Population, reproduction and the environment: a thoughtful discussion…

This is the first time I’ve ever seen/read/heard such a peaceful, thoughtful and nuanced discussion of the important issues of the environmental impact of human population and the ethics of having children in relation to this impact. Every other time I’ve read an article or heard people discussing it, it seems that most people take extreme views, one way or another, and aren’t actually interested in thinking about the very complicated and varied opinions involved in this issue. Most people seem to have their minds made up and aren’t interested in changing their thinking at all, no matter what anyone else has to say. It was SO refreshing and extremely thought provoking reading this blog post, and for the FIRST TIME EVER, actually reading the comments people made without becoming infuriated by people’s close-minded or judgemental statements.

I think this is a discussion that every one of us should be involved in, and preferably, with a compassionate and open mind. There is no doubt that the environment is effected in huge ways by human activity, consumption and waste production, etc. and I question the sanity of anyone who denies this fact. I am not completely convinced that population is the number-one problem, but I do think that the way we humans consume the earth’s finite resources and our failure to realize the actual impact of our consumption on the planet are having and will continue to have devastating consequences for all of us living now, as well as future generations.

One reason I don’t feel quite as concerned about population growth as the top environmental concern, is that as countries become more developed, with better education and greater wealth, etc., population growth stabilizes or birth rates actually fall. This has happened in the West (as you can pretty much see demonstrated by any Western European country), and is happening as countries around the world become more developed and affluent. I think consumption is a far greater worry, because as countries become richer, they follow the lead of the West and consume more, create more waste and pollution, and so much of cultural and societal identity becomes caught up in this dynamic. The number of people might not be the top problem, but our ravenous devouring of energy, natural resources and products is definitely a HUGE problem.

Anyway, I’m no expert on these issues, but I think they’re definitely worth considering. I am obviously choosing to have a child, and am very happy and excited about it. However, I think it is important to try to be as responsible as possible when choosing to have children, taking into account the potential environmental costs involved. I am starting to think about how to be as ‘green’ as possible in all of this; breastfeeding, using cloth diapers, hopefully avoiding the excess of plastic toys and all that. Plus, I really hope to continue simplifying my own life, living more environmentally consciously and by example teach my future child to be a responsible person who cares about all life on this planet. Having said all that, I equally respect people who have decided not to have children, for environmental or other reasons. I certainly appreciate hearing people’s different opinions on the issue because it makes me think more and be more deliberate in my own actions and lifestyle choices.

So, I will be researching ways to give Baby the greenest babyhood we can and see what I come up with. As with everything, it’s all about taking one step at a time, and gradually making these important changes, because every little bit does count. And I definitely suggest checking out this post by Beth Terry over at My Plastic-free Life- I’m An Environmentalist and I’m Not Having Kids.

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Oh my, how quickly everything can change…

Well, spring weather and the end of my first trimester (yes, in case you didn’t know, we’re expecting Morkan Baby in September) have sort of come at the same time. Result? I feel like a completely different person than I did a couple of weeks ago! Holy cow, it’s a bit mental how suddenly and drastically your whole outlook on life can shift!

So, with my renewed energy, I’m thinking up and starting to implement a few small changes, starting some new positive habits and beginning some projects. Here are a few of the main things I’m doing at the moment:

1. Eating healthy, home-cooked food: For the last few months I had all day nausea and major food aversions, so I was just kind of eating whatever sounded tolerable at the exact time I was going to eat. Also, I was wrecked and exhausted, so cooking wasn’t really something I wanted to put much effort into, AT ALL. This led to lots of take-away food and delivery, both at work and at home. It was great for a while, but then it just started feeling a bit blah; too fatty, too rich, too expensive.

So, now I’ve been back to simple, flavourful, healthy and mostly-veggie cooking and healthy snacks too, and I’m loving it! I have basically been celebrating my ability to eat good, nourishing food, for myself and baby. I don’t know why, but eating wholesome stuff actually makes me feel really happy.

2. Morning yoga routine: I am really trying to get into good habits here. Get up in the morning, and maybe have a tiny nibble of food to keep me going, and then about 15 minutes of simple yoga to stretch out and wake up my mind and body. It’s such a good way to start the day, and makes me feel more energetic and active. Otherwise I have a tendency to just waste up to HOURS in the morning just not really doing anything. Plus my lower back has been feeling a little sore, so the yoga is kind of necessary. But that doesn’t mean it isn’t fun!

3. Reading, writing, thinking, being: I have been trying to follow my own advice and make more time and space in my life for creativity. I’m reading a great novel, enjoying some poetry, taking time to write random things, and sometimes just sitting in the sun letting my mind wander. I am definitely a busy-mind person (which doesn’t mean I am an efficient or active person!) so it is SO necessary for me to deliberately unplug for a bit. My mind NEVER wants to be quiet, so I need to give it little time-outs, relax my brain and body and just enjoy sights, sounds and smells around me. Do nothing. Listen to birds. Enjoy that lovely sunny warmth. Lay on the floor. You get the idea.

4. Recommitting to simple living: I’m ready again to give up wastefulness, laziness, stuff for stuff’s sake and having a cluttered mind, home and life! I’ve also been thinking of some priorities I have for the next few months/year, etc., and I am willing to make some sacrifices in the frivolous stuff to have the money and time for what I really want and value, such as…

I want to research birth options in Istanbul, and maybe have a doula or birth coach. A good friend of mine has a friend who is a birth coach and I’m hoping to talk with her and get some recommendations on English-speaking doulas, or other options. First of all, I want to have a natural-as-possible birth, and I don’t know anything about the system here in Istanbul. Also, I know myself that I’m not the most assertive person, and I would really love to have someone on my side who knows what’s going on, speaks Turkish, and is there to support me in all of this. I think it’ll make things less stressful for both Richie and I, because we’re both equally clueless in all of this. Having a doula or birth coach is even more important to me because there is something like a 90% caesarean birth rate here, and I am kind of freaked out by that!

We also have a few trips to the US and Ireland coming up in the next year. Visiting family and friends is definitely a priority, but certainly not cheap. So, some saving and living frugally will be important in making this happen.

I will probably be taking at least 3 un-paid months off of work when the baby is born and after that, possibly not working as much as usual. We hope that with our relatively flexible work schedules, we can always have one of us home for baby-care, but it’ll still probably involve fewer hours worked overall. So, best to save and be thrifty now to make things easier in the future.

On a non-money note, I also want to do a major reorganising and de-cluttering of our apartment! I plan to start with the bedroom and sitting room, getting rid of furniture we don’t use/need, clothes that are never worn, random odds and ends that seem to collect in drawers and on dressers and desk tops, etc. Then we have stuff in the back room/second bedroom that we never ever use, and I just don’t want all this stuff around taking up space! So, that’ll be my big spring cleaning project and I’m really looking forward to it!

Anyway, the whole idea of less life-clutter makes me feel freer and happier! It’s definitely a liberating experiences to let go of the unnecessary and devote more time, energy and resources to the things you really love and value.

So, that’s what’s up today. I hope this wave of energy and positivity stays with me! It feels good to feel ‘normal’ again. I’m going to make the most of it while it lasts.

Fresh ideas and inspiring thoughts…

This morning I felt kind of horrible. I was whining and crying because, in a nutshell, I just want to go back to Ireland and I’m tired of EVERYTHING! I can rationalize all of this by talking about winter blues, being tired, blah blah blah. I know there are lots of factors, and one is just me feeling sorry for myself. Nonetheless, that’s how I felt today (and how I’ve felt many days) so talking about ‘why’ isn’t really the point.

After a good talk with Richie, who is always very supportive and helpful when I’m having an emotional episode, I started looking for some inspiration. I took a glance at some blogs I usually enjoy reading, and I found some very encouraging words, and some new writers with new (to me) ideas which I intend to think about over the next few days.

First, I visited zenhabits and came across this guest blog post which seemed like the prefect thing for me to read in my current mental and emotional state. It’s about the transformative opportunity presented by burnout; how to take those worn out, depressed or dull feelings and let them be the motivation you need to make some changes in your life or to start dreaming and scheming about new ways to make your life what you want it to be.

Reading that led me to a whole new blog, Peace & Projects by Melissa Gorzelanczyk, and I think it is just full of exciting and uplifting ideas. I read a few of her previous posts today and I look forward to reading more throughout the coming weeks. I think I’ll become a regular visitor!

Anyway, I guess the thing is that the process of growing and changing and adapting is never over. Life is in a constant state of flux and so are we. I suppose it’s completely natural to be down sometimes, and the key thing is to work hard to get up again. Today was a start. Reading other people’s inspiring words has made a small dent in my burnout, but change doesn’t happen over night. I intend to take some time every day to do some reading and thinking and dreaming and scheming, and see where it takes me.

It’s not over yet…

Well, it’s been another tough week, and unfortunately for me, it sounds like I have another 6 mad weeks to go before there’s any sort of change to my schedule. I spoke to the powers that be about dropping a class, which would free me up two more evenings during the week, but they don’t have any other teacher to take that group at the moment, so I’m on my own. Blah.

I guess it’s not the worst thing in the world, but I’ve just been so tired and it’s gotten to that point where I feel a bit emotional and out of it as a result. And I feel like I’m always at work, and I don’t have much time to do anything around the house, like clean or do laundry! Aaaahhh. It’s such a mess around here, but I can’t do everything!

So, I decided that if I’m stuck working so many hours, I can at least give myself a little healthy and relaxing treat, so I’m booking myself a massage for later in the week, I hope. What’s the point of earning money if you can’t do something nice for yourself every now and then?

It’s that time again…

It’s once again time for a soul-searching, existential crisis and re-assessment of EVERYTHING. Having been blogging for over a year now, and having a record of all my crazy emotional and mental ups and downs, I see that I went through this same type of thing last winter. It is also likely that I do this every winter. So, I might as well stay true to form and do it again now.

I am contemplating making a few relatively small, but necessary changes in my life. For one thing, I feel like I need some change in my work schedule. I am working a reasonable amount of hours, but I have been working 6 days a week since the end of the summer, and I just don’t feel like I can keep this up. I definitely think it’s time to find a better balance between making time for positive, healthy, rejuvenating activities or non-activities, and the need to earn the money necessary for daily living and savings for important future needs. I do like my job, but sometimes I feel like it’s all I have time for. I do in fact have a reasonable amount of free time, but it’s generally in the mornings, and I rarely have an evening free to meet people with ‘normal’ jobs, I work all weekend and I can’t even go to yoga or anything, because I’m working all the times classes are on, except for my Monday mornings (thank god I’ve at least had that!). So, especially with feeling the winter blues, I want to make time for at least one evening of yoga during the week. Maybe I’ll also have more time then on an evening off to call people at home and stay in better touch with friends and family. I miss everyone so much, but often in the evenings, after hours of work and heating up some dinner, and relaxing for a bit, it’s already late and time for bed. I’ve really been feeling like staying in better touch with everyone is a major priority for me right now, so I need to make that happen.

So, a small change to my schedule should give me the space to do those things that I need to keep my sanity and put a bit of fresh energy and joy into my life.

I’ve also been trying to read some uplifting and inspiring books lately, to get me in a better headspace and help me put my plans into action. I am definitely the sort of person that needs to reason with myself and think things through and have a purpose, otherwise the actions, however positive, just seem to miss the mark. Thought, attitude and action all need to be working together.

I’ve been making more time to get myself resettled into regular meditation. Wow. It’s amazing how far one’s mind can stray if you take time off from regularly centring yourself, consciously relaxing and reconnecting with reality. My thoughts are just all over the place! But it’s been good just being back on the cushion again and re-learning how to breathe and let go. Along with meditating, I’ve been trying to fill my mind up with positive and wholesome thoughts. I’ve been reading a bit of poetry. I’ve been reading books about meditation philosophy and practice. I’ve been trying to get back to the basics of life.

Because, what’s it all about really? We’re here on this earth for such a short time. Far too short a time to get swallowed up in your job, or live to earn money, or feel anxious and stressed because you can’t do everything perfectly, or to want what other people have, or to be someone you’re not. People have lots of thoughts and interpretations on what the meaning of life is, and I don’t really know what I think the ‘meaning’ is, or if there even is an overall meaning. But I do think it’s completely miraculous that we exist at all, and we are totally capable of living with compassion and kindness and intelligence. We can make wise decisions, and be useful and helpful to people around us, we can contribute something positive, no matter how small, to the world around us. If we believe we are weak and useless and always failing at life, then that’s how we’ll be. But I do think that if we see the good in ourselves, other’s and the whole crazy world, then we will live like good people and have so many reasons for happiness. It really uplifts me to remember that we all have that divine spark, or enlightened quality, and we’re all fully capable of living with love and joy!

So, there. That’s my inspirational thought for the day. The sun is shining and the birds are singing and Richie and I have an extra day off today, so we’re heading to the ferry for a trip across the Bosphorus to enjoy the spring-like weather while it lasts. It’s definitely a day to celebrate being alive!

Happy living!

 

 

Yippee for Meatless Mondays!…

I’ve heard of so many people trying out this Meatless Monday thing and I think it’s a great idea. Here’s why:

1. It’s just ONE day (three meals) of meatlessness per week. Just a small change from whatever your normal diet might be.

2. Going meatless for one day saves money.

3. Having a little less meat in your diet is healthier for you. Cut out some saturated fats, cholesterol, (depending on what country you live in- i.e. the USA or weather or not you eat organic meat) cut out strange hormones and anti-biotics and not-so-good-for-you stuff in meat. Your body will be happier!

4. It’s better for the environment. Raising grain to feed animals to eat uses TONS of water. Tons. It’s crazy. It’s a terribly inefficient and wasteful process.

Richie and I have mostly cut meat out of our diets, both red meats and poultry. I must confess that we do eat fish and we have meat sometimes, so I can make no claims for being a vegetarian or anything. But having drastically reduced my meat consumption, I definitely feel healthier. I don’t think eating meat is the worst thing in the world, and I realize that being vegetarian isn’t for everyone. But Meatless Mondays are something everyone can do to improve their health and the health of their family, to save a bit of money and to do something positive for the environment.

Read more about the Meatless Mondays campaign, some shocking information about America’s growing meat consumption and the inefficiency of meat production, and find links to some tasty non-meat recipes here at WeLiveSimply.

If you decide to give Meatless Mondays a try, I’d love to hear about your experiences, thoughts, and recipes you’ve tried. Please share! On upcoming Mondays I’ll post some of my favourite non-meat recipes too!

Starved for Attention: rewrite the story of malnutrition…

Today I’ve spent some time watching parts of an amazing documentary series about childhood malnutrition around the world. These short multi-media documentaries are part of a joint Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and VII Photo Agency campaign to spread awareness and ultimately bring an end to childhood malnutrition, which causes millions and millions of deaths every year, and, most tragically, is preventable.

I watched a couple parts of the series today and it broke my heart. The stories, the powerful photos and videos and the important information are truly moving and I admit it brought tears to my eyes. It is seriously heart-breaking how brutal life on this earth is for so many people, and I can’t help but feeling I need to do so much more to share what I have with others. I don’t think we can ever have a peaceful world until everyone can have the basic necessities of life. Peace and justice are something we can all work to create in our lives, by practising generosity, in small and great ways, every day.

I think most people I know are amazingly generous people and really do their part to make the world a better, more just and loving place to live in. Over and over I have been inspired by the compassionate hearts of people I’ve been lucky enough to know.  All the same, I really recommend watching these videos. You’ll be inspired to keep being generous in all areas of your life, and maybe even push yourself to the next level of generosity! I once read a quote that went something along these lines: the human heart is infinite in size, it just needs to be pulled and stretched regularly to help it reach its potential. Our human capacity to love and practice compassion is as vast as the universe, and we can practice opening our hearts wider and wider every day for the rest of our lives. Not a bad way to spend this life!

Anyway, here’s part one. I think the video speaks for itself and doesn’t really need me blabbing about it!
PS. Its from YouTube so if you’re in Turkey you can’t see it!

Update: Actually, I’d like to add something to what I wrote yesterday. I think another important aspect of generosity is being a well-informed giver. When choosing organizations to support or when considering that some of our hard-earned money in the form of taxes are going to aid in developing countries, we must be informed and make sure these resources are being used in the most responsible and efficient way possible. I think this video certainly highlights the importance of that. The focus must be what’s best for those we want to help, rather than what is the most convenient for us or what makes us feel good. If it’s not effective, we waste our generosity, and no one wins in that situation. Lets do our research and make sure that doesn’t happen!