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Let’s Talk Trash: Earth-centric approach is key

For all life to thrive, no one creature can feed on the earth’s resources without consequence.

Not so long ago, we humans assumed the earth was located at the centre of the known universe with all other celestial orbs rotating around us.

Despite the course correction to our understanding that the sun occupies the magnetic centre of our solar system, we still have a tendency to adopt a human-centric filter to life. Not only is this perspective inaccurate, but it also, rather ironically, makes us much less likely to thrive.

Great communicators are often those who listen deeply and reflect that they have heard what someone is saying. What if we extended this to other living creatures?

We tend to do this well with our pets especially, tuning in to what their needs are and responding with compassion and care. Animals living in the wild might also prove to have unique personalities and wishes if we spent time observing them.

The wordless world of nature speaks loudly, but it often gets drowned out by the noisy cacophony of humanity. We might begin learning its language by paying closer attention.

We could start with our houseplants, which inevitably tell us when they need more light, less water or some food to perk them up. Those of us braving a garden this year can attune to our seedlings similarly, noticing when plants are happy or stressed and even beginning to see which plants are good neighbours, benefiting each other because of their proximity.

With careful observation of the natural world, we might even start to hear what the streams, mountains and seasons are saying. Maybe the shape of the river is changing; its banks eroding and a shelf of land threatening to lose its footing.

Weather trends could be revealing that something is affecting the length of our summers and in turn what crops will be more successful. Migration patterns of birds could be delayed and suggest that seedlings should be planted a bit later this year.

People used to rely on their sensitivity to any changes in their surroundings for their very survival. Without noticing changes in temperature or animal populations, starvation and failed crops were very real possibilities for our ancestors.

As we’ve become increasingly reliant on the industrial agricultural complex and have paved over large swaths of the earth, we have lost touch with the planet and in so doing have lost touch with a part of ourselves. To see humanity as separate from nature is to deny our connection and dependence on the earth that sustains us. Without this understanding, we threaten our place on the planet.

Ecosystems are fragile and imbalances in them are not tolerated for long. Limitless growth of any one species is like a cancer to other life. For all life to thrive, no one creature can feed on the earth’s resources without consequence.

This is a wonderful problem because it swings us back into the arms of Mother Nature. What an embrace that meets us when we start listening to the hum of all life.

So, get out on the trails, bird watch, water your house fern or get your hands in the soil. Who knows what secrets they’ll let you in on.

Let’s Talk Trash is qathet Regional District’s waste reduction education program. For more information, email or go to

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