Respect for the Interdependent Web of All Existence
by Maggie Lynch
April 26, 2022
One of the principles of my spiritual practice is: Respect for the interdependent web of all existence of which we are a part. What does this mean in reality? Is it just something I recite or is it something I try to incorporate into my life on a regular basis? The answer is I take it very seriously. It serves as a major principle that shapes who I am and how I move and act in the world. It is as much a part of me as daily prayer is because it puts my beliefs into action.
Usually fiction books that tackle climate change or environmental causes on earth tend to be dystopian fiction. I have written one book like that, Eternity: Virus Wars. It is a science fiction novel based on the premise that Eternity, Inc. owns an ancient virus that allows humans to live up to 800 years–their physical bodies age only one year for every ten years of life. As you can imagine that puts overwhelming stress on the planet with a significantly larger population and their needs. In my fictional future, we are still ruled by international corporations and elites that exacerbate the inequality that’s always been here by deciding who can have the Eternity vaccine who cannot. There is a rebellion among a certain part of the population. They try to unleash a counter virus to return people to their natural lifespans and stop the control of Eternity, Inc.
The book is both an adventure and a look at what happens when power, corruption, and greed rule the planet instead of a respect for the web of all existence, and the desire to help all of mankind not just a chosen few. I will tell you that either side winning–the side wanting to live for 800 years or the side wanting to return to the old way–is not a guarantee of a return to a renewed planet nor equality for all. Just like when people today believe if we can only return to living like we did in the 1800s our planet would be renewed. It’s not that easy. It takes thinking differently. It takes people who are willing to take into account the needs of many diverse opinions and coming up with a plan where no one group will get everything they want. Because it’s not easy–ever. Everyone has to give up things they want and the problem is when some people are willing to compromise but others absolutely refuse to budge.
My YA Fantasy series, The Forest People, also has an environmental problem at its core. That is the lichen in the forest has been tampered with by scientists. They wanted it to grow faster, so they can harvest it more quickly. It is important for new psychoactive drugs that help people with mental illness. Making the lichen grow faster creates huge mental and physical problems for a hidden magical group of people that most humans (known as the Agnoses to the forest people) never encounter. Again, it is humans doing things with nature without fully understanding or caring about its impact that creates a situation that may devastate the forest and the magical people who live there. As the forest people absorb their magical changes they may in turn devastate the Agnoses world.
Unfortunately, in our world, the reality is that taking care of the environment is something only humans can choose to do. To my knowledge their are no magical people with powers to stop us from our worst impulses. So far, too many of us have ignored our impact on this earth; or simply not chosen to do anything about it. I’ve often heard people say they aren’t willing to give up anything because they’ll be dead by the time the planet becomes unlivable. It is very sad to me that someone doesn’t care for anyone but themselves, not for the children and grandchildren or other children who will inherit what we leave them. Children who will have to find a way to live in the world we created. I fear we have chosen a fate just as horrible as those I write about in either of these books, or in the great dystopian movies that relate to these issues.
Here are a few of my favorite movies related to the environment
South Korean master Bong Joon-ho’s post-apocalyptic sci-fi film Snowpiercer takes place aboard a train, which travels the globe with what’s left of humanity after failed attempts at climate engineering to combat global warming creates an earth of snow. The movie explores what could happen to the beloved planet if global warming and massive inequality persist.
On the other end of climate change is water everywhere. Beasts of the Southern Wild takes place in the Louisiana Bayou. It features a six-year-old girl named Hushpuppy who combats her stubborn father’s failing health and the melting ice caps that flood her home. The girl must find a way to fight back against the changing world around her; with nature rebelling, ice caps melting and temperatures rising, prehistoric creatures called aurochs–a metaphorical manifestation of climate change–begin to attack.
My favorite of all time is still Avatar (except the too long 20+ minute war scene toward the end I think could be cut way back). It is set in the mid-22nd century during a time when the Earth is dying, destroyed by global warming, overpopulation, and crumbling ozone. The moon Pandora becomes humanity’s new target and the movie depicts the climate catastrophe it faces from invading human forces, including the devastation of the indigenous population on the planet. It provides a juxtaposition of living with the land against the usual human way of taking from the land.
We Can All Make a Decision to Help Combat Climate Change
Since the industrial revolution mankind has had an outsized impact on climate change. The primary cause is our generation and use of fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas in every part of our lives, while simultaneously cutting down huge forests that previously could take up some of the ozone we generate. I understand the solution is not easy or quick. Fossil fuels provide us heat, the energy that powers manufacturing, the electricity that cools our homes. It provides transportation to get us from one place to another, and it powers almost every device we use in everyday living from cooking to yard work, and farming to growing crops.
It is very difficult to give any of it up. I don’t believe we need to give up the utility of energy in our daily lives. But I do believe that we have the technology and ability to change from fossil fuels to renewable resources. But using them, creating them, making them accessible to all levels of the population is the difficult conundrum. Creating the infrastructure and convincing companies that don’t want to invest in change that is better for them in the long run as well as the planet. Though I do support legislation to do just that and I do support companies that are trying to move in that direction, I realize those changes will be slow to implement and I may not see the fruits of that in my lifetime. Today, the most direct impact I can have is what I do in my daily life.
Here is what I do to mitigate climate change in my daily life. I pay a little extra every month (about $10) to my electric power provider to get power from renewable resources instead of fossil fuels. My home is all electric. I keep my thermostat at 65 in the winter. I do not have air conditioning in the summer. I’m fortunate that I live in a climate that normally doesn’t get above 100 F degrees except for a few days. Last summer we did get to 116 F during the “heat dome” hell of several weeks.
I moderate my homes heat and cooling as best I can passively. That means in the heat of summer, I open windows when it cools down at night, allowing the house to cool down. Then I close it up during the day to keep it as cool as possible–that often means also closing all the drapes in the heat of summer. In the winter and spring I reverse that. I open windows to let in the heat when temperatures are above 65 and I close everything up before it dips below that.
I drive a hybrid car and have since 2007. My current car is 15 years old. If I ever have sufficient funds to buy a completely electric car I will do that. I’m not sure when/if that will happen. Currently, they are too expensive for my budget. I realize I’m fortunate in that I’m retired. So I don’t have to commute to work every day. But that hasn’t always been the case, when I bought the car I was commuting 50 miles each way to work. Later, when we moved closer to my job, I was able to take the light rail system into Portland. In retirement, if it is possible, I take Amtrak for long distance traveling.
Manufacturing and industry produce emissions, mostly from burning fossil fuels to produce energy for making things like cement, iron, steel, electronics, plastics, clothes, and other goods. Mining and other industrial processes also release gases. This is a difficult one in that I certainly use electronics. I’m typing on my computer right now. I wear clothes that were produced in factories of some kind, and there are many goods made from plastic that I possess. For me the answer to this problem is the same as the one above, finding renewable resources that create energy instead of continuing to rely on fossil fuels. Also, on a personal level I can choose which companies I purchase things from, what types of clothing I wear, and recycle, recycle, reuse, reuse as much as possible. Thrift store buying not only saves me money but also is a way to recycle. I grew up with hand-me-down clothing and my extended family still exchanges clothing among us when we can.
Since forests absorb carbon dioxide, destroying them also limits nature’s ability to keep emissions out of the atmosphere. I understand that trees can be a renewable resource. Many of my relatives worked in logging or lumber mills, and in Oregon it is a huge economic engine. Once again the answers are not easy. Lumberman know that for trees to be a renewable resource, they must be replaced and they spend money and time to do that. They know if they cut down forests but don’t replace the trees their business is short lived. The problem comes balancing deforestation with crop production or meat production, not only here but around the world.
Again, what can I do? I can help to plant trees. We lost four trees this past year due to the heat dome and winter storms. We will replace them with other trees this year–some deciduous to help with heating and cooling and at least one evergreen. They won’t be the giants we lost, towering 50 feet or more. But they will grow and they will immediately start storing carbon.
I consciously look to reduce my consumption of single-use products. I do recycle/reuse plastic bags, pieces of paper that are only printed on one side, paper towels for more than one wipe of a counter. Whenever purchasing something new I look for something that is made of post-consumer recycled materials. I have reduced my consumption of animal products in my diet by making more vegetarian meals.
I know some might say that what I do is only a drop in the bucket and it won’t impact climate change at all. They are absolutely right. Alone I can’t make a significant change. However, if a million people like me do the same thing it is a million drops in the bucket. If half of our country, more than 150 million people do the same thing it becomes a movement. If we all advocate for renewable energy over fossil fuels it makes companies invest in that instead. If we support legislation for renewable energy and to help people access it without having to come up with thousands of dollars to make change, then we make a difference.
If everyone says, “I won’t bother to do it because I can’t really make a difference.” Then we are certainly doomed.
This is my foot in the garden, my hand writing to my congressional representatives and sharing my thoughts through articles and blogs like these. This is my heart living every day, doing the best I can to respect the interdependent web of all existence. This is my soul being thankful for all of creation and accepting the responsibility for not letting it be ruined for future generations.
Maggie Lynch is the author of 26 published books. Her fiction tells stories of people making heroic choices one messy moment at a time. Her novels span women’s fiction, SF & Fantasy, suspense, and romance. She is currently working on a Contemporary Upper Middle Grade children’s series. Her current nonfiction provides authors with information and tools for self-publishing from the basics of creating a professional package to getting books distributed around the world, and finally marketing options. You can check out her personal website at maggielynch.com