Monday, October 4, 2010


In honour of David Suzuki, I've decided to do a little "Four Elements" eco-impact. As a pagan, this paradigm just makes sense. Considering all four elements plus spirit is essential as part of our practice as yogi(ni)s. As biological beings we are inseparable from our planet and it's elements. Read 'Earth'.


Do you know THE reason why we have vocal chords? So we can breathe (well, to protect our lungs from aspirating food or liquid, so we can breathe). Seriously. Something we do 15 times a minute and we rarely even think about it... unless something goes wrong.

Last night during David Suzuki's lecture he gave a beautiful example of how we're all connected using our breath. Supposedly some researcher dude wanted to know if he could follow the path of a breath. Since we actually physically absorb the oxygen molecules directly from our lungs to our blood stream (basically) there is a large portion of the air we breathe that doesn't get released when we exhale. BUT, Argon a chemically inert molecule, gets exhaled and is traceable.

With every exhale we release about 30 quintillion (yep QUINTILLION) of these little argon molecules that immediately mix in the air around us, within minutes everyone in the room has inhaled argon molecules that you yourself has inhaled. Open the windows and within a year those argon atoms have traveled the planet to be inhaled by all human beings, past and present.

To think that air in one city, country or region could be isolated from the rest of our planet is just plain ridiculous. As the argon thought experiment shows, what I breathe in my lungs has been breathed by you- my fabulous reader- no matter where you are on the planet.

The layer of air surrounding our planet, essential for our body and brain survival, took millions of years of plants sucking in carbon dioxide and spewing out oxygen to form. If our planet was reduced to the size of a basketball, the layer of air we depend on to live would be no thinner than a sheet of paper.

In an extremely short period of time the levels of carbon dioxide and greenhouse gases in our atmosphere has risen sharply. The leading climate scientists across the globe agree- humans are responsible for these toxic increase in carbon and chemicals in the air we breathe. 

The average car produces 10 to 12,000 pounds of carbon dioxide every year. Add the mining pollution required for the parts, chemicals used to coat the insides (mmm toxic new car smell molecules directly inhaled onto your delicate lung's alveoli) and the ridiculous amount of petroleum used to run them.
 (Toronto smog, source Spacing Toronto)
In Canada one of the leading causes of air pollution is agricultural practices and toxic winds and air currents from the United States. During winter months we Canadians burn a LOT of fuel and wood to keep ourselves warm, adding to the fumes and carbon we then inhale. Acidifying agents spewed into the air create acid rain, which is especially concentrated in my tiny little province of Nova Scotia because of air currents from the states. Yay.

Each decision we make when we purchase a new plastic gadget, piece of clothing (um, cotton is the most energy intensive plant grown today), decide to drive our car instead of walking or bicycling, buy wood that was not sustainably harvested... we contribute to the risen, choking levels of chemicals we ourselves are breathing.

Instead of continuing to believe that what we dump into our air can be limited, controlled or corralled into one place or city, we need to accept that each of our actions and inactions contributes.

David Suzuki pointed out in his lecture last night that no matter how much the politicians and corporations decry the 'economic' cost of fighting climate change, humans cannot live without air, water, soil and energy. We can live without this latest version of 'economy'.

How to help:
- Bring your awareness during your yoga practice this week to your breath. Practice deep and mindful breathing, visualize the air entering your lungs and bloodstream uniting yourself with all other humans with each breath.
- Make the decision to decrease your car emissions. This might mean walking or bicycling to get places, looking into carpooling services or carshares. Not only will you save the planet, but you'll save money at the same time.
- consider where your clothing is made and with what. Buying organic cotton assures that your shirt isn't responsible for spewing harmful gases in the atmosphere.
- Go vintage. Second hand clothing is cool and fun- and extremely low carbon footprint.
-Let your leaders know that a carbon tax is an extremely successful method in decreasing our carbon footprint. There are fantastic examples (Sweden for example) with successful carbon tax implementation along with huge economic growth. Money is nice and all, but not very useful if our planet is shot to hell.

As Dr. Suzuki pointed out: "We call ourselves intelligent, but what intelligent species would use the very air they breathe as a toxic dumping ground?"

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  1. Great article. I've been wanting to read David Suzuki for some time now, and this series of yours will give me a little introduction.

    I once read a Suzuki article in which he showed how our bodies are one and the same as the five elements, not just metaphorically, but physically. It was startlingly like the ancient yoga texts, which everyone is anxious to turn into metaphor.

    I've tried to go back and find that article so I could blog about it, but I've been unable to find it. If it rings a bell with you, please let me know. Otherwise, I'm sure it will turn up as I get into Suzuki.

    Thanks for this blog.

    Bob Weisenberg

  2. I heart David Suzuki!! I used to have all his science books as a kid.

    I'd be interested to know more about the cotton issue you mention. You say that cotton is the most "energy intensive" crop on the planet - what exactly does that mean? And why is organic cotton less "energy intensive"? I understand that organic wouldn't use chemical fertilizers etc but not sure how it would use less energy?

    Anyway it would be interesting to hear more!!

    PS - I also heart Captain Planet! He's my hero... ;) Whatever happened to the era of eco-toons?

  3. Dang girl how are you so good at researching stats for each blog post? I wouldn't know how to make the time/ where to look for that.
    Also you referenced margaret Atwood recently. Is she known as a vocal environmentalist in Canada? She is only known for her fiction here so I was weirded out when I read a book on simple living recently that referenced/quoted her in every chapter

  4. Lovely Lisa this is gorgeous. Air is my "favourite" element (are we allowed favourites?) being a Gemini and a Vatta!

  5. @Bob: I agree, I think a lot of his recent writing especially is very spiritual and more in tune with yoga (or how I interpret yogic principles). I really think you'd like "A Sacred Balance" best :) I'm not sure about that article, he's written so much, but you may be able to find something similar on his website

    @La Gitane: good idea! I'd love to write a post about the cotton industry with more details and stuff. Thanks for the idea!! Actually, what I should do is write as post asking for ideas on what people want to know about. I'm kinda running a bit low on inspiration :)

    @Julia: haha, thank you! some of these posts take FOREVER to write, and I usually try my best to reference where i get my info... but i'd really like to do even better.
    Margaret Atwood has spoken out quite a bit about climate change, especially in the past few years. I hear her mentioned now and again- but in Canadian media. I love her intro to the book :)

    @Rachel: thank you!! isn't funny how one element resonates more with some of us? Water is mine :)

    @babs: thank you!

    @A Green Spell: yay, thank you!

  6. This is fabulous and so informative. I went to his site. When and where will his film be playing, do you know? I'm off to read Earth next. Thanks so much!

  7. What a great David Suzuki!

  8. So fascinating! I try and be mindful of what I do, but it's sometimes difficult when a lot of information out there is incomplete/misleading/whatever. Also, I love the idea of everyone literally breathing the same breath!


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