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Caring for the environment takes on a spiritual dimension.
by Dorrit Kjaer Christiansen
Submitted by SBH Clay - 21 Mar 2005
These days the European media are filled with news about the Kyoto Protocol on climate change, which took effect February 16. This agreement, negotiated in the beautiful city of Kyoto, Japan, commits participating nations to reducing their emissions of certain “greenhouse” gases, primarily carbon dioxide, which have been linked to global warming.
Environmental concerns run deep and wide where I live in Brussels, “the center of the European Union” (EU). But environmental awareness is hardly limited to the EU, or to other parts of the world. And the state of our planet concerns not only decisionmakers and environmental groups, but every inhabitant—all who breathe the air, drink the water, walk, run, and play at the beaches and in the forests. Who build, buy, or rent homes to live in. Who grow, sell, and eat food. In fact, it is a concern that unites us as the human family.
Considering the gravity and the scale of environmental issues facing us, one may ask: What can I do? Does what I think or do matter? Can I make a difference?
Yes—emphatically yes—we can make a difference! And as I see it, the only place to start is with and within myself, instead of wondering what others should be doing. In my everyday life, I can reconsider my use of electricity and heating fuels, where choices are possible. I can use public transport or a bicycle instead of a car, choose a car that uses less energy, take showers instead of baths, not let the water run or the lights be on when it isn’t necessary, participate in recycling programs. In other words, I can be mindful of Earth’s resources, appreciating the good things we have instead of taking them for granted.
We can all do similar things. But can we do more? Actually, much more. Besides taking responsibility for the environment in the way we live our lives, we can reach for higher, more spiritual models of existence and action. The basis of those models is that we are actually spiritual beings, not material creations with a spiritual component.
As life’s spiritual dimensions become more real and substantial to us—as we allow God to define and inform us—not only we ourselves but also the wider human family are in some measure freed from feeling desperate when listening to the news. Though we’re still aware of the challenges posed to the environment, fears for our world lessen, and we’re able to act in appropriate ways.
One definition of environment (and there are many) is: the external circumstances under which human beings, animals, and plants live; life conditions, conditions of existence, surroundings (my translation of the Danish from Politikens Fremmedordbog, Politikens Forlag, 1985). When I found this definition, I immediately thought of one of my favorite quotes from the Bible: “For in him we live, and move, and have our being; . . . For we are also his offspring” (Acts 17:28). I take those words as a statement of spiritual fact about us as God’s beloved children. That our true identity is that of spiritual ideas who live, move, and have existence in the divine Mind, the all-good God—that we actually live in Spirit and not in matter. These are the real circumstances under which we live. The spiritual realities of creation make up our true environment.
Sounds fine, you might say, but how does that help in everyday life? How can I use these ideas to improve the environment? In her book Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, Mary Baker Eddy wrote: “Ask yourself: Am I living the life that approaches the supreme good? Am I demonstrating the healing power of Truth and Love? If so, then the way will grow brighter ‘unto the perfect day.’ Your fruits will prove what the understanding of God brings to man. Hold perpetually this thought,—that it is the spiritual idea, the Holy Ghost and Christ, which enables you to demonstrate, with scientific certainty, the rule of healing, based upon its divine Principle, Love, underlying, overlying, and encompassing all true being” (p. 496).
I often ask myself how I can live a life that approaches “the supreme good.” And I take the Psalmist’s words as an answer to that question: “Be still, and know that I am God” (Ps. 46:10). To me those words are counsel to be quiet and stop trying to outline solutions to the tangled troubles facing our planet, such as concerns over global warming. Rather, to trust and know that God is always here for us individually, with the right solution to any problem one may be facing. The good way already exists because God is the presence of good itself. So (my inner voice says) just be still, listen, and expect good to happen—and expect environmentally damaging beliefs and practices to be uncovered and corrected. If we truly succeed in quieting our own willfulness—and the distress we may feel over what others think or do—we can find how “to demonstrate . . . the rule of healing.”
Some practical steps
The EU and many other nations have been taking steps toward environmental healing. I’m happy that changed thinking is changing the way people and governments act. For example, in anticipation of the Kyoto Protocol taking effect, the 25 countries of the EU launched a multibillion-dollar Emissions Trading Scheme this past January. Additionally, the United Kingdom has already achieved emissions reductions that exceed its Kyoto targets. France announced in February the details of a plan to triple its biofuel output. Japan has established industry and fossil fuel taxes. And Canada is advancing a domestic emissions trading program. Spurred considerably by the Kyoto process, China and India have incorporated climate-related elements into their energy and development policies.
One of the cornerstones of EU environmental action is a program entitled “Environment 2010: Our Future, Our Choice.” For more than 30 years, the EU has set standards through environmental legislation and policymaking, establishing a comprehensive system of environmental protection—from noise abatement to waste management; from natural habitat conservation to water quality controls. An EU-wide emergency information and help network has been set up to deal with environmental disasters, such as oil spills or forest fires. The European Environment Agency in Copenhagen monitors the state of local environments, and provides early warning of future problems.
The environmental watch
In Science and Health I have found this guideline for personal environment-watching: “If you decide that climate or atmosphere is unhealthy, it will be so to you. Your decisions will master you, whichever direction they take.
“Reverse the case. Stand porter at the door of thought. Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in bodily results, you will control yourself harmoniously” (p. 392). I also like to think of it like this: “Admitting only such conclusions as you wish realized in environmental results, you will control your environment harmoniously.” To me this means that what we think can make a difference for the better, one improved thought at a time. The dominion and self-control I gain in my life contribute to bettering the whole environment.
So every day gives each of us a choice. We can give mental space to fear, despair, neediness, or to an “I don’t care” attitude. Or we can choose to have purer and cleaner thoughts, to be undisturbed and peaceful, balanced and loving—by filling our minds with thoughts that the divine Mind originates. Then we won’t be merely observers of a physical environment that seems beyond our ability to help. We’ll be actively contributing to environmental improvement through the way we think and act.
“There is no freedom without responsibility; those two, freedom and responsibility, should always walk together,” said the Grand Rabbi of Brussels at a conference I attended last year, where religious freedom was on the agenda. Environmental issues are global responsibilities. And this kind of responsibility is all about love—about exercising unselfish, unconditional love not only for our own family, for our children and (in my case, future) grandchildren, but also for our neighbors. For every other human being on this dear planet.
Dorrit Kjaer Christiansen is the European representative of the Christian Science Commitee on Publication for the EU institutions based in Brussels.
COPYRIGHT: Reprinted from the Christian Science Sentinel (www.cssentinel.com) March 14, 2005
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