Lessons from Earth Day: People Care & Meeting Our Needs

As someone with a desire to enrich life, which is intertwined with my permaculture ethics to "care for people" and "care for the Earth", sometimes I ask myself "What can I do to make more of a difference?" With frustration sometimes, my inner critic, the "jackal voices" as we call them in Nonviolent Communication, tell me that I'm not doing enough. My need to contribute is not being fully met! However, after a day like today, I'm reminded that we really CAN have an impact.

Today, we spent most of the day at Montague Public School, where we led discussions with four classes and a group of teachers about their plans and ideas to make their school "greener". In the afternoon, we played a "web of life" game with the students and saw the entire school (in groups of 15-20) in a whirlwind of an hour and 15 minutes! I was most touched to see the interactions between the older students and the younger ones. I noticed an older student holding the hand of a little girl in his group, guiding her into the classroom. A couple of the grade 7 and 8 students leaned over to help the smaller junior and senior kindergarten kids read their cards during our group activity.

I realise that while we were learning about caring for the Earth, we were also practicing caring for people. I thought this was a great example of what "people care" can be - helping to take care of each other using the resources we have available. When we have an abundance of something - be it food, time or knowledge - and are feeling comfortable and secure, we tend to help each other quite naturally. In permaculture, this is also related to the third ethic, "sharing the surplus", and in NVC, we understand that when our needs are met, we tend to be more willing and joyful in giving to other people.

Last Saturday, we hosted the EcoPerth EcoSkills Sampler day in Perth. Over 50 people (from as far as Brockville, Kingston and Ottawa!) and 11 presenters gathered to learn and share about eco-living skills. I thought this was a great example of sharing abundance, while taking care of people and the Earth; our presenters shared their knowledge to help others better meet their personal needs and live lighter on the planet. Indeed, permaculture aims to help human communities meet our needs in more sustainable and regenerative ways, so that we may be willing and able to take care of the larger Earth community too.

As I reflect on the last few days and the experiences I've shared with the adults and the children in my community, my inner jackal voices are resting quietly.  I'm remembering the grade 5/6 students, whose questions and comments filled my mind and heart with inspiration; with an increasing sensitivity to the Earth, I think our young people are an important part of the changing tide.  My inner NVC-ing "giraffe" self is delighted that my need for inspiration, hope, community, contribution and learning have been met - and to be reminded again that whether we're in grade 5 or 8, in our thirties or sixties, we can have an impact.


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