As the devastating impacts of our actions on the environment become more apparent - 50% loss of ocean life in the last 40 years (WWF 2015), icebergs the size of entire countries now breaking off and melting due to climate change (NS&IDC 2017), species going extinct on a daily basis (to name a few) - it is clear that society is in need of a radical new approach to helping the natural world if we, as a species, are to survive.
Many people are already taking action to help the environment – using reusable shopping bags, coffee cups, eco-friendly products and the like, but there is a fundamental flaw in this approach. They only slow down our rate of destruction of the Earth. They don’t stop it, and they don’t reverse it.
Society’s current attempts to help the environment only really focus on ways to reduce our impact, not restore the damage that has been done. When we are so focussed on ways to lessen our environmental footprint, we tend to forget the bigger picture. That is that our planet Earth is in dire need of help to improve the overall health of our environment.
Don’t get me wrong - our efforts to reduce our impact are still important and necessary.
Reducing waste, pollution, energy usage and fossil fuel dependency are much better than their alternatives, and we all need to be doing them. We just can’t stop there. The problems facing us are too large. We need to start taking things a step further by reducing our impact and reversing the damage we have done to turn the state of the planet around.
So how do we practically do that on a daily basis? If we are serious about saving this planet, we need to start Earth healing. Earth Healing is the process of giving energy back to the environment to restore ecosystem health. It could be in the form of nutrients, plants, water, landform restoration, habitat creation etc. All of which can be done from our own backyards.
Some simple examples of ways to Earth heal from our own homes include:
Installing habitat boxes for wildlife;
Leaving water out for birds and insects;
Planting a variety of local, native plants;
Installing wildlife friendly fences (so that wildlife can traverse our property and use it as a corridor between patches of remnant vegetation in our area);
Installing native bee hives; and
Starting up simple permaculture systems (which enable us to be part of our very own closed food cycle/system).
Earth healing addresses the underlying problem in the way humans interact with the environment – the imbalance between how much is being taken out of the Earth and how much is being given back. At present, on the whole, we are only taking from the Earth. Think about the billions of tonnes of materials we mine, the forests we log, the fish we kill for food and the land we destroy for urbanisation and business.
Then think about how much we are giving in return……… Not much is it?
In order for the natural systems and cycles of the planet to function, they need to have an equal amount of energy going in and coming out. Ecosystems, the carbon cycle, food cycles, water cycles – all the natural systems we depend on for survival – need to be fed energy to keep running.
Our indigenous ancestors understood this. Thousands of years of first-hand experience of how to live in harmony with the land ensured they never took anything from the environment without giving something in return (even if that giving in return was gratitude for what they had taken). It is this key difference that makes indigenous cultures sustainable and modern society unsustainable.
Every other species on the planet plays an active part in keeping the natural systems that they are a part of functioning. Take a bird for example – sure, it has an impact on its environment - it takes food, water and shelter from its ecosystem. But it also gives in return – it disperses seeds in its feathers, its digestive system helps to germinate seeds, its excretion falls to the ground and becomes nutrients for the soil and when it dies, its body is used for food by other creatures.
As humans, we constantly take from our environment, but we don’ t give back. If we are to survive as a species, we need to start playing our part in keeping our ecosystems functioning. Every single one of us – not just the governments or green groups. The problems facing us are too large to wait for others to take action. We all need to start taking responsibility for the damage we have done and take action to repair it.
There are so many different ways we can all Earth heal. They don’t cost a lot of money or time, and they can be done from anywhere. There really are no excuses to start earth healing today!
World Wildlife Fund, 2015, Living Blue Planet Report, World Wildlife Fund, Washington USA.
National Snow and Ice Data Centre, 2017, Quick Facts on Icebergs, https://nsidc.org/cryosphere/quickfacts/icebergs.html