Picture a supportive relationship you have in your life: a friend, a family member, a mentor or professor. If someone were to support you, it’s easy to imagine practicing gratitude - a simple thank you or a gift of appreciation. But why do we practice gratitude in our relationships? Healthy, strong relationships generally don’t exist without a sense of reciprocity: the act of both giving and taking.
At the Grand Canyon ABCs, we explored our own relationship with the ecosystems around us. And while some people have higher levels of access to natural spaces (such as National Park Units or community gardens/parks) - we all need the earth to survive (breathing, drinking water, eating, etc.) So how are we giving back? And how is that personalized to our ability?
The answer isn’t that every person should become vegetarian, or that recycling is the key to halting environmental degradation, or even that we all should commit to purchasing “eco-friendly” goods. In fact, there isn’t one singular answer - each person’s means of giving back will look different considering their identity and lived experience.
Consider this quote from the famous environmentalist, Aldo Leopold:
“We abuse land because we see it as a commodity belonging to us. When we see land as a community to which we belong, we may begin to use it with love and respect.”
Each person should feel a sense of ownership in exercising reciprocity with the Earth. The first step is practicing awareness of anything we take from the Earth - beautiful views, natural resources, the food we eat, etc. The next is practicing consumption that is constant, conscious, thoughtful, and intentional.
Here’s an exercise to practice this notion of conscious consumerism:
First, consider a typical day. Note every point in which you’re using the earth’s resources (e.g. brushing your teeth, walking to class, turning on the lights, using disposable plates or utensils). Do this for a few days.
Then, try to identify ways in which you can consider the Earth when using its resources (e.g. turning off the tap, taking a longer walk while focusing on the fresh air or plants around you, using less power, investing in reusable plates and utensils).
Repeat, and push yourself to be better.
This global crisis won’t be solved in a short period of time, but the weight of pessimism can freeze anyone into inaction. Loving the world isn’t necessarily a radical notion. Though, for many, practicing radical love may be a big and unfamiliar step. Active citizens make community a priority in their everyday values and life choices - what will active citizenship look like when we consider Earth our community?