I have been thinking a lot lately about my place in the dynamic flurry of this beautiful planet and specifically, what my role should be in helping our world to heal. No one can deny that humanity is facing many environmental and social problems that seem to be getting worse every month.
Climate change is the big looming monster that is the underbelly of so much panic and destruction. In Australia we are seeing hotter, drier summers and crazy wildfires at the same time that our largest ever coal mines are being approved and the nod has been given to dredge our precious Great Barrier Reef so we can ship more coal overseas.
On a social and political level, Australia is having to face the tragic consequences of voting in a government that views refugees as illegal immigrants whose lives are not worth protecting. A government that either ignored, or was negligently ignorant of, the tension and violent resentment that was building in the community surrounding the Manus Island detention centre.
On the topic of human rights internationally, the UN has just released a report detailing some of the horrors that North Korean citizens have faced at the hands of their own government, unnoticed by the rest of the world. Uganda recently passed a law that imposes a life sentence in prison for people found to be homosexual.
These are only a few of endless possible examples I could give where anger, fear and ego are destroying natural environments and fracturing societies. The question is, for big hearted, caring people like you and me, how do we make change for the better without destroying our health or our sense of hope? I suspect the answer lies with the Beatles and our flower power hippy relatives back in the 1960s. We need to give more LOVE.
Anger, fear and shame don’t take us forward as a society. Love does. Love truly is the only way to make gains on the environmental and social crises that plague us.
Think about it. How many of you respond positively to the chuggers (charity street workers) who try to make you feel guilty about not donating via direct debit to their charity? How many of you enjoy hearing an environmentalist or animal rights activist speak angrily about a cause? How empowered do you feel when you read a news report or watch a documentary or listen to a lecture about environmental destruction and human rights abuse?
I’m guessing that some or all of these scenarios invoke shame, fear and resentment in most people, rather than fostering a positive drive to make the world a better place. That is certainly the case for me.
This is where love enters the stage. Few things are more empowering than seeing warm, happy faces gathering in groups, ready to take positive action. Love for the world and its people is infectious. Hope and positivity leads to change. I know this to be true from my experiences volunteering for various environmental NGOs and student groups. The organisations I have worked for that support volunteers, embrace the community and accept any amount of time people can give to the cause without judgment or pressure, are ultimately successful. The organisations that have a high-pressure work environment filled with anger and a sense of ceaseless urgency, ultimately implode.
However outside the great work of some community groups and NGOs, I truly believe that each individual can use love to make a positive difference in the world. This means first loving ourselves and then sharing this love with others. Loving ourselves starts with forgiving and accepting ourselves. When we love ourselves, we can love others. There isn’t a person on this planet who is able to dislike themselves and at the same time realise their potential for loving others and the planet. In fact, Louise Hay, the inspirational woman who has taught millions of people how to forgive and truly love and accept themselves, agrees with me. She thinks that each of us has enough love in our hearts to heal the entire world!
The next question is: why do I think that love is the answer, and not just a hollow catch phrase?
Because when we act out of love, we lessen our impact on the environment and improve the lives of those around us. Simply smiling at someone could brighten their day. A gracious and thoughtful act for someone could lift their week. Love makes us want to make more environmentally and socially conscious purchasing decisions rather than scrounging around for the cheapest price. When we vote out of love, we choose leaders who pledge to improve the environment and society, and this in turn has huge flow-on effects.
Now and for the rest of my life, I want to live mindfully and with love. In that way I can dedicate my life to improving the lives of others and the future of our planet. If this idea speaks to you, I invite you to consider bringing love into your daily life too.
The author blogs at linseyhart.wordpress.com