treatment plant is inadequate to handle their residents’ needs, and they’re faced with steep fines if they don’t fix it. Yet, just outside of town, a factory farm is permitted to spread untreated waste on top of fields, where it runs into the same river where the town’s waste runs. The situation is infuriating and frustrating the residents.”

“I can see why they’re upset,” I said. “But what does that have to do with me? I’ve never even heard of this town.”

“You wrote about Craig Just’s experiments at the Iowa City water treatment plant in your blog. The man read your post and contacted Craig. Several of us from the University drove to Northwest Iowa to see what we could do to help. Every one of the 61 residents attended that meeting. And now we’re helping them solve their sewage treatment problems. It started with your blog.”

What my friend didn’t say—and probably didn’t realize—is that it actually started with her. Barbara had organized the tour that Craig Just gave at the sewage treatment plant, the one I wrote about. And before Barbara, it started with Craig and his students, who are experimenting with alternative methods of treating sewage in ways that attracted Barbara’s attention. And before them were others, who had the foresight to relocate the Iowa City sewage treatment plant in an area where they have the space to innovate. And before them . . .

So, what I have learned from these two kind friends’ comments is this: None of us ever really knows what effects our actions have on others (positive or negative). Sometimes environmental and social  problems seem overwhelming, far too much for anyone to solve alone. But when we each do what we can—no matter how small—our efforts are added to those of others doing their part, too. And, together with people we will never meet, we can—and do—change the world.

Julia Wasson

Publisher

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Posts

Notes from India: We Are Poisoning Our Planet,

Do You Know Where Your Flushes Go?

 

 

 

 

My 5: Christopher Gavigan, CEO, Healthy Child Healthy World

April 1, 2009 by  
Filed under Blog, Environment, Front Page, Health, Kids, My 5

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BPGL: What are the five most important things we can do to save the planet?

GAVIGAN:

Saving the planet — let’s just say, protecting the planet. I’d like to frame this whole thing as protecting the planet instead of saving the earth. The planet doesn’t need to be saved. The planet will be around a lot longer than we will.

Christopher Gavigan, CEO, Healthy Child Healthy World

Christopher Gavigan, CEO, Healthy Child Healthy World

  • Really, we need to save ourselves and save our existence and our civilization as we know it. I believe that it’s a humankind challenge in how we accept and interact with each other. Certainly, love and respect and the ability to listen and be collaborative is part of that process. I think we could learn to love ourselves, our families, and each other a little bit more and judge less. I think if you embrace the fact that we’re all trying our best and really take that critical nature out of it, we would be less entrenched in our own opinions and more willing to listen and be collaborative.
  • We certainly all could eat less meat and rely less on land animals as food sources. There’s no question about it that the amount of resource intensity required by meat and dairy production and the amount of land source degradation happen because of eating animals. And so, I would embrace the fact that we could protect the planet more if we all ate less meat. I’ve been doing this as a vegetarian for almost 15 years now.
  • We should use less toxic products in our daily lives, from our cleaners to our beauty care products to the mattresses and furniture we build. We need to be aware of the chemicals that exist in each one of those and understand that you don’t have to live a chemically laden life. Reducing the amount of chemicals is more beneficial for the planet, for our waterways, and for land, our children’s future, and also our own health.
  • Another thing we should think about is the “buying cycle,” and put some intentional thinking around this. Every day, I realize that less really is more. Truly, I need less to have a fulfilled and happy life. Just buying less would be very anti-capitalistic and anti-consumptive, but the planet would breathe a big “Ahhh” of relief. Being less consumptive is a powerful thing. You’re requiring less, you’re demanding less of the earth. And you’re reducing your impact on the planet, something that I think about. Certainly, it’s a challenge of mine. I always can do better at it, but it’s an intention of mine, and I do a little better every day.
  • The last thing is being grateful. I don’t think, as a culture, as a species, we’re grateful enough. Grateful of the moments that we have. Grateful of the people that are in our lives. And grateful of the resources that we have and the ease of the life that we have. I try to be very intentional every day when I wake up in the morning. I try to think of those things that I’m most grateful for, and I try to think of something new every day. Being more grateful is a way to recognize the magnitude and the importance of where we are and our lives. And embracing the fact that we have a limited time here and we should make the most of it for our children, for the people who are around us, and for the planet.

Christopher Gavigan, CEO

Healthy Child Healthy World

Blue Planet Green Living (Home Page)

Related Post:

Healthy Child Healthy World – Inspiring Postive Action for Kids’ Sake