As you grow and deepen your conversation with yoga, it becomes quite clear that the yoga practice must stretch far beyond the boundaries of that little sticky mat. Naturally, your practice begins to bleed into every part of your life, saturating your world with concepts like ahimsa (non-violence). Part of that concept is living in a way that is non-harming to the Earth.
Earth Day is the perfect opportunity to explore this mind-set, as we look for ways to give back to our life-sustaining planet. Every moment we are nourished and blessed by the abundant gifts of the Earth, and on this particular day we have the chance to give gratitude back to the source! This is a special chance to develop lasting rituals in your yoga practice and in your life that nurture an eco-centric approach to everyday living and that have the potential to last all year round.
Kenyan environmental activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Professor Wangari Maathai wouldn’t suffer a single tree to be cut down for her coffin; her body was laid to rest in a casket made of hyacinth, papyrus and bamboo. At her funeral service this September in Nairobi’s Uhuru Park, which she fought to save from obliteration by a 60-story skyscraper, her family planted a tree in her honor. That brings her total up to roughly thirty million and one.
As the founder of the Green Belt Movement — a reforestation project that paid impoverished Kenyan women to plant seedlings in order to renew the environment and increase their access to firewood and clean water — Maathai was responsible for the growth of some 30 million trees. Her battle with ovarian cancer ended on September 26; since then, environmentalists, feminists, and democracy advocates have voiced their grief and admiration.
“These darn trees are in the way of my view of nature,” joked one of my guides on a trip to British Columbia a few years back. We had stopped during a hike on a forested esker and were trying to look through the woods to a lake far below. We couldn’t see it through the dense foliage. Of course, his comment made us all laugh. Little did we know then that such an absurd idea would years later — this fall, in fact — become a reality in Yosemite National Park.
Starting later this year, thousands of trees will be cut down in Yosemite to provide better views of the famous granite faces, such as El Capitán and Half Dome, and the breathtaking waterfalls, such as Bridalveil or Yosemite Falls, that ring the valley. But the sounds of lumberjacks and the sights of downed trees — felled only for the purpose of providing better photo ops — are somehow discomfiting in a national park, prompting some to ask, “Why must so many succumb to the saw?”
My kids started school a few weeks ago. Along with new binders and some recycled paper, they took with them pencils. Despite technology’s steady advance into our lives, we still need pencils. Albeit my children’s pencils were Forest Stewardship Council–certified, meaning the wood for them came from sustainably managed forests.
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