Acting – and letting it be


FIELD OF DREAMS Actively choosing to turn a lawn over to wildflowers brings countless rewards.

Green Living
McKinley Neal

World Environment Day took place on Sunday, June 5, and is a designated international day to encourage environmental awareness and action. It was created following the 1972 United Nations Conference on the Human Environment, one of the very first international meetings to discuss environmental action, and led to the creation of many national environmental agencies and international agreements.
Nearly 50 years on, it can be hard to remain positive about the state of the world, especially as we see the immediate effects of a global pandemic and regional war on our food system and fuel and energy prices. The medium- and longer-term effects of climate change and the continued loss of biodiversity will also dramatically alter our environment—for details on this, see the recently published Sixth Assessment Report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).
So what can we do to keep from feeling helpless?
The first step is education, so thanks for your interest in reading a column like this, or a book or article, or watching a documentary or listening to a podcast. I have recently taken heart by learning more about the way nature works when left to its own devices, and recent favourites include ‘Finding the Mother Tree : Discovering the Wisdom of the Forest’, by Suzanne Simard, and ‘Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds’, by Mervin Sheldrake. It gives me a new appreciation for how much we can achieve if we facilitate nature taking over.
The next step is just let things be, to make way for the natural growth that we have unfortunately become so used to trying to eradicate. Making room for nature has gone more mainstream, fuelled by recent movements like #NoMowMay. Resilient systems depend on everything being in sync, from the so-called weeds to the insects.
Nearly five years ago we moved into a house with a garden of just over an acre, and it has been incredible to see the transformation as we have abandoned regular mowing and strimming of as many areas as we can. This year in particular, we counted at least eight saplings in a square metre patch of ground, and we have notified everyone where not to tread.
Instead of limiting the wild areas to a small patch, we have tried to limit our cultivation to specific areas nearest the house, and have left the rest alone. Our reward is the persistent spread of daisies, yellow irises, buttercups, cuckoo flowers, a few orchids, heathers, and an array of visiting pollinators. The future is indeed wild!
Then, there are loads of actions that can have a massive impact depending on our daily habits. Are you generating loads of rubbish? Do a bin audit and see what you can ditch to cut down on waste, and give refilling a go if possible. Are you relying on processed or prepared foods? Try to buy fresh veg from a local market, as this is the best time of year to enjoy seasonal eating and support local farmers. Are you buying lots of clothing, shoes or accessories? Focus on essentials, and then try borrowing or swapping with friends and choosing secondhand, and buying from sustainable brands. Are you driving a lot? Try to cut out a journey a week, and park and walk as much as possible to cut down on idling and extra short trips.
Choosing to take action helps us bring hope to life, and inspires others to consider changes to their consumption and habits as well. We are living through the climate crisis, and it’s up to us to adapt as quickly as we can.  

McKinley Neal co-runs PAX Whole Foods & Eco Goods, a minimal-waste shop in Westport offering bulk organic toods, reusable goods, household products, eco-trendly personal care Items and gifts.