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I believe the Ten Steps are a great place to start or renew our commitment for this effort. They are my version of the old spiritual adage "chop wood, carry water," a simple, concise way of seeing Earth-healing as an essentially spiritual enterprise. They help us bring the profound, lofty spiritual experience of the intrinsic oneness of all things, and the collective imperative of uniting as one human family to heal the world, into concrete daily life and achievable actions we all can do. They can help us bring Hanh's compelling words alive in the world.
They can also be a sort of gateway into greater personal or even communal joy and happiness, because they help us better engage with all of life. Knowing that we are all united with this Earth, and are thoroughly committed to the welfare of her many life-forms—this can ease our hearts' pain and loosen the hurtful vice-grip of the dysfunction, despair, and destruction all around us. Then, standing unshakably in the strength of our commitment, its purity and righteousness, we naturally open with and to others of like mind and heart. Friends, this is truly good for the soul!
We can, if we choose, take the Ten Steps more deeply to heart during winter's quiet, and commit further to their appropriate use and implementation in our lives. Each of the steps is essentially about the creation of a new reality in one way or another. Pick the particular one you are most drawn to, and take a little while to meditate on it, however it is that you engage contemplation in your life. See what comes in the days and weeks that follow—look for signs that your inner reflection is coming to life in how you engage the world. Listening to the signs of what to do next is often the best thing to do before taking action: Guidance can come as an intuition at just the right time. We can use these reflections on one (or many) of the Ten Steps as roadmaps for turning significant and effective Earth-healing changes into our living reality.
The Ten Steps and the World
The recent Big Fossil Fuel (BFF) divestment campaigns advanced by Bill McKibben/350.org and others have helped draw attention in significant ways to the need for behavioral change by powerful multinational companies.
We are finally having an effect, thanks primarily to the rise in natural gas usage, increases in energy efficiency, the recent recession and many other carbon-footprint reduction efforts. According to a Huffington Post article, the total US carbon footprint has been declining since it peaked at about 6 billion metric tons in 2007. In 2012 it fell to a 20-year low, at about 5.2 billion metric tons. (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/08/16/us-carbon-dioxide-emissions-2012_n_1792167.html)
Of course, this is good news. The bad news is that we still have much to do, because other developing nations have footprints that are steadily increasing, and global emissions rose 2.6% last year. We see evidence of entrenched corporate/governmental sandbagging from the Warsaw climate conference, amid greater environmental destruction from continued over-consumptive and fossil-fuel-reliant lifestyles. It's hard to escape the conclusion that we have to take another huge and decisive step.
To move BFF more quickly toward a healthy outcome, we have to collectively "just say no" to fossil fuel, as much and as soon as possible. Our next great challenge is to convince BFF to move away from their core extraction industries, to further embrace and champion alternative renewable energy in a much bigger way, in the immediate future.
Many organizations are planning mobilization for more concrete action in early 2014—including greater lobbying, more protesting, greater networking and re-envisioning, among other actions. Such efforts are vitally important. Yet we aren't all able or willing to participate in them. For those of us who aren't fully in the activist camp, committing to participate in the Ten Steps will make a difference, from right where we are today.
The Ten Steps give us an effective, achievable route to the decimation of BFF's core fossil fuel markets, through becoming a more empowered, growing, and savvy public that in ever louder unison insistently demands alternative, renewable fuels.
If we can move a nation's or the world's fossil fuel consumption from 100% down to 50% and then to 25% in short order from the bottom up, while at the same time the EPA increases fuel efficiency standards (as it has recently) from the top down, such undeniable market drivers will force BFF toward alternative-only fuel businesses in a hurry, if they want to remain commercially viable in the future.
For my part, I'm happy to report that, after recently recalculating my household's carbon footprint, we've managed to reduce it to just about 8 tons per year (a 43% reduction since I last calculated it). This was achieved largely by recent further reductions in transportation mileage and in upgrades to our existing solar photovoltaic power generation system. Now we actually generate as much as 50% more power than we use here at the homestead, which also means we can share our excess clean solar power with friends and neighbors!!!
This is how actions speak louder than words. This is how we can, humbly and with great determination, walk our talk as an integral part of Nature. This is how we can, each and every day, give back more than we take and live our lives with more conscious gratitude to our Mother Earth and all our relations for the precious gift of our shared earthly life. This is how you too can help make a decisive difference—one person, one family, one household, one business, school, community, state or nation, at a time.