Always Well Within

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What Are You Willing to Do To Save Another Person’s Life?

Grass, White Sands

“From one point of view, this 21st century is an amazing time. We have amazing technology and we enjoy the benefits of that technology. But from another point of view it’s a horrible time because we are actually destroying the very basis of our existence and survival – our environment. This is an utter contradiction.” – the Karmapa

If saving a life were as easy as giving up some of your creature comforts, would you do so?

You probably wouldn’t give it a second thought if the opportunity were right in front of you.  But for some reason, the reality of climate change remains abstract, unreal, or implausible for most people.

Eyes open or closed, the planet is heating up.  According to an article in the NY Times, by the year 2047,

“…for a given geographic area, ‘the coldest year in the future will be warmer than the hottest year in the past,’ said Camilo Mora, the lead scientist on a paper published in the journal Nature.”

And that means unimaginable human and environmental consequences.

The Bell is Tolling

But doomsday won’t wait for everyone until 2047 or beyond.  Instead, increasingly  destructive weather events linked to climate change – like Typhoon Haiyan – bring the end of their respective world to thousands of people in a flash.  Doomsday, here right now, selectively tolls its bell.

Recently, my husband – who reads the news – told me that 95% of scientists now believe that climate change is due to human behavior.

Doesn’t that mean those who consume excessively are collectively responsible for this death and destruction, and more to come?  Yes, I know picking up a new blouse at your favorite boutique or discount store doesn’t seem like an act of aggression. But maybe, in these times, it is.

Could Fewer Kids Be the Answer?

Concerned, well actually a little more than concerned, by the idea of her world being fried, Amanda Sandlin contacted Dr. Mora, the author of the scientific paper quoted above, and asked him, “If there was one thing I could do to help, what should it be?”  I encourage you to read the entire exchange in Amanda’s blog post:  Skip Kids.  Save the Planet.  An Email from Dr. Mora.

First of all, Dr. Mora doesn’t have a magic answer.  However, he did pinpoint overpopulation as the most pressing issue of our time.  He thinks we need to persuade people to have fewer children.  Otherwise, he feels it’s hopeless because people will not give up their comforts just because of climate change.

As Amanda points out, not having kids is a bit bigger than abstaining from paper towels, although that’s good too.  With the right numbers, not having children could have a huge impact on climate change.

Would you be willing to forgo having children if it would save the planet?

I’m all for the idea as long as it doesn’t involve forced and/or selective sterilization of women.  Please help spread the word.

We’re Not Off the Environmental Hook Yet

But, does that mean we’re personally off the hook?  I don’t think so because there’s too many of us already, and people continue to consume like there’s unlimited resources.  There’s also the fact that people have been suffering from climate change and even dying due to its impact for years.  It’s also going to take time to convince people to have fewer children and it will be years till we see the results.

So after Typhoon Haiyan hit, I began to ponder this question,  “What more can I do?”

I use solar power and will soon be on water catchment again. I’ve reduced my purchases.  I’ve limited my air travel.  Aside from one trip to Honolulu, which made me depressed, I haven’t traveled by air since the end of 2009.  I don’t have children, and I’m slowly learning permaculture.  I may sound like an angel, but believe me I’m far from the perfect environmentalist.

I’m pretty sure I could do more.

I believe this is one of the most important questions we can each ask ourselves today.

“What can I do to soften climate catastrophe?”

Then take a single step, followed by the next one.  Peoples’ lives are depending upon us.  Animals, too.

Enjoy Your Life Fully

In light of these ecological realities, please try to live more simply, and I will too.  At the same time, enjoy your life fully.  Don’t cave into hopelessness or despair.  Delight in the beauty that still remains on this earth.

Remember, you can act with integrity, and you can positively influence others.  But, you can’t control everyone’s behavior.  Everything is impermanent, even our world and this planet.  In time, it too will come to and end.

Yes, it would be heartbreaking to see the Earth destroyed mindlessly and in greed, and all that additional suffering that would ensue.

But, you can still live in peace, when you understand you are not this body, you are not this brain.  The end of the world cannot destroy your true essence.  Nevertheless, due to the law of karma, and the truth of interdependence, it’s imperative to act responsibly in relation to the environment.  And insane not to.

Would you forgo having children if it meant saving the planet?  What else would you give up to help soften the blow of climate change?

Thank you for reading and sharing! If you liked this article, please subscribe for free updates by email and connect with me on FacebookWith love, Sandra



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  1. Thoughtful post Sandra.
    I wrestle with these questions all the time. I believe we may or may not survive as a species depending on how well we learn to live in harmony with each other and the planet. Yes to having less children and focusing more on quality of life instead of material acquisition and consumption.

    I attempt to live a simpler and more sustainable life and encourage others to do so with my writing and stories about people and technologies who are making a difference. Thanks, Brad

    • Hi Brad,

      I agree it’s possible that we may not survive as a species! At the same time, I am very inspired by people like you who keep the focus on the positive and share what’s working and how people are helping and making a difference. Thank you so much for what you are doing! I don’t think we should just roll over and die. I think we all do what we can and I’m so grateful for what you do.

  2. The future of the planet was a very big part of the reason Lucas and I chose not to have children. It was the hardest decision I’ve ever made. But having lived in countries where people are experiencing the devastating impacts of climate change, it didn’t feel like a choice we could avoid. I have no opinion at all on what other people should do, but in the end I knew what was the right choice for us.

    My book tour this year raised big questions about the impacts of my travel. I chose trains whenever possible, but there was a lot of air travel in there. So I’m very clear that we all make different choices, depending on what we feel our deepest calling is in the world. Spreading stories that connect people across the planet is my calling, and sometimes that has meant more travel that I think is sustainable if we were all doing it.

    • Hi Marianne,

      I appreciate how not having children is the hardest decision you’ve ever made. I imagine it’s a heart-ripping choice for many people, and we can’t dismiss the impact this has for entire generations. Thank you for making such a huge sacrifice.

      It’s good to hear your view in particular, knowing you have personally witnessed the devastating impacts of climate change.

      I don’t think we can make black and white rules about sustainable choices. Your book-related travels clearly had a positive impact and that has to be taken into account. It’s relatively easy for me not to travel. Everyone’s situation is different and we’ll be called to make different choices.

  3. I too have definitely chosen to skip having children, partly because it’s obvious to me that there are already more than enough people on the planet. I’m working every day to make more sustainable choices in my personal life too, and to reduce consumption and simplify my life.

    In an odd way, though, I’m not sure it’s really that important in the end whether or not our species or even our planet survives. Planets are temporary things even under the best of circumstances, and eventually the sun will burn out even if we behave ideally.

    I think that our souls and our energy will live on and find somewhere else to go and grow, no matter what happens. But in the meantime it certainly benefits us to make the most of the stewardship of our beautiful world, for as long as we can.

    • I so agree with your insightful words, Jennifer. On the one hand, I feel we need to act with integrity in ways that don’t harm others. On the other hand, it doesn’t help to be so attached to this body or this planet as we are so much more than this.

      Thanks for sharing this perspective, which adds an entire new dimension to our thinking that goes beyond ignoring climate change or getting trapped in a frenzy about it.

      And thanks so much for doing what you can to make more sustainable choices.

  4. I love the question: What can I do to soften climate catastrophe? It has the perfect scope of hopefulness to spur action and reminds of the truth that we add to or take away with our admittedly small actions. People who feel hopeless about the whole thing don’t use their own bags when they shop because the problem is “too big” and “what difference does it make?” But I am me and I’m a part of this story, so what I do can’t HELP but have an impact. Thanks for encouraging us to make our impact as good as it can be.

    • Hi Kendra,

      You’ve articulated so beautifully the heart of the matter when you say, “…we add to or take away with our admittedly small actions.” Yes, we all have an impact for better or for worse with our thoughts, words, and actions. It makes me happy to see how you wholeheartedly embrace that responsibility without feeling it’s a burden or overwhelming weight, but rather a joy.

  5. It’s too late for me to forgo children now. Though ironically I always wanted to adopt but because of all the process involved it was easier to have kids of our own in the end!

    We are working on not wasting food. I hear that is the biggest cause of climate change and global warming and it’s easy for us to make an impact there.

    I lean on my kids a lot when they leave food uneaten. And my husband and I enjoy leftovers for lunch everyday!

    It’s not much but it’s something…

    • It’s too late for me too, Annabel, although I did so for other reasons. Many of us just didn’t realize the impact when we were the age to have children. But now your kids will be the generation faced with this tough decision.

      Gee, I never thought about the impact of wasted food. I bet it’s huge like you say. That’s a great place to focus your efforts!

  6. Sandra, this is a thought provoking post! I don’t have children for a variety of reasons. When I was younger, I often thought I would adopt if I felt compelled to raise a child. It’s comforting to me to read that being childless may have a positive impact on the earth…some days I regret my decision and mourn a bit, but this post makes the it seem like a more meaningful decision. Thank you.

    • Beverly,

      I’m glad it comforts you to know that being childless has such a positive impact for the future of the planet. It’s a touch decision and I don’t doubt for a moment there are times when you wonder about it and feel sad. It is a meaningful decision and I’m happy you can now see its far reaching impact as well.

  7. Hi Sandra, Very few people can think in terms of such a lofty thought as the one you have expressed through this post!
    Despite all the awareness and efforts that we make to save our environment, we have no control on the thoughts of those who believe in producing as many children as they want or who still live in that world where children are considered to be ‘God’s gift’…I shudder to think such people still live on this planet!

    I am already sure that next time I will be born on mars!!! and hope it would be the perfect place to live and care…away from the selfish people who waste food, who consume natural resources without giving anything in return and who don’t even give a thought to handing over this planet to the next generation in a better condition than they received.
    Thanks for sharing such a profound thought, worth circulating all over the world.

    • Dear Balroop,

      I’m hoping if we spread the world, more people will think this lofty thought and actually decide not too have children. Yes, there are many people who will be motivated to produce more children for the reasons you suggest, but I think some people can be positively influenced and that it could make a big different. We’ll see.

      I loved that book “Red Mars.” I don’t know if I would like to be born there. It will be interesting to see where we pop up next!

      You really see it all so clearly and simply! If only more people could have this basic understanding and kind heart.

  8. Jean Sampson

    Hi Sandra. If I concentrate on how huge the problem is, I will never even try to make a contribution—-so I try to do those small things (and try to be creative in finding ways to do more) and hope that many others are doing the same thing. Most of my friends are very earth conscious, and that makes me happy. I don’t have children, but it was because I knew that I did not (at that time) have the resources necessary to be a good parent. But I did make a conscious choice and it separated me from other women my age for a good many years, because just about everyone I knew had children. I admire the people who make the choice (even though they want children) to remain childless. That is a real sacrifice!

    • Hi Jean,

      I think you’re right, it’s not good to over focus on how huge the problem is and distress ourselves, but instead to look at the ways we can each make our own contribution. Some people will be called to do more and have the bigger ideas and that will be helpful too.

      That was a huge decision you made and it’s a testimony to how conscious you are as a person. Yes, I think too that the current generation and one to come will be make some big sacrifices.

  9. A thoughtful, challenging post, my friend! When I think of the fundamental human drive to have children, I doubt many would or could give that up. But having three, five or more…there’s room for debate there. Maybe the most realistic goal will be to educate folks about simplicity. Thanks for helping to show the way!

  10. Hi Jeffrey,

    That’s an interesting thought as I’m sure that drive exists for many although it’s not one I experience myself. Yes, maybe a more realistic goal is to have fewer children, maybe just 1. If we have two, it will keep the world population at the same level, won’t it? Thanks for looking at this element of the picture.

  11. God created everything. We no need to bother. God will take care of it.

    • Thanks for sharing your perspective Saravanan. I agree it doesn’t help to worry. At the same time, I think God helps those who take responsibility and help themselves and others.

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