Something I loved about Portugal, especially after living in Boitsfort for the past two years, was that I could walk across a grassy field and not have to worry about stepping on dog poop. It took several different field walking excursions in city parks to finally let go of the tendency to survey the scene around me on the ground the entire time and raise my eyes to the beauty at eye level and above.
So many times in life I say, “I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but…” Suffice it to say I have been catching myself saying this phrase a lot over the past two years in politics. I also find myself constantly surprised by the complete lack of awareness of the connection between human actions and the deteriorating environment around us. I think it begins with small gestures like not picking up your dog’s poop. This one really bugs me. I just cannot imagine a person sitting down in the street and pooping and then not picking it up. ok, I cannot really imagine a person pooping in the street, but still…wouldn’t they pick it up if they did? I mean, that’s gross!
It’s not only gross, but dog poop is not like wild animal poop (which I imagine may be a claim a non poop picker upper uses to justify their actions). Dog poop does not break down and compost unless (like any poop) it is in the right conditions for degradation. The sidewalk or street do not have those natural conditions.
There is one fellow in our neighborhood who has trained his dog to poop in the middle of the street so that cars will drive over and flatten said poop and he doesn’t have to pick it up. I have witnessed this happen multiple times. One time, I asked him if he could please pick the poop up (and he did, albeit not joyfully). Another neighbor cautioned me against my action because she said this guy could get very aggressive against me (at least, that was the warning I understand from her French).
Something I learned from my parents was to take responsibility for my actions. What I have learned from years of studying and practicing yoga is that I experience actual feelings in response to my actions. It took me a long time and a lot of listening to notice, but now I literally will feel terrible if I pursue an action that is unkind. This morning I took my dog out at 5am because he had the squirts (good times), and I hesitated after he did his business.
I had entire dialogue in my head about it:
It’s gooey. I can’t pick up. It will be too difficult to pick up and too messy.
You can pick it up. You know you can. Just use some leaves to try to clean it up as best you can.
But if I pick it up with leaves, those leaves will go in a landfill instead of back to the earth.
Well, you wanted a dog. Dogs poop. So, pick up the poop, woman! It’s 5am. I want to go back to bed.
In the end, I picked it up.
All we can do is our best. Make an effort. In this world, especially over the course of my life, it seems that there are no choices without some kind of negative repercussion. Often, it feels like I have to choose between levels of bad for the earth. If I buy this peanut butter, it will be bad because it has palm oil, but it will be less bad than buying the one with palm oil and hydrogenated corn oil.
If I feed the backyard kitten, it will help her stay alive, which means she will likely kill animals outside. However, she will be alive, and she is a living, breathing being who deserves care and love.
These are not the best examples. I will have to reflect and share others as they come to me, but hopefully you get the idea. This is a world where some choices are really difficult.
This is also a world in desperate need of sensitivity and empathy and awareness. It is my belief that for our species and others to survive, it is imperative for people to “take the high road” with regard to taking responsibility for their actions. We have to be the lorax in all situations and for all species without sway in our human-dominant world.
Side note: Word wants me to change lorax to the following:
How does Word not recognize the lorax!?
I was really amazed at the measures taken in Portugal toward keeping things clean. There were trash and recycling stations everywhere, and I saw that there were many people employed to pick up after those who could not or would not bother (I think now I am on a Seuss kick here) to take responsibility for their actions. Even on the beach there was a long line of these trash/recycling stations. It was cool. And the beach was clear of trash, so I could enjoy walking along with my mom instead of trying to hold as many pieces of discarded plastic as I could fit in my tiny hands.
Clean earth. People with jobs. Nice.
Let me say that I am no angel when it comes to my own footprint. I regularly practice consumption therapy, and I have heard myself say all kinds of thing to justify buying something I don’t need or something that has all kinds of unnecessary plastic packaging.
Some of these justifications go like this:
Well, I don’t have a car or children, so I’m ahead of the game.
The earth is f’d anyway; I give up.
I’m tired of feeling like the only person who cares. I want these earrings (or whatever it is).
I am not perfect. I think imperfect is the new perfect (as the saying goes), and I’m ok with this imperfection. I know that life is short, and there are situations where I will make choices that are not so great for the earth. This does not mean that I have given myself permission to make choices that do not sit well with my body, mind, and heart. It is important to me to recognize and pay attention to my actions and to keep trying to move toward simplicity and support for this planet that is my home and that needs me help.
There is, quite literally, no place like home.