“What I stand for is what I stand on.” – Wendell Berry
In every epoch in human history, there’s always been some degree of unrest and turmoil. In the early beginnings, it was limited to tribal warfare; later, it escalated to mighty empires conquering and plundering weaker states; and finally, in the more recent past, it reached a global scale of World Wars.
Initially, our ancestors fought over basic necessities such as food and territory. Later on, as we evolved, the reasons for battles gravitated towards differences in beliefs and ideologies. Our thought process and intelligence were becoming sharper and more developed, but so was our ego and self-centeredness.
Even though our ancestors were embroiled in conflicts, they were grateful for the bounty that nature offered them and they stayed connected to the natural world. Yet as time passed, urbanization and industrialization led to the proliferation of businesses and mass production; we were suddenly inundated with all this “stuff” and overloaded with information.
As a result of this trend, we now live in a world of ‘me’ instead of ‘we’. We’re focused on having our material needs met and ‘looking good’ in the eyes of those around us. The abundance of products and services that are being sold has led to excessive consumerism. Savvy ads try to appeal to our emotions by painting a hopeful picture of attaining happiness, beauty and success when we buy their products.
The trend of consumerism has overridden the reverence and responsibility that our ancestors felt towards the planet. It doesn’t help having dysfunctional world leaders that won’t support policies that protect the environment and maintain world peace. In the midst of these challenges, it’s up to us to step up to the plate at the precipice of this critical point.
In an interview with the UK’s Radio Times, astrophysicist Stephen Hawking said that it’s a near certainty that we’ll destroy our planet beyond repair in the next thousand or ten thousand years if we continue on the course that we’re on right now. A gloomy prediction such as this from an expert like Hawking should be a wake-up call for all of us, and a reminder of just how vital it is for us to turn this ship around.
The main challenge in getting people to care about global issues is that they’re too caught up in daily living and they don’t see any direct benefit from participating. After all, educating yourself about global warming or refugee issues isn’t going to change the number on your paycheck or buy your dream shoes. What most people don’t realize is that it can be very fulfilling because it meets a deeper spiritual need.
Getting out of me-mode will require deliberate effort on our part to step away from a self-driven paradigm of existence and begin viewing the world from a macro perspective. It’s only when we feel isolated from everyone else that we resort to selfishness and greed. To become more integrated with all that is, we need to re-connect with a Higher Power by shifting our consciousness.
This mindset that comes to us when we align with a Higher Power is referred to as “Oneness”. According to ancient scriptures of Hinduism, “Oneness” is a direct spiritual experience where we go beyond the intellect, mind and ego to reach a state of peace, harmony and unconditional love. John Lennon simplified Oneness as, “I am he, as you are he, as you are me, and we are all together.”
All fights, disagreements and egocentric beliefs occur when we live in an illusory world of duality and we mistakenly believe that we are separate. When we realize that we are one, we will see the absurdity in our thought process of separateness and how it doesn’t make sense on a cosmic level.
Once we’re plugged into “Oneness”, it’ll be easier for us to figure out how we can personally contribute towards the growth and health of the planet. We can take our place as a member of the world community by educating ourselves about predominant global issues and becoming part of the solution.
You can use your voice to express your opinions and start movements to influence policy-makers, governments and organizations through offline and online mediums (like blogs), peaceful demonstrations, and volunteering. But first, you need to be aware of these four critical reasons as to why our planet needs our help:
1. The reality of climate change: Climate change is no longer an urban myth but a fact that we have to contend with. While there are some people who still believe that it stems from the fictitious paranoia of overactive tree-huggers, the rest of us can’t deny this phenomenon that’s led to unstable weather patterns causing flooding, droughts, rising sea levels and heat waves. To understand the real magnitude of global warming, I highly recommend watching the movie Before the Flood, hosted by one of the biggest celebrity advocates for this cause, Leonardo DiCaprio. This article provides some simple steps that you can take to help support this movement for bringing balance to Earth’s climatic conditions.
2. The threat of a nuclear war: After the world witnessed the cataclysmic destruction caused by the atomic bomb that was dropped in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in Japan, everyone became painfully aware of the possibility of mass destruction of humankind if political conflicts got out of hand. When the atom bomb was sanctioned during the World War era, Einstein responded by saying, “Mankind invented the atomic bomb, but no mouse would ever create a mousetrap.” Today, there are eight sovereign states that have successfully detonated nuclear weapons, out of which, five are considered to be “nuclear-weapon states”. This site provides some information on this critical issue and how to spread awareness.
3. Overpopulation: Higher birth rates and lower mortality rates due to increasingly better living conditions and healthcare has led to an explosion in population growth. Currently, there’s approximately a whopping seven billion people inhabiting planet Earth, and it’s only going to escalate in the future unless we do so something about it. The more people there are on the planet, the more stress is put on the environment because of the higher demand for food, water, space and infrastructure. The more products we manufacture, the more pollution we create; and the more living and farming spaces we need, the more wildernesses are taken over. While we can’t do much to contain population growth (apart from promoting conscious family planning), we can educate people to be more careful about using limited resources, recycling waste, and making smarter choices about the things that they consume.
4. Environment damage: Because of our growing population, we need to create more living space and produce more “stuff”. This has steadily created an imbalance in the eco-system because we neglected to keep the effects of our actions in check. The fallout from the policies that we’ve implemented in the name of profit has led to severe damage of the environment in the form of deforestation, pollution, a loss of biodiversity, and oceanic dead zones. We’ve all learned about these issues in high school but as adults, we need to revisit them and decide what role we’re willing to play in reducing the impact of these threats. You can join a group, volunteer or educate people about it in your community. Remember that even the smallest act on your part will create a ripple effect that’ll impact others.
Now that you’re aware of the pertinent global issues, all you need to do is to get in touch with your humanity and figure how you can use your talents and skills to contribute in some way. You certainly can’t right all the wrongs in the world, but at the end of your journey, you want to be able to say that your being here made the world just a little bit better.
All my best on your journey,
Question for you: What are the most important global issues for you? How would you like to contribute to those issues?
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