Green Living, Blue Planet

(This article appeared in the October issue of Austin’s Natural Awakenings Magazine)

The first astronauts in space—experiencing something no human had ever before experienced—were struck by the beauty of their own blue and green planet Earth. Our telescopes and space missions have since taught us much about other parts of the universe, but as far as we know, we still inhabit the only place with vibrant colors such as these. That beautiful blue and green explosion of life is made possible by water.

While traveling through Ontario, Canada, this summer (mostly around the Great Lakes), my family and I experienced the beauty of abundant water for weeks at a time. Every place was lush, green and gorgeous; blessed with fertile soil and ample rainfall, a region of apples, peaches, blueberries, and cherries—a bounty of summer fruit.

The highlight of the trip in terms of natural beauty was Niagara Falls. About 45 million gallons of water go crashing over the falls every minute, with most of that volume falling in the Horseshoe Falls on the Canadian side. It is simply mesmerizing to watch.

Welland Canal is an engineering wonder that lifts or drops ships the same 326 feet in elevation that Niagara Falls traverses between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, but in a much gentler fashion. In the course of 11 minutes, gravity causes 20 million gallons of water to fill or drain a lock and move huge ships up or down.
The abundance of water in that region made it hard to remember that other places were gasping for breath and panting for moisture in a scorching drought. It seems there might never again be enough water in Texas, as the earth bakes and cracks and the trees wilt and crackle. Such conditions make it more important than ever to take care of the soil. It is microbes in the soil that make it possible for the plants to grow, in part through their ability to retain water.

We can keep our planet blue, but we need to live greener.

We have sown the seeds of our own destruction, felling the trees and paving the earth. Anthropogenic climate change means that summers like the one we just had will likely become more frequent and severe. The challenge ahead of us is great, but people have surmounted great challenges in the past.

More than a hundred years ago, somebody had the idea of joining Lake Erie with Lake Ontario through a canal with a series of locks. It probably sounded crazy at the time, but they did it, and now it is part of a major shipping route for vessels from around the world.

Employing our creativity and cooperating in great efforts can yield tremendous results. One way we as individuals can make a great cumulative impact is through composting. Whether we use worms, bokashi or conventional composting, we all have the ability to return organic matter and microbes to the soil. In fact, if we were each to do this on our own properties, we would have a wonderful distribution of this low cost resource all across our region, and gallon by gallon, we would start to capture and retain more and more of the precious rainwater we do receive.

Journeys always present challenges, whether physical, emotional or spiritual. The journey to greener living and saving our blue planet starts in our own backyard. Instead of acting alone, we must do it together.

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