By Hannah Fizell
Over the last decade I have spent hundreds of hours studying the science and conservation of sharks and the ecosystems they inhabit. I have come to a full understanding that the ocean is not only the life support system of the sharks I have compassion for, but it’s the lifeblood of the human race, too. Yet here we are tanking its health with all manner of our consuming compulsions.
Last month I watched a Netflix film called Minimalism, which is a documentary “about the important things.” What I learned from the film is this: humans have this outrageous inner need to constantly be on the hunt for new material goods that we think are going to bring us happiness. We think the more money and things we have, the more happiness we will feel. All the while on this materialistic happiness quest we are carelessly destroying the planet we live on. This Netflix documentary shares the stories of a handful of minimalist people who stopped themselves in their tracks and started to donate, recycle and get rid of things they didn’t need or didn’t truly feel satisfied having. They also bought smaller homes recognizing that in their big ones, only a small percent of the rooms were constantly in use. These people became happier and recognized how much they were helping our blue planet.
Image by Alex Rose
Today I’m on the same track. After watching that film my partner and I cleaned out our home. Our trashcan and recycling bin are filling up and we have bags and boxes of things to donate to the Goodwill. This includes extra blankets we don’t use that will be donated to homeless people without them, and just in time for winter I might add. After cleaning out the house I began doing research on how to live more environmentally friendly as a minimalist and how what we are doing now is already aiding our planet. I’m committed to this new way of living and so is my partner. We are going at this together.
First of all, I considered how I get around my home city of St. Petersburg, Florida. Usually I drive everywhere I go but Fall, Spring and Winter are beautiful seasons to ride my bike more than I drive my truck. I have decided to drive my truck only when I need to. By doing this I am cutting back on my personal emissions and being part of the solution to defeat the pandora's box that is climate change. The ocean absorbs carbon dioxide produced by humans from the burning of fossil fuels. The more acidic the ocean becomes, the harder it is for mollusks, crabs and corals to grow their shells and skeletons needed to survive. This is a serious threat to many marine species including the shellfish and thousands of marine creatures that live on and around the coral reefs.
Second, I considered what I wear and how much I own as a consumer. I’ll admit my love of shopping and my own outrageous desire to live the high life. Defeating that love and that desire are New Year’s resolutions that will be fulfilled in 2017. Did you know that we consume 400% more clothes than we did a couple decades ago? This is according to the film site for the documentary Environmental Impact. The demand for “fast fashion” is straining the environment. We don’t think of how this nasty habit sucks up so much of our resources, consumes energy and pollutes the environment. Most of what was in that closet and in my dresser drawers are in boxes and bags ready to be donated. What I now know that helps me in this process of becoming a minimalist is it takes 7,000 litres of water to make a pair of jeans and 2,700 litres of water to make a t-shirt. Over 80 million clothing pieces are created globally and it’s never long until three out of four of those pieces are dumped in landfills or are incinerated with only a quarter of those pieces being recycled. I’m alarmed by these facts and disgusted by the reality that I own so many outfits, dresses and shoes and I don’t wear the majority of them. What helps me now is the knowledge that I’m helping those in need by donating and I’m not ignorant of the facts anymore so I will not make this mistake again.
Many people who have become minimalists have found that they can live in smaller houses. There are those who are actually living in tiny homes. This is something that one must consider. Right now I live in a home that is just the right size, but one day my partner and I will have a family of our own and will need to upgrade to a home with another room for another set of feet or two. The idea is to buy a home that fits one’s needs. It must fit one’s family and collective lifestyle.
Overall, becoming a minimalist is a great commitment because I know that my lifestyle change will not only bring me happiness and peace, but I will be helping the ocean and all life on Earth. All life, including human life depends on a healthy ocean. The thought alone that I am helping our collective existence already brings me happiness, peace and satisfaction.