by Rashna Ghadialy
In the last hundred years, North America has played a dominant role in world political and financial affairs. Yet today it seems to be rethinking its strategy of leadership in the 21st century. It’s a continent abundant in natural resources – including the most fertile plains in the world, deserts, the Great Lakes, Rocky Mountains, Mississippi River; the Atlantic, Pacific, and Arctic oceans; and miles of coastlines. Wildlife, forests and woodlands, rich minerals deposits, reliable sunshine, and strong winds all contribute to our economy. In short, we are blessed with Ahura Mazda’s Creations. However, we have taken these Creations for granted.
Tall prairie grass once covered the Midwestern region in what we refer today as the fertile plains. Crystal clear water flowed in the rivers, our coastlines were pristine, and land was devoid of landfills and toxic waste. Today, the tall prairie grass is nearly but all gone. The majority of our waterways are polluted; and people dwelling in our urban areas breathe unclean air. We have exploited these natural resources to the extent that they won’t be around for the next generations unless restored immediately.
As Zarathushtis, it is our imperative to be part of, if not leaders, in the environment movement on this continent, which advocates limiting our carbon and water footprints, behaving as responsible consumers, and lobbying for environment and climate reforms and legislation at local, regional and global levels. Zarathushtis historically have led frugal lives in the Old World. Following principles of conscious thoughts, good words and good deeds, we practiced preservation and conservation in everyday life aiming at sustainable living. Assimilation and integration in the larger North American society has led us astray from old beliefs and practices. We need to relearn our basic beliefs and put them into practice.
I believe that today, sustainable practices such as Permaculture are the answers to our environmental restoration commitment. Permaculture is a concept based on the principle of leaving behind the world in a better condition than we found it when we opened our eyes. It is a design approach to creating living systems that mimic patterns found in nature. The idea is to integrate surrounding natural areas with our homes, apartments, and other buildings to produce an abundance of food, shelter, energy, and other services – with a minimum of work. I believe that Permaculture works well within the framework of our Zarathushti beliefs.
In the following, I share some essential practices vital to promote sustainable living:
- Rethink: Think long term – at least one generation (20 years or more) and ideally up to seven generations – the impact of our daily actions on Ahura Mazda’s Creations. Our current use and throw away mind frame needs to stop immediately.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: In everyday living, we must reduce consumption; reuse what we currently own; and when we can’t use it anymore, make every effort to recycle. We need to minimize contribution to landfills and garbage dumps. Ideally, everything we use should be recycled or added to a compost pile. Composting organic materials is essential for sustainable living communities.
- Conscious Consumer Behavior: As consumers we have the power of the purse. We can demand that goods we purchase are manufactured, packaged, marketed, transported, and sold in an eco-friendly manner. In other words, put your money where your mouth is. An educated eco-consumer should beware of companies engaged in “green washing.”
- Know Your Food: Most importantly, know what you are eating, where your food is grown, and what is added before it reaches your plate. People dedicated to sustainability and eco-consiousness emphasize eating local foods. Those interested in eating locally-produced food not moved long distances are called “locavores.” As interest rises, the locavore/localvore movement is becoming increasingly important in North America. Local food is often grown in home gardens, or by local farmers wanting to keep the environment clean and sell food close to where it is grown. Some consider food grown within a 100 mile radius local, while others have differing definitions. In general, local food is thought by those in the movement to taste better than food shipped long distances.
- Triple Bottom Line: The triple bottom line (TBL, 3BL, or “people, planet, profit”) captures an expanded spectrum of values and criteria for measuring organizational – and societal – success: economic, ecological and social. TBL is an ethical capitalism model which should be adopted by all Zarathusti orgainzations and businesses.
- Build Alliances: Build networks and alliances with other Zarathushtis and faith-based people at local levels to share knowledge, pleasantly evangelize, and proselytize sustainable practices. These alliances will serve as building blocks to create sustainable communities at regional and global levels.
- Political Activism: Not everyone’s modus operandi, but political activism is the key to passing legislation that mandates sustainability practices for businesses and people. An activist can attend rallies, organize boycotts of companies that are green washing or producing environmentally harmful products. Backseat supporters can attend boycotts, support environmental lobby groups, and most importantly, vote for eco-friendly legislation and demand that our governments implement those laws.
The present and future of our universe lies in our hands. It is our present thoughts, words and actions that will shape humankind’s future. We can make a conscious choice to adopt a Permaculture solution to rejuvenate our planet so a prosperous economy, happy and healthy people, and a clean environment thrives. May we Zarathustis have the wisdom to be among those who rejuvenate the universe.
The Lazy Environmentalist on a Budget, by Josh Doorfman
The Edible Container Garden: Growing Fresh Food in Small Spaces, byMichael Guerra
Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-Scale Permaculture, byToby Hemenway
Rashna Ghadialy is a demographer, Reiki Practitioner, and environmentalist. She actively participates in interfaith activities, and promotes Permaculture in Chicago and beyond. As a Chicago Conservation Corps volunteer member, she has organized sustainability-related projects in her Chicago neighborhood. She is working with a sustainable living group which plans to convert urban and suburban toxic brown fields into organic farms.