‘Live simply so others may simply live’ – Gandhi
Last night I was watching a report on the unfolding humanitarian crisis in South Sudan. Men, women, children and babies have fled escalating conflict, often with nothing more than the clothes on their back and at least 75,000 people are now camped on the banks of the Nile with no sanitation, limited food and only dirty water to drink. Children that were already malnourished are now dying for lack of fresh, clean water and sanitation.
As is often the case when I watch / read these reports I was frustrated by my own inability to make a difference and I had begun to ridicule myself for blogging about happiness and a simpler, greener way of life when there are people in the world with real problems. Who was I trying to kid?
Suddenly, I remembered the above quote from Gandhi.
Through the feelings of futility, despair and frustration, it finally hit me.
Change begins at home. When we make the choice to rebel from materialist values, to adopt greener practices and to view the world through a veil of optimism, we pave the way for others in the developing world to begin doing the same. By adopting a simpler, more ecologically sustainable lifestyle and pursuing intrinsic values, we lift both ourselves and others…
Ecologically… By choosing to reduce our consumption and waste, we reduce the pressure on already strained and scarce global resources. By opting to use renewable energy, we drive growth, research and development in this field, meaning that renewable energy technologies will gradually become more widely used throughout the entire world. By supporting companies that operate with environmentally and socially responsible practices, we are helping to drive improvements in global labour and environmental standards.
Socially… Simply because our household has opted out of ‘keeping up with the jones’, we have spare financial resources that we can use to support the work of World Vision, the International Red Cross and Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF). Because we would rather volunteer than shop, we have time to physically support Shelterbox, The Salvation Army and to pack shipping containers of school supplies for charities operating in East Timor. Realising that we don’t need 13 baby blankets (we got a lot of gifts when our daughter was bornJ) has enabled me to send the majority off to developing countries to babies who really need them. Making changes in our own lives has freed us up to benefit the lives of those that are less fortunate.
Spending time working on your own happiness, decluttering your possessions, building a garden bed or sourcing eco-friendly products may feel selfish in world with so much poverty and despair, but change begins within our own sphere of influence. I’ve always been a fan of the ‘Think Global, Act Local’ slogan and I believe that it carries more significance today than ever before.
Living simply not only makes us happier, it also helps us to enable others to simply live. And isn’t that worth doing?
By the way, if you have the means to support the work of any of the organisations mentioned in this post, please do so generously. Check out the relevant websites for further information.