“We don’t need any more damn trees around here!” Those were the words of my father when, around 16 years of age, I asked whether I could plant yet another tree in the yard of our home in the small Nebraska town of Nelson. Can’t say that I blamed him—I’d already planted twelve trees and, while we had a nice-sized yard, the tree population was getting a little crowded. However, bless dad’s heart; he let me plant the 13th!
As far back as I can remember, I have always loved trees and nature in general. Fondly I remember long, lazy afternoons lying on my back looking up at the sky through a canopy of Chinese elms in the small, forested area behind our house on the eastern edge of the quaint little hamlet where I grew up. Later, I created a “secret forest” near another house where we lived by trimming all the dead and lower branches. For many hours and over many years I reveled in the bucolic atmosphere whenever I had the opportunity to escape life’s realities.
Even after I became an adult, I continued to plant trees wherever possible—be it along a railroad right-of way, around a city-owned detention pond or on the land of a reluctant father-in-law. Over time, my passion grew and once I started an environmental committee at a large bank where I worked. I did the same at my home church, Unity Church of Overland Park, Kansas. One of my happiest contributions was when several of us built upon the foundation of others and launched UWM’s EarthCare Ministry Team in 2008.
For many years, I have recycled everything possible. My poor sons—I’m sure they grew tired of me nagging them to put things in the recycle bin and freaking out if I discovered an aluminum soda can in the throw-away bin. My passion extends to foods where, after seeing the movies Food Inc., The World According to Monsanto, and Seeds of Deception, I vowed to purchase non-GMO fruits and vegetables wherever possible and meat from humanely treated animals that were not fed growth hormones or antibiotics.
The Power of One
One of the most important things I have learned over the years is “the power of one.” The “power of one” is the power to do something—anything. Even if you only pick up one candy wrapper one time as you walk along a trail, that is one less bit of litter that otherwise may lay there thousands of years fouling our Mother Earth. Another beauty of “the power of one” is that it is catching. Others will notice and might even take up the habit themselves. As nationally renowned environmental activist Vann Jones says,
If one person stands up, he’s just one fool standing up. However, did you ever see a standing ovation? It starts with one person. Pretty soon, the whole room is standing up.
How empowering it is, knowing that our decision to preserve and protect our earth home, however big or little it may be, plays an important role in helping humanity meet the challenge it currently faces with regard to climate change. Whether it be as an individual, through your family, peers, organizations, church, community, political parties or national leaders, all is good.
The Daily Word expressed this idea over 70 years ago when, on September 1, 1941, the following was written:
Today let us at once begin to set our world in order by reforming our thoughts. Let us invoke our divine wisdom of spirit to guide our thinking. Let us lay hold of and make manifest the great thoughts of God, the ideas that point the way by which we are to establish His kingdom and bring happiness to ourselves.
I invite each reader to declare what he or she stands for—as an individual and as a member of society to help bring about a world that is environmentally sustainable, spiritually fulfilling and socially just. If you stop and think about it, these areas are really part of the same thing—to help shape consciousness in a way that is in the highest and best good of all things on this planet. As we know, all is one, and whatever we do to others, we do to ourselves.
The old saying is true: Today is the first day of the rest of your life. Stand for something! It is a creative act. It is a declaration of a vision, or outcome, of a future that a person is committed to achieving. A stand comes from the heart, from the soul, from vision, and is life-affirming. Know that your life has meaning and you can make a difference. By taking a stand, you are taking responsibility for our future. When we embody that responsibility, it inspires and generates participation.
George Bernard Shaw eloquently expresses this vision:
This is the true joy in life, being used for a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one. Being a force of nature instead of a feverish, selfish little clod of ailments and grievances, complaining that the world will not devote itself to making you happy. I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole community and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it what I can…. I rejoice in life for its own sake.
Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.
There are myriad ways in which you can make a difference. Here are but a few:
- Adopt a lifestyle that promotes sustainability. Reduce/reuse and recycle wherever possible, and make energy conservation one of your mantras.
- Commit to a renewed reverence for life and respect for the interdependent web of all existence. Envision a world in which everything has intrinsic value and where all people are assured a secure and meaningful life that is ecologically responsible and sustainable.
- Extend your commitment to the world around you. Organize a green team at your spiritual community, participate in environmentally friendly community activities, join like-minded organizations and make your voice heard by supporting issues to protect and preserve our sacred earth home.
Here are some places where you can go to find more information about how you can be an environmentally awake and involved citizen:
One of my favorite poems is, “It’s 3:23 in the Morning” by Drew Dellinger. It goes as follows:
It’s 3:23 in the morning, and I’m awake because my great-great grandchildren won’t let me sleep.
My great-great grandchildren ask me in dreams,
What did you do while the planet was plundered?
What did you do when the Earth was unraveling?
Surely you did something when the seasons started failing,
As the mammals, reptiles, birds were all dying?
Did you fill the streets with protest when democracy was stolen?
What did you do once you knew?