This is my 4th year taking part in the Earth Hour, a global event aimed at raising awareness about sustainability issues.  This year, I have decided to write a daily post during the month leading to the event in order to share some thoughts about the environment and give tips the little changes we can make in our daily lives.  There will also be some guest posts by fellow bloggers who will share their own views on a topic related to the environment.  You can read my introductory post here and access the Earth Hour website here.

I encourage you to comment and share your own tips, ideas and experience.  In the last couple of days before the event I will do a few posts about what readers had to say.  I believe we can learn a lot by sharing!

Today a guest blogger is joining me.  Steph blogs from Canada @Bella’s Bookshelves about books and shares her thoughts related to literature and the book industry.  For her guest post, Steph has chosen to discuss how the protection of the environment necessarily begins with our love for the planet.

“Typically, Earth Hour is about conserving energy and generally raising awareness of the earth’s welfare in the hope that more people will adopt a more conscientious attitude toward the planet we call home. You’ll see newspapers and websites covering the Hour and the events coordinated to commemorate it. You’ll see teens meaningfully holding up mobile phones to illuminate the dark of school halls, and earnest posts on what Earth Hour means to the authors. You’ll see videos and documentaries on recycling and composting and turning off lights and turning down fridges and buying energy smart machines, and on climate change and tree planting and ocean biodiversity. Increasing numbers of people are participating in Earth Hour each year, and in Earth Day, as well, on April 22.

But rarely will you see good environmental news, or if we do the change is not significant enough. Why? We’ve been going on about the welfare of our planet for eons. It shows up in speculative fiction from decades long past to now. I wonder if, although there are those who’ve changed their lifestyle, all this talk is beginning to wear thin, if people are tuning it out, maybe even more so the more desperate or frightening the entreaties and documentaries become.

Perhaps, then, our approach is misguided or misplaced. Maybe we need to go beyond awareness or fear-inducing statistics. Maybe what we need to awaken is love, as cheesy as that sounds. It wasn’t PETA, after all (although I cried buckets of tears over their shocking videos), or celebrity or friends’ testimonies, or blog posts or magazine articles or even health concerns, that convinced me to become a vegetarian. It wasn’t World Vegetarian Day, either.

It was my dog, Lucy, whom I love like no other and who forever changed the way I see living creatures, and my already deep appreciation and wonder of Nature that made me (and my husband who followed a month later) decide to stop eating animals. The awareness part about how vegetarianism helps the earth of course contributed: I was able to connect my values with these facts. But the motivation to make my commitment last without any stumbling stemmed from not awareness but love. Think of parents and why they sacrifice what they do to care for their kids, no matter how old. The motivation is not so their kids will take care of them later as much as it is love.

Buddha said that our life’s purpose, since we are ever questing after it, is to discover our world and with all our hearts give ourselves to it.  

This can be interpreted several ways, I suppose. I like to think of it as meaning I’m to learn the awesomeness of this world (and believe me, I am in awe) and in so doing, out of my resulting love and appreciation for it, commit myself to being conscious of my environment and the inhabitants with whom I share it and acting accordingly.

Mainly, though, we and this planet, all on it and in it, are inextricably connected. In other words, then: discover the world in order to better know yourself.

To take this further, everything is a mirror: what we see and experience is a result of what we put out. This truth is profound, and we need to realize this, I believe, and how it applies to our world, on a deeply emotional level. Many who understand this have sung the natural world’s praises, especially in terms of what it gives us—serenity, joy, spirituality, energy, direction, sanctuary. It also gives us resources. Together with an awareness of how our actions affect our surroundings, our appreciation and love for our world can affect significant, lasting change—that is, our planet can better give back to us—whether we discover and allow alternatives to methods and materials that harm the planet and its inhabitants or simply change the way we buy, eat, and dispose of things. We seem to need constant reminding that this planet is also our livelihood. Perhaps if we were more in tune with it, perhaps if we truly loved it, we wouldn’t need reminding. We would simply, like stewards, act consciously.

The forest behind our house is hardly unused or uninhabited. My husband, dog, and I explore it almost every weekend. Soon it will be gone, taken over by urban sprawl. But for now it’s a haven for a flock of robins, for rabbits and squirrels and coyotes. A creek winds its way through, in the summer babbling and deep enough for the dog to swim in, in the winter, frozen enough to kneel on and peer through to watch the current carry detritus underneath. This is a place where meditation simply happens, you don’t have to try.

Unfortunately, the forest is also littered with garbage: a discarded fridge, pieces of plastic garden chairs, an old broom, a dustpan, a Ralph Lauren Chaps bag in which something had once built a nest, miscellaneous bottles and cans and cigarette packages.

The irony is, those who litter it also seek sanctuary in it: the teens have built several structures within the deepest parts of the woods, most notably an impressive shelter made of dead branches and ripped tarps and plastic.

There is a disconnect, then. Because of a lack not of knowledge but of appreciation and love, those who wish to be in Nature are failing to understand the connection between themselves and it. They’re failing to see Nature as living and vulnerable and giving. This is why we need reminding.

The fact is, some things will never change. Because of who we are, money will continue to drive actions that destroy ecosystems. Scare tactics will lose their potency over time. Our forests will remain littered with pop cans and beer bottles and pieces of broken furniture and discarded metal and pool linings and clothing. The fact is that fear, namely, fear of what will happen to us and the earth if we don’t take care of it, eventually just wears us down. We cease to care because it’s too much effort.

I believe that because we are all made of the same thing, because we are elementally connected with Nature and this planet, all of us carry in us a seed of knowledge, a way of truly changing the fate of Earth. Some of us will become aware of it, either through education or an awakening, some of us will deny it, and in some that seed will remain completely dormant forever, because other things take precedence.

If we ourselves have discovered our world and loved and appreciated it, we can show others what we see and think. Our children’s love and wonder of Nature can be grown and fostered from the time they arrive in this world. We pass on what we know and discover. That can be light or dark, knowledge or ignorance, appreciation or apathy, love or disregard.

Motivation to change for good (both in terms of time and virtue) stems from and lasts because of deeply rooted conviction and emotions. If we want our Earth to be truly gifted, and to sustain us in return, we ought to learn love and wonder first.”