The Unexamined Life…

Why the Zero Waste Movement will Grow.

Although not entirely in accord with the term ‘Zero’ waste because of the obvious unrealistic or unreachable ideal, it is the term that has been universally adopted to name the principle of managing interdependent systems, that prevent waste going to landfills or incinerators.

I’m guessing that those familiar with this philosophy or lifestyle already understand that ‘Zero’ is not the goal, but the path towards it, is. Whatever you choose to call it, the evidence is clear. It’s catching on.

Without overanalyzing, I feel we have come to a point where denying or ignoring things such as climate change, deforestation, pollution, loss of biodiversity, oceanic dead zones and population explosion is simply ignorant. There. I said it. Politely.

You cannot deny the inevitable. Efforts to promote sustainability, environmental awareness, reduction of waste and so on are rising like never before. But are we moving fast enough?

Parents and educators face an unprecedented challenge. The skills we teach our children have to evolve and rapidly adapt to the world they will have when we are gone.

As both a parent and educator, I believe one of these skills is what I like to call Environmental Mindfulness; and here I apologize to anyone who may have also ‘thought up’ this term and given it a slightly different meaning (this keeps happening to me but I guess great minds…)

For me, Environmental Mindfulness is a cultivated mindset that is naturally conditioned to consider its environment when making decisions. Adults who are effective decision makers, have conditioned themselves through practice, experience and reasoning to always consider different effects their actions may have. Usually we think of economic repercussions: (will I lose/make money? / have enough money with this?) emotional: (will he/she/they still love me?) social: (will it be acceptable, praised, discarded?) professional: (will it help/hinder?) you get the idea.

But how often do we think of the devastating carbon or water footprint behind our decisions as consumers? How often do we examine our daily actions to see if they are really aligned with our values? How often do we connect the dots or teach our children to connect the dots to see the whole picture, to question the law of cause and effect, interdependence…

Socrates said: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” I had always thought this to be quite a harsh opinion. But if we turn it around, the perspective shifts: The examined life is worth living. At least it becomes more valuable.

Of course, how we examine is important. We are already seeing it in schools everywhere. If we educators do our jobs well and guide our children by letting them think for themselves, and help them cultivate compassion and creativity, then this will be the glorious age of critical thinkers, creators and entrepreneurs who will fight bravely to preserve and fix the mess we have left for them. Until then, lets try not to ruin any more of it.