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Published on June 22nd, 2008 | by Zachary Shahan

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Environmental Degradation and the Self: The Link between the Two


Where does environmental degradation start?

It starts with our unnatural inclination to want more than we need.

And where does this want come from?

It comes from the idea of self.

It comes from the feeling of self.

It comes from the experience that we are an individual, separate from everything else.

It comes from the belief and the understanding and the experience that we are not One with everything and everyone in this Creation.

So, naturally, with this as our root, we want more: we want to load this self with all the food, acquisitions, honor, experiences, and influence that we can.

And where does it lead us?

We travel the world telling people they should live green lives. How much of the time does this result in a positive for the environment?

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We load ourselves up with experience after experience, each of which are supposed to help us to live lighter, live greener. Do attending and participating in these events help us to live lighter compared to the resources used to get to these experiences and participate in them?

We gain honor for our efforts to do good, but how much does that make us feel “alright, I am doing good enough, I am helping to save the world” when we have yet to crack the ice and dive down into the ocean of righteousnous.

We acquire more green goods than a city in an undeveloped world has in basic necessities and we feel that we are “green” because of all these toys and positive labels on extraneous goods, goods which are actually often robbing the earth of its materials and polluting all that we live on. These are often goods that did not need to be bought but with the money of which we could have planted forests and given back to the earth we are taking so generously from.

We eat more food in half our lifetime than we need in two lifetimes, perhaps.

The ‘self’ starts it all.

We do not realize we are the earth, we are the living beings laboring to make all the foods and products we consume and hoard in ourselves, for ourselves. We do not realize we are all tied together, physically on the physical level, mentally on the mental level, and spiritually on the spiritual level, and all that we give we will receive, and all that we take we will have to give, and everything we hoard we will have to pay the price for — not just the price in dollars but the price in every ounce of labor, of thought, and of life that went into the making of that product, the creation of that good.

If we are to give ourselves for the greater benefit of all, we are to find that is more fruitful than gaining anything for ourselves.

But we have to be clear what it means to ‘give ourselves for the greater benefit of all.’ We have to be clear that gaining anything, for ourselves, without further directing that to the greater benefit of all, is a losing battle in which we win ten shillings and then lose it all to vainglory, self, pride, and unnatural wants for our own self, believing again that we can gain from taking.

The self is a cover of duality,
but underneath it all is a oneness,
and within it all, even, is the same oneness.

So, underneath and above and within are all the same thing. And we lose by thinking we can win for ourselves, that we are not just trading one arm for another, one life for another, and one pain for another, and, in the instance of freedom, we win when we realize we are loving all and that is the way to receive the all-embracing, all-loving Love we are searching for, forever and forever more.

The wave says to the ocean, “I am separate,” until it crashes down hard on its face and says, “I am You.”

Love, if you would like the world to love you back.

Give, if you would like the world to give to you what you need.

Let go of your own self, if you would like to be at peace and one with the whole world.

It is the self, imposing itself more than it needs, that starves the Self of all that it needs. Its need is the whole creation itself, down to the smallest particle of love, life, or energy, whatever you may prefer to call it. And it receives that, by giving its all.

And the physical receives by giving not by taking.

And the mental receives by giving not by taking.

And life itself receives by giving not by taking.

For more on this subject, read The Book of Mirdad by Mikhail Naimy, read The Gift: Poems by Hafiz by Daniel Ladinsky, take a look at Listening to Nature by Joseph Cornell, or search your own heart and mind, search for your own essence in life.




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About the Author

is the director of CleanTechnica, the most popular cleantech-focused website in the world, and Planetsave, a world-leading green and science news site. He has been covering green news of various sorts since 2008, and he has been especially focused on solar energy, electric vehicles, and wind energy for the past four years or so. Aside from his work on CleanTechnica and Planetsave, he's the Network Manager for their parent organization – Important Media – and he's the Owner/Founder of Solar Love, EV Obsession, and Bikocity. To connect with Zach on some of your favorite social networks, go to ZacharyShahan.com and click on the relevant buttons.



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  • Alanna

    individual ecosystems have a carrying capacity- as does the world as a whole- People think they can remove themselves from the rhythms and connections of the environment, but those connections simply occur in a different fashion than they did when we were cavemen (and cavewomen). The fact that people used to die at age 30 acted as a natural population control so as to not overload the earth with living beings. Yes our standard of living has increased dramatically as well as our lifespan-but is it truly for the better? One day there will be 6billion people that have no clean drinking water- no food- and perhaps no adequate shelter- all but the most extremely wealthy who’d been able to hoard supplies while the rest of us wallow in our own self-inflicted hell.
    The problem with wanting is that to acquire that inanimate thing that we want imposes more environmental harms than most are aware. Even if you walk to the store- carbon was still emitted likely during the production of that item, during it’s transportation and during it’s storage (a a minimum- electricity).
    People don’t realize where our food comes from – how it gets to the grocery store shelves and what it takes to have a tomato there 12 months out of the year.
    One day humankinds karma will kick it in the but and we’ll be out in the cold (figure of speech, corrected: out in the heat) without all of our “luxuries”.

  • http://www.transportationchoice.org Zachary Shahan

    Well, my friend, we may be making different points here.

    And, in due time, we will all experience the results of our actions and the fruits of our wants.

    And we are experiencing them even today.

    But if we are blind to them, what can a few small words do to show us that a “richer world” is the same world it was 1000 years ago, just reorganized.

    And who were you 1000 years ago, and what have you gained in that time?

    It is a matter of different levels of thinking, my friend, and i think we are not thinking on the same level.

    Yes, let us improve the world around us, let us improve our situation, but let us first understand what it means to have an improved life.

  • Patrick

    Wanting more than we need is the reason we’re still not living in caves, wallowing in our own shit and dying at 30 from disease, malnurishment and

    If you only make as much as you need, you have nothing left over to give and trade with other people.

    Wealth is not finite. The world gets wealthier every year on average.

    The average human being now is a hundred times richer than the richest man 1000 years ago.

    Time to do some real thinking genius.

    You can want more than you need and not harm anyone, in fact, it can lead you to invent and produce and create wonderful things, and its those people who make life a wonderful place and not a meek dystopia where we only seek to sustain ourselves and nothing else.

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