Our environmental challenge

Our environmental challenge: a yogic perspective

Global warming and what we can do about it: one yogi's perspective. By Gopala Amir Yaffa

Here’s the bad news. With increasingly toxic air, shorter winters, the Gulf Stream slowing, water-giving glaciers disappearing, and crop failures…it’s time we act, urgently, now. Otherwise our habits will be the death of us, and our children.

But there's good news too. Humans are not evil. There is so much kindness, so much decency, creativity, and delight within us all. But we become evil when we become selfish, when we mistakenly think that our happiness is separate and more important than someone else’s.

To me, it seems that all of the human-caused environmental issues are here because of selfishness and greed. We want more, we want bigger, we want newer, we want faster.

But perspective is always helpful. Bear in mind the concentration of wealth: the richest 1% grabbed nearly two-thirds of all new wealth created since 2020, worth $42 trillion, almost twice as much money as the bottom 99% of the world’s population, according to Oxfam.

Still, climate change isn’t someone else’s problem. It’s ours — all of us. We are the change…or not. Everything we’ve ever cared about is on the line in this single wrinkle in time.

Scientists say that if we won't make drastic changes and become carbon negative by 2030 we may reach a state where global warming and all of its disastrous environmental effects will become irreversible.

It’s time, right now, to get emotional. Don’t close your eyes. Lose the insistent need for comfort and for more, and find the light of caring, waking up your habitchanging willpower and advocacy.

Simple swaps

Start small, and go big. Think globally, and act locally.

Drinking out of hot plastic is bad for you. Do your best to avoid plastic altogether as much as you can. Shop in the local market. Bring your own jars as you buy in the bulk food store.

Bike, walk, bus, or carpool if you can. Or try to combine trips rather than going back and forth a lot. I know everyone says this, but really, it’s more fun, too!

Eat less meat, or no meat. Please. We really don’t need it. Why are you still willing for other beings to suffer and be murdered just for the pleasure of your taste buds?

Really, anything that is not vegan is even tastier when we make it vegan. And it is guilt-free. In fact, it’s healthier without it. We can let go of that and save our planet and a few billion animals’ suffering while we are also stopping the production of methane, the most dangerous greenhouse gas.

Don’t want to do this stuff? It’s your choice. But climate change is not a choice. It is happening whether you like it or not. So we better make choices to stop it while we still have the capacity to choose.

Power your life with solar and wind, or offset. There are more and more options to do this for free, where you’re just leasing the solar. Usually, you can pay a small additional fee even to the big electric corporations to utilise wind or solar in your power supply.

Most importantly: vote. Vote thinking about the future, about the next generations, the next seven generations, not just about  immediate profit. The change needs to come from the top down as much as from the bottom up.

It’s amazing how we all, nations and individuals, took part in a global action to stop the Covid-19 pandemic while doing nearly nothing about the environmental change happening; changes that are becoming irreversible unless we take immediate action, and  that are detrimental to both humans and all species on earth.

Environmental challenge

Natural environment

As humans, every aspect of our life is reliant on the natural environment. This includes the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the clothes we wear and the products that are made and sold to create jobs and drive the economy.

A healthy and stable climate is our most precious natural resource.

Just a few years ago, governments in the UK, Australia and the USA all claimed that they simply could not stop the economy for anything, including the environment. But with Covid-19, we have seen how they are more than able to do just that and pour a lot of money into supporting those who struggle as a result — though this has now indebted future generations, which means economically sustainable solutions are equally important.

Global warming stresses ecosystems through temperature rises, water shortages, increased fire threats, drought, weed and pest invasions, intense storm damage and salt invasion, just to name a few. One in six species is reportedly at risk of extinction because of climate change.

Why is it still allowed that we can produce plastic? We all know how harmful it is to the earth and all animals. We can make the same products from plant starch.

Why are we still allowing for fossil fuels to be used? The technology to efficiently and cleanly replace this is already here.

Why are we still growing billions of methane-producing animals a year for human consumption? We know that it is wrong on the moral and environmental levels, and alternatives that don’t scream are abundant.

We know of so many beautiful ways to draw CO2 out of the atmosphere (such as planting trees, propagating seaweed in the oceans, and even some clean machines), but governments are still using our money to fund wars. Why? Why? Why?

I don’t know why. Maybe we are all too oblivious. Maybe we are all sleepwalking, being led like sheep to the slaughter. Oh we really need to wake up! We need to wake up our brothers and sisters, our communities, our governments, the United Nations.

Some recent polls show that over 50% of young people believe that there is nothing they can do to improve the state of the environment, the one that our generation has created. So yes: we need to wake up the next generation too!#

We need to join hands and hearts and voices and speak up together for this urgent change that is desperately needed. Are you with me?

Environmental yoga games

I teach yoga to young people, and I use yoga to inspire them to make changes, inwardly and also out in the world. Here are a couple of techniques I use to help them feel how important it is to make the changes in our lives that will help our beautiful blue-green-planet. These techniques are suitable for all, young and old.

Plant trees. It solves everything!

The trees hold the water in the soil with their roots. The forest keeps the surrounding area cool with its shade. The forest provides homes for many animals. Forests clean and enrich the air we breathe. Their leaves and needles take in carbon dioxide and give out  oxygen through the tree’s bark.

In pairs, one partner is a seed in child’s pose and the other is the gardener. Using their imagination, the gardener waters the seed and cares for the soil. The seed person stays relaxed now as the gardener sculpts them gradually to sprout and grow, first into a small  plant, and then gradually into a tree. The seed does not help, they simply stay in the pose that the gardener moves them into. The  gardeners can continue to help stabilise the trees by pressing their foot into the earth (this helps in finding more stability in tree pose). Then switch roles!

Shop sustainably: eco yoga shopping game

We vote with how we spend our money. If we stop buying plastic or other products that pollute the earth or cause rainforest destruction or water pollution, companies will stop making them.

Standing in a circle, the first participantsays: “I went to the shop and I bought ______ (fill in the blank with a sustainable choice)” and makes a yoga pose for it. The second participant then says: “I went to the shop and I bought...” first saying and acting in a yoga pose what the person before them did and then adding their own. The game continues as each participant in their turn repeats all the items and poses that were said before and adds their own. It’s a memory game where you get to do lots of yoga along the way! If it is a small group, you can do a few rounds, adding more and more items and poses to your list. You can also play where everyone repeats all of the items and poses together — not as much memory needed here by each individual and everyone gets to do more poses.Yay!

Gopala Amir Yaffa is co-founder and wizard at Rainbow Yoga Training, which provides life-changing yoga education around the world, while making it a better place for future generations. Find out more at: rainbowyogatraining.com

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