Let Your Garden Grow

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What can an individual do to combat the planetary ecological crisis? The answer is — in this day and age — plenty.

As the old hierarchies of power become senescent and a new age of decentralization blooms, individuals possess infinite opportunities for action — opportunities that benefit themselves as well as the planet. How cool is that?

However, if you press me for specific advice on this, I’m simply going to put you in the hands of a fellow who is far wiser and more experienced at this game than I am. You may already know of him. His name is Voltaire.

“Do you believe,’ said Candide, ‘that men have always massacred each other as they do to-day, that they have always been liars, cheats, traitors, ingrates, brigands, idiots, thieves, scoundrels, gluttons, drunkards, misers, envious, ambitious, bloody-minded, calumniators, debauchees, fanatics, hypocrites, and fools?’

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Do you believe,’ said Martin, ‘that hawks have always eaten pigeons when they have found them?”

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In Voltaire’s classic satire, Candide, the book’s young and innocent hero travels the world searching for his lost love and at every turn is exposed to the corrupting and venal nature of society.

In the story’s famous last line, Candide sums up all that he has learned from his many misadventures. “All I know is that we must cultivate our garden.” This is Voltaire’s one essential truth: we should do what we can where we are. That’s the only sure way to do some good and to find fulfillment.

What should you do? Only you can answer that question. It depends on who you are, where you are, and what it is you are capable of doing. All I can tell you is that the range of things you might do is literally boundless. Each and every one of the countless things that humans do every day can and should be “greened.”

Take your choice. Some will “cultivate their own garden” by dreaming up new and better ways of doing things. They will bite off some teensy portion of the world’s immense busyness and attempt to make it green. Many will fail at doing this, but some will actually succeed. Build a better mousetrap . . .

Some will “cultivate their own garden” by crafting or manufacturing the new thing. Some will market or distribute the new thing. Some will install or service it.

Of course, it is to be hoped that many will “cultivate their own garden” by buying and using the new thing. And, hopefully, these customers will talk it up, word of mouth being the best promotion device that exists.

Some will “cultivate their own garden” by critiquing the new thing, working to make it even better or to replace it with something entirely new that is superior to it. And a new cycle of beneficial change begins.

Now, here’s the beauty part. This new world filled with people doing their own thing – greening this and greening that – is not a fantasy or a futuristic scheme of some kind. It exists. It is happening now. It is on-going.

Finally, there’s this bright prospect growing on the horizon. When enough people cultivate their own little patch of ground – and there are more and more of them each day – the earth will be returned to the garden it once was.

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