I'd like to share what the term, "a real green life," means to me. It's a recipe for living a life that's not grand or heroic, and it's also not always easy. But it is simple, and it is a way of living that can make a difference.
For me, "real" has to do with things like...
- Real values - exploring and developing your own values and being guided by them as much as possible.
- The real you - doing your best to find out who you really are. (As opposed to who you think the rest of the world wants you to be.) And making a sincere commitment to be as kind and inclusive toward the real you as you would be toward any one else.
- Real food - growing some of your own, making choices that nourish your family and the land/community that grew the food, as much as you can.
- Real, clean ways of caring for your self and family - with regards to what to put on your skin, in your body, on the surfaces of your house, and in our soil, air, and water (and what not to).
- Real vs fake - being willing to learn to see through the fakes, fads, and quick fixes. Ditching the substitutes and going after what you really need. (For example, real vs fast food; real home-based healthcare vs pharmaceuticals; real in-person hugs, tears, and laughter vs emojis.)
And "green" means...
... green feels a little easier to explain. To me it has to do with making choices that are regenerative, or at least that do as little harm as possible.
In any area of our lives we can ask, is this the most regenerative choice I can make? Or in the absence of a regenerative choice, is this the least harmful action I can take?
The principle applies regardless of what specific thing we're talking about. You might be wanting to minimize harm or restore health to something as small as a single garden bed or to a whole garden or farm, a relationship, your own health... the list can be endless.
Trapped by our assumptions and habits
Collectively, we've accepted a story that says we're separate individuals, alone in a world where there's not enough to go around.
We're under the illusion that in order to survive we must keep taking what we want/need in damaging ways, even when we know what the consequences are.
We're so overwhelmed by the challenges we face that we assume there's nothing we can do (and it's all our fault but it's too late now).
We're so in the habit of controlling each other/being controlled that we've forgotten how to think for ourselves in ways that could help us get out of the trap we're in. And we assume that controlling each other is necessary and failing was inevitable because humans are just basically bad.
Living according to these assumptions traps us on a merry-go-round where all we can hope for is more of the same.
Practical and personal skills for springing the trap
The Practical Skills content on A Real Green Life delves into things like growing some of our own food and taking back our basic healthcare. This is about caring for ourselves and our families in ways that minimize harm and prioritize well-being and regeneration.
As well as the hands-on practical, how-to side of things, we also need to look to our inner worlds, because how we care for our inner selves is how we will care for everything outside ourselves. The Personal Skills essays on A Real Green Life explore ideas for examining our assumptions about our selves and our purpose in the world, reclaiming our sovereignty as individuals, and building our capacity to care effectively.
Does "real and green" have to be big and heroic?
Some people rug up and go to the arctic to advocate for whales and polar bears. Some hug trees or camp in blockades. Some join or lead political campaigns, or establish organizations committed to making a difference.
But what if you're "just an ordinary person" who isn't doing anything big, heroic, and visible? Do you have the feeling that you can't make any difference to anything, that whatever you do can't be scaled and is therefore useless?
While the activists, authors, and founders are doing their thing, other people are parenting. Teaching. Working in healthcare or social work settings. Working as janitors, collecting trash, serving coffee, or stacking shelves. Growing food or recycling wastes.
Are those kinds of work less important than the first set of examples I gave?
The real work
Regardless of what you're doing in the world, I'm convinced that the most important part of your work is mostly invisible to the rest of the world. It involves building a very un-heroic, very real foundation of self-reflection and self-care.
It includes the work of building, from the inside out, our capacity to live and care effectively. And of making small, consistent choices and taking small, manageable and sustainable actions that stack up slowly, one upon another.
In my opinion, that's the real work. It's not at all glamorous. It is the only way to begin to make a real, lasting difference.
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