“Sustainability is no longer about doing less harm. It’s about doing more good.” ~ Jochen Zeitz.
I was a girl scout for a few years, as a child. I don’t recall us doing too many adventures; we were mostly confined to the spacious campus of our high school. I remember learning useful skills like (pause, while I try to remember one!)… like leaving a trail when you go hiking in the woods, so that if you get lost you can retrace your footsteps. You were to drop twigs or stones; shaping sticks into an arrow when you followed a fork in the path. And moss grows on the north side of trees. My apologies to Mrs. Harris, I am sure we learned much more!
The other day I read an article, and not for the first time I read about that amazing plant, moss. It turns out that if we want to trace our origin, moss is the one who started the evolutionary path out of the ocean. The earth was inhospitable at the time – nothing but rocks and ocean. But moss was able to anchor itself to the rock, and gradually dissolved the rock into enough soil to live on, and in doing so released minerals into the sea and oxygen into the air. The added minerals in the sea allowed for the flourishing of other species, and the oxygen made the earth habitable. The interesting thing is that although many species have evolved and become extinct over time, moss has endured.
It appears one of the secrets to the success of moss, is that it uses only the resources it needs to survive: the most superficial of surfaces; they don’t have roots and obtain their nutrients from the air. If there is no moisture they can remain dry for years, even surviving in the desert. As soon as moisture appears again they will spring back to life. It is thought that mosses were responsible for one of the ice ages, they pulled so much carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere (the opposite of climate warming which is due to too much carbon!).
I may have summarized the story of the moss badly, but the lessons are there. Rather than taking more than needed, and leaving the planet in a worse condition than before, moss took only what it needed, and made the world a better place. If only we could learn that lesson!
A memory prompt on Facebook this week reminded me that it is 22 years since my father-in-law died. Like the moss, my father-in-law (we called him Dy) was not a greedy man. He worked the land to provide for his family, and lived sustainably in the country, growing yam and cabbage and other vegetables. He was widely known in the area as he was not a man to keep his opinions to himself. Many in the district knew they could come to him for help, and somehow he would be able to ‘lend’ them a money, air fare to go to ‘farrin’ (foreign – USA or UK); or school funds for a child. His famous cry (which he would encourage children going up the hill past his house to shout in answer) was ‘Mi happy-oh!’
Like my father-in-law (his wife had died in childbirth long before I joined the family) my own parents lived their version of using the least resources necessary. My father often quoted Mother Theresa: ‘Live simply, so others may simply live’. My mother, like most women of her generation, lived by the saying ‘waste not, want not’ and reused every piece of string or wrapping paper possible. Long before recycling and upcycling were the rage, she found a purpose for everything that passed through her hands. For years my parents would even ‘regift’ birthday cards to each other. Her grandkids were used to her refurbished cards which would be embellished with stickers and art.
Sometimes it seems that individuals making small life-style changes will not accomplish much, but think of the tiny plant that singlehandedly increased the oxygen level of the planet to support life. In much the same way, we may not think that we can make a change in a country where a small minority are convinced that they must use violence to sustain their own version of life. How can we start to create conversations to address the imbalance? This week I heard a commentator saying that the US must admit and accept that ‘this is who we are’, a deeply divided country with racism baked into the DNA, willing to kill those who look different from us. It is only by acknowledging this that we can begin to make meaningful changes. Just as an addict cannot be successful if they don’t begin with the acceptance of the problem, the US will not begin to heal until it accepts that treatment is needed.
This Friday morning I hope that you can find ways to live simply, using only those resources that you need. I hope you can find ways to leave this world a better place. And remember to thank the moss, for without it we would still be on the ocean floor!
Have a wonderful weekend, Family!