Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Living with Less

Earth Care:
Tree Planting briefing - Tanay Rizal
A friend shared this article about Living with less , and I thought it was a good reminder for me. This thought was something I acquired since I was 19yo, but living a more ‘complex’ life after college, and recently doing all sort of activities made me acquire and keep so many things. Still, in my own little ways – I struggle and fight to live a not-so-materialistic lifestyle, both as ‘life contentment training’, and to preserve the only living environment we know today – our planet.

I wrote a related article and mentioned this never-ending ‘life upgrade’ in my older blogs – and I’m reposting it here..


The New Age of Earth Care

(Originally posted June2007)

In today’s era of Global Warming, things and personal preference would have to change. Little ‘sacrifices’ and normal perks we look for are easily put aside for a grander end in mind – Saving the world!

For a tiny bit of example, when I eat at our office cafeteria - the staff always wonder why I ask for a single plate with rice and ulam on it, instead of putting my viand in a separate platito. Or, that endless question from friends on why I try not to use plastic straw in my resto drinks. Simple math – or maybe the law of cumulative effect. Imagine 100 guys like me in one cafeteria doing that, imagine 100 other buildings in Makati and Ortigas with 100 guys on each practicing the same thing – that’s 10,000 pieces of platitos that needs fresh water for washing, and loads of detergent streaming down our drainage system. Did you know that in some parts of the world, some folks don’t even have access to clean water for drinking? Or, imagine 10000 pieces of plastic straw that should have not been manufactured, packed and shipped (hence less energy consumption) and later on should have not cluttered our sewerage or add up to our land-fills, or burned as harmful gas. And that’s only 2 cities, imagine the entire Metro Manila, or entire Archipelago, or imagine the whole world! You have to believe - Little things do have impact.

Today, I still hear some folks utter comments like, “This is just one small piece of plastic bag to throw away, I can’t possibly harm the environment”. Yeah, like a 100,000 others like you could be doing the same thing, and so it has a cumulative impact. Traveling in different countries will make you see varying cultures on this aspect. When I bought goodies from a big outdoor shop in Toronto, I was politely asked by the cashier-staff if I needed a plastic bag for my newly-bought stuffs (- they encourage you bring your own reusable shopping bag). Try to do that in Manila and you’ll probably be shouted at by the shopper. It’s nice to see that some culture really has embedded eco practice in their daily lives. Some are a bit picky due to lack of awareness. “At least I try not to use styro, plastics are less harmful” so there goes their rationale. They didn’t know that those little plastic grocery bags that ended in the coastal garbage site kills sea turtles every now and then (the poor animal thinks those are jelly fish meals).

After the Al Gore phenomenon, and all the recent news on “save the environment” campaigns, we still have to see a big change in our daily lives. Have you retired your heavy SUVs, or replaced all your incandescent lamps, or even practiced pedestrianism or bike commuting? The answer is – it takes time. But slow injection of little changes will help us all evolve to more Earth-friendly humans.


Developing countries influenced by a “fast-track lifestyle” like ours has unfortunately, a bigger challenge ahead. In this world of ‘me-first’ rat race, a world of fast food and quick-return investments, and a culture of heavy competition and urgency, we instinctively work and live for one thing – MONEY! - That’s our means to make lives more ‘comfortable’ in this world.

We focus on career that rewards more money, crave for success that means more money, or fame that translates to money. Getting hard-earned cash is not bad per se, but it loses our focus to more important things in life. Like LIFE itself! Or even the environment that supports life.

I recall inviting a group for a tree-planting activity, and their first question to me was – “do you get money from that?” I have to laugh. It’s funny that at almost every aspect, people think about money. After returning home from the steep slopes of Everest, people ask for ‘balato’ as if I lifted a pot of gold from the summit. “How much did you win?” became a common question. When I join races and talk about my experience with corporate YUPs, they would ask – “did you place? How much is the prize?” Well, they can’t understand the concept of “joining a race for fun”, they thought it’s all about earning money. Obviously, it is in our culture. Aminin na natin. (We have to admit it). When we talk about conveniences in life, we always ‘feel’ we lack something, and hence work for more to upgrade, then work some more. That’s the ideology of cancer cells – grow for the sake of growing.

This is one of the core issues on why eco awareness doesn’t normally translate into action. How many have watched “An inconvenient truth”? A lot, tens of thousands, maybe more. But the ‘wow and awe’ and “oo nga noh” awareness didn’t really evolved much into action. Some did, but was never sustained.

Enhancing the Personal Value system

The simplified answer to a seemingly complex question of people’s inaction is rooted in one thing – our values, those that dictate our life’s choices, or our daily priorities. And we all know that value system can’t be easily changed. It is rooted deep within ourselves. Significant experiences in life change that. I used to feel immortal, just like any gung-ho mixed endurance and adrenalin athletes out there. But after the death of my Dad, I see life to be more fragile, that I could as well be him, losing life’s grip in an instant. I’ve seen a few friends who suffered severe health problems, but came back as a very active sportsman – a big change in how they live their lives.

But how can you enhance that value component, and embed Earth Care as part of it? Not easy, unless you discover for yourself that there’s fulfillment in doing it. You have to experience the ‘magic’. A few examples in the realm of sports… There’s this time that I’ve taken a non-swimmer, and a hydrophobic person underwater for his first-ever introductory scuba dive. Of course it was stressful for both of us (me at that time was a newbie Dive Master), but after a 20minute dive experience – it changed everything. For him at least. How can such beauty of the underwater world be there and not be experienced by a non-diver? It sounded unfair. But with that one experience, he instantly knew there was something down there that can give him unexplained pleasure, not experienced in climbing mountains, or other stuff that he does.

Like my adventure story. I’ve never thought I’d pursue Alpine Mountaineering, but my first trip in Nepal in 1998 has taught me that there’s a big world out there waiting for me, a place of great adventure, and a place of great dreams. One trip has changed everything. So the simple point is that - experience can change things - what you’ll like, what’s important for you, what you want to do in life.

In the segment of eco-community work, time and again I’ve heard of a corporate volunteer, who ended up quitting his day job and doing NGO work full time. I’ve heard of doctors who created charity foundations after they have witnessed the struggle of poor patients pouring in their hospitals. It’s not because they simply “live a life of sacrifice and selflessness and martyrdom”, it’s because they experience the magic of it. It’s not all about being “a good person”, it is simply following a basic life’s principle - of doing the right things, plus the bonus of actually getting satisfaction from it.

And it could be from simple things.

Just last year, when we organized a tree-planting activity in Alaminos Pangasinan, I was half-expecting that the planting is the unwanted-but-sige-na-nga task, and boating around Hundred Islands as THE highlight. But after planting 400 seedlings in the muddy wetland, we all felt the magic. The highlight of the trip was the tree-planting! And instead of asking when’s the next beach gimmick – the participants were asking for the next planting activity! One experience has changed some things.

I was normally asked why I pursue dangerous climbs and not pursue a more ‘regular’ sports, other the fact that I don’t quite feel the danger  I normally suggests that maybe – living life on the edge gives you more undefined fulfillment in life. The closer you are to the edge… the more fulfillment that you will get. Things that you earned hard are things that last in our memory. Easy gains are easily lost, but those you sweated blood for are the enduring and fulfilling moments in life.

I compare this with simple Earth Care actions, the magic you experience is the undefined fulfillment – more than earning extra money from an overtime weekend work, more fulfilling than the first prize you claimed from a race, and a it carries a lot more meaning than winning a big corporate rat race! And yes it could be challenging, maybe more challenging than extreme sports – and you could very well be living on the edge, but that’s the key to gain more fulfillment.

The simple message – learn to care, and experience the magic… In no time, you’ll be one of Earth’s dearest friends. :)


Moonlit Ysay said...

True!!! nice blog sir! :) Godbless you

Joann said...

I love this post! I used to wonder why so many people get hooked with mountain climbing so I joined and just like what you said here, I experienced the magic :) And I guess for anyone who fell in love with the outdoors, it comes with a realization that we have a role to play for preserving our planet.